David's Reviews > A Melon for Ecstasy

A Melon for Ecstasy by John Fortune
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's review
Jul 05, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: top-20, 5q, you-ll-snort-milk-thru-your-nose
Read in January, 1975

Quite simply the funniest book I have ever read in my life. Written as a series of letters; as the correspondence mounts, the overall message becomes hilariously clear. Never get between a man and his trees.

Starring Humphrey Mackevoy, a man who loves trees, maybe a little too much. The sudden epidemic of holes bored into local trees, all 33 inches from the ground at an angle of 15 degrees to the horizontal, has everyone in town buzzing. The authorities are outraged at such wanton vandalism, the police are on high alert, the ornithological society is ecstatic, believing that the fabulously rare crested woodpecker has returned to the British Isles. Humphrey is more concerned with occupational hazards like splinter wounds and the toxic effects of the new pesticide being sprayed on the trees.

What with the prison chaplain dedicated to making the Gospel more relevant by rewriting it as a Western (Posse from Galilee), assorted power-crazed local councillors, a sex-crazed sixteen-year-old girl desperate to get laid, and the ever-present Humphrey's Mummy, there is never a dull moment.

Given the spicy gumbo that the authors have concocted, rich with every hilarious village archetype you've ever come across, the tree-porn sections are lagniappe. A certain bewitching laburnum stirs Humphrey to flights of soft-porn eloquence:

"Lasciviously I turned my face, brushing the cold bark with my lips, and began to explore its texture with my tongue. And you couldn't stop me, my laburnum, you with your branches pinioned in the air, leaving your trunk so bare, so bare, so unprotected, so vulnerable..."

I would be happy to loan you my copy, if I hadn't sent it to a certain goodreads member MANY MONTHS AGO (she knows who she is).

Possibly the finest epistolary novel ever written.

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Quite simply the funniest book I have ever read in my life.

What an endorsement! I may have to seek this one out... and, y'know, sue your damn pants off if it sucks. (You remember the details of books you read in January 1975? I don't remember what I had for dinner last night.)

David Ginnie: that's hilarious. I'm also a member of a social networking site for wordlovers* - over on that site google makes a regular habit of stalking me with ads for what can most accurately be described as ecclesiastical haberdashery. Some of those neural network algorithms driving their software still have a ways to go, it seems.

David: Read it and guffaw. Your cheap talk of lawsuits will disappear, like sawdust in a woodchipper. The precision implied by 'January 75' is spurious - a goodreads artefact. I just knew I read it in the 70's at some point, so I clicked 1975. Goodreads software, preferring misinformation to a vacuum, helpfully fills in that I must have read it in January. Because computers know best. Or they like to think so.

There are some algorithms out there that are not completely worthless, however. For instance, a visit to this site:
can be surprisingly rewarding. Giving it the names of just three authors I liked returned some terrific new authors I had never heard of. Not just your lameass Amazon-quality "We notice you're reading 'The Fellowship of the Ring'; may we suggest 'The Two Towers'?" kind of recommendation, either.

*: Yes, my nerdiness knows no bounds.

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Starring Humphrey Mackevoy, a man who loves trees, maybe a little too much


message 4: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Wordlovers, booklovers, treelovers.... Glass houses! Stones, people!

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)


message 6: by Jessica (new)

Jessica M. Giltinan:
I checked out that gnooks link...kinda cool. Interesting because the writers I input were not Latin American, but 99% of my recommended writers are! Which does not seem off-base... are you a member of flork as well? just curious.

Matthieu A fine algorithm, David. I punched in Henri Barbusse, Georges Bataille, and Blaise Cendrars and came out with Dino Buzzati. Not bad at all. Il deserto dei Tartari was a masterpiece.

David Yes. The gnooks algorithm is interesting, in a good way. I was led to Michel Tournier, Klaus Modick, Leonardo Sciascia, Iris Kammerer, M.J. Hyland, though I don't recall what specific inputs I provided to arrive at each.

The combination of David Foster Wallace, Jane Smiley and David Lodge generates Roddy Doyle and Flann O' Brien as its two first suggestions, both of which are dead-on.

Jessica: I got a flork account, but haven't yet activated it.

message 9: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Holy crap, this thing is AMAZING!!!

Woah, now I don't need you people anymore, and there's no reason at all to write more reviews.... We Booksters have finally been supplanted by technology! I love it!!! Thanks, David!

message 10: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Matthew: I love Dino Buzzati. 'The Tartar Steppe' is a masterpiece, I agree. His short fiction is wonderful too, as he's also a master of the very short story.

message 11: by Sarah (new)

Sarah That gnooks thing is cool!

Matthieu David: It seems that my father has kept a copy of this book dating back to his college days in the early 80's. As it is, I've just started it. However, it would appear that my father shares the same sentiments with you pertaining to this book. He said that it was "literary highlight". Haha, I guess I HAVE to like this book.

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