Sunday, July 17, 2016

Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse, by David Mitchell

Staff review by Chris Saliba

David Mitchell offers a common sense guide for the perplexed.

David Mitchell is well known to Australian audiences from such shows as Peep Show and Would I Lie to You? A comedian and actor, he’s also an astute writer, a regular contributor to The Observer and The Guardian. Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse is his first collection of  columns from The Observer.

A self-confessed “whinger” who doesn’t like to move too far from his comfortable home office, Mitchell considers many of today’s most pressing topics, ranging from the trivial to the quite annoying. There are columns on why he likes the Royal Family, the evils of the finance sector, why politicians are so bland and uninspiring, the cultural importance of television and the absurdities of the Internet. Quite courageously, Mitchell even launches a defence of the wheelie bin. Anything that confronts the humble citizen on their daily travels, no matter how drab or boring, Mitchell attacks with his full analytical vigour. His column on the absurdities of a Japanese bottom cleaning device (one that saves the patron the bother of having to wipe their own), is hilarious. Mitchell writes: “We imagine such contraptions having a dial setting that, under cover of ominous music, could be covertly turned up to ‘Dangerous’ by a sinister gloved hand. None of us wants to meet our maker, pants round ankles, reading Schott’s Original Miscellany  clutched in agony, the victim of a lethal hygienic bombardment.”

This is a book that mixes stiff British propriety with a keen sense of the absurd. Even when defending the monarchy, which Mitchell accepts as both ridiculous and unfair, he manages to maintain a logic despite contradictions: at least the Queen, a harmless old lady, holds the British nation together, in a roundabout way.

As a writer, David Mitchell is a premium tulip. Clear and precise, his columns remind one of George Orwell’s “As I Please” columns written for The Tribune. That with a bit of Quentin Crisp’s dry wit thrown in.

A common sense guide for the perplexed.

Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse, by David Mitchell. Published by Faber. ISBN: 9781783350575  RRP: $22.99

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