(Faber & Faber, London, 2009)
The Hell of It All is a new anthology of articles, reviews and observations by the acid-tongued Guardian columnist and TV critic, Charlie Brooker. In his previous collection, Dawn of the Dumb, Brooker was exposed as a highly-strung misanthrope who had an aversion to pretty much everything, and in this new collection compiled from his weekly contributions to the Guardian Guide and Guardian G2, his views remain equally unsullied and uncensored. The book spans two years of cultural observations with the credit crunch in the midst of it all, but Brooker has far nastier things to concern himself with, such as emetophobia, Heat magazine and the return of Gladiators. In The Hell Of It All Brooker’s maniacal tirades about things which really rile him continue to far outweigh those that don’t, we learn that Heston Blumenthal, video games, The Wire, and David Attenborough are a lucky few who help to redeem his faith in mankind and put a wee smile upon his miserable despairing face.
Charlie Brooker is a brilliant satirist, I’m not sure if he would call himself a satirist, but I’m going to anyway because his articles convey in words, what his fellow Guardian cartoonist, Steve Bell does in pictures. Where Bell draws Gordon Brown as a big turd-coloured train with little chugs of smoke belching out from his backside to spell the words ‘poop-poop’, Brooker paints an equally farcical mental image with musings on old Gordo-the-Bore-O being like, “trapped in a hot room filled with an overpowering fart smell, waiting for someone outside to come along and open the window.” [pg 352]
Gordon Brown and cohorts are just a snippet of the many things which come under the firing line, as Brooker also busies himself with a whole host of important cultural debates, ranging from the dilemma of male pubic hair, namely, to-trim-or-not-to-trim (which produces a whole article dedicated to the topic entitled: The Pubic Consensus) to his thoughts upon the wacky flavoured Walkers crisps trialled in February 2009. The latter produces some more flatulent themed one-liners such as: Cajun Chicken flavour – “They taste precisely like a tiny cat piping hot farts through a pot-pourri pouch into your mouth.”[pg 340]
But it’s not all burp and fart-themed tirades as one of the standout articles in this collection is his piece on the British National Party, written prior to Nick Griffin’s odious appearance on Question Time. In this article Brooker envisages the BNP having a trial-run at government on an island exactly like Britain in every conceivable detail, apart from the fact that every inhabitant is white. The BNP’s policies are laid bare as Brooker justly imagines they would be wholly incompetent at leading a country, unable to prioritise and organise basic needs, let alone run an economy.
In Brooker’s own words he is also “genetically predisposed to hate the Tories” [pg164] and has nightmare visions of Piers Morgan, Boris Johnson and David Cameron. Much doom-mongering ensues In The Hell Of It All concerning these toffs and their inexorable rise to power – Piers Morgan is now a familiar talking-head on the goggle box and Boris Johnson oafs his way around London as Mayor (with the exception being Cameron, whose Photoshopped head is as yet to be elected Prime Minister.) Amongst Brooker’s other top dislikes are Big Brother, the Daily Mail, marketing jargon (commonly known as Bullshit) and text-speak language such as – LMAO @ Charlie Brookerz cuz he is well funny!!! Brooker for PM!! OMG Woo!!
Brooker’s talent is his ability to deconstruct exactly what it is about something that makes it a) either absolutely bloody brilliant or b) absolutely cacking awful, there is no middle ground in his writing and it’s all the better for it – witty, sharp and straight-to-the-point. The effect of such tight writing produces some achingly funny observations and one-liners.
This book should come with a warning: not to be read on public transport or places of work – if you do, you may find yourself chuckling away while fellow plebs or colleagues look on bemusedly and ask, ‘what is it you find so funny?’ and you have to reply, ‘oh, just a quip about Sir Allan’s face looking like a water buffalo straining to have a shit in a lake.” [pg 148]. The Hell Of It All is one the funniest reads of 2009, and if you’re further intrigued to learn how Charlie Brooker’s twisted mind works, like how he can arrive at ‘Fritlz’ and ‘Mauve’ as being the best names for Sky One’s Gladiators – then you’d better go out and buy the book.