Another slightly out-of-the-ordinary title for me: Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse by David Mitchell.
The book is a collection of columns he has written for the Observer over the past five years. Normally, I’d be a bit cynical about already-published material being given a fancy cover and marketed as something new but in certain cases, I’m willing to put aside my reservations. From what I’ve seen of David Mitchell, I like him. Peep Show and That Mitchell and Webb Look are both witty, and I find him absolutely hilarious on Would I Lie To You? He’s legendary for his rants, but I wasn’t familiar with his columns, so I was pleased to see that they were very much in keeping with what I’d have expected from him. He has a great command over the English language.
In the columns, he writes about everything from his thoughts on the monarchy to celebrity chefs, and everything in between. On the whole, it was enjoyable to read but with a couple of caveats. The first being that in a collection of columns like this, there’ll always be some that work better than others. It’s also not a book that I’d recommend reading from start to finish in one go, as it does get a little bit ‘samey’ after a while.
However, that said, I found myself highlighting an insane number of passages throughout that either made me laugh out loud or go ‘yes! Someone else thinks that too!’ I’ve picked my favourite out to quote here, as they’ll probably give a better idea of what I liked about this book than anything else I could go on about:
[On Downton Abbey]
I’ve seen every single episode. I think it might be my favourite programme. I enjoy it enormously. I also think it’s shit.
It’s like when you start worrying that blue looks yellow to everyone else and that when they say ‘blue’, they’re thinking of yellow, and vice versa. How can you check?
[On the rules of grammar]
If those who misuse the apostrophe are not adversely judged for it, then why did I waste so much time listening in class?
There’s no other David Mitchell walking around, who, having eschewed TV, has an imagination unstunted by assiduously following the plot of Dynasty. Unless it’s that pesky novelist.
[Still on the subject of television]
Regurgitate half-remembered facts from your A-level syllabus on a panel show, I’ve found, and you’ll get lumped in with the learned.
[On the popularity of Harry Potter]
Others’ loss of perspective about its merits made me lose my own. Maybe I was trying to lower the average human opinion of the oeuvre close to what it deserves by artificially forcing mine well below that level.
The intense joy because his opponents have messed up, and so he’s closer to his aims without having to do anything good, made me want to puke.
Reading through the highlighted passages to pick out these quotes actually reminded me of what I liked most about this book. The common theme in all of these columns is that David Mitchell is really taking the time to question some of our most bizarre social conventions. It’s refreshing.