Archive for humour

BILLY LYNN’S HALFTIME WALK By Ben Fountain – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2015 by stanleyriiks

On the cover it says this is the Catch 22 of the Iraq War, and it probably is. Ever since that seminal book was written every book on war that uses humour is compared to it. But Catch 22 is a classic for a reason, it’s an amazingly written book that twists and turns and makes a strange kind of sense, it encapsulates the danger, the struggle and the terror of being a soldier.

Does Billy Lynn’s story do the same? To a certain extent, yes, it does.

Billy Lynn and his squad are heroes. On a break from fighting after a much publicised mission, the military trots the soldiers across the country to drum up support. The book tells the story of their final stop, at a Dallas Cowboy’s game. Dealing with the stress of their last mission, recorded for all to see by a journalist, the loss of their comrades, meeting with the dignitaries and millionaires of the Cowboy’s management and fanship, trying to broker a deal with a Hollywood producer who wants to tell their story, coming to terms with heading back into a warzone, and falling in love, this isn’t just a story about war. It feels a little like a coming of age story for young (19 year old) Billy Lynn, and his story is quite incredible, as he joined the army after beating up his sister’s boyfriend who dumped her after a car crash.

Poignant, intelligent, well written, with humour, insight, and subtlety, this is a story of manhood, war, love, family and honour. A remarkable story, and yes, very probably the Catch 22 of the Iraq war. Touching and brilliant.

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BE READY WHEN THE SH*T GOES DOWN: A SURVIVAL GUIDE TO THE APOCALYPSE By Forrest Griffin and Erich Krauss – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2013 by stanleyriiks

Forrest Griffin is my hero. He is the former UFC light heavyweight champion, and one of the top-rated mixed martial artists in the world. I know because I’ve seen him fight (on the tv), in fact I’ve followed his career from close to the beginning when he rose to fame on the first ever series of The Ultimate Fighter. I watched the epic battle between Forrest and Stephan Boner for the first Ultimate Fighter prize, I watched him work his way to the top of the UFC’s light heavyweight division and I saw him beat Rampage Jackson, with some devastating leg kicks, to win the title. I also watched him lose the title, and be badly beaten by Anderson “The Spider” Silva.

I also read Forrest’s first book, Got Fight? Probably one of the funniest books I’ve read, and the best book I’ve read about fighting. OK, it is the only book I’ve read about fighting, although I have a few in my collection that I really must get round to.

So here Forrest again puts his trademark sense of humour down on paper to treat us to instructions for surviving the apocalypse. Like others before him, Forrest describes the planning and preparing, goes through likely scenarios for the end of the world, and gives step by step instruction on how to survive it.

In his own unique way.

Filled with humour, useful tips, and some deeply disturbing material, this is a book that readers of the first book will enjoy as it’s more of the same. Readers with no previous experience of Forrest might take a while to get used to him. Offering more insight into the great man who will become a god after the end of the world, this is unique, and laugh out loud funny. A treat that might just help save you from certain death.

Follow Forrest’s instructions, and then follow Forrest. He will lead us to our survival.

MILLION DOLLAR PORTFOLIO By David and Tom Gardner – Reviewed

Posted in Life..., Personal Finance, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2012 by stanleyriiks

I’ve long been a fan of the Fool.com website and it’s UK equivalent. The fools practice no-sense, common-sense driven, long-term investing. This book is more of the same. Although you could find very similar articles to each chapter on the website, and I have read very similar to most of them, the book sums things up nicely. The style is the same, so if you enjoy the website you’ll enjoy the sensible with a touch of humour narrative.

The book will not make you rich. The sub-title is a much better description of what you get in this book: How to build and grow a panic-proof investment portfolio.

As I said before, fans of the website are not likely to find much new here, the book takes you through the steps of creating a diversified portfolio, helps you to maximise your investment returns and if you follow the instructions and use their methods it would be possible to create a million dollar portfolio if you started off with enough money and invested for long enough. In one scenario the brothers provide it take about 30 years.

Not the most exciting book on investing, this is a good guide for beginners but will hold little interest for experienced investors or those regularly uses of the Motley Fool.

PYGMY By Chuck Palahniuk – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2011 by stanleyriiks

Pygmy is a diminutive teenager from an unnamed totalitarian state, who arrives in the United States, with several of his comrades, to infiltrate and destroy the corrupt nation of America. Having been fully trained and brainwashed from a young age, Pygmy is an assassin and terrorist, who one family of Americans takes into their home.

Not really material for a comedy you may say, not exactly something that sounds like a social satire. But that’s exactly what this is. When Chuck isn’t poking fun at the totalitarians, he’s poking fun at the Americans. There’s also some teenage angst and hi-jinks involved.

Not only does Chuck provide a few laughs, but some brutality (made all the more disturbing by the humour), and some poignancy. This isn’t comedy or horror or sf, although it could claim to be any of those. This is literature, a marvellous mix of all of them, told stunningly well.

Despite the initial difficulty in getting into the first person prose (in broken English by Agent Number 67, otherwise known at Pygmy), you find yourself involved and urging him on, or not, as the case may be.

There has probably never been a funnier terrorist novel, and as Chuck goes where few writers have gone before – a Walmart toilet anyone? – he does it with style, substance and a light touch that makes it all worth while.

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.

STAIRWAY TO HELL By Charlie Williams – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2009 by stanleyriiks

I approach all new authors (new to me anyway) with a mixture of trepidation and excitement, wondering whether this new bloke is likely to be added to my list of authors to collect, or to go in the pile for the charity shop.

Charlie Williams is neither, but not through any fault of his own.

Let me explain…

Stairway To Hell is told by our erm… hero (which he truly is, although unconventional) Rik Suntan, a mustachioed singer and winner of the Pub Idol contest two years in a row. Rik delights his fans with his renditions of Cliff Richard classics at the Blue Cairo in the small town of Warchester, whilst waiting to hit the big time.

But one terrible night Rik gets hit with a bottle thrown at him while he’s performing on stage, he gets the sack and his girlfriend dumps him. To top if off he’s attacked by a midget.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, Rik finds out that his body is in fact, home to the stolen soul of David Bowie, and he joins a group of other interred souls to try to get back into their proper bodies, by any means necessary. Even if that does involve murder, robbery, and black magic.

Stairway To Hell is in some ways perfectly modern, but in some ways completely retro. It has the feel of returning to a British seaside town you used to visit when you were young, it’s familiar, it’s fun, and it feels comfortable. It harkens back to a yesteryear that never really existed except in your own rose-tinted memories.

The book draws you in completely, Rik’s narrative is warm and funny, you can’t help laughing with him as well as at him. A difficult trick for Williams to pull off.

This is what the BBC call “Light Entertainment”, a kind of Dad’s Army or Last of the Summer Wine, but with young people, and music, and madness, and black magic! It’s also got a bit of mystery going on to help things along.

This is not top of the heap comedy, it’s not going to compete with Stephen Fry or Ben Elton but who possibly can. But it is certainly funny, it’ll make you smile a lot, and even a few chuckles and a lol!

This would make a perfect British Comedy film, and perhaps someone should send a copy to Richard Curtis, the maker of many a perfect British Comedy.

Williams should sit beside Tony Parsons and Nick Hornby, he’s not really as insightful as either of them, but he’s funnier than both. In Rik Suntan he has created a legend in his own lunchtime, a character so realistic, so pathetic, so empathetic, and in the end so heroic, that you can’t help but laugh at him and see a bit of yourself in him at the same time, as sad as it is to admit that.

Stairway To Hell is the perfect book for the man in your life who has everything, and everyone has one of those. Unique, funny, and in its own small way, brilliant.

Stephen Fry…. Genius? Bastard?

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2009 by stanleyriiks

I’ve just finished reading Fry’s The Hippopotamus. Yes, I know I shouldn’t be reviewing a booking that was first published fifteen years ago, and don’t worry, I’m not going to. It’s a little difficult to think of Stephen Fry, and much of his work, in a critical light.

I was never a fan of Fry and Laurie, or Jeeves and Wooster. Neither particularly floated my boat.

My fascination, my love, of Stephen Fry and his work started when I read his first novel, The Liar. A deeply personal and semi-autobiographical coming of age novel. A kind of English, middle-class Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a comparison I’m sure he’d hate. But it’s a personal equivalent, both of them touched me and helped me to identify who I am in a way I still find difficult to put into words. Without experiencing either The Liar or Ferris Bueller I would be a very different person, in the same way that if I had never read that first Conan novel when I was fourteen, I wouldn’t have discovered fantasy, horror and science fiction and very probably wouldn’t even be writing this now.

Stephen Fry is one of those people with an incredible memory, with such written skill and humour that it makes you hate his talent. He’s one of those people you would love to meet and have a conversation with, but when faced with him, you probably wouldn’t be able to mutter a single word.

I know Stephen Fry only from his work – including his Blackadder appearances – I’ve never met the man, so I can say all this in complete ignorance. I set my Virgin + box to diligently record QI, Stephen’s current dispensary of knowledge, a quiz show for those less intelligent than the great man. Which is all of us.

Fry’s novels make me weep, not only because he draws you into the lives of his characters in a way few people can, not even because his books are sometimes so funny that tears drip from the corners of your eyes, but because it sickens me that I don’t have half the talent he does. That’s why I have to hate him, envy.

If you’ve never read a Stephen Fry book then you’ve deprived yourself, and you should remedy this immediately.

The Hippopotamus is a funny, irreverent, and highly enjoyable read.  To review it would be to do it a disservice.  Fry’s poet and critic Edward Wallace is my hero, as is his creator.  Enough said.