David Sedaris is subversive, funny, absurd and dry, and this book mostly about Christmas has some priceless gems, but I wish I'd started with one of his others first.
Having heard his live readings on BBC radio, I have come to love his wonderful and often poignant observations on the absurdities of life. His humour never fails to make me laugh, and reminds me of Tom Lehrer, with an absurdist twist. From the politics of being one of Santas Elves at Macy's to the difficulties of explaining the Easter bunny to a Muslim in French, or his fascination with autopsy reports, this book has some priceless and delicious stories.
So, why only 4 stars?
Some of the stories, (such as the Dunbar family Christmas circular), are certainly more poignant than funny - almost tragic, and his brilliant but biting cynicism sometimes left me feeling deflated. (He is at his best when being autobiographical, and with a live audience).
However, I think for me it is because this is a "collection" of assorted stories on a theme, rather than a whole book, which left me wishing I'd started with one of his more complete audiobooks.
That aside, I am off to buy another, and probably many more after that, for he is a rare talent, with an astute eye for Homo absurdus, and a genius for expressing that in humour. Don't be put off by his voice. Once you get used to his style, his delivery is impeccable, and his timing and inflection certainly add to the humour of the writing.
Despite now being a certified "National Treasure" (an accolade he must hate!), David Attenborough is a naturally gifted story-teller, who has led an extraordinary life, during a unique period of our history.
He was there, telling how it was in the very early days of BBC television, where thick white makeup was mandatory, the lighting had to be blindingly bright, and the huge immovable cameras were only inches from your face. ascending to become controller of BBC2, as the first colour TV channel and finally "controller of programmes". It was DA who commissioned greats such as "The Ascent of Man", "Civilization" and "Cosmos", before getting bored of management and going off to create his own fantastic mega-series such as "Life on Earth", "The Living Planet", "The Life of Plants" and the whole cannon of his natural history and anthropological works.
As part of his pioneering work in the BBC, he ventured to wild and far-flung places, to live among aboriginal tribes, traversing the outback or hacking through dense jungles to study rare and exotic species, some of which are now extinct. Who can forget his exchanging glances with a Silverback Gorrilla in the jungle! His courageous adventures into dangerous terrains show there is much more steel to his character than the urbane, gently spoken persona might lead us to believe.
I feared I would not enjoy this book, as it covers very little of his formative years, and such adult autobiographies can become lists of names to be credited. Not a bit of it - while giving full credit to those he worked with, his narration is delightful and enchanting, full of wonderful anecdotes and never for a moment dull. I cannot give it less than 5 stars!
I really enjoyed the slightly rambling series of adventures and anecdotes that comprise this book. Most of all I really enjoyed Joe Hurley's narration - for he made it like listening to the man himself, perhaps slightly stoned, perhaps in some darkened bar, after midnight, telling anecdotes of his life. It was always a pleasure to resume his company and hear another tale about the Stones.
There is a bit of a jarring moment in the change of narrator, from Johnny Depp's relatively "straight" style, to Joe Hurley's more "Keith Richards" like style, but don't let that put you off. Persevere, and you may come, like me, to prefer the new style.
The book opens with the band getting chased and ambushed by the DEA, and much of the early book is about drugs, busts and trying to evade the police, peppered with the tangled sexual relationships, and the encounters with other musicians, that comprised the Stones sex, drugs and rock-n-roll lifestyle. Always, the priority is the music.
Seemingly never suffering a moment of angst, on this roller coaster of catastrophes, I have to admire Keith Richards stamina (often he would not sleep for days, composing in his studio), and his attitude of going with the flow, even in the midst of a crisis.
Of course he won't have pleased Mick Jagger with this book, as he portrays him (maybe unfairly) as narcissistic and vain. However, despite the tensions, there is a grudging affection, and mutual admiration which comes through. I guess there would have to be for them to still be performing together after all this time.
Overall, a well told, anecdotal, slightly stoned, roller coaster of a ride, through the eyes (and ears) of one member of perhaps the most famous band on the planet.