The Impartial Recorder by Ian Sansom

January 29, 2010

Fourth Estate of Harper Collins, 2004, published in UK as The Ring Road

Finished: January 22, 2010

Source: library browsing

Genre: Northern Irish poke in the ribs

On the Scales:  bar fight

The book is Irish, but the author isn’t.  He’s an import.  Also, now, an export.  It’s a chatty, cheery collection of disconnected shaggy-dog gossip that turns out to be about how everything turns out like it always has and nothing turns out like it should.  Dramatic irony in every direction.  Same old story: the bullies keep winning and aren’t any happier for it.  The cowardly keep running, but they don’t escape.  The hurt hurt themselves.  The Panzerkorps of the late 20th century consumer economy just keep on rolling, destroying towns, communities, in fact everything good and beautiful in their path–even in ol’ Ireland–and there’s a Frank Gibley in every tank.

That’s making the book sound deep and as if it had a plot.  It was compulsively readable, though, as advertised.  If I were an Irish provincial, the deftly drawn stereotypes and weather jokes might have made me laugh (and I really needed to laugh the day I read it).  With a few notable exceptions, they just reminded me of British TV.  I think I did laugh in a couple of places–Jesus jokes both times, which made me feel kind of lame.  I ate yoghurt covered raisins I didn’t really want while I read it.  It was that kind of book.  The lengthy postmodern footnotes were a nice touch.

I don’t feel so bad about not knowing what the book was about, or how seriously I was supposed to take it, or how seriously I was supposed to be fooled into taking it seriously because the media reviews that were blurbed on the back cover seemed similarly confused.  I wish I still had the book beside me, because one of them said, completely without irony, something like “a genial elbow in the ribs.”  Ow.  No, thank you.  I can imagine the author cackling madly over his clippings then going to the Armada bar to get drunk.

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2 Responses to “The Impartial Recorder by Ian Sansom”

  1. Julie said

    I appreciate your savvy and authentic review! I’m happy to know what this book is actually like. I’m not sure it’s my type so I’ll chose another. 🙂 Plus, it reminds me of something similiar that I’ve read recently. Nicely done!

  2. trapunto said

    I’m not sure it’s my type either! Thanks for stopping by.

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