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Reasons to Be Cheerful: from Punk to New Labour Through the Eyes of a Dedicated Troublemaker [Paperback]

Mark Steel
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Jan 2002
The memoirs of 25 years of political activism, albeit minor and mostly unsuccessful! Deciding to dedicated his life to eradicating injustice Mark Steel has: tried to persuade his mates to change their sexist attitudes - only to be called a poof; innocently wandered into the heat of battle during the Brixton riots in 1981 - to be wrongfully arrested for stealing shoes; hidden striking steel workers to defeat Thatcher's union laws; and in the GLA elections of May 2000 he received 1823 votes for the London Socialist Alliance.

Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; New edition edition (2 Jan 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743208048
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743208048
  • Product Dimensions: 12.2 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 246,384 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Fans of Mark Steel's acerbic stand up and Independent columns, and idealists everywhere will enjoy this emotional romp through 25 years of (rude) political awakening. From promisingly early signs of insubordination (chastised by his headmaster for publicly consuming a banana), the young Steel finds himself drawn into the thrillingly twilit world of far-leftist politics and punk rock. The quest for a socialist Utopia takes him from depressingly ill-attended worker meetings in dingy South London pubs into the shambolic lifestyle resistance of the squatting scene. This is the alternative landscape of 80s subculture, populated by slothful hippies and hopelessly inept junkies who forget which friends they've robbed and try to sell them back their own possessions. From his pivotal Lambeth overview, Steel's ideological exodus from callow youth to electoral candidate takes us through the miners' strike, the nuclear threat, the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the dawning of the pale eerie sun of the Third Way. The filter of his "extraordinarily minor role" in politics works in a similar fashion to the beautiful game in Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch but the humour is more staccato here, the self-deprecation jauntier. Reasons to be Cheerful reads like a confessional rant: both a travel guide for the political ingénue and a nostalgic trip down memory lane for all those who helped fight the good fight and wondered if it was all worth it. --Rebecca Johnson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'A unique political chronicle of the last twenty-five years - both intellectually rewarding and hilariously funny' -- Time Out

'Bolshy, belligerent and bloody hilarious' -- Francis Wheen

'Mark Steel is hilariously funny' -- Guardian

'Mark Steel makes intelligent people laugh hopefully, a job of extraordinary value' -- Independent

'Polemical, passionate and consistently funny' -- Independent on Sunday

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wry and funny 6 Feb 2002
I really liked this- it's an excellent companion to John O'Farrells 'Things Can Only Get Better' too. It's warm, even in the most miserable of circumstances and it's good, particularly if you don't share the politics, at explaining why people that do, do- if that makes sense.
Endless committee meetings and small arguments are hilariously recounted, as well as the crushing defeats and an ongoing bitterness at the betrayal of the left by New Labour.
A much better read than I just made it sound-really recommended.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worked for me! 23 May 2006
By Ana
It's taken me a long time to get around to reading this - I bought it when I saw Mark Live at Pendennis Castle, must have been soon after it was published. He was superb; my boyfriend had told me I'd enjoy the show, and I did.

But now I've finally read Reasons to be Cheerful, I'm a little bit in love with Mark Steel - an intelligent, passionate, political man who makes me laugh - and wish I could remember anything he'd said to us after the show...

I've nodded in agreement all the way through the book, at Steel's spot-on similes. In 1997 I was (naively) voting New Labour in my first General Election, aged only 21. But as Steel's commentary on times I remember seems so astute and in tune with my own recollections, I'm happy to have him form part of my education of the politics and events I just missed out on.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone even slightly left wing, or just anyone intelligent with a sense of humour. Steel had me giggling like an idiot on my own at the bus-stop, and looking forward to the usually laborious bus-ride either side of my working day.

But it's not all laughs. Steel write so lucidly and accessibly about his political road to adulthood, at turns making me frustrated and angry at world events I'd forgotten, and moving me with poignant episodes from his personal life.

Half way through, I couldn't stop myself ordering Steels's other two books, which should be with me tomorrow.

Perhaps most importantly, I really DID feel cheered by Mark Steel's words, buoyed by his eternal optimism. I also started to feel I'm not doing enough. I write letters, I go on the odd march, I live responsibly, I shop ethically, blah blah blah...but really, perhaps I should be doing more, shouting a bit louder...
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, reminiscent, sad 10 April 2003
Yes! I have been to many of the same meetings as Mark Steele. Unfortunately I ended them stacking up the unused chairs sooner than he did because I ran out of steam with lefty politics much quicker than he did... it is such a funny, laugh-out-loud book for those of us who have been earnest and anarchic in empty meeting halls... and so reminiscent of the seventies - I had forgotten about those copy machines you arm wrestled with, turning the handle for 150 smudged copies of illegible purple ink ... also sad for me and probably many other people who ended up voting the present government in with hopes which were so thoroughly dashed... Read it, laugh and cry.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a necessary and uplifting book 9 Sep 2001
By A Customer
I stumbled across this at the Edinburgh Festival after i'd managed to miss seeing Mark Steel talk and I started reading it, needing some uplifting, after having seen Mark Thomas talk about the plight of the Kurds. From the start, it encapsulates all our standard day to day frustrations and weaves these into the real plights and hardships and standard day to day frustrations of peoples all over the world. It can be easy to forget in these times of business-loving government that there are people around who have been through the thatcher years and not come out wanting the tube privatised and everything else that the Government can get it's hands on. As a fellow person having taken a minor part in a number of demonstrations, this book puts into words all the thoughts that run around your head but you never manage to say... truly a reason to be cheerful!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Passionate, polemic and political 4 Aug 2003
By A Customer
A wry and witty account which reminds us very vividly of what it was like living under Thatcher and those who followed her. From his first cautious steps into the world of socialism, through the years of strikes, right up to the advent of New Labour, Mark Steel writes passionately about his socialist convictions and gives a good thesis on what has, in his opinion, gone wrong in British politics.
I found myself laughing out loud at many of the passages, although I sometimes felt he was going too much for the gag at the expense of the narrative.
His down-to-earth approach is refreshing and serves to remind us that not all leftwing celebrities have become champagne socialists.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Proving the Left has a Sense of Humour 5 May 2003
I read John O'Farrells 'Things Can Only Get Better' straight after finishing 'Reasons to Be Cheerful' and I was struck by the comparison. 'Things Can Only Get Better' was essentially a story from someone who eventually sold-out to the New Labour tyranny, rejecting all the important lessons learned from the class battles of the past decades while finally setting up within a middle class niche in the contemporary. Yet 'Reasons to Be Cheerful' is clearly a political defiance despite the heavy defeats which are acknowledged. But you are mainly awed by humanity, which is laced with a very witty political narrative. The chapter on Bobby Sands and the history of the Miners was particularly touching.
What did disappoint me however was the way in which some of his polemics and observations were obviously one dimensional, especially with reference to socialism within Russia and how the National Front was finally defeated. Otherwise it’s a gem in terms of humour, recent history and a socialist overview.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great!
I've just received it and read a few paragraphs and Mark Steel already has me nodding and laughing! Great stuff!!!
Published 6 months ago by A. H. Forrester
5.0 out of 5 stars Equal distribution of Laughter
Being a revolutionary socialist isn't all about manning the barricades and mixing Molotov cocktails, y'know. Read more
Published on 17 Feb 2010 by frapatroo
5.0 out of 5 stars Reaffirms Faith in People Power
This is a wonderfully written, funny, poignant and inspiring book. It also evoked memories of Labour Club meetings at University and trying to be inspired by deadly dull people. Read more
Published on 30 Jan 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
An excellent social and political chronicle of the last 25 years, not to mention one of the few books that makes you laugh out loud several times a minute (so not the ideal gift... Read more
Published on 11 Aug 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Passionate political biography of a near nobody comedian.
Mark Steel decided to become a revolutionary socialist just in time to see Labour become unelectable and Maggie Thatcher become an unshiftable. Read more
Published on 14 Jan 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart, intellect and Humour
I first encountered Mark Steel some eleven years ago when he was doing a show at the university where I was studying, and was amazed that not only was he incredibly politically... Read more
Published on 27 Jun 2001 by A. D. R. MARKS
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, Warm and Deeply Caring
This is fine achievement. Part humourous autobiography, part polemic. I may not have agreed with all the views expressed here - some are a bit too simplistic for comfort - but I... Read more
Published on 16 May 2001 by HFM
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