Who wants to read old and recycled motoring articles? If they’re written by bad-boy Jeremy Clarkson, well-known host of the Top Gear television series, there is a large and ready market.
In case you haven’t heard, Clarkson is currently in the news for allegedly hitting a Top Gear producer who did not arrange hot food to be on hand after a day’s shoot, and the remaining three shows of the season have been suspended. Ego? It seems many viewers (and readers) love the mini-scandal.
In Australia, we see Clarkson’s writing not just in the Top Gear magazine but in our newspapers. As a serial columnist on all things motoring, he can easily put together a manuscript. All he has to do is to wait a while and corral numerous articles into a book. But is a fifteenth book too much? Do its many short pieces stand up to a second look?
If readers can marry an interest in cars with an appreciation for wit, however brash and opinionated, it doesn’t seem to matter that this volume starts way back – with his January 2011 pronouncements – and ends in December 2013. That’s 490 pages for $29.99, and they do bear fresh reading, with or without the frisson of Clarkson’s latest misbehaviour. But back to the book.
Typically, Clarkson takes a long time to get to the nominal subject, the car in question, but the path to that is entertaining. There are love-hate relationships with cars, mostly very flash ones, and some purely hated ones. The VW Jetta does not come off well:
…most depressing car ever made in all of human history…the four-wheeled equivalent of drizzle…better alternatives include the Golf, the Passat, every other car ever made, walking, hopping and being stabbed.
He starts liking the Citroen DS5 but the affair is brief. He sums up:
It’s ideal for those who want a fast-depreciating, possibly unreliable and uncomfortable car that looks fantastic and is unbelievably well equipped and charismatic. In short, it’s undoubtedly a car you want to buy. But I suspect that after a while, it’ll be a car you’ll want to sell.
The put-downs stretch beyond the various vehicles and include himself, which is a saving grace. Clarkson takes aim at the motor trade, too. “It’s hardly British but learn to haggle” will strike a funny-sad chord with anyone who has suffered the business of trading in a car for a new(er) one.
For the record, and despite his acidity, there are cars for which Clarkson expresses a sustained liking. The BMW Z4 continually rates well, as does the Ford Ecoboost; two not-so-silly garage mates.
Occasionally, between the blistering comments, he steps away from promoting the latest and shiniest toys. There have been numerous Top Gear overseas jaunts cum challenges employing cars that might seem past their use-by dates. The very wealthy Clarkson says that driving recyclable new cars is a second-best policy choice:
If you really want to save the planet, and a fortune too, do not buy a new car. Follow the teachings of Top Gear and simply carry on using the one you’ve got now.
Tongue in cheek? He wants you to buy this new book, even though the material is second-hand. Why not? Clarkson’s musings may be discursive and highly opinionated at times but he can also hit the proverbial nail, and with comic intelligence.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong? by Jeremy Clarkson, is published by Penguin Books Australia, $29.95.
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