Car Fever: Dispatches From Behind The Wheel by James May

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Car Fever: Dispatches From Behind The Wheel by James May

Category: Lifestyle
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: You don't need me to tell you that this collection of journalism will be a big seller. You might be surprised by how much a non-fan like me liked it though.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 306 Date: August 2009
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
ISBN: 978-0340994535

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Now, way back when I was younger, and watched TV a lot, I am sure I remember Top Gear as being a consumer programme. How times change. These days I am sure they destroy more cars than they review, and the three main people from the show are approaching superstar status, with their amenable personalities, awkward wardrobe choices and trenchant laddish charms. They've sprung their media entities from out of the studio, into other TV programmes, and the world of journalism, with chatty columns in the broadsheets allowing them free rein to witter to their heart's desire. And here, in one grandiloquent volume, and in time for Christmas, are many of James May's desires.

This contains all you'd expect. Talk about cars - either those he owns, those he drives for work, or those he sees other people drive, and can only laugh about - is certainly prominent. But we also get everyday life writ large - the evils of petrol-powered leaf-blowers ruining his neighbourhood for little benefit to anybody, the talents of dogs, and his cat Fusker, and of choir-boys, and the benefits of good old sink plugs.

There must of course be some sweeping statements, to justify some of the columns here reprinted from the Telegraph and his own show's own magazine. Saving fuel is for fools... he starts. And there is always a playful nudge at racism, or tabloid-baiting, of which Bloody Germans. They always have to spoil everything is the most prominent - but here sarcastic - almost.

So, yes, this does just what it says on the tin - collects a lot of journalist output from the last three years, and leaves it unadorned. I don't know if this is a complete works, or how many columns have been left out for lack of current concern. But it all seemed to make sense to me, in the context of this book. And as someone who certainly is not a fan of the Top Gear Trinity, this book married the two aspects - cars, and life - surprisingly well. The horrors of rape seed oil is covered as from the point of view of the man driving through it. The consumerist circle many of us feel trapped in is done via the tiny upgrades every car model gets year in, year out - if a tiny tweak makes all the difference, why not just add the tweak in before the initial launch stage, and not twelve months down the line?

So, there's nothing revolutionary here, nothing brand new (apart from a brace of footnotes and the couture concern of the introduction), but nothing really disagreeable. Yes, there is a bit of a curmudgeon about him - he gets to go to the North Pole, free, on a jolly, and doesn't like or appreciate it. There's honest truth - barbecues are silly ideas; and only a little of his personal life (a woman appears and disappears from his living arrangements more times than he fills his tank up).

You can read these on the loo, or as a back-seat passenger, or anywhere. You can easily hear James May dictating them to you in your head, as well. His is a personality well becoming a book such as this, which I am sure will be a huge seller. And further to its benefit, it's not Jeremy Clarkson's sister volume - he who comes across to me as the one man who thinks he's the most important entity with those initials from the last 3,000 years.

I must thank Hodder and Stoughton for the Bookbag's review copy.

This being a blokey kind of read - but not overly so - I can only recommend putting it alongside other manly reading, such as Top Ten Books For Your Father.

Buy Car Fever: Dispatches From Behind The Wheel by James May at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Car Fever: Dispatches From Behind The Wheel by James May at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Car Fever: Dispatches From Behind The Wheel by James May at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Car Fever: Dispatches From Behind The Wheel by James May at Amazon.com.


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