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Fungus the Bogeyman

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Hamish Hamilton London 1982 First Edition VG (illus hardcover sl rubbed and worn, sl faded, internally book is clean and bright and all pop ups appear to work! Of course being a pixie type person myself I firmly believe in the little people that live at the bottom of gardens and in enchanted woods and forests.

Fungus lives an ordinary life, he gets up, gets prepared for work, makes the commute, does his job and wonders what is it all about? The Bogeymen that live there revel in every kind of nastiness imaginable – especially their day-job of scaring human beings. Skip forward [mumble mumble] years -- yes, that many -- and I've just found the very same book hiding in a forgotten, dusty stack at my parent's house.

Instead we are left with this dense and contemplative literary work that doesn't talk down to children but rather treats them as intelligent readers and throws in references to the likes of John Milton, Alfred Tennyson, William Oldys, Thomas Carlyle and John Donne. And while the book was certainly quirky and very funny, it was also very different from what I was expecting it to be. The Bogeymen that live there revel in every kind of nastiness imaginable - especially their day-job of scaring human beings. For example, Bogeymen are shown to enjoy eating and sharing flies in a similar way to human cigarettes; one brand of fly is the "strong French Gallwasp", a pun on the cigarette Gauloises.

Initially published in 1977, Fungus the Bogeyman follows one day in the life of the title character, a working class Bogeyman with the mundane job of scaring human beings. Fungus goes to work up where the ‘drycleaners’ live, traelling very slowly on his flat wheeled bike.

But even with me being a bit disappointed with and by Raymond Briggs' Fungus the Bogeyman as a story, I would probably be giving it a high three star ranking (and not the two stars I am at present considering) if the textual presentation of the book were even somewhat easier on my aging eyes. A celebrated author and illustrator, Raymond Briggs’ works include the seasonal classics, Father Christmas and The Snowman as well as Fungus the Bogeyman. For while Fungus' world and his daily life are indeed often minutely, engagingly and even in a strange way beautifully described and depicted (and the accompanying illustrations are gorgeously drawn and actually, amazingly sparkle with their very and often intense general ugliness), really and truly, for and to me, the constant and ever-present referrals to farting, vomiting, grottiness, slime, mould and the like does tend to become rather frustratingly dragging. Almost documentary-style, the book follows a day in the life of the title character, his work and home life, and along the way introduces the culture and manners of his people, the Bogeys, whose occupation is frightening humans, also known as the surface-dwelling “Dry Cleaners”.

The family has an addition, a daughter named Mucus, and Fungus' son Mould (who featured in the original book) is a teenager going through a rebellious phase: cleaning things instead of dirtying them. Fungus the Bogeyman is a lovingly created work of art, with as much care and thought in the words as in the images. It follows one day in the life of the title character, a working class Bogeyman with the mundane job of scaring human beings.Amongst the information given about their lifestyle there is also a more typical storyline where Fungus wakes up, washes (in slime) and cycles to work where he ponders his role in society and the purpose of his existence! Life in Bogeydom is full of snot, smells, slime, scum and other unspeakable things, and Bogeymen live under the ground revelling in all the nastiness imaginable.

When I started reading books by this author, I was expecting something more fanciful like The Snowman, but found titles much closer in tone and themes to The Man. This adaption also starred Marc Warren, Keeley Hawes, Joanna Scanlan, Jimmy Akingbola, Paul Kaye, and also Victoria Wood in her final television role before her death in April 2016. He is a bogeyman who goes to the surface each night to cause havoc (literally: things that go bump on the night).

I actually couldn't bear to read past the sixth page or so, once I realized that it was just a way-too-wordy Bizzaro Superman-style reversal of everything in polite society. The topic was inspired after Briggs watched a Panorama documentary on nuclear contingency planning, and the dense format of the page was inspired by a Swiss publisher's miniature version of Father Christmas. However, Briggs continued to produce humour for children, in works such as the Unlucky Wally series and The Bear.

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