Book review: Awkward Situations for Men – Danny Wallace

Here’s something a little bit different for you; I’ve read a book (that is not that different bit, smartass) and now, I’ve written a review of the book that I read. I actually wrote it put on Amazon in the vague hope that if I write enough reviews and they are clever and insightful enough, somebody might notice and ask me to join that special elite group of people they send free books to, in exchange for more reviews. This is approximatey the first ever review I’ve posted so I expect the email any day now.
Anyway, without further ado, I present my review. (ooh, sorry about that!)  

Title: Awkward Situations for Men
Author: Danny Wallace
Pub: Ebury Press (2010)
ISBN-10: 0091937574

I’ve always quite liked Danny Wallace and thought Yes Man was brilliant; one of those books it’s not safe to read on public transport because you will be cackling so much the other passengers start to get nervous. Therefore I had high hopes for Awkward Situations for Men, especially after reading the prologue; in which Danny tells a friend that his baby sounds like a dick. (I was standing in the bookshop at lunch time, laughing so much I had to put the book down and leave the shop. For the rest of the day, everytime I thought about that passage, I started sniggering… which got a bit awkward in itself when I headed back to work and had to sit through a departmental meeting…)

So, last weekend, having the house to myself and no pressing tasks to hand, it was with a great deal of anticipation that I took to the back garden with a big cup of coffee and my freshly arrived copy of Awkward Situations.

It was an enjoyable read, light hearted and full of the sort of self-deprecating humour and gentle befuddlement one expects from Danny but somehow it just didn’t delight me the way Yes Men had. I’m not sure if it’s that this book genuinely wasn’t as funny or if it’s more a case that Danny’s style is no longer new to me, has perhaps lost its novelty (‘scuse pun).

The book is written as a series of short chapters, each 2 -3 pages in length which, at the start appear random but as the book progresses you realise are presented in roughly chronological order, culminating in the “even bigger responsibility” that’s been looming on the horizon… [spoiler] …unsurprisingly, given the recurring themes of responsibility, growing up and leaving childish things behind … that Danny is going to be a dad soon. [/end spoiler]

The episodic style is ideal as commuter reading – you are never going to miss your tube stop due to being midway through a truly gripping chapter and failing to notice you were still on the train until you suddenly find yourself in Turnham Green (damn you Secret History, damn you very much!) – but when attempting a serious session of concerted reading, I found the style quite disruptive and hard to get into. It felt like reading a series of magazine columns rather than a novel.

Which leads me to my next gripe; I think it actually is a series of magazines columns. Right from the start I found myself thinking that a lot of the anecdotes sounded rather familiar but it wasn’t until about a third of the way through that I suddenly clicked; a lot of what I was reading had already been published as Danny’s column in Shortlist magazine, which I occasionally grab on the way to work in the morning. Now, I know serialising a book, or creating a book from a compilation of columns is fairly common but to me it feels like a massive cop-out; it’s really disappointing to pick up a “new” book, only to find you’ve already read half of it.

Despite these complaints, I did enjoy the book, it was a fun read and perfect for some light entertainment – like a literary version of an episode of “How I Meet you Mother” – unchallenging but thoroughly amusing and at times quite moving.

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