The Selman-Troytt Papers, By P J Barrington

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The Independent Culture

This selection from the papers of the fictional Victorian scientist Jeremy Selman-Troytt includes extracts from such great works as "The First Time I Soiled my Trousers" and "My First Involuntary Ejaculation", as well as journal entries which chart the great man's struggle to perfect his hands-free prepuce retractor.

The contrast between the cod-Victorian solemnity of the style and the lavatorial content is a good trick, if somewhat overplayed. But some of the humour is a bit too cruel to amuse: crushed testicles, torn scrotums, a waiter who is set on fire "to prove it could be done" are all recounted in deadpan style. The lack of sympathy is part of the joke, of course, but it doesn't work for me. An appendix by Finlay Finlayson, founder of the Selman-Troytt Appreciation Society, is positively Beckettian in its bleakness – a strange combination of the comic and the gruelling. Those who like their humour clever, eccentric, heartless – a bit like Flann O'Brien on a nasty day – and focused squarely on the lower half of the body, will find plenty to enjoy here.

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