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Posts Tagged ‘humour’

Brian Bilston has been hailed the poet laureate of Twitter – a 21st century title if ever there was one! – and while I generally struggle with poetry, I have found his poems delightful, amusing, and utterly relatable. Here, he writes as a fictional version of himself, having decided that he is going to write a poem every day of the year, while also keeping a diary of his year. (The poems are all included in his diary, and while there are a minority of days when he doesn’t write one, he more or less keeps his resolution.)

The Brian Bilston of this story is a likeable character, with a sharp eye for life’s minutiae, and while he often writes about the mundanity of life, he always makes it highly enjoyable. He is also a genius at wordplay!

Brian and his wife Sophie have broken up and she has fallen for a new, indefatigably enthusiastic man; his relationship with his teenage son is strained; work is boring to Brian and he has no interest in it; the insufferable fellow poet Toby Salt is finding fame and fortune, much to Brian’s disgust – in fact the only bright spots in his life are his cat and Liz, the new lady at his poetry club, but he can’t seem to get things going with her.

As we follow Brian through his calamitous existence, there is a smile or laugh to be had on every page, even though much of the story is actually quite poignant, and there is a mystery element thrown in which was enjoyable, although probably not necessary. I found myself rooting for Brian throughout, although I sometimes wanted to give him a good shake as well.

Overall I would certainly recommend this book and I do hope that Mr Bilston releases another novel before too long.

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I’ve read this book before, but it was several years ago, after reading Bridget Jones’ Diary. I admit that when I reread the first book, I felt somewhat disappointed and wondered if I would feel the same way after rereading this one, the first sequel.

Bridget starts off this book in a good place. Happy relationship, good friendships etc etc, but naturally she can’t help screwing things up. Through a colossal and somewhat unbelievable series of misunderstandings, she and Mark end up splitting up (don’t these people ever actually just sit and TALK to each other).

As before, her friends Shazzer and Jude feature heavily and while they are both well meaning and loyal, they are also full of ridiculous advice. This books takes Bridget to such far flung shores as Rome and Thailand, sees her life threatened, and her having to live through several embarrassing and cringeworthy situations.

On the positive side, it’s an undemanding read – perfect for that strange week between Christmas and New Year when you have no idea what day it is, or what’s going on (which is when I read it) and Helen Fielding definitely knows how to write humour. I did on several occasions burst into giggles.

On the other hand, Bridget herself is – let’s face it – a hot mess. Living her life according to self-help books which usually contradict each other and only having herself to blame for lots of the problems that arise just made me frustrated. For example, at one point she gets the chance to fly to Italy and interview her favourite actor. Instead of preparing her questions beforehand, packing in advance and getting an early night the evening before she is due to fly, she fails to prepare anything, gets drunk the night before, doesn’t pack and therefore misses her flight, causing everything to need to be rearranged. She is always late for work and it’s always her own fault. So when people say that Bridget is relatable, I have to say – to WHO exactly?

So overall, a slightly frustrating experience rereading this. But not altogether unenjoyable. Maybe I’ll pick it up again in another 15 years and see what I think then.

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This is a collection of twelve (volumes one and two are put together here) monologues, which were performed on the BBC in the late 1980s (volume 1) and late 1990s (volume 2). Some were also performed with different actors in 2020.

All but two of the collection are narrated by female characters, and there is fairly common theme of loneliness or isolation. They are not cheerful, although they are also not without dark humour. However, they are all entirely believable – Bennett certainly knows how the human psyche works, and unlike a lot of male writers, he knows how to write women.

People’s favourites were inevitably vary but the ones I enjoyed the most were A Chip in the Sugar, A Lady of Letters and Waiting for the Telegram. However, and unusually for a collection, there are no duds here. Highly recommended.

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This is author and screenwriter William Goldman’s classic spoof fairy tale, which tells the story of Buttercup (the most beautiful girl in the world) and Westley (former farm boy turned swashbuckling hero) and their eternal love. Except that it is SO much more than that. There are pirates, kidnappings, death, swords, giants, princes, heroic escapes, magic and more besides. Apart from Buttercup and Westley, the main characters are Inigo Montoya and Fezzik the Giant, not to mention the numerous others, all of whom were highly entertaining in their own right.

It is framed in an unusual way – in the edition which I read, there is first of all a proper introduction by Goldman (I often skip introductions, but this is worth reading), and then a part where Goldman himself reminisces about being a young boy who had the story read to him by his father. The conceit is that Goldman claims that The Princess Bride was written by S. Morgenstern – who is in actuality entirely fictional – and he (Goldman) has merely edited it to get rid of the boring bits, and only tell the entertaining parts. Throughout the story itself, Goldman often interrupts the narrative to explain that he has cut part of the story and gives a brief synopsis of what happened in the part that he has cut. It sounds complicated, but all makes sense when you are reading it.

I actually didn’t realise quite how accomplished Goldman was – he wrote screenplays for such incredible and successful films as All The President’s Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Misery. He also wrote several novels including Marathon Man, which was turned into an excellent film. His talent is undeniable, and his originality shines through in The Princess Bride. I am not normally a lover of fantasy fiction, which is why it took me so long to get around to reading this, but I would recommend this whether it is a genre you enjoy or not.

Truly deserving of it’s classic status.

 

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I’ve been a fan of Dave Gorman for a long time – his tv shows and stage shows (I’m lucky enough to have been him live) are always witty and entertaining, and his books are always a good source of amusement. In this book, he basically travels around England playing games with strangers. He plays traditional games such as Cluedo, Ping Pong, Darts and Poker, and some other games which were – to me at least – unknown, such as Khett, Kubb, Smite and erm…Rod Hull’s Emu Game (I know who Rod Hull and Emu are obviously. I did not know that there was such a game. And neither did Dave!)

Gorman is an affable and engaging narrator and while the book is not constantly hilarious, it is amusing and made me laugh out loud on a number of occasions. There is at least one episode which took both myself and Dave Gorman himself by complete surprise, and when you’ve finished the book I am sure you will know which one I mean.

Overall, a lovely read which I would definitely recommend. Also, I now would love to find a local Smite team to join!

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Chef, written by, directed by and starring Jon Favreau, is the kind of movie you need to watch if either (a) you’re a foodie, (b) you need a feel-good funny movie, or (c) both.

Favreau is Carl Casper, chef at a prestigious restaurant, has a public meltdown after a restaurant critic writes a savage review of his food, and quits his job. Initially bereft, he buys a food truck and travels through (part of) America, providing the opportunity for  himself to get back to cooking creatively and to reconnect with his son.

It sometimes teeters on the edge of over-sentimentality, but never quite tips over. I loved the energy and colour. Carl is likeable even when he isn’t, thanks to Favreau’s geniality. A great supporting cast – Sofia Vergara as Carl’s ex-wife Inez, Emjay Anthony as his son Percy, and a brilliant turn from the fabulous John Leguizamo as Carl’s best friend Martin – add to the enjoyment. Also, watch out for a very funny turn from Robert Downey Jr.

My one slight criticism of Chef is that it may be slightly over-long. But it’s always enjoyable and good fun, and I highly recommend it.

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In a nutshell: Journalist A J Jacobs decides that it’s time to get healthy, but rather than gong down the more conventional route of eating better and moving more, he decides to focus on a different part or area of the body each month and investigate how to make that particular part the healthiest it can be. This involves learning about lots of differing and (often contrasting) health theories and experiments/studies, and speaking to several experts. There’s a fair amount of quackery going on, but Jacobs takes note of everything he hears, and is prepared to give anything a try.

It’s definitely entertaining and often amusing. For my money, it was not “riotous, madcap” as one review on the cover put it, and it did not make me “laugh my ass off,” as claimed by another review. But it was engaging and easy to read – it explored the science and thinking behind the studies and claims, but did not get too bogged down in technicalities. Jacobs is clearly a huge worrier and he knows it – something that I identify strongly with – and catastrophises a lot, always imagining the worst case scenario (again – this was hugely relatable to me). He’s very engaging and very likeable, which heightened my enjoyment.

One thing to note is that Jacobs lives in New York and this book is very American leaning. Not a problem for me, but some of the things that he tries might not be so accessible to people who don’t live in such a metropolis where everything conceivable relating to health is pretty much on the doorstep!

It’s not a healthy living book, and certainly not to be taken as guidance, as he himself makes clear.

Im summary, if you are looking for a hilarious madcap adventure, then I would not say that this is it. But it was an enjoyable and if you like (mostly) light-hearted non-fiction, then you might well enjoy this.

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Okay, this was another audiobook which I listened to over a few long runs. I mention this because I find that books I can quite like as audiobooks are often books that I know I wouldn’t enjoy if I read them as a physical book and this is one of those. The reason is because when running, I want something to divert me and keep me occupied while exercising. When I’m reading a physical book I want it immerse myself in it; it’s not a diversion from something else I’m doing. For this reason I can listen to chick-lit audiobooks but I rarely actually read one. This was narrated by Gerri Halligan, who did a good job, although I did find her American accent slightly questionable (but not enough to annoy me).

The story is narrated in alternate chapters by three characters…

Gemma Hogan is still smarting from her ex-boyfriend Anton falling in love with her ex-friend Lily. Life only gets more complicated for her when her father leaves her mother after 35 years of marriage, causing her mother to go to pieces. Gemma finds herself having to babysit her mother at the age of 32.

Lily is blissfully happy with Anton and their daughter Emer, but she can’t help feeling guilty about Gemma, and is convinced that karma will catch up with her and Anton at some point. She writes a book which is a runaway success, but the publishing world is a fickle business.

Jojo is the literary agent who takes on Lily as a client. Jojo is a strong independent and successful woman – who just happens to be in a relationship with her married boss. She is in a cutthroat business and has a complicated love life. Will her career ambitions and her clandestine romance clash?

I found the story somewhat diverting and it did hold my attention for the most part (it seemed to drift along aimlessly for a little while in the middle, and I think the book would have been more effective if it had been shorter). There’s no doubt that Marian Keyes can write humour very well; however for me the main problem was that I didn’t like many of the characters. Gemma was my favourite out of the main three. She was funny and hapless but obviously intelligent. She was also, in my opinion, far too good for Anton and wasted way too much time feeling sad about him.

I didn’t really like Jojo or her boss Mark. I didn’t like that he was cheating on his perfectly lovely wife, and treated his children like a liability that stopped him from having fun with his bit on the side. I didn’t like that Jojo was complicit in that deception. She was portrayed as a tough woman who takes no s**t, but she was happy to wait around for her cheating boyfriend to let her down time after time.

And Lily!! Don’t get me started. She was supposed to be sweet and sensitive but she came across as such a wet weekend. I felt like shaking her and telling her to get a bloody grip. And Anton just annoyed the heck out of me. Feckless with money and generally  irresponsible, he was full of pipe dreams, which Lily was expected to finance. I kept wanting her to find a backbone and chuck him out.

With all that said, there were things about this book that I enjoyed; I preferred the first third, which featured Gemma’s job a lot more than later, and there was a side character (Johnny) who I enjoyed hearing about.

I remember reading some of Marian Keyes’ other books many years ago – I loved them. This one was not as enjoyable, but whether that’s because of the book or because of my changing tastes, I’m not sure. I probably would give another book of hers a go, as it was pretty undemanding, but it wouldn’t be top of my list.

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First, a couple of points to be aware of regarding this book: (1) You do not need to be a fan of Jimmy Carr to appreciate and enjoy it. That said, I am a Jimmy Carr fan – in fact he is probably my favourite comedian – but even if I had never heard of him, I would have really liked this. (2) This is not a joke book. It’s a book *about* jokes. There is a joke (typically a snappy one-liner) at the foot of every page, and at the end of each chapter there are about four pages of jokes related to the subject of that chapter, but essentially this is a book about the history of jokes, the purpose they serve, the way they evolve, and the value of jokes in various cultures and across generations.

It’s a fascinating read, told in an engaging style by Carr and Greeves, and each chapter held my interest. They manage to keep the tone light but also really informative, and cover such subjects as why clowns are scary, and how different cultures have mythical japesters, some of whom are not only funny but also fairly sinister. The politics of joking is covered, and also a chapter on where (and if) humour should draw a line. Are there for example, some subjects which it is never safe to joke about?

I found this thoroughly absorbing and very well written. Hats off to both authors for a terrific read.

 

 

 

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Here’s a basic rule of thumb – if Mark Kermode writes something, I’ll read it. I’ve read – and loved – his three previous books, and therefore looked forward to reading this one. It’s co-authored with Simon Mayo, who is his co-host on Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review (broadcast on BBC Radio 5 on Friday afternoons).

Happily I was not disappointed, but for anyone else who has read Kermode’s previous works, it may be worth noting that this is much more of a dip-in-and-out type book, if you wish it to be. That’s not a criticism – I enjoyed it a lot and would definitely recommend it.

The premise behind the book is that movies are able to cure many of life’s ailments and dilemmas. (Obviously, they are not suggesting that you eschew proper medicine!!) So there are movies to pick you up when you’re down, movies to help you decide whether you want to have children or not, and movies to bring down an excitable mood. They also look at movies which in themselves could do with some ‘medical’ attention – for example, those which would have benefitted from being shorter in running time.

There are several chapters, each with an essay discussing the subject of that particular one, which delves into the histories of some films, and tells some interesting and amusing anecdotes. There are interludes where the ‘doctors’ are in their surgery attending to a patient, and usually end up prescribing an appropriate movie. There are also lists of films for every topic. Be prepared for your watchlist to grow!

If you like movies, this one is definitely worth a read. You can do what I did and read it straight through, but as I alluded to earlier, you can also dip into this book between other books.

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