That offence, it will be remembered, had to do with smoking. The Butt is very much a smoker’s, or an ex-smoker’s, book: the offensive cigarette itself was supposed to be Tom’s last, and he suffers through the mystical states of non-being incurred by an attempt to kick the habit. The late Joe Strummer, in one of his if-I-ruled-the-world moments, proclaimed that people who don’t smoke should be banned from enjoying the creative fruits of people who do. And he had a point: why should the pious non-smoker, with lungs unblemished and childlike, be allowed to read books, hear music, etc., produced by artists who coughed themselves to death at the altar of nicotine? The brilliance, range, and focus of The Butt does indeed suggest the operations of a powerful mind in a silver haze. Buy it, non-smokers, before Strummer’s word becomes law.
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