Friday, May 11, 2012

‘I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan’ by Alan Partridge with Rob Gibbons, Neil Gibbons, Armando Iannucci and Steve Coogan

11 May 2012

I’m not a great one for celebrity autobiographies and I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy the ‘autobiography’ of a fictional celebrity but I thought that ‘I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan’ might be an undemanding bit of light relief. Once I got started with the unabridged audio book, read by ‘Alan Partridge’ himself, I realised that I was in for a treat. ‘I Partridge’ is a really clever and incredibly funny book. I found myself laughing out loud at least once a chapter. The book, written by ‘Alan Partridge’ with Rob Gibbons, Neil Gibbons, Armando Iannucci and Steve Coogan, is exactly how Alan Partridge would have written his autobiography. It is painstakingly accurate (or pleasingly pedantic) in its references to Alan’s broadcasting career, taking in all the incidents that I remember clearly myself having followed Steve Coogan’s comic creation from its inception. Indeed you quickly realise that Alan Partridge has now been around so long and appeared in so many incarnations, since his debut on Radio 4’s ‘On The Hour’ in 1991, that he has grown into a rounded character with a substantial ‘real’ history. But the historical events familiar to us from Alan’s various radio and TV shows are recounted in the book very much from the Partridge point of view, and with the benefit of hindsight, and may not always be exactly as you remember them. ‘I Partridge’ is not a ‘greatest hits’ exercise, merely replaying old jokes, it actually adds a further layer of hindsight humour. There’s also a lot of playful meta-textual stuff, with Alan being careful to warn us when he is about to shift to a first person, present tense, narration for effect, and pointing out which passages his publishers have insisted he includes. This talking directly to the reader, together with the confusing nature of having a fictional character reading the audio version of a book written by a fictional character about events that, though fictional, we actually remember from more than 20 years ago, gives the book a strangely sophisticated feel. The inclusion of a (very funny) birth scene in the first chapter made me think of Laurence Sterne’s ‘Tristram Shandy’, perhaps intentionally as Steve Coogan starred in Michael Winterbottom’s 2005 film of Sterne’s novel, ‘A Cock and Bull Story’. ‘I Partridge’ is much harder to describe than it is to read: I found myself picking it up at every available opportunity and loved every minute.

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