Driven to Distraction by Jeremy Clarkson

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Driven to Distraction by Jeremy Clarkson

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Category: Entertainment
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Kerry King
Reviewed by Kerry King
Summary: Look out, Clarkson's off on a rant again! This latest accumulation of Clarkson's Sunday Times columns from the last couple of years is probably his best yet. Maybe he's improving with age? Maybe? Nah… He's just as acerbic as he always was! And just as blinking funny!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: September 2009
Publisher: Michael Joseph
ISBN: 978-0718155544

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Jeremy Clarkson's middle name ought to be Marmite. You really do either love him or hate him. I am in the first camp. I think he is brilliantly funny. He is. He makes me laugh. Out loud. And like many women who watch Top Gear, (well, those that don't watch it because they are strangely – bizarrely - attracted to James May – I am not - or because they want to mother The Hamster – I do not) I find Jeremy Clarkson hilarious. And I don't think you have to like cars to see the appeal either! I mean, the columns within Driven To Distraction occasionally start off talking about cars, but not always and they quickly move on to the things that get his dander up before tailing neatly back to the cars again. Or not. And what is in between is pure gold dust.

OK, I hear you railing against that first paragraph. The shouts of no, no coming from the back are clearly heard. But hear me out.

For instance; within the chapter entitled It's The Terry Wogan Of Super-Minis, (Clarkson is talking about the Fiat Grande Punto though what that has to do with Terry Wogan, is a bit of a leap – even for me), he starts talking about dinner party guests. In a not-so gentle poke at party politicking, Clarkson makes his point with the precision of a brain surgeon and the subtlety of an air raid, which, for my twopennorth, is a great combination:

…The girl to my right at dinner last night was a Liberal Democrat. So she sends her children to school on the bus, dislikes titles and would like to get rid of the Queen because she's too expensive and the money would be better spent on muesli … but because a nation needs checks and balances, if you got rid of the Queen you'd have to replace her with an elected president… This went down well with the Liberalist. Of course the head of state should be elected. It's preposterous that we have to put up with a little old lady, or a man who admits he talks to vegetables… If you think about it, America had 250 million candidates for president and was offered a choice of two. A man with the stupidest hair in Christendom and a blithering idiot who can't talk properly. It would be no different here.

He goes on to expand his views on American politics and how the Californians voted for a right wing Austrian body-builder who spent his career in films, zipping back and forth through time and carrying very large logs and then suggests that in similar circumstances, we would end up with Lenny Henry, as being black, charming and doing loads for charity ticks all of the presidential boxes. Ditto Paul McCartney …Obviously he isn't black, but he is a Scouser and that's the next best thing…

So no mention of cars there then (actually, the Punto gets a brief and tiny paragraph)? And, unsurprisingly, absolutely no mention of political correctness either! But believe it or not, there absolutely are some things that he promises to steer (pardon the pun!) clear of:

This is why I always give sexism a wide berth when writing about cars. Any suggestion that one model is better suited to men, or women, and I have to spend the rest of the day disentangling myself from the ironing board. Or begging to be let out of the Aga… This is no great hardship because of all the 'ists' you can call me, 'sex-ist' isn't one of them. I don't run for the exits when a pilot comes on the PA system to say her name's Sandra, and when a lady doctor is examining my arthritic hips I've never once been tempted to say, 'oh, while you're down there…'

So Mrs Clarkson is a force to be reckoned with? Well she would have to be, wouldn't she? Good news… someone has to keep Clarkson firmly planted; particularly as a lot of people want to follow that statement with 6 feet under.

Anyway, I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, Clarkson is funny. And for absolutely no other reason, whether you agree with his extremist views (by which I mean, they are not extremely one thing or another, just occasionally extremely NOT one thing or NOT another) or not – confused yet? – there is bound to be something in Driven To Distraction that will tickle your funny bone – even if it's the thought of Mrs Clarkson shutting all 6 feet 5 of him in the Aga.

This book is a great Christmas Stocking Stuffer, a gift for your grumpy old dad, grandad, or other fifty to eighty something relly that is difficult to buy for. But make no mistake, it's also the kind of book that everyone can read and because no one chapter takes more than a couple of pages, it's the perfect pick up and put down again read. At the moment, my husband, who rarely reads anything unless the title has the sort of eye catching quality that would make the F1 Brawn Pit Crew pick it up for a quick shufty (the last book he read was called Turbo Boost), is working his way through the chapters. It is stationed, some would say ideally, in the smallest room and I often hear fits of laughter from behind the closed door. And you know how boys love to read in the smallest room….

To summarise, Clarkson isn't such a bad old boy, even though many think he is a pompous, over-inflated self-important nit wit. But if you do like cars, acidically-witted, opinionated, grumpy old men, and having a really good chuckle, you should buy it. If you don't, you should buy it for someone who does!

It suppose it goes without saying that you should also have a look at As You Do by Richard Hammond though rather than a collection of ramblings this is actually autobiographical and definitely Car Fever: Dispatches From Behind The Wheel by James May to complete the trilogy of Top Gear presenters' tomes all out in time for Christmas! You might also appreciate Rockers and Rollers: An Automotive Autobiography by Brian Johnson.

We at Bookbag would very much like to thank the ladies and gentlemen at Penguin/Michael Joseph for sending this copy to us for review and giving me a really good belly laugh.

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Stig Larsen said:

This reviewer should write a book herself. She's hillarious!