One From the Archive: ‘Him & Me’ by Jack and Michael Whitehall ****

‘Him & Me’ by Jack and Michael Whitehall

Turn the television on, and you are almost certain to see something featuring British comedian Jack Whitehall.  He currently stars in the BBC3 series ‘Bad Education’ which he penned himself, Channel 4’s ‘Fresh Meat’ where he plays posh student JP, and in a new chat show-style series called ‘Backchat’, which he appears on with his father, Michael.  In fact, Jack is so popular in the United Kingdom at present that he was voted ‘King of Comedy’ at the 2012 British Comedy Awards.

In Him & Me, Jack and Michael ‘open up the rich and plentiful family archives and share their hilarious memories’.  Throughout, photographs and illustrations, all penned by Jack himself, have been included.  The book has been split into eleven separate parts, beginning with ‘First Memories’ and ending with ‘All Growed Up’.

Him & Me begins with an amusing introduction, in which Jack describes the point at which he told his father that he had been asked to write a book: ‘It is a revelation that is met with utter derision.  Penguin are accused of having let their standards slip and I am told that it is my duty to literature to turn the offer down’.  He explains, ‘I must make it clear that the sole purpose of writing this book was not to show my father that all the money he’d, quote, “wasted on my education to travel up and down the country telling jokes about my penis” was not frittered away and that I could achieve something, but it certainly was a factor’.  Jack then goes on to say, ‘Writing this book has been totes amazeballs (I will be using the odd young-person phrase like this throughout the book because I know how much it annoys my dad)’.

Jack and Michael Whitehall (from the Telegraph)

Different chapters have been penned by both authors, and annotations from the pair occur throughout the book. Him & Me begins with Michael’s memories of Jack’s birth, in which actor Nigel Havers is present, dressed in a dinner jacket.  Michael’s position as a former theatrical agent has led Jack to include a glossary of all of the celebrity names dropped, merely to aid younger readers.

The information included within the book’s pages is largely anecdotal, and incredibly funny.  It is possible to imagine the pair telling these stories to avid listeners, and the chatty tone of the book (at least where Jack’s chapters are concerned, anyway) only adds to this.  From a creepy children’s entertainer – ‘I still worry that if I were to say his name in the mirror three times he might burst through it and choke me to death with a balloon poodle’, says Jack – and Jack’s troublesome antics at Marlborough College, where he was found posing naked for a picture by ‘a small squat Damien Hirst lookalike with a passion for architecture’, to a Cornish camping holiday where, ‘in the middle of a field in Cornwall Michael Whitehall was still dressed in a three-piece linen suit’, to an incident in which Michael tried to kill a rat infestation with an air rifle: ‘I suspect that – even if it did still function – the chances of my father being able to hit a moving target were extremely slim’.

Each chapter concludes with several rather amusing comments written by the other party.  The father and son complement each other’s sense of humour marvellously, and Him & Me is sure to delight every fan of Jack Whitehall – and, indeed, of his rather politically incorrect but incredibly funny father.

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‘Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops’ and ‘More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops’ by Jen Campbell ****

‘Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops’ by Jen Campbell

One would think that those who peruse the many bookshops up and down the breadth of England would be relatively intelligent – right?  Wrong, according to author Jen Campbell.  Not only has she written Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops based upon her experiences as a bookseller, she has had to bring out a sequel.

I have wanted to read these books since they first came out, but both have been rather elusive to try and find.  I did not receive review copies of either book, I can never find it in bookshops (I do not know whether I should find this odd or not), and my library does not stock it.  Instead, I caved when I really shouldn’t have, and purchased both from The Book People.

Both Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops and More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops have been split into three sections, to separate the weirdness, as it were.  In both books, I found it both amusing and rather cringeworthy that the general public can be so… well… thick.  The second book is even funnier than the first, and I was stifling giggles throughout.  The illustrations provide wonderful accompaniments to the text.

‘More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops’ by Jen Campbell

Some of the best – or, arguably, worst – entries are as follows:

– ‘Do you have any books by Jane Eyre?’
– ‘Did Anne Frank write a sequel?’
– Someone asking, with all seriousness, where the ‘fictional novels’ can be found
– A customer wanting books ‘signed by Shakespeare’
– ‘Do you have a copy of Atonement?  But not the film cover, please.  Keira Knightley’s neck makes me want to punch things.’
– ‘Have you got a children’s book I’ve heard about?  It’s called Lionel Richie and The Wardrobe.’
– A child, pointing to the Dr Seuss books: ‘I made a hat for my cat, but he won’t wear it.  That book is full of lies.’

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops and More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops are real gems, treasure troves as they are of humour and stupidity.  They are sure to delight every single bookworm who comes across them.

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