BOOK REVIEWS

Posted: August 8, 2012 in Movie & Book reviews

Only fools …

British comedian and writer, Tony Hawks’ Playing the Moldovans at Tennis, is not likely to get you tossing your clothes in a bag and hopping onto a flight to Moldova, but his brutal honesty and dry humour, punctuated by surprisingly poignant observations, will certainly have you snorting out your nose and leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling at the finish.

Hawks makes an inebriated bet in a pub with his buddy, stating that he can beat the Moldovan National Football Team at tennis. Why? Well, just because he thinks he can and his buddy thinks he can’t.  Yes, crazy. But we must remember that this is the same guy who once hitchhiked around Ireland with a refrigerator to collect a £100 bet. And, of course he wrote a book about that too; Round Ireland with a Fridge.

  What follows in Playing the Moldovans is a very funny quest that has very little to do with tennis or football.  Hawks’ attempt to play the Moldovans is a test of faith, humour, and survival.  He gets so much more than he asked for from a country that at first seem inhospitable and cruel to him. Through the seemingly pointless act of playing the entire team he inadvertently discovers the heart and soul of Moldova. Through his dealings with gangsters, and the throw-backs of communism, he delivers an honest insight into Moldova’s history, zeitgeist and landscape. He discovers his own embarrassing shortcomings, and is not shy to share them, and he finds a kind of comical Scooby Doo type of strength combined with a newly acquired humility. I still don’t really want to visit Moldova but this book is sure to make you feel like you need to take on a giant and silly adventure of your own.

Title Playing the Moldovans at Tennis

Author Tony Hawks

Publisher Ebury Press

Pages 288

Price R125.00

Tony Hawks’ words really made me fall in love with British humour all over again. So, I re-read Bill Bryson’s Neither here Nor there. Although Bryson is American, he spent most of his postpubescent days in the UK. And his writing is steeped in that wonderfully dry English humour. Neither here Nor there isan oldie but a goodie.Twenty years on, Bryson retraces his youthful backpacking journey through Europe – in the early seventies – in search of enlightenment, beer, and women. The result is a funny pilgrimage which takes you from the tundra of Scandinavia to the chaotic tumult of Istanbul. Inbetween hopping from one European city to the next, Bryson laments his youth and explores how time, knowledge, and responsibilities have altered his perceptions. It is very, very funny writing but it also has just enough introspection to help us relate to the man himself. It is not a definitive guide to European travel as he has little else to offer than his crackling humour and a sort of overview of the countries visited. However, it is a great introductory read if you are planning on undertaking a journey through Europe.

Bryson’s fastidious research is also a reminder that a bit of investigation into the countries you will be visiting will go a long way towards deepening your experience and enhancing your journey.

Title Neither Here nor There

Author Bill Bryson

Publisher Random House

Pages 352

Price R145.00

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