Back Story by David Mitchell
David Mitchell may be best known as a comedian/television panel show personality but he’s also one of those millions of people that suffers from a bad back. So how does he fix it? He walks, as simple as that. This book takes us on one of his walks and gives us an insight into his childhood, his teenage years and how he became a household name. Along the way, he discusses his hatred for Chinese food and fancy dress parties, his insecurities about hats and haircuts but his love of panel shows and Kindles.
I will admit that I came to this book, expecting to enjoy it. I wouldn’t count myself as a David Mitchell fan but I find him a very interesting man and was intrigued to find out more. I was expecting good writing, intelligent laughs, an insight into his comedy, witty sarcasm and some strong and thoughtful points.
I adored the first few pages. His writing style is exactly as I expected and his account as to why he can never read a book by the author David Mitchell was great fun. I am sorry to say, once the novelty of his writing style wore off, I was then immensely bored for over half the book, roughly 150 pages. Well over half the book is taken up with his time at school and his preoccupation with education and class. Of course, I expected some of this, maybe quite a bit but not to the level where I felt no interest in continuing the book. I trudged on only due to the fact that I hate to stop reading a book. I don’t think you can have a full opinion on something unless you have finished it, so I continued. I also really wanted to get to the part of his life where comedy took hold. I am a massive comedy fan and like many other people who read this book, this was the reason I wanted to read it.
Once he passes his teen years, the book does become far more enjoyable but there were so many parts I struggled with previously, that these were dulled. His early insistence that he didn’t have a privileged beginning but that his parents were just hard-working, feel understandable until his depression on not getting into Oxford and having to do with Cambridge. He also bites at comedian Stewart Lee for a piece he does on the well known ‘falling over’ sketch in Only Fools and Horses, where he completely seems to miss the point. Ok, yes, these are just disagreements over opinions of no consequence but there was one other one that rankled me to a point of anger.
Men dressing up as women. He starts explaining that cross-dressing in the ‘drag’ sense is timelessly funny, which I am sure many agree and is just a matter of taste. What bothers me, is when he classifies genuine transsexuals in the same light.
“So it’s funny. But we’re not supposed to find it funny – so it’s even funnier. The person who’s made that choice is deadly serious and very sensitive about it – which makes it funnier still.”
The first time I can ever remember thinking about transsexuals was to think ‘what a tough life it must be’. Even as a young teenager, when we are all probably our most idiotic and cruel, I never remember finding their situation funny. As an adult, hell no I don’t!
So sadly, I went into this book quite liking David Mitchell but after reading it, not so much.
Buy David Mitchell’s Back Story