The comedy book index, part 7 – Richard Ayoade Presents: The Grip of Film by Gordy LaSure

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Happy 2018, readers. I know it’s no longer January but let’s neatly gloss over how and where that went.

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I am starting this blog year as I did 2017 with a review of a book index by Richard Ayoade. Ayoade is a British actor, director and writer, who has directed two films (Submarine and The Double) and appeared in TV comedy shows such as The IT Crowd, The Mighty Boosh and Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. I reviewed his first book, Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey – and its index – in my blog post here. His second book, Richard Ayoade Presents: The Grip of Film by Gordy LaSure was published by Faber & Faber in late 2017. This book has a 12-page index, which is (as with his first) full of unusual and funny entries. Having read both books, and examined their indexes as maybe only a total indexing nerd would, I would have to say that I prefer Ayoade on Ayoade as a book overall, but I prefer the index to The Grip of Film.

The book

The Grip of Film continues the cinematic theme of Ayoade on Ayoade and again has dual personas telling the tale. In the earlier book, this mainly took the form of ‘Ayoade’ as interviewer questioning ‘Ayoade’ as director (although the form of that book is all over the shop – or ‘eclectic’, I should probably say). The Grip of Film is ostensibly written by the (fictitious) film studies lecturer Gordy LaSure, with introductory chapters and explanatory footnotes by Ayoade – such preliminary chapters include an ‘Ante Foreword by Richard Ayoade’, ‘A Note on the Text’ and ‘What the Hell Am I Reading Exactly?’.

The premise is that Ayoade has a two-book publishing contract to fulfil but can’t do so. His ‘nameless publisher’, sensing the ‘aridity of [Ayoade’s] creative well’ (p.x), offers him a A–Z  guide to film ‘written by someone that no one’s heard of’ (p. ix), Gordy LaSure. The book is to be based on LaSure’s seminar handouts from his tenure at the South Los Angeles Drop-In Center (SLADIC), among other venerable institutions. This can serve as Ayoade’s second book if he writes the preliminary chapters and adds ‘intermittent, but admittedly prescient, footnotes’ (p.x) which he signs as ‘Ayo’. As indicated in the book’s subtitle, this actually ends up as An A–W of Movies, as Ayo states that Gordy couldn’t think of a ‘single, goddam thing beginning with “X”, “Y” or “Z”’ (p.1). (There are in fact a few X–Z entries in the index though.) There are some 32 pages of these introductory prelims before the main content of the book starts, so we are on similarly playful – or tedious – territory to Ayoade on Ayoade.

This structure of the book also explains some interesting typographical distinctions employed in the index. The introductory ‘Note on the Text’ advises that much of the text was cut (‘without my permission’, according to Gordy, but Ayo disagrees). Many of the chapters were removed, but cross-references to them remain at the end of each alphabetical book section entry. The upshot? In Gordy’s words, ‘I’m as frustrated with this situation as you’re about to be’ (p.xxviii).

The index

A related upshot is that these deleted chapters are also included in the index. There is an introductory note to the index – indexers everywhere rejoice! – which explains that:

BOLD CAPS indicate a chapter heading. NON-BOLD CAPS indicate a deleted chapter heading – Ayo. (p.321)

As with a standard book index, film titles appear in italics, and other concepts in normal text, so the index has four different typographical cues within it, leading to the following effect.

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Personally, I’m rather taken with the look of this. The reader knows what kind of information the index entry refers to just by its appearance. In the case of a NON-BOLD CAPS entry – the deleted chapter headings – this leads to no information at all other than a cross-reference to itself on that page.

Films, actors, directors

In a similar vein to Ayoade on Ayoade, the films discussed in the book and index are of a certain kind – in LaSure’s words, ‘Films that actual people actually want to see’ (p.xxiv). Some of those mentioned most often are listed below:

Fire Down Below, 31, 54, 153, 221, 224, 311
Raw Deal, 6, 53, 98, 203, 231, 251, 282
Red Scorpion, 33, 197, 251, 276, 282, 287, 288
Road House, 18, 23, 24, 46, 47, 66, 136, 151, 159, 224, 245, 251
View from the Top, 29, 92, 204, 216, 284

LaSure gives the reader a handy list of his recommended films in the prelims of the book. He also makes no apology that many of them are Hollywood films from the 1980s and that he has seen ‘no more than eight’ of them – ‘But I sure as hell plan to’ (p.xxvii).

Relatedly, the actors who receive the most index mentions are Nicolas Cage (my personal favourite but that’s another story), Kevin Costner, Dolph Lundgren, Steven Seagal (a string of 23 references and three whole deleted chapters), Jason Statham, Patrick Swayze and Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Some useful distinction in the index too between an actor and a director with the same name. Professional indexers would also distinguish them with qualifiers, but maybe not quite like this:

McQueen, Steve (actor), 214
McQueen, Steve (not actor), 238

I’m also quite fond of the following few entries:

Hitchcock, Alfie, 270–3
Reynolds, Burty, 191, 283
Selleck, Tommy, 191

There are a few references to what other cinema scholars might consider to be classic films:

Citizen Kane, 92, 107, 180, 193, 203, 235, 284, 316
Star Wars, 32, 106, 133, 180, 243

The directors of these films – Orson Welles and George Lucas – are mentioned several times in the text on these pages,  but they are not included in the index at all. (The same goes for James Cameron and Steven Spielberg.) LaSure is less than complimentary about these films, terming Star Wars as ‘George Lucas’s vastly overrated 1977 sci-fi exploration of his daddy issues’ (p.32). He is particularly critical of Citizen Kane, describing it variously as a ‘multimedia mangle’ (p.92), a ‘snoozer’ (p.193), a ‘clunker’ (p.235), an ‘ass-backward jumble’ (p.284), and ‘Orson Welles’s laughably overrated 1941 newspaper dramedy’ in which ‘Some ancient fuck drops a snow globe’ (p.203).

There will be more – many more – such profanities to follow in the index. You may wish to look away now.

 CHAPTER HEADING ENTRIES

As noted earlier, all of the chapter titles are shown in the book index in BOLD CAPS. Some of these are what would be expected in a standard guide to film:

BRITISH CINEMA, 68
CASTING, 90
INDEPENDENT FILM, 166
LANGUAGE, 179
OSCARS, THE, 206
UK FILM, 299

As an aside here, there is a fun use of cross-references in the book regarding British film. LaSure is of course not a fan. The ‘British cinema’ book section (pp.68–9) ends with the following cross-references:

See: THE COMPLETE WORKS OF STEVEN SEAGAL
Don’t see: BRITISH FILMS

Some of the other retained chapter titles are rather less expected:

BARS SUDDENLY GOING SILENT, 49
DRIVING CARS THROUGH WALLS/WIRE FENCES/SHOP WINDOWS, 123
MORE THAN ONE ASIAN PERSON, 188
MUSTACHES, 191
POLO NECKS, 214
POST-TRAUMA SHOWERS, 217
ROCK BOTTOM, 239
SNIVELING, 254
STANDING UP SLOWLY TO REVEAL SOMEONE’S TRUE HEIGHT, 262

And there are several sweary chapter titles included in the index, as befits the writing style of LaSure:

FUCK, 143
GETTING OFF YOUR ASS, 29
SON OF A BITCH, 255
TITS, 292
DELETED CHAPTER HEADINGS

The deleted chapter headings in the index (shown in NON-BOLD CAPS) are more bizarre still:

BOOM-BOOM, LIFE-GIVING, 253
CONFISCATION, HERO’S IMPLICITLY WIDE-RANGING POWERS OF, 294
GUY RITCHIE, THE COMPLETE WORKS OF, 215
INHERENT UNBREAKABILITY OF GRUNTS, THE, 310
IS IT ACTUALLY COMPLICATED, OR ARE YOU JUST MAKING A MEAL OF IT?, 213
JUNGLE, DIFFICULTY OF NARRATIVELY TOPPING NAPALMING A, 247
LINES, STRIDING FORWARD PURPOSEFULLY IN, 13
MAKING LOVE AL FRESCO ON AN INCLINE, 159
MASSIVE LOVELY ARMS, 227
MINIATURE PIGS, INCREASED RISK OF DEATH W/R/T, 237
PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON’S MAGNOLIA AND WHY A RAIN OF FROGS CAN’T REALLY BE CONSIDERED ‘RAIN’, 190
PEOPLE WHO ARE TOO FAT TO CARE ABOUT, 198
SCALPING DOS AND DON’TS, 277
SCUMBAGS, VARIOUS, 44
SPIRITS STRAIGHT FROM THE BOTTLE, IMPRESSIVENESS OF THE HERO’S ABILITY TO DRINK, 156
THREE-FINGER THROAT-RIP KILLS, 49
WATER-SOLUBLE REMORSE, 219
WELCOME DEATH OF THE SARCASTIC, THE, 138
ZONES YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO TAKE COMFORT FROM, 13

There are some variations on a familiar theme:

SEAGAL, THE COMPLETE WORKS OF STEVEN, 219
SEAGAL, THE INEVITABLE AND COMPLETE VINDICATION OF STEVEN, 194
SEAGAL, THE INSANITY OF NOT CASTING STEVEN, 90

And a great deal more swearing:

FUCKEDUPNESS, MID-POINT AS APEX OF, 12
FUCKS, IMPLIED, 144
HOT WAX ON BALLS, 17
OWNING YOUR TITS (AS A MAN), 246
RAMPAGES, ASS-KICKING, 13
RED TAPE, FUCK-OFF BIG BOW OF, 26
SONS OF BITCHES, PEN-PUSHIN’, 13
STEVE MCQUEEN LOOKING SEXY AS SHIT WITH A GUN HOLSTER AND A POLO NECK, 215
TOUGH MOTHERFUCKER, HIGH-LEVEL ASS-KICKS OF A, 13
VIOLENCE + TITS = BUSINESS, 148
Odds and sods

The index entries displayed in normal type are an odd assortment of things from within the chapter text or from the Ayoade forewords:

air bag, recently deployed, 134
behemoths, make-up-caked, 35
cheese, unweaponized, 261
Dyson, the guy who invented the, xxiii
filmmaker, Ayoade as visionary, vii [Ayo on himself there]
frog, associated limitations of being, 105
glockenspiel, waiting-room, 256
handjob, sarcasm during, 40
insight, forehead rammed full of, xi
lids, best time to flip, xxiv
lonely, lubed up and, xix
mugs, perilously overfilled, 59
peach cobbler, xix
stories, mice deprived of, xxvii
Walter the Nameless Publisher, viii
wasp, French, 88

As with the other index entries, many of these continue the general sweariness:

arses, 24 [one for the Brits]
boners, sudden 271
butt, butt to, xvii
deep, ass, 8
fuck, plagiarizing stack of, xxii [LaSure on Ayoade there]
fuckery, dumb, xii
fucks, lucky, 56
horseshit, sugared, xix
ratio, mass to ass, 31
shit, bunch of old, 245
shit, choppy as, 318 [plus 13 more variants]
tit, bonus, 147
tits, talkative as, 81
turds, colossal, 36

All of the above is perhaps best illustrated in this pretty amazing series of entries. Get a load of this bunch of ass. (Apologies. It’s all starting to get to me.)

Ayoade 18 collage

Critique

This index is a delightful thing for someone like me. (Who whispered ‘geek’? I heard you.) Twelve whole pages of constantly weird and wonderful index entries here, some admirably creative swearing, and it’s also just very pleasing to look at typographically. This is a longer and funnier index than the one in Ayoade on Ayoade [which I reviewed here], but I find this second book as a whole less amusing, mainly because this one is mostly in LaSure’s voice rather than the stylized Ayoade(s) of the first book – and I do love that first book. The LaSure persona stretched over the main 320 pages is just a bit … much for me, although I am tickled by this footnote by Ayo:

I do find the relentlessness of Gordy’s profanity exhausting. It’s like he’s sponsored by the work ‘fuck’. (p.12)

Indeed. It’s perhaps this reader’s own fault anyway for reading the book straight through from A to W – with Ayo ‘presuming that those capable of reading this book in sequence are inured to tedium’ (p.66). I’m a professional book indexer. I’m almost inured, yes.

I do still think it’s a very funny book with a fantastic index and it’s well worth a read. I just tend to agree with the following tweet by the author, whether it was a joke or not.

Ayo index tweet

 


ClarkeyFB2

Paula Clarke Bain is a professional book indexer and editor. She likes comedy, books and indexes and really likes comedy book indexes. See more at her website at baindex.org or on Twitter @PC_Bain.


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