Tuesday, 7 August 2012

How Hard Can It Be? (Jeremy Clarkson)

--The blurb--

"A world where the nonsensical made sense, the idiotic was abolished and the sheer bloody brilliant was embraced. In How Hard Can It Be? our hero embarks on a quest to set the world to rights. Again. En-route he discovers how rhubarb will become the new crack, that a comb over will end anyone's quest for global domination and what unites a Filipino chambermaid in Abergavenny with Prince Andrew.

For anyone who's ever woken up and thought the time has come to stop the nonsense and celebrate the sensational, read on. Because seriously, how hard can it be?"

--The review--
Given the Top Gear trio's seemingly eternal presence on television and in newspapers - even on completely non-car-related matters - it seems likely that everyone has a little piece of them in their lives, or on their TV screens, or in their Sunday papers, at some point or another. This pervasiveness even now extends to our bookshelves: what with James May's geeky and quirky efforts (think Toy Stories and Magnificent Machines), and Richard Hammond's gamut of solemn and humorous publications (from On The Edge to his children's books on science), it also appears that startlingly there may be something for everyone from this triad too.

Jeremy Clarkson's books of essays are no exception. People that tend to hate him have generally only seen him on television, but it would arguably be difficult to read one of his compilations and not find a single thing that interested you or that you agreed with (even if you are not typically of a right-wing disposition). In this fourth volume of The World According To Clarkson, the collection entitled How Hard Can It Be? (published in 2010) encompasses topics as diverse as skiing holidays, accents, trying to work while on holiday, and what we should do to solve the problem of overcrowded prisons (to name just a few).  

Given that the essays were originally published on a weekly basis in The Sunday Times, they are all of a similar length and highly readable. This equally makes the collection very suitable for dipping into on a whim to fill life's five-minute stopgaps (while queuing, waiting for a train, or waiting for the water to come to the boil, for instance), although this by turns makes it less appropriate for reading at greater length, as the articles are so short as to become potentially repetitive in their structure - so for your bedtime reading, choose something longer perhaps, depending on how quickly you tend to fall asleep at night.

Clarkson's turns of phrase are exaggerated and deliberately provocative, but almost guaranteed to induce a smile, giggle, or even proper belly laugh. It turns out that (beneath the remarks which some may consider offensive) one of the most hated men in Britain actually has plenty of viable propositions to get around life's little niggles as well as its greater problems - teach schoolchildren to do things they will actually need in life, for example, and how to choose a pet for your children that will survive a nuclear holocaust (and no, it isn't a cockroach).

Naturally, there is plenty in this collection that clearly isn't intended to be taken seriously, so readers need to go in with a pinch of salt - but if you're even remotely interested in this book, you're probably dragging a whole bag of the white stuff behind you as we speak. Besides all of this, the reason for the series' enduring popularity is clear: while topical, the issues Clarkson raises are equally pertinent even when read a few years after their original publication. Perhaps more importantly - although some may disagree - they serve as an important historical and personal document of our age (in a similar way to a diary, but with arguably even greater relevance that extends beyond just one person's view). The essays also educate without patronising and stimulate conversation in handy bite-size chunks - and their at times inflammatory tone means that teens may find them as appealing as adults. Now find me a Nintendo DS that can do that. A perfect addition to any family bookshelf.

Other works by Jeremy Clarkson
Jeremy Clarkson's Motorworld (1996)
Clarkson on Cars (1996)
Clarkson's Hot 100 (1997)
Planet Dagenham (1998)
Born to be Riled (1999)
Jeremy Clarkson on Ferrari (2000)
The World According to Clarkson (2004)
I Know You Got Soul (2005)
And Another Thing (2006)
Don't Stop Me Now (2007)
For Crying Out Loud (2008)
Driven to Distraction (2009) 
Round The Bend (2011)

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