Thursday, 24 December 2009

Wilt by Tom Sharpe

I hadn't read Tom Sharpe since I was at school so there was some reassurance in finding that Wilt, his satire on education, women’s liberation and the sexual revolution, was just as I remembered him. It's a bit dated now, but once it gets into its stride parts of it are still hilariously funny. There are a lot of references to rather outré sexual practices, as in all of his books, and plenty to booze, which gets it an entry here.

Downtrodden at his dreadful lecturing job (he is employed by a technical college to teach The Lord of the Flies to apprentice butchers, plasterers and gas fitters) and henpecked by his wife Eva, Henry Wilt dreams of asserting himself, if only he knew how. While he fantasises about killing Eva he has no idea how by going to a ghastly barbecue party things conspire to make it look like he’s actually got his way.

The Pringsheims, a visiting chemistry professor from America and his bonkers wife, have invited Wilt and Eva round to their little soiree. Unfortunately, neither realise that Sally Pringsheim has designs on Eva, and is prepared to stoop to any level to get her away from her husband. Wilt doesn’t help himself by drinking a little too much punch at the party:

In the end he looked into a large bucket with a ladle in it. Half an orange and segments of bruised peach floated in a purple liquid. He poured himself a paper cup and tried it. As he had anticipated, it tasted like cider with wood alcohol and orange squash.

Despite initial misgivings, he has a bit more:

Wilt stood in the middle of the garden and finished his third drink. He poured himself a fourth...

Drunk and suddenly cornered by Sally Pringsheim, he finds himself taken upstairs where Sally produces a bottle of vodka:

‘Oh, Henry, you’re so perceptive,” said Sally, and unscrewed the top of the vodka bottle... She swigged from the bottle and gave it to Wilt. He took a mouthful inadvisedly and had trouble swallowing it.

What follows is a disastrous set of events involving public humiliation with an inflatable sex doll, a thirty foot deep hole and twenty tons of concrete...

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