Neat Tricks

Do I hear frenzied cries from readers demanding more rancid prose from the literary cesspit called Thog's Masterclass? No, I don't, but that's never stopped me in the past. Take it away, Thog ...

As James Branch Cabell wrote in one of his spicy fantasies, the human body is capable of much curious pleasure. In certain writers' murkily visualized prose, it's also capable of feats to amaze a yoga expert. "Babel seemed oblivious to the fact that Korolev's blood had concentrated in his toes." "Two sad brown eyes started at his waist and worked their way up." (both William Ryan, The Holy Thief.)

More versatile eyes: "Sprawling out on the floor of the bar, Elvis's eyes fell on the underside of a nearby table ..." (Stephen Bury, Interface.) "His teeth would grit, his eyes would bow." "He finished his drink and let his eyes slide away from hers into the empty cup." (both Doyce Testerman, Hidden Things.)

Some eyeballs need a space of their own: "Finally Garth [...] gazed deeply into her dreamy, drunk eyes, and offered to get them a room." (Robert Rosell, Civitas Island.) Some may affect your centre of gravity: "Her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she almost took a step backward." (Percival Everett, Assumption.)

Hair plays tricks too: "Hairs on her lower leg trembled as if they were on the back of her neck." "... he looked at the white hairs dashing along his forearms and the backs of his hands." (both Ali Shaw, The Girl with Glass Feet.) Does yours have a pet name? "... his Deputy, a portly bald man with a ginger moustache called Bo Sampson ..." (Adam Millard, Dead West.)

Male body parts are notoriously rampant: "His nipples were standing so erect they looked like little pink pencil erasers." (Nancy A. Collins, Right Hand Magic.) Thumbs are detachable: "He reached for her panties and pushed his thumbs inside. She rose up from the beach, and he slid them off and tossed them away." (Brian Freeman, Immoral.) So are hips: "The doors finally slid open, and her hips sashayed down the corridor." (Jo Nesbo, The Snowman.) And even facial expressions: "He saw that Kate was watching him with an expression that was half puzzled, half irritated. He asked her if he could borrow it." (Paul Bryers, The Prayer of the Bone.)

The female rear poses a pretty problem. Which of these phrases of appreciation, from the US and British first editions of the same classic SF novel, is the typo? "Her bottom was good and did not slop too much." "Her bottom was good and did not slope too much." (Brian W. Aldiss, Cryptozoic! aka An Age.) No, she is not a boat.

Bad digestion moments: "Fegan cursed, bitter anger at the waste rising in him." (Stuart Neville, The Ghosts of Belfast.) "His own breakfast came up promptly, and he lost himself in it for a few bites." (Patricia McKillip, The Bards of Bone Plain.) Complications while eating shepherd's pie: "Ruben's left eyebrow twitched upwards, forcing a grunt past the plug of mince and potato that sounded vaguely impressed." (Alex Stewart, "Yesterday".)

Contortionists can do this: 'I tasted the heady loam of the spongy earth beneath my feet ..." (Andre Norton & Jean Rabe, A Taste of Magic.)

Academy Award for best make-up: "An elderly, uniformed man strolled out of a gatehouse disguised as a cantina." (Harry Harrison and Marvin Minsky, The Turing Option.)

Finally ... don't try this at home, but here's a nifty trick with kitchenware that many stage magicians would envy. "She threw the wooden spoon at the wall, where it splattered tomato sauce into a Jackson Pollock pattern, turned, and fled for the bedroom." (Sam Bourne, The Righteous Men.)

David Langford is in hiding from a mob of outraged authors.