24 Lies a Second

3 Conversations


Simulated dust motes danced in simulated sunlight as Shazz made yet another

of her occasional attempts to clear up the mess in the H2G2 Post Office. I'm

not surprised this is a virtual environment,
she thought, it's virtually

uninhabitable for one thing.

Thrusting another half-dozen empty doughnut cartons into an already

overflowing bin she paused to light her pipe. Rich, aromatic green fumes added

to the already murky office atmosphere and a languid moment was only disturbed

by a salvo of liquid barking noises as Shazz nearly coughed up a lung.

The cleaning attempt temporarily put on hold Shazz sat down behind her

ink-stained desk and mused about the next edition. All the usual

she thought, although as usual one member of the team was

shockingly behind deadline, delaying her, inconveniencing the Towers, and

letting down the other contributors. Utterly, reprehensibly

Shazz thought with disgust. When I get my hands on


'Awix!' she said, cranking a saintly smile onto her face as a familiar

figure shambled in through the virtual door. There was no mistaking the pallid

hairless dome, the rolls of fat, or the terrible dress-sense. 'I was hoping

you'd pop in today.'

'Uh, well, erm,' Awix responded with a confused smile. He stepped aside to

let his slim and lovely girlfriend Lisa follow him into the office. 'Got the,

uhr, stuff if you still need it.'

'Great. Hi Lisa,' Shazz smiled. 'Wow, that dress looks great on you!'

'Thanks, it's Italian.' Lisa and Shazz did that French air-kissing thing -

Shazz could tell Awix was watching and thinking about Tatu from the gawping

lasciviousness of his expression. 'So, what have you got for us this week?'

'Um, right.' Awix fished about in his pockets. 'Freshly edited episode of

168, same again for The Edge... oh, and we were thinking about

doing another TV review thing.'

That'll play well with readers from outside the UK, thought Shazz in

near-despair. 'And what about one of your film reviews? That's the really

popular thing you do!' Though God alone knows why…

'Oh, yeah, that. Well, you see, I, um...'

'What Awix is trying to say that is that he feels we're stuck in a bit of a

stylistic rut at the moment,' Lisa explained. 'He feels every review kicks off

with some generic comments, then we write a synopsis with some cheap and

obvious gags in it, then try to make serious critical points for a couple of

paragraphs. He wants to try something different.'

'Oh. Good,' Shazz said dubiously. 'So what did you go and see this


'Adaptation.,' Awix said. 'It's got that guy out of Con Air in

it but he's got really fat. It's dead weird.'

'It comes on like the sound of one man screaming into his own navel,' Lisa

revealed. 'It does seem like an incredibly self-indulgent film. Charlie

Kaufman, the screenwriter, has written himself into his own screenplay as the

main character. He was supposed to write an adaptation of Susan Orlean's book

The Orchid Thief but he's written a film about how he impossible he

actually found doing that. And God knows how or why, but the studio made


'Wasn't this the one with a few Oscar nominations?' Shazz enquired


'Uh, yeah. The fat guy, and the guy what wrote it, and wossname Cooper,'

Awix said cheerily. 'Only one of them won though. The thing is that most of the

characters are, like, real people, but made-up versions of themselves.'

'Fancy that,' Shazz sighed. 'It sounds a bit self-reflexive. You know,

in-jokey?' - this last added to try and dispel Awix's look of blank


'Oh, yeah, that,' Awix said. 'I didn't get all the jokes, you'd need some

kind of brochure to explain it to you, probably. Well, I didn't, Lisa was there

to explain it all to me, weren't you, chickadee? And the Kaufman guy comes off

as really kind of up himself, writing himself as this neurotic geeky guy - God,

I despise these self-pitying writers, always putting themselves down and

fishing for compliments. He's given himself this imaginary twin brother, too,

played by the same guy out of Con Air.'

'But to be fair to him, Kaufman makes a reasonable stab at justifying what's

basically a wildly and possibly unnecessarily eccentric and convoluted script,'

Lisa said, smiling fondly at her beloved. 'Kaufman the character writes the

script of the film he appears in, which can get a bit weird. But all the

performances are really very strong and it's a very funny film.'

'Oh, good,' Shazz said distractedly. Awix had started poking through the

pile of litter she'd just painstakingly assembled, in search of doughnut

fragments. Fat chance of that with Greebo about, she thought. 'So how

does the plot work? Is there one?'

'Well,' Lisa said, her face becoming more serious. 'For most of the running

time this is a film really without a conventional narrative. Kaufman sets out

to write something completely at odds with the traditional screenplay

structure, a story where the participants don't have traditional aims or

motivations and without a normal sense of closure. So we get a series of scenes

reflecting this, intercut with him worrying about how a script of this type is

actually impossible to write. He's really trying to have his cake and eat it

here but it's enormously entertaining.

'Then, near the end of the film, he gives in and the movie adopts an almost

hyperbolically cliched thriller style, as if to mock his earlier aspirations.

The shift in style is brilliantly, subtly achieved - and, come to think of it,

what I've just said probably counts as a massive spoiler, so I'd better leave

it out of the actual review when Awix and I get around to writing it. The whole

film is self-indulgent and probably too clever for its own good, but it's also

an extremely witty wail of frustration from a writer, despairing of the tyranny

of regular storytelling structure but also giving in and accepting that, in

order to work, that kind of structure is normally essential - films need

closure, characters need to grow, objectives must be attained.' Lisa shrugged.

'It's as simple as that.'

'So, to make an analogy, any kind of review, simply because it's a review,

must contain a few solid paragraphs of analysis somewhere down the line?' Shazz


'Yes, that's about right,' Lisa agreed.

Awix sighed and put down the bin he'd been rooting through. 'I've been

thinking about what I'm going to say in the preview of the movie,' he

announced. 'Y'know, in the new style.'

'Review, honey,' Lisa said with an indulgent smile.

'Whatever. I thought I'd be, like, punchy and outspoken and maybe give a

rating - like three out of five little stars? And some pithy comment like how

this kind of clever arty film is all very well once in while but give me

something with kung fu and rappers and lapdancing any week. Oh, and then I

thought I’d put in a kind of blatant plug-stroke-link for The Vault of Lies-‘

‘I shouldn’t bother, no-one ever reads the back issues,’

Shazz said. ‘What do you want to put as the byline?’

‘The what?’ Awix gawped at her.

‘The bit on the front page saying what the article’s actually

about,’ Shazz sighed.

‘How about, “Another brilliant film review by

Awix”?’ he said with an artless grin. ‘Or “Awix honours

us with his words of wisdom once more.” Or –‘

‘How about, “Awix risks seriously pissing off his

editor”?’ Shazz suggested, deadpan.

Awix blinked at her. ‘Erm, well, if that’s what you think is

best. It’s only a movie for smart-a***s, after all.’

'Personally I really liked it,' Lisa said with a shrug. 'But it's your

column, darling. I know what you mean though - Charlie Kaufman is a brilliant

writer and can pull this kind of metatextual conceit off. I shudder to think

what would happen if any old amateur hack tried copying his style. One thing's

for sure, it wouldn't be pretty.'

Shazz shuddered involuntarily. 'No,' she said. 'It absolutely wouldn't.'


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