Author's note: If you love the works of Joanne Harris, read no further. If you like a few of them and don't mind a little bit of pastiche-satire, then please read on...
The Joanne Harris Code: Or, How To Write The Same Book Over And Over Again
"Joanne Harris is so terrific, she can write about anywhere, anything, anyone" - The Daily Telegraph
This is a Joanne Harris novel, and I am the Lead Character.
You can tell this by the way one mere sniff of food will send me into orgasmic sensory raptures and the concomitant purple prose. Mmm, chocolate! That delicate give beneath the molars, the dark slow ooze of calorific delight! Or how about a nice piece of fruit! The bright, glistening interior of an orange, a fabulous cavern of segmented citrine and a taste which pours sweet acid across the tongue, biting sharply like the bitterest of memories! Or why don't I point my purple prose in the direction of a steaming cauldron of fresh fish soup? Ah, bouillabaisse, the salty, gristly broth whose very steam calls to you like the sewage-laced sea-breeze from a distant grey French coastline!
I could spin out this gushing foodie rhapsody all day. And, knowing Joanne Harris, I probably will.
You can also tell that I am the Lead by the fact that I am Coming Home after an absence. It may be my home from years past; it may be a home I've never seen before in my life. But count upon it, it is Home.
I raise my nose and snuff the air. I am right. Something new pervades the atmosphere. The weathercock twitches. The very air itself seems to glitter in my wake.
Change is coming.
I am the Antagonist.
Oh, please. Don't look at me like that.
You're scowling, aren't you? Is that you I hear, sighing in frustration at the way I constantly attempt to second-guess you? Like I'm doing right now? You're probably sitting there, expecting a nice escapist read, and in I come with all my cynicism, all my generalizations, all my eternal infernal questioning.
Irritating, I hear you think.
Well, don't attack me. It's not my fault I always address the reader, is it? I can hardly be blamed for all these pointless rhetorical questions, can I now? Nonetheless, it's what I do, pepper the text with would-be-insightful pieces of sarcasm all day long. Call it my trademark. Call it cheek. Call it my roguish, personable charm. The fact remains that this is my voice. This is my raison d'etre. Above all, this is necessary - because if I didn't engage in such relentless direct-address-to-the-reader ultra-camp, you'd never be able to distinguish which parts were narrated by me and which by the Lead.
Would you now?
Of course you wouldn't. So carry on.
And don't worry.
Soon - very soon - I'll be back.
I am here. I am Home.
It is a warmly nostalgic sort of home, of course. No inner-city tower blocks for me, thank you very much. It is the sort of home with its roots firmly in the Past, where everything exudes the glamour of warm reminiscence. Where the buildings are at least three hundred years old and the inbred inhabitants have the average IQ of plankton.
Perhaps the supporting cast are French villagers. If so, they will be the sort of French villagers who can manage marvellously-complicated grammatical structures in English, but forget basic English words such as "Hello". They're not hard to see coming: just listen for the distant sounds of "Zut alors!" "Tiens!" "Bof!" "Ooh la la!" All that's missing are the striped jerseys and onion necklaces.
Also, despite their narrowed eyes, the supporting cast are all thick as bricks and terribly easy to manipulate. They practically walk around with their puppet strings dangling behind them, ready for some unscrupulous person to pick them up and make them dance, dance, dance.
Not that I would ever do that, of course. I'm the lead. I'm essentially good. All I want is a peaceful life. Not that I'm allowed that right now, because I feel an ominous shadow stretching over me. My calm existence is being Threatened. And I don't know who's spreading gossip about me and threatening That Which I Hold Most Dear, but someone is.
I wonder who?
That would be me.
As if you didn't know already. Was it the stench of sulphur and brimstone which gave me away? Or perhaps the tiny red horns sprouting from my temples? Suffice it to say that I hate the lead character. I hate their intrinsic goodness, their charitable impulses, the way they respect other people instead of using them for their own nefarious purposes. Such cowardice.
Me, I seize the initiative. I regard people as the cattle they are. I flatter; I charm; I cajole; I persuade; I seduce. I'm utterly ruthless and, as you can doubtless tell, used to getting my own way. People are such idiots, so gullible, so naive. Did I mention that? And because the Lead is currently smiling like an innocent daisy in the path of a HGV, I feel simply compelled to crush them.
You don't think I can do it? Think my conscience might stay my hand at the final moment?
Just watch me.
My life is getting worse and worse, and I don't know why. Now I am worried that the Mysterious Secret From My Past will resurface, and I don't know what I'll do if that happens! Of course, the Mysterious Secret is so Secret even I can't tell you about it. Not until much, much later.
I think I'll go make some chocolates. Or put on the dinner. A nice page or so of olfactory description usually helps.
Why yes, that is a chip on my shoulder! How observant of you to notice! It explains why I grew so bitter and twisted, don't you think? I was always an outsider. My parents didn't understand me. I was poor and ugly-looking, and didn't have decent clothes, and I was persecuted at school, and nobody was ever nice to me. Is it any wonder that I ended up going berserk with the chainsaw in PE class?
Oops, I let that slip, didn't I? Clumsy, clumsy! Still, they never caught me and I was far more subtle after that. Far more subtle. More subtle by far.
Oh goodness me, is that the time? Time to put Phase One of my Evil Plan into operation. See you soon!
Ahh, the scent of roast chicken and garlic as it wafts from the stove! The golden chunks of roast potato, swimming in pork fat! The florets of broccoli, the spears of asparagus! I could easily spend a page or two describing the process of making the gravy, too. Mmmm!
Oh wait. Something bad has just happened to me. I feel the vulnerability of my existence, fishbone-fragile, and how it scares me.
Why is this happening to me?
Because I am Ruthless. And because it's fun.
Phase Two, I think.
That Which I Hold Most Dear is slipping from my grasp! Now I must face up to the evil which threatens not only me, but the entire community and perhaps the entire world as well.
Now even the supporting cast can sense the atmosphere of Evil which hangs over them. "Ze sky, he is falleeng", they sometimes tell me, as they adjust their berets, chew determinedly upon raw cloves of garlic and make the sign of the Evil Eye in unison.
Poor sweet people. It's not their fault they are so very stupid and easy to manipulate. It is my duty to protect them from the Antagonist. I must take a deep breath and face up to the Mysterious Secret From My Past! Only by doing this will I find the strength within myself to defeat the Forces of Evil once and for all!
Mwhahaha. I am so very, very evil. And no-one will ever be able to stop me.
Phase Three will take place in public - somewhere very public - where I will be able to kill again, or maybe ruin someone's hard work, or flood a village, or set fire to a locked church full of nuns. I can't tell what I'm going to do yet, but it's going to be ghastly. And very dramatic.
And no-one will ever be able to stop me. Mwhahaha. Mwhahahahaha.
Tremble, Antagonist! By the power of magic or simple tasty cooking, and perhaps even some random aerial aerobatics, your plans will be foiled!
Curses! My beautiful dreams of wickedness, ruined!
Oh well, win some, lose some. I grudgingly respect the Lead for their ability to defeat me, and I move on to pastures new. Another day, another community to flatter, charm, cajole, persuade and seduce. Another chance to coax, beguile, blandish, captivate, influence, inveigle, mesmerize, entice, tempt and possess.
For I am evil.
I have a thousand names.
And I ravage the thesaurus until it screams for mercy.
Now that the Antagonist has vanished, cloudless blue skies have returned to the community. The sun's beams sparkle happily about the quaint round cobblestones in the square. The supporting cast scratch their yokel heads, dimly aware that the nameless danger has passed, and start to smile again. People openly acknowledge my status as their champion, and - who knows! - I might even bag myself a sexy hunk o' non-inbred manhood, if I'm very lucky.
Yes, change has arrived.
But - as you Joanne Harris readers really ought to know by now - plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. Hein?