Latitude 2009: Friends like these with Danny Wallace, of XFM fame
Tim Clark18 July 2009
I am not one to judge my audience, but I reckon that most of you have heard of Danny Wallace.
Whether it is looking up the ridiculous facial expressions of Jim Carrey as ‘The Yes Man’, reading his many one-page dilemmas in Shortlist, or simply working out which radio station he has flown to since leaving XFM, somewhere, somehow, Danny Wallace has crept into every Londoner’s life – or at least he’d like to think so.
But Daniel hasn’t been as good at making sure that those that used to exist in his life have been kept equally well informed. In fact, he has lost touch with the vast majority of friends he grew up with.
Now, with a guilty conscience for the friends he has left behind, Wallace entered Latitude’s Literature tent looking to tell the crowd just how he managed to find solace with his new book, Friends Like These.
He was a welcome addition. Apart from its many plaudits, including those from this website, the literature tent at Latitude had been light on actual literature in 2009 and the chance to see a writer reading extracts from his latest novel was a welcome relief.
But Wallace’s material isn’t the kind that will set heart rates on fire and bosoms heaving in a crescendo of do or die storytelling. Instead, Wallace preferred to introduce himself with a brief description of his cushion displays, followed by the ‘vase with sticks’ anecdote which, if he likes it or not, exposed the himself as one of the newly arrived polite middle classes.
It is these banal descriptions of his life which he is at pains to dispel, but what Wallace is actually alluding to is how a simple task like getting back in touch with your old friends can sum up how the generation which ‘doesn’t get old’ is slowly realising that parts of their youth are slipping away from them.
If it was more serious it would be painful reading but Wallace knows this, and so he punctuates both his set and his writing with some light-hearted anecdotes to draw the reader away from the main theme and into the world of inconsequential pondering about the trivialities which lie around the real focus of our lives.
“I like my pine nuts slightly toasted” he yells. The sentence was the climax to a theme where Wallace plays the fall guy for the ever-young, masculine man. It is good reading, but even more enjoyable when you are able to listen to it.
What Wallace has is an ability to bring diverse subjects into a common theme, taking on the persona of the unconventional, adverse-to-growing-up guy is a clever way of bringing this to the fore.
Wallace may at times ‘bumble his way through a reading’, but what he can do best is take a subject like getting hold of your old school friends and do what you’d always thought of doing yourself, then feed it back to you in bite-sized comedic form.
Your rating: None
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