The only good thing about commuting between Cavan and Dublin the past few weeks is that I’m getting through a shed load of books. And even though I’ve got a box full of unread books, I’ve been busy buying more just in case I should run out …
With the World Cup almost upon us, there’s no better time to revisit the madness of Saipan via Conor O’Callaghan’s Red Mist: Roy Keane and the Irish World Cup Blues – a Fan’s Story. And if that only serves to remind you that Ireland isn’t in this year’s competition, cheer yourself up by picking up David Thorne’s The Internet is a Playground.
Red Mist by Conor O’Callaghan
It was Ireland’s 9/11. Nobody died, but the entire country was in mourning. Roy Keane sent home from the 2002 World Cup, and a nation up in arms over who was to blame for the catastrophe – Keane or the Ireland manager Mick McCarthy.
Connor O’Callaghan provides an account of the Saipan saga whilst interweaving stories from his own life during the tumultuous events. Red Mist: Roy Keane and the Irish World Cup Blues – a Fan’s Story is a solid read and serves as a great reminder of just how divisive the Keane/McCarthy debate was. Neighbours and families throughout the country became embroiled in the argument, and some even stopped speaking to each other completely as they took sides and held firmly on their convictions. In fact the most entertaining parts of Red Mist centre on the effects of the debacle on O’Callaghan, his son and the community.
The telling of the Saipan story itself doesn’t offer anything new. It would have been great if O’Callaghan interviewed some of the Irish players under a veil of anonymity. Did Keane really call McCarthy an “English c**t” ? O’Callaghan quotes the newspaper reports aplenty, but it would have been great if he had spoken to a number of people who were actually there. Also, the numerous side-stories at times take from the telling of the Saipan incident itself.
Furthermore, O’Callaghan writes in the present tense and constantly refers to dates in the book as “last Friday” and similar. That would be fine if Red Mist was written in a diary format and the reader could easily keep track of the days/dates to which he is referring. But O’Callaghan often moves the action on a few days or weeks and then again refers to “last Thursday” or “last Friday”, making it difficult for the reader to know on what dates things actually happened.
As a retelling of the Saipan saga, Red Mist isn’t entirely successful. But then again, that doesn’t seem to be O’Callaghan’s primary objective. As a memoir based on the months after Saipan, and as a case study of how it affected the ordinary man on the street, Red Mist is a triumphant success. Worth a read!
The Internet is a Playground by David Thorne
The Internet is a Playground comprises “the complete collection of articles and emails” from Thorne’s infamous site. So there’s little here that you can’t already get for free on the website, but Thorne’s material really does deserve a place on your coffee table.
Thorne shot to fame in late 2008 when he tried to settle a bill with a drawing of a spider. The resulting email correspondences were posted on his website, and word quickly spread around the internet.
The book consists of the spider piece along with a number of similar—and no less hilarious—emails. Thorne invites himself to his neighbour’s party, turns the tables on a strict teacher and weasels his way out of paying a late fee for some rented DVDs. But summarising these emails could never do them justice. You just have to read them yourself. Read one and I guarantee you will be hooked.
Unfortunately, the “articles”, which feature on Thorne’s website and form a large part of the book (much more so than the emails), aren’t anywhere near as funny or engaging as the emails. Many of these articles see Thorne writing in the name of people he knows—such as colleagues—and essentially parodying them to the utmost of his ingenious abilities. These articles have their moments, but generally I found myself racing through them in order to get to the next email piece.
Make no mistake about it, the emails featured in this book are comedy masterpieces. Like hidden camera TV shows, half the fun is seeing how people react to Thorne’s absurd emails. And Thorne never fails to reply to each email with clever arguments, witty observations and downright off-the-wall logorrhea .
If you like the writing of Maddox, then you’ll love The Internet is a Playground.
Purchase my own book—the hilarious comedy memoir Lord of the Rams: The Greatest Story Never Told (with FREE worldwide postage and packaging)