Spam: the Novel
Our protagonist: the hapless Mazo Aben. His sidekick and sometime philosopher: Loughnane Tumulty, an escaped Saudi slave. Mazo’s unattainable lady love: Fanizza Medosch. His rival for her attentions: the devilish Kamrowski (not to be confused with the artist by that name, or Victor Komarovsky in Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago—he was played by Rod Steiger in the movie—although there are postmodern shades of the latter’s lecherousness in our Kamrowski). His evil sidekicks, Lickert and Kwit, have no scruples, and will do anything to accomplish his purposes, which, we will learn late in the narrative, are even more sinister than Mazo, or we, could have imagined.
Of the nearly impossibly long list of minor characters: Madam Pereyra Gusmar and her troupe of Merrie Whores, the proverbial Whore With a Heart of Gold, Mojica Morefield, chief among them. Of her charges, the most tragic is Topness Pauly, the tubercular whore, whose only dream is to become a stage actress, despite buck teeth, bad skin, and a terrible stutter (no one has the heart to tell her).
She dies in the arms of her “agent,” the drunkard and wastrel Greinke Kalkbrenner, after contracting syphilis from him in exchange for giving him consumption. Distraught and coughing up blood, the drunken Greinke carries the lifeless body of “Me Li’l Toppy,” as he affectionately called her, through the rainy cobblestone streets of Moznett, wailing, “Why? Why, Lordy, why?! Take me! Take me!” while the townspeople throw empty bottles and rubbish and hurl epithets like “syphilitic dog” and “slutty little consumptive” at them.
And as if in answer to Greinke’s question, as Providence would have it, stumbling blindly through the streets he (literally) bumps into the hot-tempered Nobleman Duenes Starcevic, Fifth Duke of Gafna Capral on the Sea of Idler Dawn, dropping the girl’s corpse at his feet, splashing his Sergio Grasso Bergamo Field boots with muck and slime from the gutter. Starcevic demands a duel that very day, in which poor Greinke, who has never handled a gun, is, of course, shot dead. But not before accidentally shooting out the good eye of Duke Starcevic’s Second, the exotic Yuri Kunishige, whose business in the Occident is shrouded in mystery until, having been blinded and seeking solace, he ends up in the boudoir of Mojica Morefield, who coaxes out his secret mission, which involves a certain Mazo Aben…
I was going for a kind of arty, cryptic cover up above, by the way--like, if you saw it on the remainders table at Barnes & Noble you might be like, "Spam? Why are there ruby slippers on the cover? Guess I'll have to read it and find out!" But there are certainly other possibilities. Among them, something sober, 19th centuryish:
I love how Penguin puts just any old thing, practically, on their covers, just as long as it looks venerable. Here, Bouguereau has the advantage of being both venerable and gloriously sleezy at the same time.
Or you could go with a more contemporary look, to snag those ironic pomo litty types, with a less cryptic but more provocative cover illustration, like this lovely Lucien Freud (one of my personal faves):
Any Freud is a sure conversation-starter. This is the perfect cover for a ride on public transit or an airplane trip, if you're looking to attract a little unwanted attention!
But the only sure-fire way to guarantee success, as everyone knows, is The Seal: