Just occasionally a book captures the zeitgeist of an entire generation and influences the thinking of millions of people: the Bible, the Koran, Bhagavad Gita for example. Sometimes remarkable thoughts are collected in books that resonate through the centuries and make their (sometimes controversial) authors household names: Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’, Thomas More’s ‘De Optimo Republicae Statu deque Nova Insula Utopia‘, Marx’s ‘Das Kapital‘, J.K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’.
Books can change lives, words can have the most profound impacts on those who read them, thoughts can literally change everything (especially if that thought is, Of course I can drive after eight pints, just watch…”).
And then again there is the sort of ‘book’ that may as well be emptied straight from the shipping boxes into the remainder bin, tipped immediately into the recycling, and from there pulped into the sort of low-grade grey waste that’s only fit for the bottom of hamster cages.
And then again again there is something called ‘Reservoir Cats’. The book.
Supposedly a mostly ‘funny’ and ‘humourous’ satirical take on the current British birding scene, ‘RC’ (or ‘Arsey’ as it will undoubtedly become known), appears to me to be little more than a collection of old stories about people most of us have never heard of and who seem to be thoroughly dislikeable (if you can believe the Arseys’ description of Cornish suppressors, nylon-trousered birders, and paranoid twitchers anyway – whom, now I come to think of it, I’ve never really liked either). It even appears to be self-published by someone called ‘Mr White’ which is just silly: what kind of a name is that? Made up, I’ll bet.
Of course it’s self-published. What kind of a real publisher would want to waste their time on material like this when they can be promoting Katie Price’s fourth autobiography, the children’s story written by that bloke who was runner-up in the X Factor last year, or Kerry Katona’s ‘Homecooking for Addicts’ – stuff that the British public actually want to buy in other words? Seriously, who would want to buy very funny writing that was widely ignored when it was published the first time round? Do we really need to have Tom Logan and Enid Felcher on our bookshelves (personally speaking I wouldn’t have that rancid, gassy old witch either on, under, or round the back of any bookshelf of mine and that’s for blinking sure)?
These are important questions. Possibly.
I actually have a sinking feeling that birders everywhere could decide that if they’re going to throw away their money on a Christmas present the recipient doesn’t want, then it may as well be ‘Arsey’ rather than yet another box of Ferrero Rocher. There are apparently people who find sub-Viz style ramblings titled for example “Self-found listers ‘insufferably smug bastards’ ” and “Neo-nazis target vagrant birds” quite amusing. Some ‘birders’ might even carry a copy of ‘Arsey’ to pass the boredom of yet another day spent in the hide at Minsmere waiting for something to happen.
Who the heck knows? Frankly the best part of the whole book is the incredibly witty quotation on the back cover that I wrote, but there is, as Gordon Ramsay has proved endlessly over the last twelve months, no accounting for f***ing taste. So, if you really have got more money then sense, your local W H Smith has run out of John Bishop DVDs, or you want to affect a sense of irony next time you go birding, you could – I suppose – put money into the pockets of ‘Mr White’ and buy this so-called book – especially if you want to know what the phrase “looks like a piss-stained Common Rosefinch” actually means…
So, would I recommend this loosely-connected, curse-laden, irreverent, disrespectful, iconclastic collection of writings? Do you have a sense of humour? Seriously, if you don’t know the answer to that by now, then there’s no hope for any of us and I’m not even half as good at writing irony as I’d like to think I am…*
If you really must you can buy Arsey at
* By which I mean, yes, this book is VERY funny, a must-have, and should serve as a warning to us all not to be so damn pompous – and this review was intended to be FUNNY. Seriously, you got that right? Right…?