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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Social satire meets Grand Guignol: funny, bizarre,horrific
Sayle has both mellowed and hardened over the years; he's very much more sympathetic to some of his characters than he was in 'Train to Hell', but the world view here is still desperately dark and cynical. The protagonists (who are basically glove puppets for his usual, very funny style of observational surrealism) never achieve any kind of happy ending, and rarely end...
Published on 25 Nov 2000

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Original, dramatic but a bit of a curate's egg.
This is an arresting collection of stories, from a writer who has depth and bleakness and poetry in his veins.
There are some standout stories - like the title story, and one about an OAP who becomes an urban guerilla. I also liked the last story which can be described as an epic, but it has a beautiful economy. (If someone could explain the punchline to me I'd...
Published on 14 Sep 2000


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Social satire meets Grand Guignol: funny, bizarre,horrific, 25 Nov 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Barcelona Plates (Paperback)
Sayle has both mellowed and hardened over the years; he's very much more sympathetic to some of his characters than he was in 'Train to Hell', but the world view here is still desperately dark and cynical. The protagonists (who are basically glove puppets for his usual, very funny style of observational surrealism) never achieve any kind of happy ending, and rarely end up better off than they were at the beginning. It's never their fault; they just tend to be in the wrong (or right) place at the wrong time.
Sayle manages to get off some vicious shots at the media world he simultaneously inhabits and despises (what did Vic and Bob - sorry, Nic and Tob - ever do to him?), but the real anger in these cleverly-constructed stories is directed at hypocrisy and stupidity on a wider scale, from rich Londoners living in a self-created bubble, to the Catholic Church, and most successfully in 'The Minister for Death', to society's attitude towards pensioners. Most of the time this works well; occasionally a slightly lighter touch might have worked better.
This isn't really a comedy book - despite the fact it contains some of the funniest stuff I've read in years (the end of 'My Life's Work' may have caused me physical harm from laughing so much). What humour it contains is as black as it gets, but all the more refreshing for being so.
It's unlike anything else you will read for years, which is recommendation enough in itself. If you like Sayle's stuff, buy it. If you're not sure, buy it anyway, as it slips down deceptively easily, but be aware that you'll need a dark sense of humour to get the joke in some cases.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Knew It..!, 3 Jan 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Barcelona Plates (Hardcover)
Alexei Sayle has been a hero of mine for years, from his stand-up, album, singles, series and now this! Everything he has done before seems to be as substantial as his cameo performances in Hollywodd movies. This is not to detract from his past work, but rather to mark the very real birth of a comic artist. He displays all the range of a contemporary writer, all the precision of attention of a stand-up artiste, and all the satirical malice of the truly English - but more than this, he does it so well it makes you want to write along with him, to get in on the game! I know that there have been critics of his apparent selling-out to the advertising world, but who can say that they would not do so to earn a living. It is one thing to have values, it is quite another to cripple one's self with them forever. And if it is the remuneration from television advertising that has been his mainstay while creating this masterpiece, then I hope to hear more of him on the page and in the advert breaks in future!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant. Funny, disturbing, thought-provoking, 15 Feb 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Barcelona Plates (Hardcover)
Not what you'd expect from Alexei Sayle perhaps, (well, not quite what I expected). I'd always suspected he was very intelligent and this book really confirms that. He is also such an acute observer : he looks at characters with such a clear eye. They jump fully-formed from the page. They are all very specifically located - the place descriptions are short but very successful - you feel you are there. The stories are gripping and funny but quite often disturbingly nasty. My favourites were the opening one "Barcelona Plates" which is sort of about how boring it can be being on holiday and also what it would be like to be a totally different person; "Last Woman Killed in the War" is , I think, a masterpiece. It's funny but also made me cry. (I noticed the guy who reviewed it in "The Times" thought it was a masterpiece too!) It's about how times change and one generation's sin is the commonplace of the next generation. When I was a teenager it was a disgrace to get pregnant outside marriage - it could literally ruin your life and thousands of poor girls were pressurised into giving their babies away. Alexei has a wonderful insight into that and into how attitudes have changed. I also thought "Minister for Death" was brilliant. So different - an old age pensioner who is a hired killer. Once a hard case, always a hard case. So in summary, I would say these stories are all very different. I would be surprised if, like me, people did not have favourites. But I liked the entire book and would 100% recommend it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long Car journeys made easier by the original Fat B*****d!, 24 July 2001
This review is from: Barcelona Plates (Audio Cassette)
Barcelona Plates is probably the best talking book I have bought. Sayle's Tales of everyday folk in bizzare situations, and bizzare folk in everday situations is absolutely brimming with quirky humour, which is made all the more entertaining by Sayle's fast-paced and passionate delivery. From Barnaby's brush with a doomed royal couple, to the old-age hit man, these stories show the dark under-belly of the human soul, stripped down to it's rawest emotions. The M6 will never seem the same again!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Full Plates Engaging food for thought, 26 Nov 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Barcelona Plates (Paperback)
Alexei Sayle is one of the few Marxist comics out there working, and as such he has a slightly different take on the world. His appreciation of the situations people find themselves in make these stories fresh and interesting. Although not laugh-out-loud funny, and some stories are not all that exciting to read, overall the book has a certain depth, a sound "bottom" as the British say, that sticks with one after reading. The intelligent and subtle perception that mark Mr Sayles story telling stay with one, such that the stories unfold in your mind for a few days after. I'm giving a bunch out for Christmas.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Completely Brilliant, 4 Mar 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Barcelona Plates (Hardcover)
This book is a complete revelation to me, and I actually know Alexei, though not very well. I think it is a brilliantly original antidote to 'literary' fiction. It's actually about something. It's punchy and real, and you feel the real weight of a personality behind it. It's terribly funny, full of characters who come out of real life rather than out of other fiction, and I completely agree with those who say that the final story "The Last Woman Killed in the War" is a masterpiece. The ending of it is one of the most extraordinary pieces of writing I can remember. Brilliant tragedy and brilliant comedy delivered in one stunning sentence. It reminded me of the awesome ending to Evelyn Waugh's 'A Handful of Dust'. More importantly, though, it reminded me most of nothing I'd ever read before.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply excellent short story telling, 19 Jan 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Barcelona Plates (Paperback)
The good short story is the hardest form of writing to master. Sayle produces enjoyable reading throughout this collection. He weaves threads which meander amusingly to their unpredictable conclusions. Some are more effective than others but all have impact. I loved it. Read it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black Humour at its best this is an excellent book - read it, 27 Nov 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Barcelona Plates (Paperback)
This is an excellent book that fills out truly original ideas into short stories so that you can fully enjoy the build up to the punchline/twist.
Everybody I know that has read this has loved it. BUy it - read it - you will love it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crazy tales from the man in the too-tight suit, 30 July 2013
This review is from: Barcelona Plates (Sceptre 21's) (Paperback)
Despite a rousing endorsement from the legendary Douglas Adams on the back cover, Sayle's first collection of short fiction is something of a mixed bag in terms of quality. The opening story is very random and a bit silly, but after this dodgy start it does improve somewhat. My favourite tale is the one involving a geriatric hitman and his descent into a kind of madness, and really this is the primary theme that runs throughout the collection. If nothing else though the stories are all surprising and all contain Sayle's blunt, mordant wit in spades.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Comedian in 'good book' shocker, 17 Feb 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Barcelona Plates (Hardcover)
What an amazing book! Who would have thought that beneath that rough Scouse communist exterior lay the heart of a fully-accomplished, sensitive writer. Some of these short stories remind me of Will Self's stories, in both subject matter and style - but with more humour. Some stories are nearly libellous - the real-life person's name being only slightly changed for the purposes of fiction. The title story is the best in the book for my money - but do not read if easily offended!
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Barcelona Plates (Sceptre 21's)
Barcelona Plates (Sceptre 21's) by Alexei Sayle (Paperback - 28 Dec 2006)
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