In which we round up the latest Marry Me reviews, and receive a solemn visit from the man himself…
Marry Me has been out for over a month now. If you’ve not bought a copy yet, don’t worry – it’s not too late. That said, if you don’t get your skates on it’ll soon be time to start asking yourself some pretty serious questions about what kind of person you are, and where your life is heading.
The deluge of press hasn’t let up – but has it been kind to the “prolific and ingenious” (Sunday Times) Rhodes? Has his “scintillating collection” (Independent on Sunday) thawed the icy hearts of the Dreaded Arts Correspondents? Surprisingly, they seem to have got it.
It’s not just the clever clog broadsheets - Heat magazine, who have historically been one of Rhodes’ staunchest allies, have excelled themselves yet again, with a five star review that you can read here. “Brilliantly clever and funny” they say.
And in a tale of redemption that is likely to tempt Hollywood, one of Rhodes’ longest-standing foes has come in with a bit of a beauty. Until now, Metro has done everything it can to drive Rhodes out of print and condemn his children to poverty, but this time around they seem to have finally discovered the ability to recognise quality when they see it. It lives here. “Very funny” they say. It just goes to show – if they can overcome their shortcomings and come good in the end, anyone can. Even you.
And now, in a rare move, it’s Over To Rhodes:
Goodbye, Sylvia Smith. One of my favourite writers died last week. For eight years, on and off, I worked as an unpacker in the basement of a branch of Waterstone’s. Every once in a while a book would catch my eye and I would open it up to see what was going on inside. Usually it was nothing much at all, and I would send it on its way to the shop floor. But occasionally a book would be instantly unputdownable and would follow me to the staff room on my breaks and then home again at the end of the day (paid for by this point – I knew I wouldn’t be bringing it back). This was how I discovered such beauties as A Crackup at the Race Riots by Harmony Korine, Jane Austen’s juvenilia, Be Wise, Be Otherwise by Kevin MacNeil, Church Life in Kent by Arthur J. Willis and Misadventures by Sylvia Smith.
Within a few pages I knew Sylvia Smith was going to be one of my favourites. These stories of everyday life in the world of rented rooms, temping jobs and disappointing romances rang true; at no point did I feel inclined to disbelieve a word she wrote. There was nobody else like her (or at least there was nobody else like her who was publishing collections of anecdotes). And, crucially, she was hilarious. I bought a copy for my mother, who was from the same generation and a similar background, and she loved it too. It went around the family, as did the follow ups – both of which were as good as Misadventures.
Sylvia Smith was a one off, and you either got her or you didn’t – a bit like a Daniel Johnston of the book world. I got her in spades, but plenty didn’t. The people who staff book review pages aren’t famous for getting jokes, and they didn’t get hers. One critique, by someone called Louise Carpenter in the Telegraph, stands as the foulest piece of book reviewing I’ve ever come across (read it here if you have a strong stomach). Sadly this bullying, snobbish attack wormed its way into her obituaries, where words like banal and boring leap out. She was neither. She was, in a way that was absolutely her own, brilliant. I’ll miss her. If you’ve not read her books, please do yourself a favour.