Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Sound of Laughter?

Post-illness resolutions suggest I shouldn’t be trying to juggle two social commitments in one evening, but the prospect of S being back in Manchester for an evening is too good to miss out on, even if I have also got Book Group.

Still, part of my other resolution is eating pre-evening events not post and early finishes, so it would seem to work to have a light bite with S straight after work and then drop her at her evening meeting en route to Book Group. If for once I commit to finding the will power to not stop too long after the literary discussions have finished, I reckon that’s sufficient trade-off.

So S and I meet in Jaffa CafĂ© in Rusholme for one of their wonderful mixed mezze. We haven’t got long, but it’s so good to see her even if it is just for a short while.

Days like today are the days I miss her and P most; days when I just need to escape into doing something spontaneous and easy and would previously have sent that mid-afternoon text of “fancy doing something tonight?”.

So it’s doubly nice to see S, although the poor woman has to put up with me ranting (it’s a wonder she doesn’t rush back to Mcr more often).

Having dropped S off, I head on to join the crew in discussing Peter Kay’s the Sound of Laughter. We decided to stray from our usual ‘novel’ format and decided that we also needed some comedy.

Unfortunately, Kay’s book just made me ache for a novel.

I realise that one of the joys of a novel for me is the use of language; I like flow and beauty of form. Likewise, whether it’s a novel, a work of non-fiction, a piece of journalism, or a technical report, I appreciate good structure and a well formed narrative.

Sadly Key’s foray into the world of literature fails to deliver on both those scores. The language is clunky, the concepts occasionally so banal as to irritate immensely. To be fair Kay acknowledges that the written form is not his forte when he reflects on the struggles he had on a degree course he blagged his way onto. He observes that writing ‘this book’ is the most writing he’s ever done in his life.

Now maybe I’m being pedantic, but what value is that statement? Is it in any sense worthy of remark that writing a 250 page, ‘first’ book is the most writing someone has ever done in their life?

Even that can be forgiven though compared to the structure of the work, which has more in common with a primary school assignment of ‘what I did in the holidays’ (I did this, then I did that, then I did something else), than a well crafted book worthy of publication.

Similarly, attempts at a narrative thread or a connecting theme only become even slightly apparent in the closing chapters of the book. This is a collection of anecdotes of his life with little connection other than that they happened to one person, rather than a story of a person’s life, giving insight into how they got from A to B, or how they became the person they are today.

One might expect from the title, The Sound of Laughter, this might be an insight into the source of Key’s comedy or the way humour has been present, shaping him, throughout his life, but the autobiography disappoints on this front. Instead we have a collection of incidents, some amusing some less so. The charm of the ordinary is there, just as it is in his stage and TV work, but without his delivery (he himself observes that his act relies more heavily on this than material), it never quite satisfies.

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