Chipman’s African Adventure by Jim Anderson. Review by Annette Marfording, 2bbb FM, May 2016
Jim Anderson has a law degree from Sydney University, but made his name in anti-establishment satire. He was Art Editor of satirical Oz Magazine in the UK when he was prosecuted as conspirator in the well-known 1971 Obscenity trial in London. A website from the British library tells us that Issue 28 of the magazine, edited by Richard Neville, Jim Anderson and Felix Dennis, was a ‘schoolkids issue’, featuring anti-authoritarian contributions by teenage school students.
One of these, by 15-year-old schoolboy Vivian Berger, was based on a sexually explicit series of frames by US satirical cartoonist Robert Crumb. In each, the head of a rapist had been pasted over with the head of the children’s character Rupert Bear. The three editors were charged with the archaic offence of ‘corrupting public morals’, which in theory had an unlimited punishment, and the case was heard at the Old Bailey, London, in June 1971.
The prosecution claimed that Oz had promoted “homosexuality, lesbianism, sadism, perverted sexual practices and drug taking”. Among the defence witnesses was DJ John Peel, musician George Melly and comedy writer Marty Feldman, who called the judge a “boring old fart”.
After the longest obscenity trail in English legal history, the three editors were found guilty and sentenced to prison: 15 months for Anderson. On appeal, however, the court found that Justice Argyle had grossly misdirected the jury on numerous occasions and the convictions were overturned.
In 1999 hitherto secret Home Office papers were published. They revealed that, following the Oz trial, some of the police officers involved in the prosecution were subsequently found guilty of corruption in an internal investigation. Around 400 officers, including a deputy assistant commissioner, were imprisoned or left the force. The head of the Metropolitan police’s obscene publications squad, who targeted London’s underground magazines, also ended up behind bars.
Knowing this background, it is no surprise that Jim Anderson’s novel Chipman’s African Adventure is filled with satire and can be described as a farce. A farce is most often a play, such as much of Oscar Wilde’s and some of Shakespeare’s work, but Jim Anderson consciously or unconsciously follows in the footsteps of English playwright Henry Fielding whose satirical burlesques were followed by novels, most famously Tom Jones. Farce is characterised by lots of sex, cross-dressing and stereotypes and all three dominate the 440 pages of Chipman’s African Adventure in the context of the hippie life.
While the predominant locales for hippie culture were San Francisco, India, and the Greek island of Hydra, here we find it at the Hornbill Palace Hotel, a beach resort in a fictitious West-African country under the thumb of a corrupt and murderous President in exile. The time is 1972.
Our hero, Chipman Smith, is a young lawyer working with the DPP in Sydney, who has so far exercised his secret sexual preference for men in fumbling with his friend as teenager and as voyeur at his boss’s house with whom he is in love. He is sent to the West-African country by his boss, but on arrival is handed a letter from the Consular Attaché at the capital’s British embassy, advising him to get out of the capital and make his way to the Hornbill Palace Hotel at Tlula Leisure Beach.
At the resort he finds a motley group of other residents, above all the self-proclaimed psychiatrist in the Jungian tradition and healer of them all, Dr Salvatore Sanguini, Starry for short, an ex-resident of Australia. With a vague sense of recognition, Chipman asks him whether he was famous for anything in Sydney, which Starry denies – wrongly as turns out later. Starry’s consultations and treatments provide the main entertainment in the book. Chipman is an alcoholic, fellow resident Zach from Nebraska suffers from depression, drop-out zoologist Drift’s girlfriend Toffee from severe and disturbing fits. Poisonous mamba snakes, alcohol and drugs of all descriptions, especially psychedelic drugs, abound.
Will Starry’s treatment cure them? Will Chipman find love? Will he have sex for the first time in his life?
This novel may disturb some readers, but especially in Bellingen, many will love this madcap romp.
Chipman’s African Adventure by Jim Anderson. Review by Graeme Aitken, DNA Magazine, May 2015.
In this black comedy, the closeted, alcoholic lawyer Chipman Smith is disgraced after his peeping Tom obsession with his his handsome boss is uncovered. He finds himself banished from Australia to West Africa’s Bomzawe to dry (and sort himself) out. The self-styled psychotherapist Dr Starry Sanguni makes it his mission to cure Chipman through a series of bizarre, drug infused re-birthing rituals. There is a very large cast of characters to keep track of but there is a helpful summary at the beginning of the book. These characters are so vividly drawn, often absurdly larger than life, that the summary is seldom necessary. Some readers may find this novel overlong, while others will appreciate Anderson’s amusing word play and confident narrative gift. This is an exuberant, rollicking story spiked with wit and sexual indiscretions! Jim Anderson is perhaps best-known as the editor of London’s famous alternative publication, Oz Magazine, from the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Chipman’s African Adventure by Jim Anderson. Review by Julie Janson, author of The Crocodile Hotel, July 2015
The colourful life of the author will be known to many readers because he was in the middle of the counter culture revolution in London as the editor of Oz Magazine and in the dock as a conspirator for the obscenity trial at the Old Bailey. He has not changed over time and after his return to Australia, he continues to shock and amuse those who appreciate the wild ribald style of his writing. In Michael Wilding’s words “an eye- opener for those who weren’t there but wish they had been.”
The location for this anti- establishment adventure is an imaginary post-colonial West African country and it is rich in ludicrous and delightful surprises. The comic interludes pour out in a delicious cascade of absurdity and sexual fantasy. The protagonist lawyer, Chipman is an innocent abroad as he becomes involved in outrageous events at the beachside tropical resort.
The drinking problem of Chipman seems problematic until it is seen against the huge alcoholic and drug binges of his fellow visitors. Dr Starry Sanguini carries out rebirthing ceremonies on the beach that are reminiscent of 1960s psychedelic adventures of Haight Ashbury or ‘Swinging London’.
Chipman must examine his conscience in his willingness to engage in the outrageous and morally questionable behaviour. However, gay love of some kind is in the air for the hero: “Chipman’s fear gave way to a yielding to this wish, a yielding accompanied by a fierce sexual arousal..” This man has many moments of unrequited and satisfied love.
Female characters abound who are elusive and alluring, they have names such as Lobelia and Toffee the beauty queen who carries around a monkey on her caramel shoulder. They titillate and amuse but are seldom the main players. The story is always Chipman’s.
The language of the novel is vibrant and rich as we are swept up in the atmosphere of the surreal satire. Towards the end, the participants are pulled into the circumstances of civil war and the personal events are shadowed by this terror. The satirical attack on the political upheavals of developing nations is mesmerizing and utterly politically incorrect. The characters are mostly unbelievable and totally off the planet.
Luckily, it is all imaginary and the location seems more like an island of outrageous sensual depravities. It is a novel that is designed to shock and arouse. There really is nothing like it.