Hampered by smugness...,
This review is from: The Audacity Of Hype: Bewilderment, sleaze and other tales of the 21st century (Paperback)
A friend recently bought me 'The Audacity of Hype' as a birthday gift, knowing that I had been a fan of some of Iannucci's television work such as 'The Day Today' and '...Armistice'. The initial few chapters are non-stop hilarity, alternating between cogent, humorous social commentary (as would be expected) and absurd hypothetical scenarios that have a tangential link to observations made elsewhere. These exaggerated asides lampoon pop culture and other aspects of 21st century life. Iannucci is very well read and appears to have a grasp on an array of disciplines. There are some genuinely useful bits of advice such as how to avoid cultural overload by understanding you won't have time to become au fait with every highly recommended piece of literature or television programme etc and to have self-imposed limits without feeling guilty. He even includes some useful references to Barry Schwartz excellent 'The Paradox of Choice' in support of this view. His comments on how an innate desire for shared experiences has been warped by social media are also very astute.
Nevertheless '...Hype' starts to lose its way around the lengthy chapter about the injustices of the war in Iraq. It characterises one of the book's biggest shortcomings; the author's tendency to belabour his point. We can all agree, as he himself points out, the war was a huge, avoidable mistake. What starts off as an informative overview of how egregious foreign policy escalated out of control, with plenty of clever satire thrown in, soon descends into little more than an ad hominem rant that goes on and on and on.
I completely lose patience with the author when he goes into a pointless diatribe about people acknowledging you have other commitments before making a request. What many of us would perceive as empathy he dismisses as disingenuous. At this point I realised he has an overinflated sense of his own 'rightness'. Whilst this might serve as some type of gimmick in a televised context, on paper it is far less appealing.
Iannucci is a dyed-in-the-wool cynic. Unlike Charlie Brooker, whose cynicism I believe has more to do with him being a disillusioned optimist than a natural-born curmudgeon, Armando appears to relish a good old scoff. It wouldn't suit him for humanity to genuinely get its act together, otherwise there'll be no-one left on which he could pour his scorn and contempt.
Iannucci likes being a clever clogs and has none of the humility that would make the quest to stay well-informed an otherwise admirable attribute. '...Hype' suggests a startling unawareness of subjectivity (cross reference the chapters on culture and 'dumbing down'). Iannucci assumes his position is the general (intelligentsia) consensus or a benchmark of objectivity. Far from it.
I got fed up with '...Hype' by the half-way mark. Only my desire not to be an ungrateful friend kept me going. There are some admittedly very funny moments right up to its closing chapters (his parody of Dawkins is particularly noteworthy). To his credit no one escapes his reproach, although he does reserve certain levels of contempt for specific social groups.
With some more ruthless editing, '...Hype' would have been a shorter, tidier read and would have remained enjoyable enough before the pomposity could properly take over. As it stands it overstays its welcome pretty quickly.