18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 23 May 2006
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...
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 6 February 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.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 9 September 2001
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!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 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.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 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.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 4 August 2003
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 5 May 2001
One of the funniest books I've ever read, Mark Steel has proved himself to be one of our finest humourists for many years as his articles in The Independent prove. He may not have the biting satire of Jon Bird and John Fortune, but he puts his points across in his own comic style that is both convincing and hilarious. Partly autobiographical, partly political, partly thoughtful, always hilarious, this is essential reading for anyone who has ever wanted to stand up for a cause but has instead found themselves in the middle of nowhere with a roadmap thinking "I'm sure they said it was here!".
The left-wing opinions presented in the book won't be for all tastes and any regular reader of the Indpendent articles may recognise quite a few of the jokes included, but what comedian can come up with new material every second of the day?? What we have here is a wry and observant view of life under Thatcher, the Miners Strike, Socialist movements of the time and the general sense of feeling you can change the world but no-one is really listening to you. Steel may treat it all with a sense of self-mocking humour, but his passionate belief in his cause in spite of the hardships is also highly admirable, and the point of it all is to say that even though the labour movement has been degenerated over the years and is currently unfashionable, there are still reasons for us to be cheerful.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 16 May 2001
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 feel better for reading it. I am glad that there are people who care as passionately as Mark Steel. I am even more glad that he can express himself with such warmth and humour. Read this book, you may not agree with it but you will learn a lot.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2003
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. The conclusion drawn by Mark Steel that successful politics is acheived by real people trying to make a difference to their lives through direct action, is one which escaped those people in love with composite motions and power games. Some of those I came across during my student days are now part of the current Government and they should read this book and hang their heads in shame. I don't agree with all of Mark Steels views but admire his idealism, though I would suggest that supporting a United Ireland should not mean supporting people who actively intimidate those with opposing views with bullets, and fund themselves through drug running, and gangster tactics. That aside this book is a must buy for anyone who cares about making a change for the better in society, who believes in the right of ordinary people to decent jobs, health, education and homes. So Mr Steel has helped repoliticise this 40 something female from the shires and I'll be sending money to the refugee council, marching against the war in Iraq and challenging the next person I go fishing with who comes out with a ridiculously bigotted and racist statement. And Yes Mr Steel I liked the Clash too. Keep up the good work.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 11 August 2002
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 for a revcovering hernia patient).
As a fellow SWP member I completely identify with Mark's experiences, from the first communist newspaper, to the first demonstration, to trying to explain the more complex aspects of Socialism, or the way the Paris Commune worked to my mum. And then of course the $64,000 question, Socialism seems so great, so why doesn't everyone go for it? Maybe our time will soon come, and hopefully Mark will be at the front, red flag held high.
I wish every cynic could read this book to dispel the myth that Trotskyists are all crazy, humourless, middle-class armchair radicals. OK, so maybe you've got to be a bit crazy to stand out in the rain on a Saturday morning trying to get people to sign a petition supporting council strikes, or opposing a war on Iraq. "Socialist Worker, guv?".