Me Cheeta by James Lever

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Me Cheeta by James Lever

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Keith Dudhnath
Reviewed by Keith Dudhnath
Summary: A spoof biography of Cheeta the chimpanzee, that gives a great insight into the golden age of Hollywood. It's top quality trash (in the best possible way), and a great deal of fun.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: May 2009
Publisher: Fourth Estate Books
ISBN: 978-0007280162

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Straight out of the golden age of Hollywood comes the bitchiest, most revealing memoir from one of its stars. There are scores to be settled, stars to be insulted, secrets to be hinted at none too subtley, and lost opportunities to be longed for. Oh, and the star telling all? Well, for those of you who can't tell from the title (or even the picture on the front cover) it's Cheeta - chimpanzee star of the Tarzan films.

James Lever's spoof autobiography takes a fun idea and runs with it. It would be all too easy for the joke to wear thin after 30 pages, much less 300. Such is the quality of the writing that (one small lull in the middle aside) it's anything but a one trick pony. There are the necessary (and hilarious) comparisons of chimp and human life - with Cheeta's pride in the alacrity of his lovemaking being particularly amusing. Beyond this, Lever takes the core idea and uses it as an opportunity for juicy unabashed gossip. And it's wonderful.

In many ways, Me Cheeta is a middle class... no, middlebrow version of whatever Jordan's latest autobiography is called. It's camp, trashy, bitchy and wicked - with no negative connotations here. For a light but good quality read on the beach or on the commute to work, it's far far above average.

Me Cheeta is on the 2009 Booker Prize longlist, which raises the issue of the reader's expectations, both of the book itself and of which books are Booker-worthy. Me Cheeta is very good, but it doesn't live up to the feelings of the Booker judges, or indeed the unstinting praise that adorns the book jacket. Read it expecting one of the best pieces of literature this year and your expectations couldn't be met. Read it expecting to laugh and you'll be blown away by just how great a spoof it is. Recommended, but do approach it from the right angle.

My thanks to the publishers for sending it to Bookbag.

If spoof biographies are your thing, then you won't go far wrong with A Short Gentleman by Jon Canter.

Booklists.jpg Me Cheeta by James Lever is in the Man Booker Prize 2009.

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Buy Me Cheeta by James Lever at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Me Cheeta by James Lever at


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