Sunday, 23 December 2012

An Idiot Abroad, Karl Pilkington

The full title of this book is An Idiot Abroad, The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington, with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, but I think my chosen title is better seeing as the second two people didn't do a whole lot. Plus it's a bit of a mouthful don't you think?
I actually read this before reading A Christmas Carol, but amidst the excitement and flurry of all the Christmas cheer here in Saudi Arabia, I forgot to review it.
I've seen a few episodes from the TV series but Lee downloaded the book onto my kindle so I figured I'd give it a go. I do love Karl Pilkington: his generally unimpressed take on supposedly impressive things, his strange and intricate way of viewing the world and his unapologetic grumpiness. Perhaps I should take a leaf out of his book with regards to this last part, and stop apologising too.
An idiot abroad sees Karl on seven trips to see the wonders (the new ones, except one): the pyramids in Egypt, Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, the Taj Mahal in India, Chichen Itza in Mexico, The Great Wall of China, Petra in Jordan and Machu Picchu in Peru. I love the illustrations and photos-mainly of him looking miserable- but couldn't enjoy them to the full because my kindle is black and white. At the beginning of each chapter there is a famous quote about the wonder, followed by one from Karl. For example, he says of the Great Wall, "It was knackered. So knackered that it wasn't really a wall. I remember hearing that you're supposed to be able to see the great wall of china from the moon, but that has got to be bollocks 'cos even as I stood right next to this bit I had problems seeing it."
In general he hates everywhere he goes, partly because he's not a fan of being out of his comfort zone, but also because Ricky and Stephen go out of their way to make his life difficult. They force him to meet up with random, weird people and eat scary food such as fried insects.
I did find his pessimism and nonchalance a bit irritating at times, especially when he visited Christ the Redeemer, a place I really, really want to go to. I found that the more I read, the more he was actually putting me off going anywhere ever again. Then I realised how unfair it is that he got to do all this stuff for free, in fact he was paid to go to these places and see all these famous sights. How unappreciative! But that's just it, isn't it? Often when things are given to us for free we don't appreciate them.
But then I forgave Karl because he had an epiphany where he acknowledged that he was lucky to get to go to all those places for free.
And he is completely hilarious. He takes bags of monster munch with him on every trip and hates most of the customs and food of the cultures, but still jumps in and does everything he's asked/made to do with plenty of enthusiasm: from dancing on a float at the Rio carnival, to wrestling in Mexico and riding a camel for hours in Jordan. He is also very inquisitive and not afraid to question other people's customs.
The book has left me with images of a far too busy Christ the Redeemer, a dead sea with tons of spit in it, a great wall that's falling down and many more reasons not to go to any of these places. The one  wonder he didn't slag off too much, however, was Machu Picchu, which just sounds great and is still top of my list of places to visit.
I have to say I find Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant pretty annoying. They don't give Karl much credit for the fact that he is the funny one and the one whose words people enjoy reading. Just near the end of the book Ricky calls to tell Karl they've changed the name of the series from 'Karl Pilkington's Seven Wonders' to 'An Idiot Abroad.' Karl's pretty unhappy and definitely doesn't agree to it, but as the title proves he was bullied into it in the end. I suppose the bullying is all part of the act, and you could say that he would be nothing without the other two having made him famous, but still sometimes it's a bit much.
All in all, an entertaining, and surprisingly educational read.

No comments:

Post a Comment