Sphere £11.99

Robin Ince's Bad Book Club, By Robin Ince

From Ricky Gervais's support act to a darling of the "indie" comedy scene, Robin Ince has become a cult favourite mainly because of his Book Club nights, which saw him introduce an array of cabaret acts amid his readings of books such as the autobiography of Syd Little and The Secrets of Picking Up Sexy Girls.

Ince's act, rather like his career, builds up heads of steam that propel him on erratic journeys, on which he becomes giddy with his own guile and gabble. And so it is with his book, which chronicles the treasures he has uncovered during many forays to the darkest reaches of charity-shop bookshelves. Put simply: he has read this crap so you don't have to, and made something approximating a silk purse out of numerous sows' ears.

Take these examples, which traverse the range of the ridiculous to the unpalatable: the 1970s sitcom misogyny of The Secrets of Picking Up Sexy Girls advises that women in hats are more conceited than ones who go bare-headed; Starlust delves into the sexual fantasies that arise from celebrity worship, including one woman who likes to imagine her pop icons, from Blondie to Boy George, in pain; and Elvis: His Life and Times in Poetry and Lines is another extreme, if not quite so disconcerting, example of fandom. In this work – a whole volume of poetry in praise of the King's godlike qualities – it is dedication, not imagination, that is taken to the brink. It even rivals Danielle Steel's poetry about jam, quoted elsewhere by Ince, for nonsense.

All these are, of course, comedy sitting ducks. Discussing Starlust, Ince derides one fantasist for his aborted sexploit with Sheena Easton, describing it as "a proper British fantasy" where he sees the protagonist as essentially saying "I am awfully sorry but I think that this fantasy has gone quite far enough, young lady."

Some sitting ducks quack more than others, of course. Sharon Stone's coffee-table book on bereavement is so vacuous that it allows for little comedy gold to be mined from it. There's far more return from a hipster's guide to Christianity, for example, and from the autobiography of Don Estelle, best known as Lofty in It Ain't Half Hot Mum.

Estelle, it seems, is more preoccupied with his home improvements than his acting credits and the potential stories therein, and this domestic quality is one that Ince admires. This also explains Ince's attachment to Terry Major-Ball's autobiography, in which the former prime minister's late brother stuns us with the revelation: "I must admit, although it's not politically correct, that I do like bacon and eggs."

Ince is affectionate towards the earthy concerns of Messrs Estelle and Major-Ball and, indeed, he strikes a benevolent tone throughout. He almost manages to hold his tongue through chapters on his known bête noires – "Bad Science" (a chapter heading with the same name as his buddy Ben Goldacre's rationalist tome), "New Age" and "Columnists". He could do with a little more factual analysis in the latter chapter, to help his fish-in-a-barrel shooting of Garry Bushell and Richard Littlejohn – though his description of the US commentator Ann Coulter as "showing off to the right-wing hordes like Eva Braun dancing in crotchless pants in a bunker" is almost enough to make you forgive this.

If it is piquant observations you want in between these homages to the unfashionable, failures and charlatans, then Ince has them. Occasionally, they may be hidden in blather and wrong turnings, such as his protracted musings on Cliff Richard wondering about the ability of monkeys to swim, or on the contents of The Correct Guide to Letter Writing as used in an uneven, and surprisingly short, chapter about self-help manuals. But at other times they are staring you in the face: "Many celebrities," he observes in the chapter on autobiography, "are no more than walking ghosts, pepped up by their vampire-like management until they crumble like chaff and blow under the carpets of the public's memory."

It's a sentence that, in its truth, is beautiful and terrifying at the same time, and one of the nuggets of gold at the end of the rainbow of Ince's odyssey of the odious.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'