Appleseed Rectory in Amis’ Dead Babies alludes to Lindsay’s Appleyard College in Picnic at Hanging Rock. Like Lindsay’s picnic, Amis’ is a disaster. Though none of his Appleseeders dies, they are as the title suggests figuratively “dead babies.”
The Appleseders’ picnic begins to tank as soon as the Appleseeders disregard a sign in a pasture reading, “Fuck off/Trespassers Will /Be Prosecuted.” The women go bare-chested. The men mostly clothed, except for one fellow who craps behind a bush. Their conversation is limited to body parts, unfulfilled sex, and perceived or implied personal insult. Everyone gags on the food; everyone gets drunk and takes drugs. “We are all agreed that life is a rat’s ass. . .” one of the group advises. Sums things up.
When a black cow gallops over, there is a chaotic scramble through the barbed wire fence that leaves them confused and scratched, especially the girls who “bled not very profusely from abrasions sustained on their shoulders and bare breast.” Safely behind the fence, Skip hits the heifer with a brick, “Motherfuck, motherfuck.” When the cow ambles away, Keith says, “Let’s get drunk.” And so, they dip into a teak cupboard where they have packed six bottles each of Pouilly Fuissé, St. Emilion, and Chateau Neuf de Pape, one Glenfiddich, one Gordon’s Gin, and one Napoleon Brandy. Twenty minutes later, after a bottle of wine apiece, there were self-congratulations about their recent escape.
The food packed in “vast cardboard boxes” is a gastronomic feast, but it’s eaten in a manner that inspires a race for a digestive or Pepto Bismol. The sandwiches “were picked up between finger and thumb and held aloft like live worms before being quickly dispatched.” They make fun of bananas, and all gag in unison when boiled eggs are served. The lot of it includes beef steak sandwiches, sardines, liver sausage, anchovies, hard-boiled eggs, crispbread with smoked salmon, salad, Celery, radishes, cheese, apples, bananas, and biscuits.
Featured Image: The sign speaks for itself. William Marsh’s Mood Swingers, aka Dead Babies (2001)
See Martin Amis. Dead Babies. New York: Vintage International, 1975; William Marsh. Dead Babies, aka Mood Swingers (2001). Screenplay by William Marsh is based on Martin Amis’ novel 1975. Also, see Picnicsonfilm.org.