It were unfortunate that Russell Brand has had such a difficult time of it here in the States. One might get the impression that everyone hates him. But they don’t all. Just boring people. They don’t like his packaging. Why vilify him when so many others deserve it more: Angelina Jolie, Any of the Jacksons. That Spears woman. Most popular rappers. Anyone on reality TV. But this is not a knuckle-rap to the boneheads what slam Russell. This is actually about a column he wrote for the English newspaper THE GUARDIAN about his soccer team West Ham.
Not to be condescending or pedantic but here’s some background. The “Ham” in West Ham, I think is short for Hammersmith, a section of London. So the team is sometimes called “The Hammers” and their logo includes a couple of crossed sledgehammers. There’s even a reference to them in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It’s the skit where they’re asking Karl Marx questions about politics and soccer. It’s classic. Check it out.
The thing you need to understand about London is that some of the surrounding sections were named after the trade or guild that operated out of that part of town. Hence Hammersmith may have been the part of town where you could find someone to shoe your horse or fix a nick on your sword. Nowadays, it’s an urban mélange of immigrants, as are most parts of London and its environs.
IRONS IN THE FIRE is the first collection of his columns. Funny! Oh my God. HI-larious. Quippy. Clever. Verbally inventive. I love that urban London patois where he gets all the pronouns and verbs wrong. Like Ali G, except funny. Ali G sounds like an imbecile on purpose. Russell, in spite of the dodgy grammar, sounds intelligent for all the right reasons: complete sentences, complex ideas, lucidity of expression. And he writes like he speaks, which is fantastic because I love listening to him talk. His base voice always sounds a bit incredulous, boyish, and happy-go-lucky. But he can go deep, and disarmingly high, as well. He also does, I don’t know if he knows this, a damned sexy American accent – the tv exec suggesting the elephant – wow!
So here’s some “bits and bobs” (quotation marks just in case “Big Paper’s” legal team is web surfing) from Russell’s columns that I really got a thrill out of reading for various reasons. If indeed he did write the more sprawling sentences, then I am breathless – even a bit high – from his artistry.
“My account is always unbalanced and frightfully biased so unless these as yet unborn, nameless academics crave the solipsistic scribbling of a highly capricious and volatile witness to events at Upton Park and Soho Square they should probably, on uncovering my writings in some excavated knocking shop, keep digging till[sic] they reach the works of Richard Lacey or Oliver Holte.”
Bit wordy, this. This is one of those sentences that gave me an endorphin high. It’s so well balanced, so rhythmic, so consistently baroque in its structure, that I’m breathless with wonder. It’s a sprawling Blackadder-esque architectural delight.
“gangle-tang of limbs sans gorm” Ha! Gormless is what he’s sayin’, but isn’t this so much more expressive? A cool twist.
“scratch my frantic opinions on to the page with the twisted lust of a self-harming adolescent etching anxious, doubtful journals upon her busy wrists.” (Self-harming refers to people who secretly – or not – cut themselves. My students call them “emos”)
Is he really comparing the stress of writing his column to an emo cutting their wrists? Blimey, that’s intense.
I love this one: referring to the blooming of Joe Cole at WC2006 (not THAT wc, for God’s sake!), he essentially compares Sir Alex to a pervert for “inquiring after Cole like an aged suitor willing the ripening of teenage prey.” That’s a ripe, saucy comment. Sir Alex is not known for his sense of humor, btw.
“Here in England[,] we endure an anxious carnival of pain, a Mardi Gras of malcontent, a samba of sadness.”
This kind of parallel/alliteration combo-phrasing is a structure I tend to use myself. So I was so excited to see it in the book. In fact, I did something similar way back in one of my spending-too-much-money-at-the-bookstore posts. It’s vindication; it’s absolution; it’s a sign from Thoth, the scribe-god, that I don’t completely suck as a writer.
BEST OF BRAND:
[Do not even bother with Forgetting Sarah Marshall. It is an excruciatingly crap movie!]