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Second Class Male / Time to Go
September 16, 2011 3:57 PM   Subscribe

The Observer ran a series of columns by Richard Geefe, a writer whose work was interrupted by his promise to himself and his editors that he would kill himself before the end of November 1999. First, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, and the posthumous twelfth. Reaction in The Independent.

Richard Geefe was, of course, not real. He had been the satirical creation of notorious "cultural terrorist" Christopher Morris. The character of the suicide journalist had existed previously in Morris' radio show Blue Jam, episode 2x02.

Geefe's misadventures have also been independently adapted into the short film Second Class Male.
posted by Sticherbeast (14 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 


Yes! I can't wait to dig into these. But let me first plug Morris' movie Four Lions which was the funniest movie I saw last year.
posted by munchingzombie at 4:18 PM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


To provide some context, the Geefe columns can be seen as a satrirical reaction to a number of columns that were running at the time across various UK newspapers dealing with the experiences of the writer in dealing with ongoing terminal diseases. Most notably: John Diamond writing in the London Times about his experience from diagnosis to death with throat cancer, and Ruth Picardie similarly writing on her breast cancer, also in the Observer.
posted by biffa at 4:20 PM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


munchingzombie, Four Lions was pretty fucking grim. It's funny in the same way that Brazil is funny.
posted by scruss at 4:29 PM on September 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Biffa, knowing the context makes these columns even less funny for me. A clever satire would have been a series of melodramatic columns about one's diagnosis with, say, terminal halitosis. This just comes across as a mean-spirited joke on the readers. And not a particularly well-written one, at that.
posted by chomarui at 4:42 PM on September 16, 2011


A clever satire would have been a series of melodramatic columns about one's diagnosis with, say, terminal halitosis.

That doesn't sound clever at all to me, it sounds trite and with little potential. What I would argue is that the Geefe columns were not simply trying to be funny but were also a response to both journalist making themselves the story but more pointedly to highlight the exploitative nature of the relationship between the newspaper and the journalist writing these 'dying' columns. The 'suicide by newspaper' column points this up sharply since the clear exploitation of the subject is implied throughout, a point that would not be made through 'terminal halitosis'.
posted by biffa at 5:03 PM on September 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Thanks, I remember following this at the time.

Yes - they weren't supposed to be laugh out loud funny, they were supposed to be squirm inducing and "oh god can this be real?" funny. I read them as designed to push the reader toward thinking again about what they were getting out of reading the original "death diary" columns. And what Biffa said.
posted by crabintheocean at 5:15 PM on September 16, 2011


chomarui: "This just comes across as a mean-spirited joke on the readers. And not a particularly well-written one, at that."

I think that's part of the point. The columns that biffa mentions were only a small part of the "fashion" - I hesitate to use the word in this context - for columns by the soon-to-be-expired at that time. The majority of the writing I recall was by non-professional writers distinguished only by a meagre proficiency in English and a terminal diagnosis. It did not make for good reading in any sense. Banal minutiae were pored over endlessly in a mostly sophomoric manner in a slow motion car crash, and you could almost smell the despair of the editor in the cases where the subject had the poor taste to outlast both their life expectancy and their well of material.

I think that the Morris material is following his established MO, and making you uncomfortable for accepting an idea - doubly so, when you realise that you should have been uncomfortable in the first place, but were not. That's also what's good about Four Lions. There are only one or two laugh-out-loud moments, but it has more to it that just lulz. The lulz are just the entry point.

Or, on preview, what biffa said.
posted by Jakey at 5:22 PM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Geefe himself reminds me of a Will Self protagonist: erudite, well-connected, and thuddingly shallow. He's a schmuck. For me, the humor comes from this depressed schmuck thinking he's awfully clever for ending his life in this way, but when it gets down to the wire, he's no wiser for the wear. He fights over biscuits with four-year-olds, uses the suicide angle to bed easily-impressed media types, and then just sort of disappears in an off-screen flatus while other shallow people read all sorts of profundity into his work that was never there.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:23 PM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I want to add too that they weren't just a response to the columns where journalists wrote about terminal illnesses, but to a particular type of hapless confessional Nick Hornby-ish personal journalism that seemed like it was taking over the weekend papers, especially the Guardian and Observer. Lots of cookie cutter stories about first snogs and awkward thirty-something cohabitation and hidden vulnerability - the first Geefe column gets it perfectly.
posted by crabintheocean at 5:24 PM on September 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


The main character from the Blue Jam sketch that led to the Geefe columns also features in My Wrongs - 8249 AND 117 (which came from another Blue Jam sketch in the same series).
posted by Grangousier at 5:45 PM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think these are the funniest things I've read in a long time, which is probably a sign of deep-seated mental instability, at best.
posted by runehog at 8:36 PM on September 16, 2011


They remind me of Mark "I was a hot and infinitesimally small dot" Leyner. I also thought they were hilarious, but I went into them knowing they were fiction.
posted by crush-onastick at 5:24 PM on September 17, 2011


Many of Morris' monologues on the brilliantly creepy Blue Jam radio show were essentially extended riffs on these Geefe pieces. I recommend tracking it down.
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:35 PM on September 18, 2011


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