Kloppstockâ€™s Jugband Crumpled Baize Tarboosh, the latest bestselling paperback by Pebblehead, is a wonderful evocation of those much lamented Sappensopp Days. â€œTipping, tapping, flimflamâ€¦ goose grease and lavender and a tin of polish for the porchâ€¦ the light in the tunnels and the flap of the flaps in the flappery out by the byreâ€¦ those endless bowls of piping hot porridgeâ€¦ such were the joys of the Sappensopp Daysâ€, he writes, and if, like me, you are an unreconstructed Sappensoppist, it all comes flooding back.
There was an earlier book, of course, by Inspip, and I stand by my review when it first came out in hardback, where I wrote â€œThis book is shoddy and inadequate and inadequate! It is thoroughly inadequate!â€ Inspip had the temerity to write what he called A Thorough And Adequate Account Of Those Sappensopp Days, despite being a secret Soppensappist. When I revealed this gruesome truth Inspip was discredited and his bones were thrown off a cliff into the churning ocean. Good riddance to him, say I.
Pebblehead, by contrast, has the measure of those Sappensopp Days. It seems he has listened to contemporary tape recordings of claimants and wardens and tosspots, and although his tone is often desperate, when it is not twittering, he nails it. By â€œitâ€ I mean a very concrete sense of urbane jugband merriment. And the names you would expect are all here, though I cannot repeat any of them for legal reasons. I donâ€™t want my bones to follow Inspipâ€™s off that gaunt and mighty cliff.
The point about Pebbleheadâ€™s prose in his examination of Sappensoppism is that he chugs along, chug chug chug, in a way that is attractive to those who like their prose to have that kind of locomotive trundling rhythm. Pale poets may skip and prance, and paler poets may gambol â€˜cross verdant sward, but generally such pale poetasters have a whiff of the Soppensapp about them. I do not make the charge lightly. I would say the same were I standing on the beach, at dusk, surrounded by gulls scavenging among the bleached bones of Inspip. There are worse ways to end oneâ€™s day. I have loafed and been bitter, sometimes, when recalling those Sappensopp Days, the gleaming lanterns, the flint hearts, the barbicans atop the tors. Some come to genuflect and some come to keen, and those are their ways, and I shall not gainsay them, or, if I do, I shall crunch across their own gravel, on my hands and knees, to prove my point. You will not hear such claims from the Inspips of this world, this spinning globe, this dispensation.
Inspip was at Innsmouth when his horrible book came out, and he was betrayed by a clairvoyant. That is often how these things turn out, how tangled skeins unravel. The clairvoyant was unbridled, certainly, and mouthy, but that made a welcome change. Guttural imprecations and gargling were her mode of speech, if speech it can be called, and as soon as he heard what was being said about him the wretched Inspip tried to flee. Typical, I may say, of those who observe the Soppensappist debaucheries, for debaucheries they are. His fleeing, or rather his failed fleeing, took him to places human beings ought better avoid, such as the wild hills and the fiercest sea fronts, the most dismal of outcrops and the tinniest of fairground arcades. Tinny it was and tacky and awash with tat, and there Inspip was cornered, there he was revealed as a pooper whose cronies vanished, pfft!, gone, leaving him alone in his poopery. He knew his book was but page after page of meretricious squamoogle, yet he pressed on, writing hundreds and hundreds of pages, like a Blunkett. I have said elsewhere that he never knew the first thing about the Sappensopp Days, not because attempts had not been made, in his childhood, to bash a few basic ideas into his curly-haired head, but because he wilfully let all that he did once know evaporate, like a type of milk in a tin. It is a mystery why he did so, why he allowed the Soppensappists to squish their boggling into him. He was packed so tight with it he might have burst.