Book Review – Ayoade on Ayoade by Richard Ayoade

books, reviews

225934195_star_rating_system_3_stars I’ve been a little off with my reading this week because I’ve been so bloody tired. Tomorrow I start working from home for a bit, so, hopefully, the lack of commute will make everything a bit easier. Not that it’s a massive one but I think I just generally need to take it easier. Being able to get up a little later and not worrying about getting public transport is going to help. Obviously, helping reduce my chances of actually getting Corona is a good thing. I just hope that it all works out. This is the first time I’ve ever been able to work from home. I’m not worried about getting distracted but it’ll take time getting used to doing things on my own computer. I’m so used to having everything that I need at hand. Still, we’ll get there and I’ll get everything done. I just wonder how long everyone can keep going like this.

Richard Ayoade has made a name for himself as an uber awkward man. He has a strange and potentially off-putting sense of humour. It’s something that works really well in certain situations but is less successful in others. I bought this book as soon as it came out and read it a while ago. I was a little disappointed because it wasn’t what I expected it to be. It was funny but it felt a little unsure of itself. I liked the idea of it but it just felt a bit too much. So, I put it back on my shelf and forgot about it. But I still bought all of Ayoade’s other books. After Ayoade on Top ended up being my top read of last year, I started to wonder if I’d misjudged his first effort. So, when the audiobook finally came Audible, I decided to go back to it.

Ayoade’s first book was a parody of Faber’s Directors on Directors series of books. Those books saw filmmakers critically analyse their careers. In Ayoade’s version, he researches and interviews himself. We get two personas throughout the book: Ayoade the interviewer and Ayoade the director. The director is insanely pretentious and narcissistic. He recounts his first memories of being in the womb and thinking that his birth would make a good scene in a movie. He is a man who will tell anyone who will listen that he is the master of so many talents. He can direct, act, write, and… plumb? You get the feeling that a lot of this persona comes out of a genuine fear about how the world sees you. The director has notoriously shied away from self-promotion and is probably uncomfortable as coming across as pompous.

The director character is a pretty horrible caricature but he has his moments of hilarity. The book is divided into biography, interviews, and essays. It’s also incredibly silly and self-aware. The interviewer Ayoade is scared and timid in the presence of this titan. He gets tongue-tied around him and struggles to get him to open up. The director does everything he can to subvert the conversation and bring down the man trying to get to the heart of him. The problem is, the whole thing starts to wear a bit thin after a few pages. The joke just doesn’t have enough substance to it. The book is more successful towards the end when it reveals a load of fake emails, letters, trivia, and scripts. There are more obvious jokes here and the Terrence Malick twitter chain is a particular standout.

You can’t quite get away from the idea that this whole book is just an Ayoade in-joke. That he wrote it for himself and the ultra-niche section of society with that exact sense of humour. It’s not that Ayoade on Ayoade isn’t a fun book but it is something that could have worked better in another medium. The audiobook does a better job of getting the different characters across. There are moments when it doesn’t work quite as well but it also lets Ayoade play up his awkwardness. I certainly preferred the audio experience to the book one. But it still pales in comparison to the genius that is Ayoade on Top.

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