The Readlist: January 2017

Room by Emma Donoghue

I am nothing if not late to the party when it comes to reading hit novels. I’m still yet to see the film adaptation of Room but I was keen to at some point read the novel itself prior to doing so. I went in mostly blind: I was aware of the very basics of the plot and was pleasantly surprised to discover the entire novel is narrated from the perspective of 5 year old Jack, trapped in the room with his Ma. He’s never known another life or the outside world and this comes across beautifully within the clearly carefully crafted narrative. The naïvety of youth coupled with his situation presents a really interesting way of slowly bringing the facts to the reader. The creaks he counts at night? Oh, yes that makes sense. He wants some ‘more’ and left is better than right? Ah, yes I see. Snatches of song lyrics pop up occasionally and it’s nice to try and work out which ‘pop hit’ he’s trying to describe.

Obviously, I’m not trying to compare my situation to that of the protagonists here but I am glad that I decided to read this book at this stage in my life. I’m living in a house-share currently*, having the smallest room in the house and I spend a lot of time pottering around in my four tiny walls. Obviously, I get the opportunity to go to work, go out, do things and don’t feel constrained by my four walls but I kind of understand the whole semblance to ‘my space’ that’s in the book.

This novel clearly has two distinct halves and it doesn’t try to shy away from any ‘reality’ of the situation. Although it’s presented from a child’s perspective, we are given enough of the facts, enough of the past to understand the situation and the difficulties presented, including those on the Outside. A good read, now onto the film (eventually).

A Portrait of an Idiot as a Young Man by Jon Holmes

I think I might be the idiot here, not Jon Holmes. I’ve got a media shelf at home which seems natural given that’s my predominant interest and my job, and I’ve got lots of autobiographies and non-fiction books about the industry and those working in it. This seemed to be the next natural addition to my collection: I’ve been a fan of Jon Holmes for a while. I wasn’t massively aware of his Radio 4 work, but in more recent years I listened to him on Radio X and was always a fan of his ‘style’. He’s a man with personality working in radio, why wouldn’t I want to read his memoirs full of tales of his work such as the infamous Dermot O’Leary desk drawer incident?

Yeah, turns out this book isn’t that. The title wasn’t just a title, it truly refers to the fact that the memoir is 90% all based around Holme’s early life, the bit that is usually the worst in any biography. That’s not to say there aren’t some decent anecdotes here- there are but they’re not gripping. At no point did I think “I really want to pick that up again and read some more”, I found it quite taxing to be honest. There’s also a *lot* of teenage sexual content… I’m up for a bit of funny ha-ha sex talk as much as the next person but CHRIST there’s a lot. Huge swathes of the book are incredibly detailed about almost every aspect of his adolescent fumblings. I had to start reading another book mid-way through to try to exorcise all the images from my brain.

I think where the book falls down is that there hasn’t been enough cherry picking. It’s impressive that Holmes can remember so much of his early years** but there are some incredibly terrible, dull anecdotes littered in the pages. They’re a level that are so poor you wouldn’t even bother telling your friends down the pub even if the conversational lull had reached such a point that everyone had been sitting in silence for five minutes. It got to the stage where I was skimming large portions of pages, trying to find a decent bit. The few adult tales towards the back end of the book leave a lot to be desired – c’mon Jon, there’s far better ones to tell!

Read it if you must and you’re a fan but I wouldn’t rush to grab a copy.

*although the situation will be changing imminently, thank the LORD. It’s like living with infant children. In fact, one of my housemates often has a crying infant child round ffs.

**one of my great fears, should I ever become notable enough that someone will pay me £3bn to write my memoir, is that my memory is so shit that I can’t remember anything from my childhood and it was only ten years ago. God knows what I’ll be like when I’m 50.

Long Reads & Articles

James O’BriAGAIN There’s been a load of James O’Brien LBC profiles in recent months but hey, here’s another from The Guardian

Meme Me Up Scotty What’s it like to go viral? To become a meme? Amelia Tait tracks down some of those who became unwittingly ‘internet famous’. One article refers back to this old one from Vice.

Letter Scent Imagine being surrounded by letters all day, reading and digesting, getting paper cuts… this was widely shared at the time. It’s an NYT look at Obama’s White House letters department.

‘ol Swifty Boots Hot take, hot take, get your hot take! This isn’t the first article bashing Swift (although it is notable how more crop up when she’s *out* of the limelight, like she’s untouchable when in it) but it’s a good read nonetheless and links more to her music than others

Arcade Raid This is *fascinating* and something I had no knowledge of before – there’s swathes of people around the globe on the hunt for abandoned arcade machines and there’s some fascinating tales on this blog. Nicely chosen blog theme, too…


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