Here’s a trade secret about book reviewers. I don’t think they always read every sentence of every book they write about. I wanted to make a point of reading Bridget Christie’s first book from intro to outro just in case she had mentioned me. I’d look like a clown if she did and I didn’t mention this in my review. There was, infuriatingly, no index to do a quick sneaky check*.
Anyway I’m glad I completed it. It is a fine book, somewhere between feminist treatise, autobiography and nerdy stand-up how-to guide. Most importantly for me, it was very funny, despite also being deadly serious.
This mix of funny/serious is in line with Christie’s most recent live shows, though if anything the balance shifts here. A Book For Her is probably more straight-faced. There is more room for facts and figures when it comes to female genital mutilation, for example, as well as moving poems and accounts of this barbaric practice.
Anyone who has seen Christie live, however, will read it all in her voice (I assume an audio book is planned) and get the same laughs as they got when they have seen or heard her before. The humour is clearly the same and works well on the page. In particular there’s the misnaming – “Jimmy Somerville, Head of Women, Bronski Beat” and the repetition. A running gag is that Christie pretty much slept with everyone in the media and showbiz to make it.
This is not merely a feminist tract though. Christie was presumably concerned that she didn’t want to do a book that was too similar to work by Caitlin Moran and Lena Dunham. The big difference here are the in-depth sections on her stand-up career, tracing her work from the gigs a handful of diehards saw to the sold out record-breaking acclaimed runs in Edinburgh and at the Soho Theatre that were inspired by smelling a man’s fart in a bookshop.
Stand-up scholars will love and be intrigued by the breakdown of how she put together her last two shows, A Bic For Her and An Ungrateful Woman. I remember those two shows as being very similarly constructed companion pieces, but to Christie the structure was very different. An illustration of the notes she scribbled on her hands before each gig shows how the second show was far more complex than the first.
As the book approaches the end the seriousness starts to outweigh the comedy, but it never gets too earnest. For every reference to rape and misogyny there is a gag and a giggle-worthy one-liner. And this of course is Christie’s strength that sets her above her peers – as she alludes to in her book, she uses the Trojan horse technique of concealing a powerful army of vital messages inside a giant horse-shaped laugh. Or something like that. And she does it better than anyone.
*And no, the book doesn’t mention me.