Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"Lovely stuff"

Now that I've finished I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan, it's obvious why Buzzfeed's Who Said It: Morrissey Or Alan Partridge quiz was so tricky. Like Moz in his Autobiography, Partridge comes across as startlingly unself-aware, arrogant, insensitive and bitter, frequently taking the opportunity to air grievances and obsessively long-held grudges and to settle scores. And, thanks to the combined efforts of authors Rob Gibbons, Neil Gibbons, Armando Iannucci and Steve Coogan, the book is equally well-written, stuffed with memorable turns of phrase.

As I mentioned when reviewing Alpha Papa last year, the task of telling Alan's life story is fiendishly difficult. Over the years a whole world has been constructed for him, and the risk of introducing inconsistencies or outright contradictions must have been high - but the authorial team have pulled it off with superb style. Clearly they've had much fun filling in the gaps - his childhood and life before Radio Norwich, the circumstances surrounding his breakdown and subsequent recovery (including the restorative powers of pony-trekking) - but also excel at retelling from Alan's perspective episodes the reader already knows well (most notably the infamous meeting with Tony Hayers).

The inclusion of sections on digital radio blatantly lifted from Wikipedia, footnotes and an accompanying soundtrack that Alan insists is mandatory ("4. Anything by Keane") is inspired, and some of the passages are among the funniest moments in the whole Partridge canon: his attempts to exert authority over a disrespectful scout in his patrol, his account of getting his big break when a lady marshall gets hit during an archery tournament. He also poses some great phone-in puzzlers - I'm now really interested to know if it's legal to draw a line on the back of a photograph and use it as a postcard (I think the answer's yes)...

Rather like Alan's own career trajectory, I think it's fair to say that the character has bounced back. It might not have been apparent at the time, but he was at a relatively low ebb around the live show Alan Partridge And Other Less Successful Characters - but, along with Mid Morning Matters and Alpha Papa, the autobiography has helped to resurrect and reassert the strength and genius of what I'll reluctantly call the Partridge brand.

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