The book I have reviewed this week, is it really too much to ask? (ISBN 978-1-405-91413-0, Penguin, 2014) is the fifth volume of The World According to Clarkson. These books are comprised of the collections of his weekly columns in the British Sunday Times. Ah, if it only were possible to collect these review columns to become a best seller. But unfortunately not.
Clarkson is best known as the leader in the Top Gear television series for all motoring enthusiasts, but recently has become somewhat infamous by breaking the politically correct rules in the UK, and many other countries. You are not allowed to refer to people of other races by the commonly used terminology, and to his chagrin, he was hauled over the coals by the BBC in the UK and had to make a public apology. For someone as outspoken as Clarkson, that must have been a very bitter pill to swallow.
However, all is not lost, in this book Clarkson gives Norway a right proper serve stating that life there is one-dimensional and boring, but there are (quote) “ …many dew-fresh meadows full of extremely tall blonde girls who have nothing to do all day except knitting exciting underwear.”
Forget perestroika, Clarkson gets into Russia as well. One week is enough for him to understand that in Russia nobody queues and just wades into the front and waves wallets full of credit cards to show that the holder is more important than you. (We see it here too, Jeremy.)
Clarkson’s ability to produce humor relies on extreme hyperbole combined with ‘reductio ad absurdum’. He describes driving in Turkey, “In Turkey it seems that if someone carves you up in the traffic, you are legally entitled to leap from your car and beat him to death.” Not even in Thailand does such a thing happen, other than being shot at by some chap sitting on the back of an unregistered motorcycle.
Zimbabwe gets a special mention as well. In the chapter “Just Speak English, Johnny Foreigner,” he deals with the costs to the planet of all the different languages, where one billion euro are spent each year on translation services. His answer is to make everyone speak English, and claims that almost as many people in Europe speak English as those in the UK (except for the kids in Newcastle). This chapter finishes with “…it’s ridiculous that taxpayers have to cough up simply because some halfwit from Zimbabwe thinks he’s making a statement by speaking in ticks and clicks at important meetings.”
He even describes himself with his own poison pen, “I really am a tragic, pitiable waste of blood and organs.” This was in the chapter called Cancel the Breast Op and Buy an Iron Lung.
At B. 435 on the Bookazine shelves this paperback is a bargain for the Clarkson enthusiasts (and I am one). Only a few months ago Clarkson was being sold with a B. 685 ticket, so grab this one before they realize it’s going too cheap! Belly laughs all round even if not always PC!