In case you hadn't heard, Porterhouse is the name of the most notoriously lax, gut, gout-inducing college in Cambridge University. The Porter of Porterhouse is a thick-skinned, pipe-chewing, half-simian thug named Skullion. And Porterhouse Blue is not an athletic team or the college colors, but is instead a description of the distinctive malady induced by Porterhouse's most notable feature oh these past five centuries or so, its rich repasts and its over-stuffed wine cellar -- in short, complete physio-psychic toxic shock. Welcome to Porterhouse Blue.
If there were any question that we are in Tom Sharpe country, consider just one sentence from the opening of this remarkable satire: "An evening to remember Master," said the Senior Tutor sebaceously"I've been reading for a long time and I've never seen sebaceous used as an adverb, and what's more, I'm not even quite sure what it means. But I know what it feels like, and so does Mr. Sharpe. Nasty, and moldy, very possibly Porterhouse Blue-inducing. In short, funny, as only Sharpe can write it.
Porterhouse Blue transports you to a cockeyed world of crumbling colleges, crestfallen tutors, dottery Lords, salacious television hosts, and gas-filled floating condoms. You may not know or care one whit about the trials and tribulations of the English upper-class, reforms of secondary education codes in the United Kingdom, or the proper way to spit polish a pair of shoes, but it doesn't matter. Give yourself over to the manic Mr. Sharpe and you will enjoy. You will enjoy nasty, brutish, and short people kicking the hell out of each other's sense of identity and well-being. You will enjoy not a trickle, but a Niagara of politically incorrect behavior. You will, as is usual with Mr. Sharpe (see my review of his Wilt), find yourself laughing out loud on buses, subways, or supermarket lines. Just don't bring it to any funerals or wakes.
Sure, one could question a seduction here or a sexual imbroglio there, but these randy/tawdry incidents are very much the stuff of Mr. Sharpe's worldview, and I, for one, wouldn't quibble with them. A: Why let something as inconsequential as Hollywood Story Structure intercede with his snickering fun? and B:, Well, there is no B:
adj : containing an unusual amount of grease or oil; "greasy hamburgers"; "oily fried potatoes"; "oleaginous seeds."
'Til next time...
Mr. Krimstein is a professor, writer, cartoonist, father, and grump who lives in Chicago. So there.