Given my interest in the “comedy memoir” genre, it may surprise you to know that I’ve read only a few books that loosely fit within this genre. Fortunately, I’ve read two recently in quick succession!
The first, My Godawful Life, is strictly a work of fiction but it is written as an unintentional comedy memoir as it were.
With My Godawful Life, English author Michael Kelly, writing as Sunny McCreary, has produced possibly the most politically incorrect book you’re ever likely to read—a good thing as far as I’m concerned. Surely there’s more than enough books in the shops from people who had a “run-in” with a priest in their youth. Kelly definitely thinks so. Written as a parody of the misery-lit genre, My Godawful Life pokes fun at these books in ways that will shock those of a delicate disposition. The main character gets buggered by nuns in Ireland (the stereotypically “so it will, so it will, at all at all” Irish vernacular is particularly funny), gets pimped out to truckers, has nails driven into his skull by his step-father and gets a baboon’s arse grafted onto his face—and that’s just the beginning of his troubles.
Although there are some very funny moments throughout the book, the jokes come perhaps too thick and fast, arguably at the expense of the plot/structure, and I found myself stumbling towards the finish line in my efforts to reach the end of the book. Having said that, Kelly’s willingness to make light of tragic events is—in these times of political-correctness overload—brave and refreshing. Every reader will have a particular section of the book that, in particular, resonates with them. My favourite, apart from the aforementioned Irish nuns, is the Nigerian character near the beginning of the book, whose language will be more than familiar to anyone who has ever received spam emails requesting help transferring large sums of money—this character’s appearance is but a fleeting one and had me longing for more.
My Godawful Life is shameless, funny and refreshing, but its bad points, for me, take a lot of the sheen away. Recommended to anyone looking for something a bit different—it certainly is that!
The second “comedy memoir”, No Time for Work, is something of an enigma. I happened upon this book purely by chance in a shop on the outskirts of Drogheda some weeks ago. On picking it up, I noticed that it appeared to be self-published and asked the shop-keeper if it was written by a local author, but he had no idea. Anyway, with several of the review quotes on the cover stating how funny the book is, I bought a copy and got stuck into it shortly thereafter.
No Time for Work, by Irish man George Ryan, was first published in 1979. Described as “a humorous novel”, my brief online research suggests that all the stories in it actually happened to George or one of his colleagues (see http://www.kennys.ie/News/DessysDiary/072004-TimeForALaugh/). Apparently the book was a huge seller in Ireland when initially released and, although there is little information online about the book or author (other than the Kennys article above), it’s a delightful read, which had me hooked from start to finish.
No Time for Work recounts the misadventures of George and his best friend Cecil Chuckleworth— two alcoholic teachers who are almost allergic to an honest day’s work and will try just about anything in order to prevent themselves from inadvertently doing what is expected from them by their superiors. Headmasters and school inspectors suffer horribly at the hands of the sharp-tongued Ryan and Chuckleworth, as do stuck-up members of the local golf club and numerous other characters who encounter the devious pair. There are some memorable moments throughout the book—the lads’ summer spent working in London, their adventures on a golf course, their attempts to give up the drink—all moments that will no doubt still resonate with a broad audience all these years later.
The book is not without its faults. Given that it has been republished a number of times in the past 30 years, one would expect typographical and grammatical errors, of which there are quite a few, to have been eliminated by now. The “coffin” episode recounted towards the end of the book detracts from the realism of the overall story and borders on the farcical whilst really not adding much to the story.
Overall, No Time for Work is an enjoyable read. There are some touching moments and moral messages interwoven with the humour and, when I reached the end, I found myself wanting to read more—a sure sign of a decent, addictive read.
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