Making It Up As I Go Along by Marian Keyes
|Making It Up As I Go Along by Marian Keyes|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: If aliens were to alight here and try to work out the human female, I think this view of life should be the one they get.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 464||Date: February 2016|
|Publisher: Michael Joseph|
|External links: Author's website|
Oh, how the book reviewing gods like to give, and equally like to take away. Here before me is a brand, spanking new collection of journalism by the wonderful Marian Keyes – but it's a proof copy, so there's no photo of the author. Even if over the years I have stopped reading her novels, I have always turned to the author picture to remind myself such sights exist in this world. Himself is a lucky man, for sure. But beyond sounding like a letch, what can I say about this – the beauty's third large dose of essays, web columns and other journalism? I can start with agreeing that I am not the target audience, but it's easy enough to see from these pages exactly what the target is. So much like that test you do – you know the one, that formulates decisions about the age and commonality of all things in space to come up with how many billions of planets are likely to have alien life on – you can narrow things down quite readily here, and still come up with a huge number.
To start at the beginning there is a strong chance a large portion, namely the male one, will not get far with this book if they're unaware of the delights it might hold. The first section, and a quite lengthy one at that, is about make-up, beauty, hair, fashion buying, healthy eating – all that so many blokes deem unnecessary to learn about (at which they immediately show themselves to be either complete dunces, or complete know-alls – why do men so often complain about not understanding women?). After four essays about Christmas (suitably split between pro- and anti-) we get some travel journalism, all peppered with la Keyes' suitably laconic, dry and incredibly breezy style of writing. Which does knock another chunk of potential audience away – this isn't for the reader expecting a grand picture of the world, or a gritty look at womanhood today. The politics of feminism etc that reaches these pages seems to stop at the comment about men getting on in life due to not having to worry about shaving their legs, and that Cossi fan Tutte is sexist.
There are also amusingly fawning 'when-I-met-the-stars' columns, family reportage, and more. No rules apply as to what we get, in that the longest (Antarctica travel diaries) and the shortest can both be the best here. In fact, you can scrap that audience test of mine for now. You would only be shaving off bits here and there. The market for all this should be a huge one and no mistake. The author's personality shines through, even when she repeats ad infinitum the same number of 'flaws' – her alcoholic past, her tiny frame and wee (UK size 2) feet, her Irish pallor, her being married dammit… It's not that this book hasn't been carefully edited, for it has – just the tiny bits of reference dropped in out of time, hints of what is to come that have been added to make it flow and current. Such repetition you can bear, I think, even if a lot of this does conform to stereotype – the complaint of losing the chance to eat sugar, the moans about being poor with directions, with having a weak bladder, with resisting temptation at the shops… It's all sincerely borne, intelligently wrought, and never world-changing but honest, too-fun-to-be-disposable journalism. The look at her extended family reminds one of a Mrs Brown's Boys collective one would actually wish to be in.
So how big is this audience I envisage for this book? Well, ITV's Loose Women is watched by millions, and they're just harridans (apart from, funnily enough, the one who looks like la Keyes' lost older sister). This book deserves a lot more because (a) la Keyes has not spread her thoughts indiscriminately through celebrity, and therefore lost sincerity, full disclosure (that bladder again), the common touch and intelligence through that, and (b) she's perfectly likeable whatever you think of her mugshot. Now that she seems to have left writing for her website for vlogs on a well-known video site, and Tw*tter, this might be the third and last collection of these random slices of life. Which is a little shame. Space scientists can put together another test, if they wish – how many alien planets would enjoy this book. I'm sure the answer is still high.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
We don't often cover books such as this. But with manic depression and so many other ills, la Keyes has kind-of found the same spirit as evinced by Braver Than Britain, Occasionally by Spadge Whittaker, which is an off-kilter 'further reading' recommendation that deserves a look.
You can read more book reviews or buy Making It Up As I Go Along by Marian Keyes at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Making It Up As I Go Along by Marian Keyes at Amazon.com.
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