Book Reviews: I’ve read a lot of books these past few months, mainly in airports, foot-massage joints, and on trains, airplanes as well as the dentist’s waiting room. With Christmas coming I thought that I would share some concise opinions and ideas on a selection of works on the off chance that someone may need to appease their stocking stuffer sentimentality. I was thinking that I had read a record number of texts this year, but that is not the case when compared to the multitude of volumes I ingested for my recent academic voyage. Perhaps it is the greatest number of writings I have read voluntarily, willingly and freely in a few months for no real purpose other than potential enjoyment.
Books I have appreciated include travelogues, language primers, and foodie manuals as well as more conventional factual and fictional pieces. This month I will focus on about a dozen of the more mainstream hardbacks and paperbacks, which are mainly and loosely fact-based. Not that I don’t like fiction, but I am reticent to invest the time learning the names and backgrounds of non-existent characters on a Game of Thrones scale only to move onto something else a week later.
Frankie Boyle purportedly wrote a handful of books, and he is what you might call an extreme comic, probably offending as many folks as he regales, relying for the most part on punchy delivery and precise timing for his humor. He most likely had a ghostwriter working with him, but the presentation of short, terse sentences delivered in machine gun bursts seems to fit with his on-stage style. His edgy material makes Billy Connolly’s stories sound as though they came from Jackanory (an old UK kid’s program). For myself I have formed an opinion that I don’t like Boyle’s personality but I can’t help but laugh at some of his material.
In his autobiography, My Shit Life So Far, Frankie stresses that he is not related to Susan Boyle (of Britain’s Got Talent fame). On Susan he says, “I suppose we do have things in common; I look ridiculous dressed as a woman too. Come on, Susan Boyle does look uncannily like Mrs. Doubtfire as played by Gordon Brown. Let’s be honest and say that God broke the mould, just before he made her. Susan claims she has never been kissed. On that evidence alone, Scotland’s alcohol problems are not nearly as bad as previously imagined. OK, so she hasn’t been kissed, but this is Scotland. I’ll bet she’s been fingered on a school trip to Largs.” Now I must admit I was rolling about laughing at that point until the flight attendant asked me to return to my seat.
I don’t know why I like autobiographies, and I do realize that the auto part is questionable. In particular, I don’t generally enjoy the post-fetal to pre pubescent phase of any autobiography. I’m not really interested in the teenage years part either until the individual starts to exhibit some contemporaneously recognizable character traits. Sure you might get an inkling that Richard Branson was an independently-minded guy when he was a kid but I don’t want to wade through twelve chapters for that gem. So I generally flick through those first few chapters to get to the main event, such as Frankie’s view of relationships. He says, “I’ve discovered one of the keys to a successful relationship is the ability to listen to what your other half did during the day and pretend you are not cripplingly bored. Nodding is good. As is the occasional ‘Really?’ If you hear a name you recognise take a stab at identifying them.” ‘Is that Maggie that works on reception?’
In his latest book, Scotland’s Jesus, he has a real go at the royal family, which in parts is quite funny, but I do think he overdoes that a bit. Not sure why I seem to be more of a royalist these days. However, for the most part the contemporary knock-the-establishment narrative seems like a continuation from his previous writings and he tries hard to put a raucous punch line in every paragraph. I’m guessing his previous books did OK.