Books Reviews COMEDY MEMOIR RICHARD HERRING How Not to Grow Up! (Ebury Press) ●●●●●
Expanding on his 2007 stand-up show, Oh Fuck, I’m 40!, this unlikely coming-of-age memoir chronicles Richard Herring’s hurtle towards middle age and the various crises it accelerated. Unmarried, childless and avowedly immature, the mood- swinging comedian agonises about being perpetually overlooked for awards, the fights he’s lost and the threesomes he’s never participated in. To suggest it’s 300 pages of navel-gazing is an understatement and in truth, How Not to Grow Up! frequently reads like someone trying to write their way towards a more profound book. Nevertheless, Herring captures the nausea of encroaching responsibility well and even during his more self-indulgent episodes, remains consistently funny and seldom less than damningly self- aware. A particular highlight recalls a scuffle with his former comedy partner Stewart Lee, Herring having dreamt of ‘punching him in his smug leonine face, my fists like steaming jackhammers, over and over again . . . ’ (Jay Richardson)
SOCIAL DRAMA BLAKE MORRISON The Last Weekend (Chatto & Windus) ●●●●●
Blake Morrison is not one to shy away from the dark places, the unspoken or acutely personal, as his study of the James Bulger trial or bestselling confessional And When Did You Last See Your Father? will testify. In this, his third novel proper, he
32 THE LIST 29 Apr–13 May 2010
5 BOOKS TO CRANK UP YOUR WORLD CUP FEVER Jon Spurling Death or Glory! The Dark History of the World Cup Were Peru really bribed to lose a match at the 1978 World Cup? Well, if it was their opening game against Scotland, someone obviously forgot to tell the players. Vision Sports. Richard Jones Rainbows for Goalposts Subtitled ‘Searching for the Heart of South African Football’, this gives a detailed analysis of the host nation’s love of the game. Know the Score. Jimmy Burns Maradona: Hand of God Originally penned in 1997, this updated version takes in Diego’s reign as Argentina manager which, with Messi’s assistance, could yet add to the man’s mythological status. Bloomsbury. Joe Colquhoun Roy of the Rovers: World Cup Special Not that he’s available for selection, but the blonde No 9 gets involved with some World Cup-themed stories. Titan. Mark Pougatch Three Lions Versus the World From the BBC man with the best name in football punditry, this one is subtitled ‘England’s World Cup Stories from the Men Who were There’. Finney, Lineker and Hoddle are among those spilling all. Mainstream.
proposes a seemingly harmless late summer retreat and reunion for two middle-aged couples before pouring on rivalries, secrets and jealousy. It is a heady and
oppressive atmosphere that Morrison creates, feeding an indelible sense of impending doom. By bringing into question the reliability of his first person, he toys with notions of reality and subjectivity, self- interest and self- delusion, as ever unflinching in his examination of narcissistic thought and expedient deed. But for Morrison’s sometimes baffling, often distracting, forays into poetic simile, The Last Weekend is a brave, fiendish and thought provoking if uncomfortable read, and as such merciful in its brevity. (Mark Edmundson)
ROAD DRAMA KIRSTEN REED The Ice Age (Picador) ●●●●●
DETECTIVE COMIC PETER MILLIGAN Human Target (Vertigo/Titan) ●●●●●
With the Human Target TV series getting its debut UK airing on the Syfy channel this month, Peter Milligan’s four-part mini-series and graphic novel Final Cut have been collected together for the first time. If you think your life is in danger, Christopher Chance is the man to call. A private detective and master of disguise, he’ll step into your shoes and take over your role so perfectly that even your family and friends won’t be able to tell the difference. He quite literally then becomes a human target, and once the would-be assassins reveal themselves Chance will eliminate them. But his deception isn’t just through make-up and prosthetics, he takes on your personality and lives your life until the danger has been dealt with.
It’s the kind of story Milligan specialises in, a warped examination of the limits of human personality, writing Chance as a troubled, near- schizophrenic character with his own sanity getting lost among the chatter from the multiple personalities he’s assumed over the years.
There’s a 50s noir vibe exemplified by the thick heavy lines of artists Edvin Biukovic and Javier Pulido. This is a great introduction to the character, far out-shining the TV show which never even attempts to grasp the core concept and portraying Chance merely as a glorified bodyguard. Human Target is a twisting, clever and thrilling collection from one of comic’s sharpest writers. (Henry Northmore)
road trip through America with him. Put like that it all sounds a bit Twilight-esque, which it might well be in less talented hands.
Reed, however, does a brilliant job with The Ice Age, detailing compellingly and candidly her main character’s life-changing experiences as she travels from town to town encountering a whole host of messed- up characters. As a result it’s a gripping, gritty, occasionally uncomfortable and yet strangely romantic read, as we discover more about our fearless narrator and her
changing view of the world. (Camilla Pia) POLITICAL TALE JACHYM TOPOL Gargling with Tar (Portobello) ●●●●●
Jachym Topol is a leading cultural figure in the Czech Republic and this fourth novel, his first translated into English, is an astute blend of the personal with the political. It’s 1968 in rural Czechoslovakia, and orphan Ilya has his life turned crazy when the nuns who run his orphanage are kicked out by communists. Given military training, he winds up as guide to a Soviet tank column,
In case you hadn’t noticed, vampires are all the rage right now. So the subject matter of Kirsten Reed’s debut novel couldn’t be more apt. A disillusioned teen, desperate for a bit of adventure, meets an older bohemian bloke she reckons could well be one of the un-dead on account of his ice white skin, creepy demeanour and fangs, and decides to take a
sanguine, pragmatic and infinitely likeable. Topol tries too hard at times to hammer home his message (the chaotic Socialist Circus survivors that Ilya repeatedly encounters is a heavy-handed metaphor) but this is a compassionate story with a worthwhile point to make. (Doug Johnstone)
before flitting from side to side in a messy armed struggle ripe for satire. Gargling with Tar often has the feel of Catch-22 about it, puncturing the madness of war on all sides, and Ilya is a great character, put upon but