Some things are just too good not to share, and Tim Moore’s You Are Awful (But I Like You) is one of them. For my international readership, the title quotes a catch-phrase of a cross-dressed character in a popular 70s British telly comedy sketch show. To any survivor of that enchantingly awful but harmless culture, the title incites a surge of mildly hysterical nostalgia. And I’m delighted to say the book delivers nostalgic hysteria in spades.
It’s one man’s journey to experience the awfulness of contemporary Britain in all its glorious mundane absurdity. You can see immediately why I was irresistibly drawn to the book in Waterstones. The author sets off in the worst car he can find (fondly named Craig) accompanied by the dulcet quaverings of Ozzy Osbourne on the satnav -and the worst British music EVER pumping through Craig’s sound system- and heads off to small town destinations and hostelries guided by Trip Advisor’s most discouraging reviews.
The book should come with a social embarrassment warning. This is not a tome to be read quietly and reverently in cafes and other public spaces. “Paedo Tim” talks of feeling himself to be an object of mildly threatening curiosity in his suspiciously lonesome maleness rattling around in his quaintly repelling Austin Maestro. But his antics leave the solitary reader equally exposed to allegations of weirdness. I defy anyone to sit and read this book and not end up choking on contained spluttering laughter accompanied by shoulder shaking. Not a good look in my local cafes. Or anywhere, really.
I have emailed entire paragraphs to the Prodigals, desperate to share my joyful amusement. Moore’s impeccable transcribing of regional accents led to a great email quiz of “guess the dialect”. Rather than use bizarre spelling, he takes advantage of absurd word combinations along the “four candles/fork handles” lines of another famous sketch from another famous 70s comedy duo. Pure genius.
Best of all, I can accompany him on all his wanderings thanks to my iPad with Google Streetview on tap. Google Streetview has transformed much of my reading experience generally. Yes, a good writer can convey a picture to delight the imagination, but the joy of finding a grim pub on a back street at the tap of a screen is pure 21st century joy.