from ychan – Sydney, Australia Bullpen reader:
The Old Man and Mr Smith (1990) by Peter Ustinov was a book I came across about a decade ago when browsing in a bookshop. I am still not quite sure why the bookshop is called “Academic Remainders”, since it seems to have an awful lot of cooking, craft, fishing, and kids books and very little even remotely reaching the levels of what is deemed “academic”. Then again, academics seem to be getting funding for the most ridiculous research projects nowadays so I guess that anything is possible.
Ustinov had been known to me as an actor and a raconteur in a class of his own (I was lucky enough to actually see him in a live show) but not as an author. Ah, what a grand type of book to introduce me to this other talent of this amazing man!! TOMAMS has been described as a fable but to me it is first and foremost a laugh-a- minute rollicking good read. The Old Man is God, who, after millenia of being quite indifferent to the existence of Earth, decides that perhaps it is time to take a human form and see exactly what his creations have been up to. Accompanying him is his old friend Mr Smith, aka Satan.
What follows is a series of misadventures and escapades around the world by the constantly bickering friends. They are hunted by the FBI when God absentmindedly starts creating money for a Federal Agent. Satan discovers televangelism, gay massage parlours and a canine namesake. The Old Man regales the Russian Parliament, causes apoplexy at a Jewish Religious Court and discovers that in fact he and Mr Smith have more in common than he remembered.
of satan…“It was just like the powers that be to employ a hideous creature of indeterminate age, with a mane of greasy hair and a dirty T-shirt with a frivolous message on it, to mend complicated hardware. He had probably graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.”