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How I Escaped My Certain Fate Paperback – 5 Aug 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; 1st Edition edition (5 Aug. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571254802
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571254804
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.8 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 198,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Lee's bumper DVD extras-style assemblage echoes the revelatory sprawl of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest.... Stewart Lee has created a book which is at once a notable repository of technical insight, an invaluable insider's guide to three decades of British comedy, and as revealing a portrait of its author's life and opinions as even the most self-consciously confessional of conventional celebrity memoirs.' -- Ben Thompson, Independent on Sunday<br /<>br > ' (A) fascinatingly detailed account of what inspired, motivated and influenced his creativity ... the trials, insecurities and passions that have fuelled him over the past ten years are so honestly, amusingly, eloquently, and, often, viciously expressed that it only serves to further confirm his position as one of our leading 'alternative' national treasures. -- Time Out<br /<>br > 'It s a simply remarkable piece of writing: funny, wise, partial, propulsive. And then there are the footnotes, which comment on the shows like some frank, deliciously-detailed DVD commentary ... His writing ... has the irony, honesty, petulance and righteous zeal that we Lee fans demand ... an essential, invigorating investigation into the art, craft and culture of stand-up comedy. -- Dominic Maxwell, The Times <br /<>br > Required reading for comedy fans ... (Lee) is analytical, critical and perfectly willing to say when he finds himself proud of something he wrote, or occasionally ashamed. It is a fascinating insight into the process of creating comedy, and making months of work feel like a fresh, spontaneous show each night ... This book should win him some new fans and cement the dislike of old detractors. And it's impossible to imagine he would ever choose to do anything else. -- --Natalie Haynes, Observer

His marginalia offer an absorbing history of alternative comedy since the late 1980s, affectionate pen-portraits of misunderstood heroes, such as Johnny Vegas and Simon Munnery, and fascinating insights into his craft ... the wonderful achievement of this book is that it makes you as excited as Lee is by the capabilities of a man in a dark room with a microphone. -- Richard Godwin, Evening Standard<br /<>br > It rules! Have you ever noticed how transcripts of stand-up shows can make for some of the best fun material going? ... so long, so bitter and so thoroughly enjoyable. --Dazed and Confused<br /<>br > Funny, honest and insightful throughout. It deserves to make its author even more than he appeared on HIGNFY ... like the author s stage act, it is elliptical, repetitious and, inevitably, solipsistic. But in a good way ... in the hands of a lesser talent, this would be unbearably tedious, but Lee s verbal dexterity and exhaustive knowledge manages to make the experience cumulatively hilarious. -- --John Naughton, Word magazine

It works brilliantly ... complementing the very well-written autobiographical narrative that connects the routines and the footnotes are such rich mini-essays that I reached the end wishing there was an index, in order to relocate such observations as Lee s comparison of the Mighty Boosh's offbeat comic timing to dried stalks of spaghetti being dropped onto a china plate . How I Escaped My Certain Fate is a sophisticated demonstration of the poetics of comedy by an artist who, like Wilde, has been moved to public contrarianism in the belief that there is no sin except stupidity . -- Jeremy Noel-Todd, Daily Telegraph<br /<>br > It's a sort of autobiography, but really just as much a book about the way British comedy has changed ... usually, such copious asides are the sign of a very bad book but Lee pulls it off, mainly because his notes are invariably insightful, and frequently very funny. -- --William Cook, Independent

Book Description

The acclaimed comedian presents a brilliantly funny and intelligent commentary on three of his most popular stand-up acts.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

101 of 102 people found the following review helpful By Ben Thurston on 29 July 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is perhaps the funniest book I have ever read. Stewart Lee has consistently been one of the funniest comedians in the country and his apparently arrogant yet always self-deprecating style has been brilliantly realised on the page. He shows a thoughtfulness and integrity that puts previous controversies about his work into context and also provides a fascinating peek behind the subjects of his stand-up set to reveal complexity, planning and yet more humour behind them.

One of the things that stands out about his stand-up work is how much of it he does to amuse himself, and how he is well aware and largely in control of alienating and regaining his live audiences.

The transcripts of his live sets are really interesting as the copious footnotes give them new depth, but they read pretty well too - although probably better for having watched the sets on dvd. I can't recommend this book highly enough for anyone interested in Stewart Lee in particular or stand up in general. It will make you laugh.

One thing, if you're easily offended, then I would urge you to read this book - you'll be offended, but it raises a lot of ideas about why you might be offended, and why Stewart Lee has bothered to offend you.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By kath on 8 Dec. 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is as compelling as a thriller, as thought-provoking as a philosophical treatise and as beautifully written as any literary novel. And it's funny; as funny as...well, as funny as seeing Stewart Lee perform live. Or almost. Having seen all of the routines transcribed here I was hearing Lee's unique delivery of every line and remembering the (sometimes uncomfortable) silences, the shouts and whispers and the occasional startling physicality in the routines. Readers not familiar with the live acts will certainly want to seek them out on DVD after reading them here and comedy enthusiasts and fans of exhilarating prose everywhere will find plenty to enjoy.

The pleasure for me was in discovering the minute workings of the routines, their carefully crafted structure, the precisely chosen word or phrase that sets up a linguistic or imaginative collision that keeps the audience suspended in a brilliant comic moment. Lee harnesses all his formidable comedic and intellectual powers to skewer the crass and the cruel, the dumbed-down mainstream and the self-regarding celebrity elite. He is both deadly serious and richly, sometimes absurdly, comic. And it is comedy that is always about something, always underpinned by the passions and preoccupations of an intelligent and idealistic man unafraid to challenge and even alienate his audience to make his point. But for all the seriousness of purpose Lee's performances are, first and foremost, brilliantly funny and original and this book is a valuable and enjoyable commentary upon them. "How I escaped..." is a mixture of copiously and fascinatingly footnoted transcripts of three live shows and autobiographical content that charts Lee's early career and fluctuating fortunes on the circuit.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Owen Hughes VINE VOICE on 11 Mar. 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An amazing insight into the inner workings of stand up comedy and in particular the way it has evolved since the 80s Alternative Comedy scene into the mainstream form it is in now. The book is educational, very entertaining, compelling and superbly written. It has helped to change my opinion of Stewart Lee and I urge anyone interested in comedy to read it.

The book is very emotional, too. It delves right into the depths of his failures, in the 90s, to achieve what he wanted in a way he could be seen as successful. The way he matures as a result of his retirement from stand up in the early part of the century, through to his part in the Jerry Springer opera and subsequent return to stand up is fascinating to read.

But, what I think were the best bits of the book were the transcripts of his live shows where he interjected them with reasons why things worked or didn't work. The way he broke down his own routine and explained the intricacies of them in a way not at first obvious was great.

The only minor gripes I had with the book, the only things I could possibly criticise it for were; the fact he just referred to quotes by his mates as if they were the most profound and amazing things anyone had ever said, when actually they weren't always as impressive as he was making out; the slightly arrogant tone of a few of his anecdotes (although he was surprisingly humble in places when I didn't expect him to be); and I disagreed with some of his opinions - all of which were interesting to read none the less.

I wasn't exactly a massive fan of Stewart Lee's work before reading this book, but his book has converted me! Definitely recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. W. Ellwood on 20 Jan. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having seen the DVDs of all the 3 shows from which the transcripts provide the core of the book, and having seen Stewart Lee live in his two later tours and on 2 other occasions, I was accustomed to his style and delivery, and it was very easy to hear (again) the words as he had spoken them, while reading. I was regularly laughing out loud, reading the actual transcripts.

As others have mentioned, the footnotes are substantial, in some cases taking up almost all of 2 pages opened out, with only a few lines of "body text" above them.

In most books, this would make the whole difficult to read and probably irritating. In the case of this book though, somehow it works. The way I tackled it was to first read the text on 2 facing pages at a time, and then read the footnotes on each page. This seemed to work for me.

I would say that in order to enjoy the book, you have to have seen Stew perform before, preferably live, but at least on TV or DVD. If you haven't then I hope it would make you go out and buy one or more of the DVDs, watch his new TV series when it comes out, and look out for a live performance to go to (look for his official website).

Negatives? I don't think I have any, personally, but I could see one area where some people may criticise him. From time to time he appears to be having a pop at some of his fellow performers. In the case of Richard Herring, if you remember the style of their double act, you can see this is a kind of vestige of that relationship where they were always scoring points off one another. In fact, he also gives credit to Richard Herring in many places.

In the case of other performers he has a go at, it is slightly more difficult to judge. Is he really writing what he thinks, or is this a continuation of his act?
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