Archive for insight


Posted in Life..., Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2012 by stanleyriiks

Jeremy Clarkson is probably most famous for being a car journalist on the BBC’s Top Gear. He is a forthright, opinionated, and slightly grumpy, man who is relatively intelligent, well travelled, and yet still an everyman. That’s what comes across most in the collection of his articles for The Sunday Times. The articles are over ten years ago, but are surprisingly relevant to modern Britain: decreasing house prices, recession, job losses, bankers pay, university cuts, riots…

If you’re looking for insight or funny quips that you’ll get a few of those, but for comedy head for a Ben Elton book, and for insights go straight for a Tony Parson’s novel. In isolation these are good articles, and I could imagine myself picking up the paper just to read them, but as a collection there is no added value here.

Clarkson is a sometimes witty, generally correct, columnist. There is some humour, there is some insight, and it was nice to read a book without any need of concentration or brain-interaction.

I’m a big fan of the “adventure/quest” type Top Gear programmes where the three presenters are stuck in the middle of hostile territory and have a series of tasks to complete, rather than the traditional review programme, and having read the book I appreciate more what Hammond and Captain Slow add to Jeremy’s sarcastic grumpiness. Perhaps his articles should be moderated by someone else too.

Good clean, slightly interesting fun, but a beach book or perfect for an airplane as it won’t take too long to read and it won’t tax the brain any. An easy read. Might pick up another more recent book to compare, but might not…

DOWN UNDER By Bill Bryson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2011 by stanleyriiks

I bought this book just before going to Australia myself and never got round to reading it. I have to say that although it’s an interesting account of Bryson’s travels around Oz, and his amusing anecdotes offer a little insight into the country, I didn’t really miss much.

It’s an interesting book rather than fascinating. Amusing rather than funny.

The problem is exactly what drives people to read Bryson’s books, their very ordinariness. His adventures (using the term loosely) around Australia were almost as exciting as mine. The places he visited similarly to mine, although I didn’t get to the outback or Perth, I definitely saw more of Melbourne than he did, and my brief trip to Sydney seemed to encompass more than his.

The insights aren’t anything special either. You only have to talk to a couple of Australian and visit their cities to see the issues they have with the Aborigines.

Australia is an interesting and very new and empty country, and you get that idea from Bryson’s book. His travels around the country offer an insight if you haven’t ever been, but it’s much more fun to explore yourself. You’ll likely come to similar conclusions.

Where Bryson’s book does excel is his research. There are some fascinating histories in here amidst the middle-of-the-road traveller’s adventures. He seems to spend every evening in a bar having a beer, a traditional Aussie past-time perhaps, but hardly exciting for the reader.

Down Under isn’t a massive success, nor is it a massive failure. It’s difficult to get excited about the book either way. I neither feel compelled to read another of his book, nor bothered to remember not to.

Unlike a guidebook you don’t feel the sense of exciting of discovery, and Bryson’s mild excitement isn’t really enough to make you want to discover more.

May be this is one of his off books, and may be they’re all like this. I just can’t be bothered to find out.

THE WASP FACTORY By Iain Banks – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Oh my god! Fans of Watership Down should not read this book. In fact, fans of cute bunny rabbits, or pets of most kinds, should not read this book. It is damaging. It is brutal and twisted and absolutely marvellous.

The listverse has this book listed in their top ten most disturbing novels, and remarkably, I think they may be right.

Entering the world of Frank, a teenager who lives with his father on a small isle in Scotland, and who entertains himself by killing things, taking revenge, getting drunk and dealing with his crazy brother who has escaped from a mental hospital and is heading home. Frank also has some issues because his penis was bitten off when he was three years old while his youngest and now dead (murdered by Frank) brother was born. Frank is about seventeen, and has been a killer for about ten years.

The Wasp Factory of the title is another of Frank’s torture devices, where he puts in a wasp and kills it in some unique way, burning them to death, spiking them, and all manner of other imaginative ways. Each way telling him the future like some kind of murderous divining machine (Jigsaw would have been proud).

As we delve further into Frank’s thoughts, dreams, and history, through his first person narration, the twisted reality continues to unravel. This is truly an insight into a diseased and disturbed mind, but what makes it even worse is that Frank is a sociopath, not believing he is doing anything wrong. Quite frightening really, especially as he sees his brother’s nefarious activities in a much different light. Burning rabbits good, burning dogs bad; obviously.

Deviously clever, ridiculously evil, and remarkably disturbing. This is the type of fun that makes you feel immensely guilty for enjoying it. It should definitely carry a mental health warning.

MY SHIT LIFE SO FAR By Frankie Boyle – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Frankie Boyle is a very funny man. This acerbic wit, and irreverent humour find a perfect venue on Mock The Week on BBC 2. Boyle is a man who writes for Jimmy Carr, and has written for numerous other comedians I’ve never heard of. But for a comedy writer he doesn’t really seem to get how to write a story.

This book traces Boyle’s history, his impoverished childhood, his loner years, and his discovery of drugs and alcohol. We watch as boy grows to man, his university years, all imbued with vast quantities of alcohol. We get a hint of the life of a nomadic comedian. All interspersed with anecdotes. But actually, interspersed isn’t really correct, the story of Boyle’s life is riddled (interrupted!) with anecdotes of varying quality. The best jokes will be familiar to anyone who regularly watches Mock The Week and what really lets the book down is the lack of insight into the man.

We have barely any more knowledge after reading the book than watching Mock The Week. Frankie is a funny man, you can see that on the programme, but from the book you would hardly guess at just how funny he can be. The editor should have fixed the major problems, lack of insight and hideously unfocused, but then perhaps it wouldn’t have worked at all.

But does it work? Not really. Frankie doesn’t allow the reader in, and from what we discover of his personality, that’s just him.

Not refreshing, not insightful, not even very funny. If you want a funny book try Ben Elton and Stephen Fry, both of whom can supply the goods on a regular basis. Frankie Boyle is obviously much better suited to a few one-liners on a TV show than a full-length book.

Sadly disappointing.


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