Do you know what makes me furious these days? Do you know what gets my goat every time I go into a bookshop or switch on the radio? Do you know why I am in an almost constant state of bad temper, bile, choler, disgust, fury, crossness etc etc?
I'll tell you why.
It's because everyone else is so tetchy the whole time.
What I would really like to be is in a good mood, and gently satisfied with the way things are going, but I can't, because all I can hear is the sound of the whole world fulminating against something else the whole time.
And it really pisses me off.
A very good example of this is a book which I have seen a lot of people give a lot of other people this Christmas, called Is It Me Or Is Everything Shit?. The two authors of this rant, Messrs McArthur and Lowe, present their work as an encyclopaedic guide to unpleasant , cretinous and unnecessary things in the world today, but it's not encyclopaedic or even much of a guide; it's just an endless rant against things which annoy them. The Kabbalah. Tony Blair. Guy Ritchie. Interactive TV. On and on they go, inveighing against everything in after- the-fourth-pint-effing-and-blinding language.
This book by itself is not enough to put you in a rage, although even when you agree with their ranting, 20 pages of it makes you want to toss it out with the wrapping paper. No, what is so infuriating is not the unremitting bile, or the repetitive badmouthing; it is that it is not an isolated exhibit.
It is yet another example of bad temper masquerading as wit or style but succeeding mostly in just being bad temper.
We are in the middle of an era in which it is considered smart to be simmering with fury about something.
Consider the following random list.
Grumpy Old Men.
The World According to Clarkson.
Grumpy Old Women.
Crap Towns: The Top 50 Crap Towns of Britain.
Lynne Truss's Christmas Rant, on Radio 4...
All these have one thing in common, in that they represent people sounding off about things they can't stand. It's Speaker's Corner raised to the level of a half-hour programme. It's the pub grumbler being allowed to take over the airwaves. It's a phone-in programme between hard covers. It's the sound of Will Self's perpetual sneer...
Sometimes this fury is toned down and made quite graceful, even elegiac. Francis Wheen's How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World was fairly thoughtful, even though a lot of people who bought it because they thought it was an attack on Scientology or the Third Way must have been startled to find themselves plunged into a history of the 18th-century Enlightenment.
Michael Bywater's Lost Worlds is full of dislike which has fermented tastefully and is about as lyrical as rage gets.
But the only book that comes out of this litany of hate and horror with real honour is the book that did very well way back last Christmas: Bollocks to Alton Towers: Fifty Uncommonly British Days Out. The title has overtones of rant. It says: We hate Alton Towers because Alton Towers is a plastic, synthetic, sub-Disney excuse for a day out.
But then the book does something extraordinary. It says: Instead of going somewhere like Alton Towers and paying a lot of money to queue for nothing, why not go instead to one of these little-known, quirky and off-beat attractions? And they had indeed listed 50 brilliant places which it would be a great if quaint pleasure to visit, and the book was a sunny pleasure to read.
You see the little miracle that had taken place? Instead of just bellyaching, the authors had actually done something about it !
Why can't all these other catalogues of hatred be equally constructive?
Honestly, it makes me mad.Reuse content