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What's Going On?: The Meanderings of a Comic Mind in Confusion Paperback – 4 Aug 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd (4 Aug. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847372813
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847372819
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 23.3 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,139,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Mark Steel is a writer, presenter and comedian. His TV and radio series include The Mark Steel Solution, The Mark Steel Revolution and The Mark Steel Lectures. He writes a weekly column for the Independent newspaper and is a regular on Radio 4's Loose Ends and The News Quiz. He lives in London.


Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Read only because this was lent to me by a colleague, this is not normally a book I would choose to read. My perception is that these days books written by comedians who turn 40 and have a mid-life crisis are ten-a-penny and I though this would be one of those books filled with pedestrian observations of hitting the big Four-O.

Oh, how wrong I was.

What's Going On paints a poignant, honest and at times heartbreaking parallel between the breakup of Mark Steel's relationship and his decision to part with his beloved Socialist Workers' Party (SWP). He writes without any pretension and is funny, thoughtful and insightful. There are some rousing passages peppered throughout the book about effecting change; but more than anything the book highlighted the desperate futility of the fight against the evils of Capitalism which the quote I have used in the title of this review I think sums up beautifully.

Whether you are sympathetic with Mark Steel's politics or not; I challenge anyone not to be a little bit moved by this book. Go on!
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I've read a couple of Mark Steel's other books, so I kind of knew what to expect. However, this has more depth and poignancy. That'll be due to age, I reckon (both his and mine).

His humour doesn't always work for me, but there is enough here to more than satisfy. Besides, I like it that his humour has a point to it and that, while he sometimes picks easy targets, he's never nasty or vicious. What I most liked was the sense of truth in his telling of how confusing things have become as he has got older. Also, the story of his marriage breakdown is told, as another reviewer mentions, withough bitterness and with due regard to privacy. Really not sure what one of the other reviewers means about him being 'grumpy'. Quite the opposite, I'd have said. Even when he is getting hacked off with the SWP, you can see there's more affection there than anything else.

Because of the honesty about the political changes he's seen, the book has contemporary relevance. Anyone who has had any experience of the left these past twenty years or so (and I'm on the pink, tepid, Labour Party edge of the left) will instantly get where he's coming from. Sometimes it helps to laugh, so long as you don't get cynical.

I loved it and would recommend it to anyone.
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Format: Paperback
It's possible that even the hardest of hard right-wingers will feel some sympathy for comedian Mark Steels plight as he stumbles through his 40's. His relationship has gone belly up, the political party that he has been a member of since his teens has falling apart, one of his close political comrades has died, and if that's not bad enough, well . . . he's became a good friend of Bob Monkhouse.

Mark Steel weaves the belly laughs in with the more melancholy moments and creates a splendid memoir of his confused meanderings through the first half dozen or so years of the last decade. Whether he is talking about his failing relationship or his two kids, his experience of campaigning against the war in Iraq, super-markets, celebrities or schools, or even George Galloway there's a plentiful supply of wit and even a little wisdom too.

I found this one hard to put down and recommend keeping it aside for a long, empty and chore free afternoon. I doubt you'll be disappointed.
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Having read and devoured "Vive La Revolution", "Reasons to be Cheerful" and "It's Not a Runner Bean", I preordered this book and was really glad to get it earlier than expected. I recieved it at 4pm on the Thursday and by bedtime that night had finished 3/4 of it and completed the rest after work the next day. This has been my experience of all Mark Steel's books- they mix humour and great writing with political views that I happen to share and make for a book that you just want to read right through to the end. This is not a book to read in public, unless you don't mind people looking at you strangely when you keep laughing out loud! Mark also articulates the difficulties make of us have on the left with the manner certain things have been done, so it is good to see we are not on our own. I fully recommend this book- it is almost enough for me to start buying the Independent again on Wednesdays!
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Format: Paperback
Socialist comedian and BBC Radio 4 regular hits 40 and finds a world of confusion. His marriage is falling apart, the Socialist Workers Party isn't behaving like it should and absolutely everything seems to be determined by profit and monetary value. The book actually covers about 7 years of Mark's life and he articulates the confusion of his life in a meaningful way. While he finds the humour in his situation, he does so in a balanced and honest way.

There are a couple of shortcomings to the book. I hesitate to suggest hypocrisy but its hard to think of another word for when Steel complains that the Oxbridge set live in a world apart from ordinary people when he himself is mentioning his appearances on Newsnight, making series for the BBC and so on. While it is, no doubt, for comic effect he regularly uses very over-the-top similes; would having the then-Chancellor of the Exchequer giving a speech at the 20th anniversary party of The Independent really be like the president of France giving a keynote speech in the kitchen on your mother's birthday? Not really, no.

Overall the book is a good read and, as bleak as Mark's life seems sometimes, it is full of hope, humour and honesty. As long as you are able to put up with the sledgehammer-to-a-walnut similes and metaphors I would heartily recommend this book.
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