The Hell of it All

Like most misanthropes, Charlie Brooker is a romantic at heart

The Knowledge
The Knowledge
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Charlie Brooker

4/5
Faber

Like most misanthropes, Charlie Brooker is a romantic at heart, but a permanently disillusioned one. This latest collection of writings from UK broadsheet The Guardian combines his TV criticism with the regular Monday column in which he finds tragedy, confusion and discomfort in matters ranging far beyond the idiot box.

Few writers can summon comparable levels of bile towards George W Bush, celebrity gossip magazines and spiders (or ‘mobile nightmare units’). It’s also instructive to read a column once spiked for being slightly too bleak for Monday morning Guardian readers to contemplate – remarkably, it manages to make credible use of the sentence ‘we can all learn from Daniel Bedingfield’.

Rage is all very well. But as time goes by, Brooker shows signs of mastering subtler emotions, too. No one could read his charming tribute to Bagpuss creator Oliver Postgate and continue to doubt that Brooker’s ongoing irritation with the world comes from a conviction that it could be so much better. Crucially, Brooker is every bit as hard on himself as he is on the rest of the endlessly disappointing world he surveys. He shouldn’t be: few current columnists dissect these baffling and gloomy times with such abrasive panache.
Phil Harrison

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