Friday, December 16, 2011

Bookworm Time with Bebb...Part Three..."He Died with a Felafel in his Hand" by John Birmingham

Saturday is Book Review day here at Bebb and the Bubs. Today I thought I'd share an old favourite with you that is great for anyone in need of a laugh.

"A rat died in the living room at King Street and we didn't know. There was at least six inches of compacted rubbish between our feet and the floor. Old Ratty must have crawled in there and died of pleasure. A visitor uncovered him while groping about for a beer."

The most disturbing, and yet hilarious, thing about this book is that it's all true. Australian author John Birmingham lived in many, many different sharehouses in the 80's and early 90's before his career as a successful writer took off, and had a variety of housemates- eighty-nine, in fact. He kept notes on all of them and the colourful stories of sharehouse hell make up this very funny book. He has lived with albino moontanners, fridge pissers, nitrous suckers, mushroom farmers, hardcore separatist lesbians and obscurely tiger-suited Japanese girls, to name a few. The stories do not run in any particular order and tend to jump around a bit, with one anecdote giving rise to another, making for fast-paced, fun reading. The titular housemate is a junkie who shuffled off the mortal coil on JB's favourite bean bag while clutching a felafel. This anecdote begins and ends the book and in between we are treated to tales of a host of very strange, or very unclean, or very messed up individuals.

Reading this book makes me very grateful that I escaped the true perils of flatmate hell. The worst I had was a housemate who consistently left the kitchen in a filthy mess and then smugly informed me that "There's no such thing as the washing up fairy," if I dared to leave a single plate in the sink to wash later. That kind of petty nonsense really pales in comparison to JB's housemates engaging in a competition to see who can last the longest without changing out of their jeans, or the scream-the-house down arguments over whether the pineapple chunks go on the third or fourth pantry shelf. This is a truly hilarious book that never fails to have me bursting out into laughter while reading it. JB's writing style is quick, concise, wry and with a razor-sharp wit running through even the most nightmarish scenarios. He has also called in various former housemates with whom he is still friends to provide anecdotes of their own. 

The sequel, The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco, is a much more linear book and covers the events of a single week rather than spanning years, but is equally as funny. Felafel has been made into a movie and I love that also. This is a great book to dip into for a laugh or consume at several sittings, though if you happen to be a landlord it may terrify you. JB is a standout on the Australian writing scene and does not disappoint. (Incidentally, I recently started following Mr John Birmingham on Twitter. To my great surprise, he started following me back. This discovery led to me emitting a most undignified squeal. Maybe it's because I'm a Tasmanian and he does like us Tasmanian Babes after all.) 

I always enjoy a bit of Felafel and I think if you have a sense of humour, you will, too.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars 

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