The Last Trump of Avram Blok

The Guardian, by Norman Shrapnel, March 8 1990:

The Last Trump of Avram Blok is the sort of hold-all novel almost anything can go into, and most things do. Simon Louvish brings his much-travelled star to set in the West, though you still feel his correct address (as children used to write in their books when they had them) is London, England, Europe, the World, the Solar System, the Universe …
And so on, and so on. School of Rabelais, you might say, topped up with William Bur¬roughs. Louvish has a liking for great lists, putting you in mind of free Association games played on outlandish journeys. The travelling is cosmic enough, heaven knows, yet you find yourself thinking more of, the Central Line (last stop On¬gar) and what on earth, or be¬yond it, would happen if the exuberance switched off like a power failure, landing you for ever at Barkingside or Hanger Lane.

The fear passes. Things keep moving; the tube takes off among the tree tops; we find ourselves in an extended rev¬erie, a brilliantly stocked data¬bank, a decidedly un-common¬place book. What continuity the novel bothers to have derives from the cinema, with Lou¬vish’s camera eye eccentrically covering the world with docu¬mentaries, B-dramas and H-nightmares, bleeding chunks of news and history before hom¬ing on “this dull and drizzly land”, Margaret Thatcher’s Britain. It’s a fat book, con¬stantly struggling to get fatter. Can that vital fuel, its cosmic energy, hold out to the end? It can; it does.

From the first chapter:


The Primal Scream:

Blok strides across the earth in seven-league boots, his head above the clouds…
No, he crawls upon the earth, with the rest of us, postponing the day he’s ploughed under.
What else can we expect?

The Madman Cometh:

Avram Blok, ex mental patient and ex patriate, arrived at Heath¬row Airport, London, after abandoning his Homeland and his home city, Jerusalem, on March –, 1983. Chance meetings led him to be offered a post as assistant to the editing tutor of an educational establishment named the London College of the Cine¬matographic Arts. Sometime later the College became bankrupt and, in the twist and twirl of events, Blok eked out his life for a while in a cardboard box by the Charing Cross Embankment. But two years later he found himself hitchhiking upon the Scenic Highway 1 along the coast of California, where he was picked up, just above the Ragged Point, by a middle-aged all-American couple named Mr and Mrs Arnold Joy, who were motoring north from Los Angeles in a Chevrolet station wagon pulling a large white trailer laden with all their earthly goods and chattels, to re-settle in Carmel, a small town which had recently elected as its Mayor a film star specialising in manly individualism and the armed chastisement of wrongdoers.

‘And where are you headed, young man?’ asked Mrs Joy, after Blok and his rucksack had climbed in the back seat.

`Big Sur,’ said Blok. `I am visiting a dying old man who was once a giant of the motion picture business. I had a friend who was going to drive me up there, but I lost him in Los Angeles.’ `Everybody gets lost in Los Angeles,’ said Mr Joy, whose face was made of home-made apple pie. `Pretty soon it’ll all go under. It’s all down in the Scriptures, boy. Voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake, and the seven angels will prepare to sound. There will be hail and fire mingled with blood, and the bottomless pit and the smoke of the furnace. But those men with the seal of God on their foreheads will be saved. Revelations, 8 and 9.’

`But they too, who have the seal, will be tormented,’ Mrs joy reminded him. `They should be tormented five months.’

`But their torment will be as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man,’ countered Mr Joy.

`That’s why we’re going to Carmel,’ said Mrs joy. `It’s far enough from the Fault.’
`You can walk the streets without getting killed,’ said Mr Joy. `Air’s pure. The people are friendly. People genuinely care about their mind and body. It’s a good place to wait.’
`This old man you’re visiting, is he a relative?’ asked Mrs joy. `No,’ said Blok. But he could not explain why he was under¬taking the journey to the ailing Irving Klotskashes, king of the Fifties’ shlock movies and alleged former Elder of Zion.

`The Day’s coming soon,’ said Mr joy, `you can bet your bottom dollar.’

The afternoon was beginning to fade and the mist beginning to roll down the hills towards the great Pacific breakers. Out to sea waves broke on protruding rocks upon which seals slapped their flippers and barked. Further out, the trace of a whale’s nostril could perhaps be glimpsed, briefly, in the spray. Down the cliff, a community of failed businessmen, living in prefabricated huts on a ledge, awaited orders from the Sun God Ra. They were dressed in white robes, with silver dollars wrapped round their foreheads by means of orange headbands. Their eyes were closed as they deflected their gaze inwards, to their souls, each attempting to find the inherent nothingness that, it appeared, lay at their core. Mrs joy turned towards the back seat and extracted a paper bag of fruit from a wicker basket. She handed her husband a banana and Blok an apple, red and shiny. Sitting back, she peeled herself an orange.

`And where are you coming from, young man?’

(Now read on…)