All Ears Hardcover – 3 Oct 2007
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I started as a casual reader, but now I'm hooked, and regularly turn to it first -- Andrew Davies
As the author of "All Ears" will freely admit, there's nothing dignified about listening to other people's conversations, especially if these are thrust upon us as we stand in crowded London bus, packed sardine-style with complete strangers shouting into their mobile phones. No one, however, has ever attempted to raise eavesdropping to an art form, or recognize what verbal gems are being thrown around us every minute of our waking urban existence. Gathered for the first time in a volume, and accompanied by Andy Watt's iconic illustrations, are Michael Holden's hit "stolen dialogues", which readers of the "Saturday Guardian" - where they were serialized since April 2005 - will immediately recognize. The locations vary - ranging from Scotland to the South Coast - but the focus is on the teeming city of London, with its noisy and multifarious inhabitants, directly presented here in all its quirkiness, showing how unusual and unscriptable everyday conversation can at times be. The book includes previously unpublished vignettes, fifteen colour illustrations by Andy Watt, scene-setting descriptions for each dialogue and a map identifying the location of each conversation.See all Product description
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To some people, it will be a reassuring and entertaining confirmation of the world they live in, and to those who don't live local, it will be something totally other. Anything that encourages us to take a second look at what we would usually ignore as banal, unsettling, or irritating can only be a good thing.
Recommended for reading in crowded public places- as, inspired, you can tune in to what people are saying around you.
Course you have! Well so has the writer of this book, and he's written an entire book based on his prying.
But whereas you or I would perhaps hear a couple of snatched sentences and shirk away for fear of being discovered, here the writer has gone the whole hog and listened in on entire conversations.
It's a similar concept to the Overhead-In-New-York website, but here the writer has contextualized the conversations with his own descriptions and prose, which are often caustically witty and just a little misanthropic.
All Ears is laugh-loud funny, surreal and, yes, even thought-provoking.
As the book demonstrates that if you study the banalities of everyday life closely enough, you can find the truly bizarre and fascinating.
Sadly, it falls far short of the mark. Firstly, the book appears normal, but on opening one discovers that the first few pages are not stuck together, but the paper thickness is only just on the honest side of being cardboard. Coupled with the large font size, this economy of input should seem a swindle; unfortunately it's a blessing.
The book fails because the conversations aren't funny. For the most part, they strain to rise above simply being snippets of dialogue between 'characters'. This would be adequate if contact with such characters was unheard of, but if you're a normal person who doesn't have agoraphobia and interacts with society, this isn't the case. The stories inhabit the realm of the early-evening pub anecdote - conversational kindling with little substance, and very much lessened since they can't be told from the first person.
Some examples of banality: Two women discuss a tall man. A youth is considerate. A woman uses too much air freshener. A teenage girl talks loudly into a mobile phone on a train. A courier is chatty.
It's said that everyone has at least one good book in them. The best thing about the existence of this book is that it could inspire people to take up writing, having seen the lowest common denominator.
I'm glad that I borrowed it from the library and didn't waste my money!!