BETE DE JOUR?

Figuratively speaking, I am dying to know who the talented author of Bete de Jour is. Before judging the book by its cover, we learn that Stan Cattermole is not the author’s real name.

This Harper Collins production was beautifully presented to me by my sister-in-law sometime during 2012. I racked my brain long and hard to decipher why she would present such a quirky, humorous litany of one ugly man’s journey to self-fulfilment.

The book’s jacket notifies the reader that this story started out as a blog, and warns the reader that there is, afer all is said and done, a happy ending.

bete de jeur

To the reader familiar with the French dialect and its expressionistic tones, the book’s title is indeed suggestive of a positive outcome for the story’s protagonist.

Before reviewing the story, I would like to comment on this book’s publication and presentation.

The book is beautifully bound. The publisher’s note informs the reader that it is bound using environmentally sustainable and recycled paper. As well as making an important contribution to sustaining our environment, it is a cost-effective exercise in the current precarious environment of competition among publishers and the electronic and digital age where it would seem, on the surface anyway, that more readers, possibly unaccustomed to the literal turning of pages and the pleasure it derives for the regular reader, are turning to e-books which in itself is also environmentally sustainable. It would seem that the demand for expensive books is dwindling, but publishers argue that they have not yet abandoned this tradition.

I received this book in a delightfully assembled package from my brother. The package contained other essential, and luxurious tidbits such as bottled olive oil and a small parcel of chocolates. The package came to me at a significant moment of change in my personal and professional life.

Here, I can confess to being a technophobe, not yet well-adjusted to the digital age, as my brother is. My sista, as I like to refer to her, is of similar age to me, well-read, and it would seem, well-adjusted to deal with the technological changes we are faced with today. Both brother and sister are employed in the crazy world of advertising, essentially as graphic designers. They appear to be coping quite well in the cut-throat, backstabbing environment of advertising.

During that year, my brother suggested that I start my blog. My natural inclination to procrastination and fear in all things important in my literary and personal environment, precluded me from starting my blog. I had it in mind to do so, but easily distracted in a familiar nine to five work environment, always delayed the simple act of pushing buttons. Little did I know that the world of blogging has been around for more than ten years already.

I have a cousin, known to the blogging world as The Forest Scribe, who recently remarked to me when I visited her own blog, Thingsthatgobumpinmymind, that the notion of vanity publishing is insulting to her. We will not go into that discussion, but I was thinking about all the negative connotations of vanity publishing and this newly discovered world of blogging.

Watching a film entitled Contagion, a character, harassed by Jude Law’s character on the inherent government and corporate corruption in the pharmaceutical world, remarked candidly and thoughtlessly that bloggers were not to be taken seriously and that they were essentially not writers or journalists in the true sense of the word. I winced at this remark and as a writer, disagreed with this ill-informed analogy.

So, tell me, you are working? Yes? No? But you are living life dangerously. Or you are comfortable?

I once told the forestscribe that I am by nature, slow, but once the ebb and flow of my thoughts and words start to punch the page, it’s all systems go.

Warming up to one’s serious, close reading, and writing, brings a few disciplinary challenges.

Imagine this, you are feeling a little jaded, but enjoying the warm Autumn sunshine once more, find yourself unable to put down an entertaining or very well-written book. Such is my lot.

By the way, I think my sista is psychic. Anyway, what did I want to say? Oh, yes. To me, French, on the surface, appears to be a rather lyrical and pleasant-sounding language. On my earlier reading of Bete de Jour, I had not made time to translate the book’s title. And by the time I had reached page 50, I had not yet found any clues. Yes, my sista, I think she can read minds. She presented to me a hilarious, but hardly touching story about a rather ugly man (in more ways than one) who is on a quest to “improve his life”. That book’s blurb, as I mentioned earlier, informed its would-be readers, that this man’s quest started with a blog, the fruits of an ugly man’s labours lying within these posts.

Well, let me tell you that this ugly man and his egotistical prose appalled me at times (and I’m no prude), so naturally enough, I kept my place with a cute, woolly book-mark, made by my sista and clearly labelled, Buy A Donkey, the trading name of her on-the-side company.

This little donkey reminded me so much of the one that Don Quixote used on his adventures, and the one that our Lord Jesus Christ used on His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This reminds me of the one aspect of Stan Cattermole’s story that repulsed me. A clever, but ultimately pretentious play with words. What was it again? Oh yes. it borders on blatant blasphemy where Christ is mockingly alluded to as a misunderstanding, a joke really. What a poor pity.

But ultimately, the story succeeds and will appeal to readers with that quirky sense of humour, laughing out loud at times. lol. Whatever. It is cleverly composed and deals with a familiar journey of an adult who traces his roots as an abused, adopted child. While reflecting on the nature of his parents’ (both biological and adoptive) personalities and actions, one is left asking the question whether beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. Or whether this man is truly only ugly on the surface, or superficially as well.

Familiar English urban and rural settings, if you’re from that part of the world, but I leave it to you decide the true nature of this despicable character. Oh, and what about the book’s French title? Read the book first.

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