Author Topic: The ouvre of Ben Elton  (Read 3597 times)

BritishHobo

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The ouvre of Ben Elton
« on: April 06, 2019, 07:48:20 PM »
I was delighted today to stumble across a brand new book by Ben Elton, which takes aim at this bloody ruddy PC gone mad offence culture! About time! Reading the blurb, it sounds literally identical to Dead Famous, only switching Big Brother for Twitter. A traditional police detective who doesn't understand the appalling younger generations has to investigate a murder spree based around [current popular fad]. Same with his Friends Reunited murder mystery. I read a little bit in WH Smiths and in only two pages there's a bit where the detective 'wants to say 'Duh!' like his neighbour's daughter always says'. Ha! Like the hip, yoot' Beattie Edmonson character in The Wright Way.

Anyway it got me thinking about Elton's pretty large body of work. Starting with Dead Famous when I was around 14, I went through a period of obsession with Elton's books. I'd not really moved from kid's/young adult books, so all the weird sex and endless political/social themes were confusing and fascinating to me. I think being younger, it was the murder mystery stuff that appealed, I loved that shit. Most if not all of the political commentary went over my head, and I often found myself bored reading ones that were fully focused on that, like his climate change novels or the drug one. Even to me they felt quite heavy-handed. I lost interest mid-way through Meltdown, the financial crisis one, which felt to my politically-ignorant self utterly tedious, just a load of people endlessly talking guff about the crash. Never read another after that, never re-read either. I still have some fondness for Dead Famous, and I'm wary of what I'll think. On the other hand, would I like some of the political ones more now I understand those topics marginally more? Or would I find them even worse?

Anyway, I was wondering if anyone here has read any of his books, and what people's thoughts are on his career as an author.

Phoenix Lazarus

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Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2019, 08:26:03 PM »
Time and Time Again is great.  I tried to read his first one, Stark, but got put off by various stereotypes, plus Elton crowbarring bits of his stand-up routine into the story.

Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2019, 04:57:35 AM »
The only bit I remember from Dead Famous is the bit where a terrible realisation is brought about by the molestation of a labia piercing.

Bennett Brauer

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Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2019, 06:56:14 PM »
Pretty sure he's got a dyson.

Famous Mortimer

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Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2019, 11:10:14 PM »
I read one with a General or some such bloke in it, and it was a pile of old wank. But I liked his first few novels, or at least early-twenties me did.

Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2019, 09:36:10 AM »
Even as a teenager I thought Popcorn, a novel inspired by the pearl-clutching hysteria around Natural Born Killers, was a load of tedious, on the nose shite. It even had the temerity to just lift entire scenes from the film in the guise of satire, Oliver Stone should've sued.

Chriddof

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Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2019, 11:29:55 PM »
I've never read any of his books because people keep saying how bad they are - but I did watch the now forgotten TV mini-series adaption of Stark, starring Elton himself. Dreadful bollocks, and it was the first thing of his I watched that disappointed me.

Catalogue Trousers

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Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2019, 08:36:57 PM »
I remember quite enjoying, and being intensely annoyed by, Stark. Gridlock and This Other Eden are both okay if nothing special, and I've even got a kind word or three to say for Popcorn.

But everything else has been shit.

It's gone from his appalling Blackadder Goes Forth cash-ins like The First Casualty, to vapid dreck like Blast From The Past, to the left-wing Littlejohn crap of High Society and Blind Faith.

His books have deteriorated steadily into condescending, outdated, unfunny, unimportant crap.

In all fairness, so has Stephen Fry's fiction. But The Liar and The Hippopotamus are both genuinely good to great novels.

BritishHobo

  • That is a really reductive impression
Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2019, 09:08:31 PM »
They really do have the jarring and hideous over-exaggeration of Littlejohn's writing, that's such a good comparison! I remember thinking Blind Faith was obnoxious with its stupid character names, people called things like Britney iPod or Stacey Burger King whatever the fuck. Identity Crisis has this in spades - the characters are so ridiculous it just constantly makes you aware that you're reading an over-written parody that's just directly copying things from real life and then giving them silly names.

I will credit it that it's pretty even-handed and there's some nuance in its understanding of the issues and the way they're exaggerated by a cynical media to manipulate people. But I'm not even halfway through and I really can't see what else it's got to give. It's basically already said everything it has to say.

Phoenix Lazarus

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Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2019, 09:18:28 PM »
Even as a teenager I thought Popcorn, a novel inspired by the pearl-clutching hysteria around Natural Born Killers, was a load of tedious, on the nose shite. It even had the temerity to just lift entire scenes from the film in the guise of satire, Oliver Stone should've sued.

I believe Mary Whitehouse praised this, as satire against fictional violence.

Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2019, 01:19:45 AM »
I get the impression that his audience is totally uncritical and he doesn't do self-criticism so he has never had to develop as a writer beyond where he was in 1990.

gilbertharding

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Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2019, 10:26:08 AM »
Pretty sure he's got a dyson.

I laughed.

gilbertharding

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Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2019, 10:27:41 AM »
I remember thinking Blind Faith was obnoxious with its stupid character names, people called things like Britney iPod or Stacey Burger King whatever the fuck. y.

*Martin Amis punches the wall*

Phoenix Lazarus

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Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #13 on: September 01, 2019, 07:40:45 PM »
Has anyone read his latest one, Identity Crisis?

Twed

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Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #14 on: September 01, 2019, 09:41:10 PM »
Who the fuck cares about Ben Elton's egg?

Phoenix Lazarus

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Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #15 on: September 02, 2019, 06:29:00 AM »
Who the fuck cares about Ben Elton's egg?

Silly oeuf.

Bennett Brauer

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Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #16 on: September 03, 2019, 02:12:21 AM »
My joke was better, chumps.

Twed

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Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #17 on: September 03, 2019, 03:01:58 AM »
Just went back to read it, and I have to agree with you.

Jake Thingray

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Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #18 on: September 04, 2019, 11:15:04 PM »
Still waiting for Yes Indeed, his promised autobiography.

Bennett Brauer

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Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #19 on: September 04, 2019, 11:26:16 PM »
I think it disappeared down the same 2015 wormhole as Roger Lewis's Growing Up with Comedians.

Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #20 on: September 04, 2019, 11:27:27 PM »
After reading Richard J. Evans' In Defence of History, I was amazed to find out that arch-conservative historian Sir Geoffrey Elton was Ben Elton's uncle. I was under the impression that he was genuinely working class, if a bit on-the-nose about it; a sort of Danny Dyer situation. Seems unlikely given his family pedigree. Funny how you get these ideas about people.

Bennett Brauer

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Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #21 on: September 04, 2019, 11:36:42 PM »
Elton said his uncle didn't seem to care for what he thought was the inappropriate facetiousness throughout Blackadder Goes Forth, but congratulated him on the perfect ending. (Which as we now know was botched on the day, but rescued and restored by brilliant editing.)

icehaven

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Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #22 on: September 05, 2019, 01:31:01 PM »
Pretty sure he's got a dyson.

See this is the kind of joke on CaB that I immediately overthink and presume to be either an in-joke or a reference to something I don't know, Ben Elton doing a Dyson ad or there being a famous bit of his stand up about Dysons or something, and then half an hour later I read the thread title again and I get it.

Jake Thingray

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Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #23 on: September 05, 2019, 09:02:42 PM »
Elton was on BBC Radio Wales this afternoon, one of the other guests earlier was Julian Fellowes, write your own 'writer, performer and well-connected pillar of the establishment' punchline.

Gurke and Hare

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Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #24 on: September 06, 2019, 11:25:47 AM »
His early books were pretty decent page-turners and the environmental themes were ahead of their time. There was a bit in Stark where one of the environmentalist characters thinks something along the lines of "He was used to people mocking him with 'Yeah man, save the whale for a nuclear free world!' but he knew they were just wankers." I've not read his latest, but it does sound a little like he's become one of the wankers, which is a shame.

BritishHobo

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Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #25 on: September 08, 2019, 01:06:17 PM »
I stopped reading this new one because, to be fair to Elton, he had so effectively captured the exhausting and chaotic dialogue that's always going on on Twitter and the like that I just couldn't bring myself to read any more. It was fairly even-handed (at least as far in as I got), which is a fucking difficult thing to manage with this topic. It wouldn't have been even-handed if I'd written it, to its detriment.

Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #26 on: September 18, 2019, 12:36:32 PM »
Anyway it got me thinking about Elton's pretty large body of work. Starting with Dead Famous when I was around 14, I went through a period of obsession with Elton's books.

I'm about five years older than you by the sounds of it, so I started with Stark, This Other Eden, and Popcorn but my experience of discovering them at 14 was much like yours. (I enjoyed those three books, though I was surprised to enjoy Popcorn the least as it seemed to be considered the most notable of his books at the time. I remember there being promotional posters for it as if it were a major movie or something - and was there a West End play?)

It's embarrassing to say this given how shit Ben Elton is now, but those books served as an important political awakening. I came from a poorly-informed, largely-apathetic working-class Conservative family, and I might have been lost to that inherited default setting if I hadn't picked up Stark on a whim.

When Dead Famous came out, I was 18 and working in a big high-street bookshop. There was a genuine sense of event to the release: big display, hundreds of copies flying out. But Dead Famous is the last one I gave a moment's attention to. From then on it's been horrible, fatuous, cartoonish, on-the-nose paperback twaddle with overly specific subject matter. (High Society was his next one, which I eventually bought for a quid in hardback from a charity shop out of misplaced curiosity/loyalty/nostalgia and never read.)

It's this sort of latter-day failure/selling out/putting up of the feet that leads to people disliking Ben Elton so much now. As an irreverent left-wing stand-up, he was important to S.Lee's generation growing up in the '80s. And then he was important-ish to kids like me in the '90s with his novels. But then... um... We Will Rock You etc. We're not angry, we're just disappointed.

I'm at least somewhat grateful to Dead Famous because, while working in said bookshop at 18, someone I fancied said it was their favourite book and that they'd read it five times. "Ah yes," I was able to say, "Far Corgi in Heaven," which was a pathetic but enjoyable way to bring sex into the conversation with nobody else noticing and eventually to the real-life disgracing of ourselves by some bins. Needless to say, I have now handed myself in the police.
« Last Edit: September 18, 2019, 12:58:34 PM by Mobbd »

Jockice

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Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #27 on: September 19, 2019, 06:53:26 PM »
That's the thing, to my generation he was important. I did a phone interview with him in the late 80s and I felt overwhelmed. So much so I (as previously mentioned on this forum) that when it came to writing the article I made an absolutely huge mistake which if he'd seen would have confirmed to him that all journalists twist the facts. I didn't mean to, I was so determined to do right by him I did it wrong. If you see what I mean.

I've read Stark and Gridlock. They were ok from what I remember. Would you recommend any of the others or are they all shit?

Catalogue Trousers

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Re: The ouvre of Ben Elton
« Reply #28 on: September 20, 2019, 02:40:54 AM »
Quote
I was able to say, "Far Corgi in Heaven"

That really niggled me when I read it. Not so much because it's a complete red herring - hey, mystery story, goes with the territory. It's the idea that umpteen analysts are watching and re-watching the video clip, slowing it down, fiddling with the volume, but never trying lip-reading. Here's a little exercise for you. Look in a mirror. Say 'far corgi in heaven'. Then, say (spoiler) 'Fuck Orgy Eleven'. (/spoiler)

The mouth movements are completely different.

Oh, and Jockice - This Other Eden is pretty good, if somewhat of a Stark re-hash, and Popcorn isn't too bad, even if Elton suffers an embarrassing case of fence-sitting at the climax. But the rest can be safely ignored.