‘Born in the USA!’ sang Bush.
‘Born in the USA!’ I echoed.
‘Hey,’ I said, drunkenly, ‘Isn’t this song kind of anti you guys.’
‘Who cares?’ said Bush. ‘My son got it wrong. If you’re against us, you’re still with us, ’cause you got no fucking choice and that, my friend, is politics.’
‘Politics, yeah,’ I said. ‘You should tell my wife that.’
‘Women. This is their idea of politics.’
And with that, George Bush took out his penis and dangled it in front of me.
‘Right on,’ I said, and did the same.
‘Nice pecker, man,’ said Bush.
‘You too, George.’
Have you ever bumped into someone famous? Not when they’re ‘in character’, or performing party tricks for the prols, but away from the bright lights. Were they up for a two minute chinnywag and a selfie, or did they bear the interruption with something akin to the patience of Job? Or… did they join you on a road trip, share some Zen-like insight, request a puff or two of your joint and induce global financial meltdown? In Starstruck, a collection of stories by Rajeev Balasubramanyam, a cast of gods – Steve Jobs, ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson, David Beckham and others – are made to walk naked through a hall of mirrors; and as they warp and distend, we, the everyday people, are shown the ugly truth of exactly who we are. None of this is obvious though as, front and centre, Starstruck is a work of exquisite comedy. Balasubramanyam (loosely) couples shorts that suspend both reality and disbelief – a story that opens with soldiers manning an army recruitment stall moves through the gears so smoothly, that by the time the hero is on a yacht and smoking Moroccan black with Prince Harry, the reader has barely noticed the acceleration.
Structurally, the pieces composing the whole are self-contained and yet inter-connected. Balasubramanyam cleverly explores the supposed ‘six degrees of separation’, giving the work a Pulp Fiction feel. The prose too deserves special mention – it is flawless; exceptional. One simply cannot read “…free AiWeiwei, free Tibet, free porn…”, without drawing sharp breath. Such lines can stop the world turning, if only for a second.
Despite the crudeness of some scenes and coarseness of language, there is something classic about the arrangement – the ‘rhythm’ of this work. There is no surprise in learning that Balasubramanyam holds a PhD in English, as well as degrees from both Oxford and Cambridge universities.
Any Cop?: At 111 pages, Starstruck is short but no anodyne distraction. This work drives a stake into virgin ground – it is slick, of the moment, original, supercool and terribly dystopian. Oh, and side-splittingly funny.