A few links to get you through the day

I’m insanely busy at work at the moment, so here’s a quick dip into the mail bag… An online museum of vintage computers (I met the guy who built this last year – go visit him and his beautiful machine) / There’s a college for helper monkeys! / Some truly awful monkey gags (at the bottom of the page) / A true Internet classic – Roy Orbison in clingfilm – it’s been around for years, but worth revisiting / Make a cast of your pregnant tummy (presumably to remind your children of the damage they did to your figure?) / And finally… A tribute to England’s former captain, the great Nasser Hussain – let’s not forget what he’s done for us over the years…

The Gift by David Flusfeder

What do you do when your friends beat you up with their generosity? That’s the thrust of The Gift by David Flusfeder… Phillip is a failed footballer (he used to be quite good you know) who’s stuck in a rut rewriting technical manuals translated from their native Japanese or Korean. His wife is a bit more high-flying, with friends in the movie business… And there’s the problem – all of his friends are too exciting, too rich, and too damn generous. Barry and Sean can’t help but keep giving the perfect gifts. This leaves poor old Phillip with a problem – he just can’t match their gift giving prowess. It gets to him. It gets to him so much that he starts keeping score.

This starts out as a deliciously dark comedy. It’s quintessentially British, in the school of comedy that we’re doing so well at the moment. There’s a real smack of Human Remains or even Nighty Night about it – a slow building darkness that becomes so extreme that you can’t help but find it painfully funny. The lengths that Phillip goes to to keep pace with Barry’s gifts get successively worse and worse as his mental state slides rapidy downhill.

I really disliked Phillip. He’s a whining tosser. Luckily you can bear the fact simply because the situation he creates for himself into is so funny… The scene where he’s creeping round his friends’ house in the middle of the night is priceless. Unfortunately the book falls down because the author doesn’t carry it all the way through. Things start to go right for Phillip and at that point I kind of lost interest. He doesn’t seem to have the balls to take it to it’s logical extreme.

I think the problem is that there’s an underlying idea that the author is trying to get out here, so rather than simply writing a harshly black comedy he’s trying to work a theme into the book that causes him to lose focus near the end. I think I’d have prefered the idea delivered in a different way or for the comedy to run all the way through – instead I found myself crashing between two stools in a fairly painful way. He just trys to be too damn literary about the whole thing. Just for once I wish he’d left that behind when he picked up his pen.

The book that I wanted to be reading by the end of this of this one was Charlie Higson’s Getting Rid of Mr Kitchen. Now that’s a dark comedy that never lets go. So. Gut feel is that this one isn’t worth it. I’m probably wrong… The Amazon reviews love it, a lot of journalists loved it, even Will Self loved it (apparently) and it’s a certainty that it’ll do the rounds of the trendiest dinner parties; just be wary of anyone who gives it to you – particularly for no apparent reason…