I've just finished reading the sixth Adrian Mole book, Adrian Mole and The Weapons of Mass Destruction. Adrian Mole, the titular diarist of the series, is basically the same age as I am; I practically memorized the first two volumes while I was in high-school, especially the incredible, awful poetry that puts Vogons to shame ("Pandora/I adore ya/I implore ye/Don't forget me" or the immortal
Norway! Land of difficult spelling.
Hiding your beauty behind strange vowels.
Land of long nights, short days, and dots over 'O's.
Ruminating majestic reindeers
Tread warily on ice floes
Ever aware of what happened to the
One day I will sojourn to your shores
I live in the middle of England
Norway! My soul resides in your watery
fiords fyords fiiords
As the years went by and Adrian aged, I found myself more and more engrossed in his life. Townsend, his author, walks us along a tightrope balanced over torture comedy (a la Fawlty Towers) and genuine pathos through the first five books:
- The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged Thirteen and Three Quarters
- The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole
- True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole, Margaret Hilda Roberts and Susan Lilian Townsend
- Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years
- Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years
The story really picked up in book five, with Adrian's television career as the host of Offaly Good
, a British cookery show devoted to entrails, at the height of the Mad Cow scare.
Book six is much, much better, though. Townsend is appalled by Blair's leadership and the invasion of Iraq, but rather than turning this into an anti-war manifesto, Townsend creates a convulsively funny running gag around it: Adrian has cancelled a holiday in Cyprus due to Blair's warnings that Saddam's WMDs could target the island, but his travel agent won't refund his £57.10 deposit until evidence of the WMDs is put forward.
I don't think I've enjoyed an Adrian Mole book so much since the original two. There's a lot of real pain and hardship in this story, not played for yuks at all, but whenever the tale gets too heavy, Townsend busts out one of Adrian's characteristic, tight-assed priggish observations about the world around him and just floors me.
A new Adrian Mole book is like a welcome letter from an old, beloved, frustrating friend.
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