Books inspired Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford (The Genesis guys) first solo albums. Tony Banks did a ‘Flowers for Algernon’ story called ‘A Curious Feeling’. Mike Rutherford did ‘Smallcreep’s Day.’
Smallcreep’s Day is an album I simply adore. The album helped me survive many long nights finishing up homework during college. The elegant dances of keyboards combined with out-of-the-box guitar riffs set to a progressive rock story always help set the right mood to do art. Made in 1979 it harkens back to a time where the keyboards always drowned out the guitars, the atmosphere moog was set to ‘scary’ and the guest vocalist who had an amazing voice was never heard from again.
So when I went to find the actual Book that inspired this great album, it was disappointing to learn that it was very much out of print and nowhere to be found. Now with the iBooks App, Smallcreep’s Day by Peter Currell Brown is available for download. FINALLY I thought I could read and understand the album even more now!
Peter Currell Brown wrote Smallcreep’s Day while working in Gloucestershire factory. Its success enabled him to give up factory work and realize his dream of setting up a craft pottery in rural Gloucestershire. Since then he has been involved in series of craft enterprises in various parts of the county. He now lives and works in woodlands near Sherwood Forest making spinning-wheel for enthusiasts and museums.
After reading this book it appears this was all he had to say.
So before delving into this book I had an idea it would be a strange ‘Alice-In-Wonderland’ type ordeal. Oh my! I have no idea. Talk about surreal this book is a typical off-the-wall adventure that reeks back to the boring, depressing stories we had to read for summer high-school reading.
Having spent some time in a manufacturing plant in Mansfield, Ohio I know what it’s like to walk around a huge juggernaut of a building, with additions that were constructed at different decades, surrounded with walls and complexities of no rhyme and reason. The one thing the author does do well is describe the complexity of this plant as his character Smallcreep walks around trying to find the reason for his ‘widget’.
Combined with the fact the entire book is written from a first-person point of view, the book ITSELF is really hard to read. Literally. In that conversations between several characters are all contained with one paragraph with no line breaks. You’re eyes are literally going back over several lines to figure out who’s talking. To make matters worse, there are characters within the single-point-of-view quoting other characters. The amount of quotes within quotes will make your head spin. I’m not sure why they formatted the text this way, but the book in general is just uncomfortable on the eyes.
The book is very dry, and so depressing that several times I almost decided NOT to finish it. The author spends way too much time describing the machines that accompany Smallcreep on his journey and not enough explaining what is going on. Scenery changes instantly and you have to re-read the paragraph to figure out exactly what just happened. Smallcreep encounters characters that seem to serve no purpose or provide no explanation to the bigger theme of the book. Obviously the book is a call for the plight of the factory worker, but several of the characters are so agonizingly self-defeating, that you really can’t feel sorry for them.
This combined with the absurdity of the surreal situations, a man hanging himself, a man cutting his arm off, a baby being born in the cafeteria, a watery dungeon several miles below the plant provide nothing more than just obscure frustration. The main character himself doesn’t seem mentally equipped to even deal with the items that are presented to him, but then again this book is VERY surreal. There’s no way all these items would ever be contained in a single factory, there’s no way all of this could happen within the time frame presented. You are simply suppose to get the ideal that factory life is boring, hard-working and meaning-less and that point is hammered (pun intended) home several thousand times through-out the book.
I had an idea of what I was getting into before I delved into this book so I continued on to the end, but I’ll be honest with you if I didn’t skip several lines just to get to the next line of dialog. I felt this would have really worked better as a movie, maybe with some bizarre colored pencil animation the likes of Bill Plimpton. As a book the story is just downright weird and nonsensical.
This book was so depressing that like after I read ‘Sounder’ I wanted to start cutting my wrists. I don’t know what happened in the sixties to make every book a depressing moralist story but I literally was left disappointed when I reached the end. How Mike Rutherford ever made his wonderful record off this agonizing piece of fluff is beyond me. If anything Ruthford’s album at least ends on a happy note (pun intended again).
While I understand where Mr. Brown was going for the combination of weird formatting of the book and the surreal story make Smallcreep’s Day a very disgusting journey. You finish no more enlightened than you already are. The book leaves you wanting your money back from the iTunes store.