It’s a good thing that I’m not a religious fanatic because I would probably not have bought this book. (You notice I never mention “borrowed” or “stole” or “never returned to the library”? Every book is mine via purchase or other form of moral acquisition. I’ve been given books by friends, but you know how it is when you are given books by people who are not great readers of books. They end up being books that I would not write about. “The Best of Shakespeare” or “Emily Dickinson’s Greatest Hits”. Something quite vague.)
“Art The Wrong Way” has a double-entendre. Layer one involves how Brand, an attention-whore of Byzantine proportions, re-Brands Perugino’s painting of Christ and angels with himself (as the Christ figure) surrounded by some talking heads of English soccer. And Britney Spears. As if any of her fans would ever buy this book. Or read. You know, it’s a good thing that he’s a West Ham fan because if he was a Man Utd. or Liverpool or Arsenal fan, then I probably would not take him as seriously. West Ham is a good fringe team – they bounce up and down the chart all season long before ending up in the top 10-15. When you are on the fringe, you see things with a clarity not enjoyed by the popular rich kids who cannot conceive of someone not dying to be them. That said, if I ever see the original of the painting, I’ll never forget that it is a Perugino.
The other layer of entendre involves Brand’s commentary on the sport itself. If you have only ever seen Brand the “entertainer”, you will not recognize the man you see through these pages. He is a good writer. He’s not posh, but his writing is studied, careful, his tone suitably serious – and then he meets David Beckham. Then the jester is back. But the guy knows his team. He knows a goodly amount of soccer history and has seen so much change and the jingoistic bollix that the English game has become. God Bless Him because he gives me hope that I am getting it! So perhaps there is a third layer to that Perugino/prophet-on-high imagery. Reading this book confirms that I am learning what I need to learn, and that I am developing some decent instincts about the game.
“Who the hell takes soccer advice from Russell Oh-What-Daft-Hair-I’ve-Got Brand?” you might say to yourself. Well, who takes advice on politics from a bunch of arrogant, clueless actors? People do have layers. Apparently.