The Hall of Misery, and Growing Victorians In Your Garden. Tiny, wonderful strange books from Bill Jones. Although, just to confuse people, The Hall of Misery claims to have poems written in it by Miserable Malcolm. Anyone who has ventured to a spoken word event in Stroud probably knows that Miserable Malcolm is Bill Jones’ secret alter ego. No capes or face masks, just an overwhelming sense of doom and futility, which somehow turns out to be very funny to watch. I’m not sure quite what it says about a person when they invent a character and then invent things the character has written, but it seemed to work for David Bowie, and so many interesting things happen on the borders between madness and genius.
I’m a huge fan of Bill Jones. To the point of self-identifying as his stalker. He’s been incredibly tolerant of this, which is just as well because the only way to get copies of his books reliably is to chase him down the high street, brandishing used notes. It’s so much easier when he doesn’t deliberately run away.
The Hall of Misery is a tiny book combining things from www.hawkerspot.com and Miserable Malcolm poems and new things in that vein. Black ink illustrations bring neither joy nor dramatic action to these scenes of misery and despair. This is clearly deliberate. Gloom, doom, despondency, disillusionment, tiny impersonal figures in vast, oppressive landscapes under dark skies. Graveyards, mortality... it is absolutely a book of misery. How it manages to be so relentlessly funny at the same time I cannot say, but it does. Laugh out-loud funny.
Growing Victorians In Your Garden is, as the title suggests, a guide to growing Victorians in your garden. Little historical people with period problems and issues with God. They apparently need plenty of manure. It is a strange thing, offered with such sincerity that you will find it easy enough to suspend all disbelief. Whimsical, poignant, and rather lovely. I’ve never seen anything else quite like it. I’ve heard rumours of a second edition of Growing Victorians – copies being scarce at time of reviewing.
I recommend chasing Bill through the streets of Stroud to get a copy of The Hall of Misery. It’s worth it for the slightly alarmed look on his face. One warning, though. These are small books, they very easily hide themselves, or find their way into other people’s pockets. My Growing Victorians have made several, frankly suspicious bids for freedom already.
Nimue Brown lives in Stroud, writes fiction and non-fiction, has a compulsive blogging habit and can be found online at www.druidlife.wordpress.com