This Is to Tell You About the Barn Dance
Prostitute by David ShrigleyIf you knew a David Shrigley, you know he bit someone in junior high wood shop; he racked up more referrals than anyone in the history of that school; he threw a carton of milk on a cheerleader and got chased across campus to the vice principal's office—where normally no one would ever think to look except he was so slow they saw him run in.
In the real Shrigley's case, though, it ends well: an electrical-storm-turned-power-station with this, The Book of Shrigley, a weighty, primary-colored, coffee-table book of, well, crap—or so it would seem—the latest offering from the Glaswegian who, his bio reports, has animated videos for the band Blur and is a "U.K. pop art superstar." Okay! You getthird-grade-quality drawings that would fool the guys at 60 Minutes. Lists of what he ate ("For breakfast I had a bowl of musseli [sic] but I boffed [sic] it up on my trousers. For lunch I ate the trousers. . . .") Then there's the found Bananarama fan mail—and you start to get it: it's really good fake crazy, or else he really is crazy. Is he? Bananarama? Nobody likes them.Precisely. He's making fun of you, or of himself; and with much of it, you're never quite sure because it's written nice and round like an eighth grader would, on a hand-crumpled note.
The other times? The other times, he says what you'd say if you could talk in one long rant, as in "The Doctors," one of many lists: "They removed his spit gland," Shrigley prints, in block letters, crossing out where he misspells. "They torched the garment district to kill the [crossout] moths. . . . They operated on his head and took out his brain and when they tried to put it back it would not fit. . . . They all smoke and drive sports cars at 100 mph." On pages like these—quite a few—he writes what we're all thinking every time our feet go in the stirrups "At the Hospital": "The tops of the cabinets are covered in dirt . . . They never answer the telephone . . . You have to leave your dignity at the door." He's funny because it's true. Partly.
The rest—well, the rest is just Shrigley. Off in the ether: fake medical diagrams (how long was he under?), more drawings ("Major Smethwick-Brown, eaten by a crocodile, India, 1892"), paintings (Fireworks), ghosts, invitations ("THIS IS TO TELL YOU ABOUT THE BARN DANCE/IT IS ON SUNDAY AT 8 PM/IN THE BARN"), pleas for the return of missing creatures ("MISSING SINCE THURSDAY/HAVE YOU SEEN THEM/CALL POLICE").
At some point—2 a.m., 11:43 a.m., 6:42 a.m.—it's what we're all thinking. We just swallow hard. Shrigley lets it come up.
THE BOOK OF SHRIGLEY BY DAVID SHRIGLEY; CHRONICLE BOOKS. SOFT COVER, 221 PAGES, $24.95.
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