Stuff White People Like: A Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions by Christian Lander

These books are hilarious and really, the most hilarious thing about them is that white people think they are hilarious. Why is that?

I mean, it’s all true. But why doesn’t that mean that white people DON’T find it funny?????!

Read this morning:

To fully understand why white people love [Adult Swim] so much you have to understand the world of ‘under-ground animation,’ which is something that has been beloved by white people since Fritz the Cat. The more hard-core white people (single white men) will often take their passion for this type of animation so far as to attend an ‘Alternative Animation Festival,’ often held at movie theatres you thought were long abandoned.

So true! I took a couple of white men to a Fritz the Cat movie in Sydney ages ago now. It was held in a cinema in Glebe which was in the process of being condemned. Indeed, we all had to sit in the balcony level, I believe because it had been decided, all things considered, that it was better to fall than be fallen upon. Frankly, I thought the chances of falling were pretty good: any time anybody did something as vigorous as cross their leg, the entire balcony structure shook.

And, on the subject of bread:

It would be nice to believe that a white person has a choice in bread or cereal, but in reality they don’t.

When a white person is asked ‘Whole wheat or white?’ they are legally prohibited from saying ‘white.’ Watch them at any sandwhich shop or restaurant where they are given a choice. It is so ingrained in their heads that when presented with a list of options they will not let the waiter continue after he has said the words whole wheat….

Though they strongly prefer whole wheat bread, white people will eat white bread when there are no other options. And they will generally enjoy it, making the best of a bad situation.

When this happens you might be tempted to tell white people that being forced to choose white due to a lack of options sounds like your collegiate dating career. It is recommended that you avoid this, as white people might find this offensive. Not because you were forced to date white people, but because it will remind them that they are going to have to get their fibre from something else.

Following on from that, one of the things I find odd about white people is that although they do their very best to make sure people in refugee camps get more rice and water, they themselves think that they, white people, and their dogs should have the very very best modern scientific diet letting them live the very best life for longest. That would be hilarious, but somehow…

I don’t know. I guess somewhere Christian Lander makes that funny too.

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Now You Know by Michael Frayn

The last Michael Frayn novel I read was Skios and I spent the book feeling like I was reading a movie pitch (albeit a long one). Maybe it would have made a good movie, but it failed as a book, perhaps because of these conflicted purposes.

The other day I discovered, sitting in the bookshelves, unread as yet, Now You Know. Written (or rather, published) twenty years before Skios, and shortly after the splendid A Landing on the Sun, I had great expectations. Which were unmet.

Why did you start doing this, Mr Frayn? Having your cake and eating it. Writing novels with an eye to the stage? Don’t write novels if that’s your plan. I read this, thinking just like Skios, that it was the detailed plan for a play. A play this time, not a movie, which was more the sense I got with Skios, maybe because it had an exotic location. This time felt wrong because the characters spoke in some way characters speak in a play and not in a novel. I can’t say exactly what that means, it’s just my intuitive reaction. I kept seeing some stalwart of English TV playing the main character. I kept wanting to speak his lines out loud – see, lines. That’s how it felt. And at the same time, none of the characters took form in my mind’s eye the way they should in a book. It’s like I need to see the play in order to flesh them out.

And sure enough, now that I’ve put the book down and checked, it did become a play not long after. And sure enough, it didn’t work as a play either.

Okay, okay. Frayn is a wonderful writer who has churned out fantastic stuff in many walks of the printed medium. They aren’t all going to be Landings on the Sun. This one’s a bit of a trick, if you ask me. It is hard to put down and yet at the end you feel like the rabbit’s disappeared and you still want to know how.

 

 

 

Skios by Michael Frayn

This is the only novel I’ve read by Frayn which has somewhat disappointed me and I think I know why. It isn’t a novel. It’s a play, or more likely, it’s a screen play.

One of the very finest things Frayn does (and that is high praise indeed) is frantic farce. He does Fawlty Towers better than John Cleese did it. The human disposition for disaster is something he explores hilariously in Noises Off and again in Clockwise. Not for the first or last time I rue the ignorant critical reception this movie got. It made A Fish Called Wanda look like the made-for-Americans-trash it was and yet Clockwise was panned. After the hit and miss – if nonetheless cult – way in which Fawlty Towers just managed to fill up 30 minutes at a time, Clockwise did this hilariously for a sustained movie. That is truly amazing.

And this is what Skios is. I kept reminding myself as I read it ‘It’s a movie, it’s a movie, it’s a hysterically funny farce of a movie’. Well. I hope it becomes such, I imagine it deserves to be and that it is the millieu in which it will work.

Am I being too critical? Or too generous? I could stand corrected on either count.

The Stone of Chastity by Margery Sharp

Folklore expert Professor Pounce is evading a bridge game by hiding in the attic of a friend’s place when he spies a diary which discusses, he discovers, the Stone of Chastity. Set in a brook, it is a test for females. If they can cross without falling as the step on said stone, they have passed.

For an academic it’s a godsend. He decamps to the village in question, with an entourage including his nephew who is to assist him as he finds out more about the stone and sets upon an experiment using the village women to test the veracity of the legend. What could go wrong?

It’s a nice commentary on the self-absorption of academics. Why on earth would these women object to giving him details of their sex life. It’s for science. Won’t cooperate? What a ridiculous idea. Of course they will.

Meanwhile, the nephew is having women troubles of his own.

This came out in 1940 – I expect Sharp had finished it before the war started. It must have been a gentle distraction at the time and as with all her work hasn’t dated. The humour is fresh, the scenarios hilarious. And as always with her books, I find some new aspect of the English language to delight in.

 

 

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

This has been reviewed a gadzillion times in the press and online. A few notes….

It doesn’t surprise me, having read a little of the background of this once I finished the book, that it was intended as a screenplay. It is sloppy as a novel and, as many have mentioned, once it moves to NY, the story really becomes a corny romance.

However, I am surprised to see it is considered chicklit, it deserves better. It is hilarious from that fabulous start: ‘I may have found a solution to the Wife Problem.’ I can see why it’s described as that old-fashioned thing, a screwball comedy.

It is impossible to write a book like this without having to endure the moral considerations. Is it okay to write about weird people if one isn’t weird (perhaps the author is?)?. Is it a politically correct portrayal of Aspergers if the person does have Aspergers? Some people who deal with it at close quarters say yes, others no. I don’t really understand why books (etc) have to be scrutinised in this way, why characters have to be labelled, why they have to receive approval. This is a book about a weird guy. He is inadvertently funny. As the story develops it may be that he plays up on that on purpose, making him advertently funny. The situations are funny. They are described in funny ways. The author’s had fun. Probably his lucky proofreader had fun too.

The darn thing’s funny, really funny, most of the time. That should be enough.  It’s enough for me.

 

The spoiler: Disappearing off the face of the earth by David Cohen part two

I had a friend in Geneva who went from close to cutting me off when she read my review of The Sea, The Sea, The Sea (repeated to taste) by Iris Murdoch. She was a Murdoch fan. She was deeply hurt by a review which made fun of her idol. Although at the time I thought she was an idiot, the fact is that books we love hold a place in our heart which overtake rationality. I love this book, and it pains me to think that there are people out there who don’t get it.

When I wrote my review of this a few days ago, I was reluctant to give anything away that would cause one to know too much of the book prior to reading it. However, I can see that this has led to not enough information in some respects. So, this is the spoiler and the upgrade, since I gave this four stars at the time, whilst wishing I could give it five.

More than one nimwit has read this book thinking that they ‘got’ the twist early on and that therefore this book has failed. But this book is not meant to have a twist. The point of the book is that it is about a person with schizophrenia. He doesn’t know that – but can he know it? Can the part of him that we are barracking for, the part telling the story, understand what is happening and therefore do something about it?

Much as the book may be comic, it has this disarmingly sad fundament. We are hoping the best for a serial killer, who is so ordinary he could be anybody. The author has produced a dysfuntional serial killer we can all love and relate to in no different a way from relating to the family in The Castle.

It is possible that only Australians will get that. We are particularly tolerant and have a sense of humour which permits this book to be what it is. But I encourage non-Australians to read it and attempt to enter the spirit of the exercise. If, however, you are wanting a book that has a clever twist that you don’t get until the very end – or at all – then this book is not for you.

Disappearing off the face of the earth by David Cohen part one

I write a spoiler sort of review of this here.

I think it’s safe to say, having read this over the course of a day, that it’s the perfect easy read. An equal mix of suspense, pathos, great characters and humour including laugh out loud precise comic timing. On top of which it’s splendidly Australian.

Over the last months, having followed the experiences of a friend with a book in the Australian best seller lists for the unusually long period of a couple of months, it has become evident to me in a more real way than previously that it’s a cut-throat world out there for the author. Once your book drops off the lists and that happens almost immediately post publication, it becomes near impossible to get a copy. Perhaps this is a reason to be thankful for the large online booksellers and databases.

What chance does this give a book such as this of big success? Approximately zero. But what a shame. I don’t want to talk about the story, it’s to be left to the reader to find that out. I can, however, give this four stars, which from me is high praise indeed.

My best guess is that sometime in the future, and I’m afraid that will be about thirty years, that this will become one of those little revived classics that clever people on goodreads write about knowingly.

Well, come on goodreaders. Beat the rush. Be different. Read it now!