Non-Fiction  > History, Science, Religion & Politics

The Lovely Horrible Stuff h/c

The Lovely Horrible Stuff h/c The Lovely Horrible Stuff h/c The Lovely Horrible Stuff h/c

The Lovely Horrible Stuff h/c back

Eddie Campbell


Page 45 Review by Stephen

“The most creative part of the creative life is coming up with persuasions to get overdue cheques.”
“Do you think all artists and writers in history had to do it?”
“I’ll ask at the café tonight.”

And he does: he asks William Shakespeare who’s been trying to chase payment both wittily and tetchily for centuries. It’s all there in the plays.

Eddie Campbell’s own angry letters dictated to wife Anne are legendary. You can find them dotted about his autobiographical ALEC OMNIBUS, and there are several outstanding accounts to be addressed, stamped and mailed out here. I see dozens of writers and artists seething on Twitter about monies owed. Gary Northfield’s threatened to become a zookeeper. It all saps up time which could be spent far more constructively in daydreaming.

“Time is money. It’s a maxim that has tended to annoy me. An obstacle in the path of the daydreamer. Who one day might find that his ‘idle daydream’ is worth a great deal. And then he’ll replace the old maxim with a new one: MONEY is TIME.”
Anne: “How much are we worth?”
Eddie: “About twelve months.”

Welcome, then, to THE LOVELY HORRIBLE STUFF, a book about money researched in part on the island of Yap. Situated in the Pacific Ocean somewhere north of Australia and south of Japan (that’s geographical precision for me), it’s been an independent state within the Federal States of Micronesia since 1986. Its currency now is in US dollars, but dive deep into its local history and you’ll discover an economy based on giant stone discs carved on the island of Palau then transported over the waves, strapped to rafts in such an ingenious fashion that they work as a keel. These once moon-bright discs shining with quartz are called rai and those not since abducted and sold to museums can still be seen literally lying around the island now covered in moss and lichen. But what’s fascinating is that they were never necessarily in the physical possession of their owners in the first place: some of the largest – up to 9 and 12 feet in diameter – were, after all, pretty tricky to move once exchanged. Plus transportation across oft’ stormy seas was hazardous.

“Many years before, an ancestor of the family quarried the stone and was bringing it home. Caught in a storm, the party had to let it go. They all testified that it was a magnificent piece, lost through no fault of their own. “It was universally conceded that the mere accident of its loss was too trifling to mention… And that a few hundred feet of water offshore ought not to affect its market value. The purchasing power of the stone remains as valid as if it were leaning outside the owner’s house.”

That’s brilliant! But if you think it’s also quaint or whimsical and in no way related to modern western economics, you’d be wrong. In 1932, fearing the devaluation of the dollar, France asked the Federal Bank of New York to convert its dollar assets to gold. They couldn’t be arsed to have the ingots shipped back to France, so they just asked the Federal Reserve to pop stickers on them asserting France’s ownership. So what’s one hundred feet of water compared to 3,000 miles across the Atlantic?

All of this, the second half of the book, is interspersed with further legends, tactical variations of the rai (you’ll love the matrimonial Butterfly Stone) and Eddie’s and Anne’s own holiday there mixing with Swiss divers and a bunch of drunken Poles. It’s told in a rich mix of line, colour and blended photography quite unlike anything you’ve seen from Campbell before. Oh, there was plenty of each in THE FATE OF THE ARTIST, but not so much on the blended front.

This is preceded in similar style by Eddie’s own experiences of the horrible stuff, some of which are far from lovely, particularly his father-in-law’s pursuit of a legal claim against all measurement of sanity and the best interests of those who had leant him the money: Annie and Eddie! Unfortunately it involved property and, as anyone who’s ever shuddered at the phrase “negative equity” knows, the truth of the dictum “safe as houses” has long since been devalued.

Blessedly most of the stories are far more mischievous in form and absurd in content like the limited company urged on him by Campbell’s co-creator of THE PLAYWRIGHT just so he could write and draw a BATMAN book. It was called Antelope Pineapple Ltd. There are several sequences about his plans for television including the development of an animated After The Snooter (screen shots included) and its funding dashed by the world recession:

“Comedy. It’s all in the timing.”

Bill the Bard’s erudite assistance is once more enlisted, if only to teach TV execs a lesson in the only language they understand, and it’s all threaded through with the verbal dexterity we’ve come to expect from Campbell. But best of all is the story I originally heard told during whichever year it was we conspired to have customer Craig Dawson’s wedding blessed by Alan Moore. In it Eddie seeks from daughter Erin a token contribution to household expenses now that she’s earning and driving his car. It’s an argument that quickly grows heated and Eddie, in retribution, demands the return of his car keys. Erin refuses leaving Eddie fuming and determined to disable the car. You will not believe the next two pages of outlandish buffoonery but I swear to God that they’re true.

Embezzlement, expenses, and intellectual properties… it’s all here. I’ve no hesitation in commending this treasure trove of stories, worth every one their full weight in gold, but I don’t want you to think too much about money, just the brilliance of the books you can buy with it. That’s it, do come along! The lovely, horrible stuff:

“Out the window it goes…”