David Mitchell has become a bit of a famous, funny, grumpy not-so-old man. Through his TV appearances and weekly column for The Guardian’s weekly Observer supplement, his humour/rants are right on point, acerbic and dry, taking to task the inanities and insanities of our contemporary life. Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse is a collection of Mitchell’s columns, weekly dispatches from his thoroughly dry, thoroughly middle-class common-sense mind.
Apart from the short introduction, there is no new material in this book and this suits an Australian reader – without regular access to the Observer – just fine. The columns are arranged generally thematically, with sometimes a preceding contextual paragraph so one can best recall the seedy political scandal he was upset about; or just how bad times in the GFC felt that he was responding to. It’s a good way to arrange such a book, as is previous chronology is simply incidental.
And it is simply great to read some of his lines in that classic, nasal, educated, pissed-off David Mitchell voice:
“Imagine you’re running an elite branch of the police, responsible for the security of the country’s nuclear material and installations. Imagine you’re instituting a programme of modernisation and reform so that it can cope better with the threats posed by international terrorism. Would you call the programme ‘New Dawn’?”
However at the same time, it can all get a bit exhausting. Chapter after chapter of being annoyed can be tiring, and you come to realise that these columns were written as weekly instalments, a bit of a rant and amusement on a Saturday morning as you drink your tea, not designed to be set into a book, page after page of a privileged straight white man pissed off at his first world country. I’ve always enjoyed Mitchell’s humour and I still do, but it came to the point where this book became my commuter reading, and I started another book for the evenings at home.
But he has a brain that I like. Smart and well-honed, and in a position to call bullshit on the maddening aspects of life. There is also an unapologetic Britishness about it all.
“I don’t envy the Americans their political system. I envy them their success, money, inner belief that everything isn’t doomed to failure, attitude to breakfast, and teeth, but not their constitution.”
It is good to spend time with Mitchell and his way of seeing the world, albeit in small doses.