Aug 13

That's not how you eat a box of chocolates!Click for full image

Stephen Comments: Greybeard just get scarier the longer you look at it. Good book but hideous cover.
Published 1974

Actually, that cover IS a classical work of art!I would touch it without protective gloves.I've seen worse. Far, far, worse.Interesting, but I would still read it in public.Middlng: Neither awful nor awfully goodWould not like to be seen reading that!Awful... just awful...That belongs in a gold-lame picture frame!Gah... my eyes are burning! Feels so good!Good Show Sir! (Average: 8.84 out of 10)

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48 Responses to “Greybeard”

  1. THX 1138 Says:

    Looks like someone had the temerity to mention his arch-enemy Monty Don.

  2. Phil Says:

    Wispy beard, perhaps. But if I had to describe this fellow, I might say “You know, the guy with the creepy horns growing out of his cheeks and shoulder” rather than “the man with a beard which is grey to the exclusion of all other possible descriptors for it”.

    And is it me, or does the raven have a sinister human-style smile UNDERNEATH his birdy beak?

  3. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    @Phil: and human hands.

  4. Tom Noir Says:

    Oh dear, gramps has swallowed a wooden block again!

  5. Bibliomancer Says:

    Horny old man.

  6. Tom Hering Says:

    How sad to see yet another middle-aged man sporting the outlaw look. But I know what he’s thinking. “Where’s that dog that stole my Harley? I’m gonna rip the fringed suede vest right off his hairy ass!”

  7. fred Says:

    I get the faint whiff of ‘Hothouse’ off of this cover. Must be the plants.

  8. NGpm Says:

    This is a look that says I’m choking on the brick I tried to swallow whole.

  9. Joachim Boaz Says:

    The fern in the middle of his chest makes him look like he has cleavage….

  10. B. Chiclitz Says:

    The bird is a tiny human wearing a mask. The man is a lego piece. And what’s up with those mismatched eyes?

  11. Bibliomancer Says:

    Allow me to complain.

    Having to wait for all of the comments to be moderated really puts a damper on any kind of witty banter.

    Also leads to a lot of duplicate observations since we can’t see what’s been posted already.

  12. Tat Wood Says:

    It’s Fred I say Fred Elliott

  13. A.R.Yngve Says:

    NEVER eat your Weetabix without milk.

  14. Lionrock Says:

    “People are always asking me how I get and maintain that all day wispy look, and whether my cheek horns and neck block require any specific skin care regime, and do you know what? I tell them its all down to good healthy food, fresh air and a strong dose of batshit crazy and some anthropomorphic crow guano”

  15. random Donna Says:

    Brian Aldiss’s writing gives me mixed feelings, but this cover gives me an unmixed feeling of squeamishness. The only thing worse than reading this on the train would be seeing a guy who looks like this reading this on the train.

  16. Jaouad Says:

    Postapocalyptic Hemingway ahoy!

  17. Bibliomancer Says:

    @random Donna — Squeamish? How about sitting next to a guy who looks like this reading this book on a train and asking him what caused that stain on the cover?

  18. The Tag Wizard Says:

    @Bibliomancer (#11) – complaint upheld, I share the frustration! Here’s what’s been going on behind the scenes:

    A friendly arrangement with our server owner has allowed us to keep the site ad-free for 4½ years now. The downside that regs are well familiar with is a reduction in stability, typically when another site sends us major traffic, or when a security update doesn’t mesh well with the GSS backend (as happened most recently with the comment spam protection).

    So we’re looking at migration to an affordable, stable, secure host, and combining that move with an unobtrusive ad system to cover rental costs.

    If we could generate enough funds from a simple, single Amazon referral link in the side-bar (should the good people of GSS want to use it), a tip jar, and / or tasteful site sponsorship, that would be great. We’re open to suggestion and discussion.

    A move would also enable us to improve the site in other ways without fear of rending C.S. Lewis’ floating head in two.

    Meanwhile GSS Admin and I are checking in as often as possible so that we can all bask in the unfettered genius of each others’ observational comedy and industry commentary.

  19. Bibliomancer Says:

    @Tag Wizard — I’ve done a little googling on your traffic analysis and can appreciate that you might need to increase your cash flow. I’d be happy to put up with a few “Meet Russian Singles” or “DickPillz” ads (tastefully done, of course) to keep the site afloat. Am open to the other ideas you suggested.

    With enough income you could move upstairs and maybe hire a New Tag Wizard!

  20. The Tag Wizard Says:

    “This site is estimated worth of US Dollar $ 480.00 and have a daily income of around $ 2.00 US Dollar.”

    Daily income? Lol. A generous estimation.

  21. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    @TW, BM: shall we merge the two threads together?

    ‘Awright, let me get this straight, birdie. You say I can increase WHAT, HOW MANY inches?’

  22. Rags Says:


    Greybeard used the “DickPillz” link and despite the 1 pill per day warning, he decided to scarf the entire bottle instead. It lead to his brick-neck issue.

    He also used the ” Meet Russian Singles” link and he was shipped a 2 mouthed raven, as his ad asked for a svelt like brunette who is an amazing kisser.


  23. Jerk of all Trades Says:

    Looking at this cover is an experience in wondering if maybe you have been drugged and things are just starting to kick in.

  24. Tom Noir Says:

    I’m sure some unobtrusive ads wouldn’t be the least bit problematic. Besides, I’m interested in finding out how to get rid of wrinkles with this one weird trick!

  25. Tat Wood Says:

    But please avoid the mistake made by the much-missed Superdickery, who put flashing ads IN FRONT OF the covers they’d posted up. Traffic stopped and the site hasn’t posted anything new for nearly five years.

    I suppose you could use them in lieu of sheep or CS Lewis.

    But @Tom Noir, the guy in the cover of Greybeard is trying the one weird trick, and look at the results.

  26. Anti-Sceptic Says:

    Greybeard looks like he’s going to try to spear the crow with his cheek.

  27. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    I saw grey beard; I saw his wink;
    It’s Brian Aldiss, man!
    He swallowed up a Lego brick
    And pierced saliva gland;
    He’ll shrive my soul, he’ll wash right quick
    The Albatross’ hands!

  28. FeàrofMusic Says:

    Everything about this cover is unsettling. The mere idea that this might, in fact, accurately portray something in the book itself, would keep me from purchasing it. Every question this cover raises, has an answer I don’t want to know. Ignorance might not be bliss, but it isn’t going to give me nightmares eithe .

  29. Tor Mented Says:

    Like the guy on the cover, there’s a book I just can’t swallow.

  30. Bibliomancer Says:

    Greybeard: The Human Stain

  31. B. Chiclitz Says:

    I love flashback Fridays cuz I get to see a lot of things I missed first time around, like, why is there a “monkeys” tag? What am I still missing?

  32. fred Says:

    Aldiss talks about the book. For the more sensitive viewers, be warned, he does mention gonads.

  33. THX 1138 Says:

    There’s a monkeys tag because the chap there is a cheeky monkey, yes he is, yes he is.

    What was that film where the ostrich swallowed a radio and you could hear music wherever it went thanks to the box visibly stuck halfway down its throat? Didn’t realise it was a trope.

  34. JuanPaul Says:

    With all the messed up sh*t on this cover, it’s the grubby white T-shirt that bothers me the most.

  35. B. Chiclitz Says:

    @THX 1138—Thanks for the clarification. As a token of appreciation, I point you to “Donald’s Ostrich.” Here’s the plot summary from Wikipedia. I believe this is what you are seeking.

    Donald is working along as a custodian at a whistle stop train station and is responsible for loading and unloading luggage. A train passes the station and dumps a large pile of luggage on Donald without stopping. Donald finds that one of the crates contains an ostrich and tied around the ostrich’s neck he finds the following note: “My name is HORTENSE. Please see that I am fed and watered. P.S. I eat anything!”

    Hortense begins to eat anything she can find at the station starting with the message. She then eats a concertina, a wind-up alarm clock and several balloons. This causes Hortense to have hiccups which Donald tries to cure by scaring her.

    Finally Hortense swallows Donald’s radio and her body begins to react to what is playing on the radio. Donald realizes Hortense has swallowed the radio and grabs a pair of forceps to pull try to it out (but ends up getting the concertina out instead). But when Hortense starts to react to a broadcast car race, Donald is unable to control her. Hortense finally crashes through a door which at last knocks the radio out of her, but she also gives Donald the hiccups.

    Sounds like a masterpiece, totally GSS worthy, if it were a book and if it were science fiction and if it had a cover.

  36. Mellie M. Says:

    I’m just glad somebody explained that was a horn coming out of his cheek. I thought it was a slug. In fact, I was so icked out about the slug, I didn’t immediately notice the brick in the throat.

    I saw an old man who swallowed a slug
    that wriggled and wiggled right out of his mug
    He swallowed the slug to eat the brick
    I don’t know why he swallowed the brick
    but he’ll be sick.

  37. THX 1138 Says:

    @B.C. #35: Thanks, but this was a live action movie, not a Donald Duck toon.

    A little digging reveals it to be the 1965 epic Zebra in the Kitchen, which if I had no concept of the worth of money I could buy on DVD from Amazon for £42 (!). Anyway, it sounds like Jumanji without the CGI, or indeed the animal safety concerns.

  38. Tat Wood Says:

    @THX 1138: My word, that takes me back. Anglia Television used to show that or ‘Robinson Crusoe on Mars’ practically every Bank Holiday when I was a nipper. The bit I remember was the use of a whipped-cream super-soaker to keep the lions happy.

  39. GSS ex-noob Says:

    I can’t even look at this, it makes me nauseous. Nauseated? Barfy.

    Somehow, although I’m of an age to have seen “Zebra in the Kitchen”, I never did. AFAIK it was never run on any TV station when I was a kid (and I’m too young to have been dragged to the theater for it). It’s “only” $38 in the US, or you can stream it online for $2-4 if you must. I’m puzzled that the inciting incident involves (oooh!) a puma, yet none appears on the poster.

    But what I really came here to discuss was THE MERMAID MENACE.

    It’s moved to TV!

  40. Bruce A Munro Says:

    Perhaps rather than having swallowed a brick, he’s actually a sentient bust with a square base, who has stolen someone else’s body? (It doesn’t explain why both have horns, but maybe everyone has random horns in this setting. Horns for everyone!)

  41. Francis Boyle Says:

    Want I want to know is whether that brick is coming up or going down. Is it shit-a-brick or barf-a-brick? Either way I don’t want to be there when it happens.

  42. RachelJ Says:

    @GSS ex-noob. This is getting serious. You know, I live in a coastal town myself. I’ll probably be among the first victims… 😨

    @Francis Boyle. No, no, it’s his voicebox. Obviously.

  43. B. Chiclitz Says:

    @THX 1138—So we have two works employing that same exact schtick of an ostrich swallowing a radio? Clearly the Zebra ripped off the Duck, unless it’s simply the sort of thing ostriches like to do, and I am not up on my ostrich lore.

  44. Tat Wood Says:

    @B.Chiclitz: the ostrich-swallows-something gag is at least as old as Big Eggo in ‘The Beano’ c.1938. Issue 4 he gulps down a police whistle and scares off burglars. Pre-war editions are hard to find so I can’t pin down a specific radio-ingesting incident but my dad recalled it happening a few times.

  45. GSS ex-noob Says:

    @RachelJ: Yes, I wanted to warn you. Keep watching the seas! I’m not that far inland myself. It’ll put you off the beach more than Jaws did.

    @all: I wonder where the “ostrich swallows noisemaker” gag was first invented? And why? Do they tend to get things stuck there, or was it just a visual gag b/c of their long neck? Is there a similar trope regarding giraffes?

  46. Tat Wood Says:

    @GSS ex-noob: I recall Alfred Bester reproducing a section of his commonplace book with a story idea based on ostriches swallowing things. Apparently, their veldt habitat is filled with plants too tough to digest without chewing. As Ostriches can’t chew they often swallow insoluble rocks so that they can mash the plants and bugs in their stomachs. Where an ostrich has died and the hyenas have eaten the mortal remains – again, according to whatever source he was using – you might find a sort of cairn of acid-washed stones.There was a story-idea about applying this to a big alien and asteroids.

    I can’t find the citation, as it was about thirty years ago I read it and whatever book it is currently resides in a storage facility 3000 miles away. I’m about 85% sure it was Bester but it might, at a pinch, be Damon Knight or someone of similar vintage.

  47. GSS ex-noob Says:

    @Tat: A quick Google found several references to Bester’s commonplace book, so your memory is likely correct.

    Lots of birds eat rocks for the purpose in the gizzard, but I suppose only ostriches are big enough to provide for humorous possibilities of getting noise makers stuck in the long neck.

  48. B. Chiclitz Says:

    Well, this was an avian education all right! Only on GSS can we sling from ostrich gizzards to radios to Alfred Bester’s commonplace book. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that Bester was, in fact, an ostrich.

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