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Ben Trovato, Stirred Not Shaken by Ben…
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Ben Trovato, Stirred Not Shaken

by Ben Trovato

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CONSIDERING the relatively small pool it has to draw on, SA has an amazing wealth of people who write genuinely funny prose.

Ben Trovato, a columnist on the Cape Times with seven books to his name, takes the honours. Trovato is the nom de plume of a writer who zealously guards his true identity.

His name derives from the Italian phrase, “se è non vero, è ben trovato,” which means, “even if it is not true, it is well invented”.

Back in the 1980s an enterprising British journalist wrote a series of absurdly inappropriate letters to a vast medley of public figures, under the nom de guerre Henry Root. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, Trovato penned a host of OTT missives, and published the results in a book. His ruse succeeded to such an extent that he was able to publish three collections, while Henry Root was only able to squeeze out two before the Brits realised what he was up to.

The Worst of Ben Trovato covers his best hoax letters from 2001 to 2003, after which anyone even vaguely culturally literate, or who bothered to Google his name, realised they were being tricked.

Typically, public servants never appeared to see through him.

Ben Trovato's Art of Survival is all his own work and more consistently funny as a result — as well as being much more original.

For example, Trovato's advice when attacked by muggers: “Take him by the throat with one hand, while plunging your other hand down the front of his trousers. If he is carrying a weapon, you need to disarm him as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“A lot of criminals prefer to carry guns, knives, hand grenades and even wooden clubs in their underwear. This practice inspired the myth that black men are hung like horses. They are not. The enormous bulge is simply caused by a deadly arsenal stuffed down their broeks."

His survival tips, although specific to Cape Town, cover aspects of life familiar to most in SA: dogs, drugs, home security, hijacking, smoking and suicide are all given the Trovato Tweak.

In his letters Trovato, like Henry Root, adopts the persona of a crass boor who never hesitates to use racist and sexist terms if he thinks that he has a sympathetic audience.

He is only slightly more PC in his Art of Survival (“Rape: if you are a man who has been raped, there is a good chance it happened in prison. Deal with it.") but this is an equal opportunity book, containing something to offend everyone, balanced by a great number of outrageously funny passages. ( )
  adpaton | Nov 22, 2007 |
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