Well, on Wednesday last week, not only did I receive the magnificent Dyson Stringer Cloher album (and t-shirt!) and a copy of an anthology containing one of my better short stories, but also this tome: 488 Rules For Life: The Thankless Art of Being Correct by Kitty Flanagan (2019).
Apparently, it was a running gag during her segments on The Weekly that this book existed, and so she decided to turn it into a reality. I have no problem with that. None at all. In fact, I was reading it at a coffee shop on the Thursday morning after I got it and someone I knew came up to me and asked what hell I was reading because I kept on laughing out loud and had a stupid smirk on my face. So this book made a nearly 50 year old man laugh in public.
This is that sort of book. It is freakin' hilarious.
Basically, she has collated a list of rules for living life in the modern world, of which I agree with maybe 90 percent, and yet I had not even thought about half of them. Yes, I am a grumpy old man; deal with it. But it's not just the rules themselves that made me laugh (well, not all the time), but her little explanations after each one. Her turn of phrase is wonderful and I am coming to appreciate Ms Flanagan more and more, the more I read of her stuff.
Now, to be honest, I wasn't sure how to approach this review. There's no over-arching narrative; it's not a bunch of shorts; it's just a long list. Funny, but still just a list. So, I decided to take the approach of a collection of drabbles (of which I've reviewed a few now) and give you some highlights. Not all the highlights, just some, enough to (hopefully) whet your appetite.
There are also "sealed sections" which are separated in case you don't relate, but it just makes it seem more like the sort of book it is essentially poking fun at.
So here, then are twenty of my favourite "bits". It was tough picking just twenty, so some deserving ones were left out. Some of these are cool because of the rule itself, some because of a comment or two afterwards, and some just tickled my fancy. I'll try not to quote entire rules, but I'll throw in bits that I liked.
This is really hard because I would be putting more than half the book here, but I have selected these as a fair snapshot of what you're getting.
Rule 2: Football jerseys are not art
Rule 32: If you vape, you look a lot less cool than you think
In fact, you look like you are blowing a USB stick. Or R2-D2's detachable penis."
(Yes, I quoted the whole rule. This made me laugh stupidly loudly.)
Rule 52: Have a mirror right next to the front door
…At a certain age, having a food stain down your front is the equivalent of having a sign around your neck that reads, They're going to put me in a home soon.
Rule 71: Once you hear a word used in an ad, it's time to stop using it
Rule 81: Wellness is not a word
Rule 86: Poncewobble is a word, please use it
(I had a mate at high school whose kid sister would poncewobble every freakin' Easter… so we'd steal her Easter eggs.)
Rule 90: Turn-take
…Listening is different to just watching the other person's mouth and waiting for it to stop moving so you can start talking again.
Rule 98: Recounting a TV series to someone in great detail does not constitute good conversation
Rule 136: Don't spend money on water
(I thought this would be obvious… I am so with Kitty on this one.)
Rule 137: Keep your new food regime to yourself
(This is one I could easily have written the whole rule down for.)
Rule 145: Chew your food, don't inhale it
(And Kitty uses almost the exact phrase my father used – there are no prizes for finishing first.)
Rule 147: 'All you can eat' is not an order
Rule 184: Grocery shopping is not a romantic activity
Rule 190: Don't fart in front of your partner
(Not so much the rule itself, but the explanation afterwards is incredible.)
Rule 204: Being a sex addict is not a thing
(Another one I could have quoted the whole rule for)
Rule 210: Do not negotiate with children
(Yet another one I could have written the whole rule down.)
Rule 247: No one looks good in Hammer Pants
Rule 265: Sunglasses are for outside
Rules 341 to 349
(This is the section on Internet commenting. If I had my way, this would come up on screen every time some-one logged onto the Internet, and if anyone breaks the rules, they are banned straight away for a week. This is the most important section in the book. No, seriously. While it's funny, it is 100% completely true and should be enforced. Now. Yesterday. Just do it.)
Rule 427: No tapping
"If you get eaten at the zoo because you climbed over a fence, that's called natural selection and the world won't miss you."
Like I said, 20 highlights (okay I cheated in there), but just 20 out of so, so, so many. And in the end, you realise there are not 488 rules, but space to add your own. I've added 12 so far.
This is not just a comedy book, but it holds a mirror up to the society we live in and skewers it nicely. Like all good comedy, there is an element of truth about it, and there is also a hint of anger. Okay, more than an element of truth – Kitty sees our society for what it is and where it is going.
I have a feeling a vast majority of readers will agree with a lot of what she says here.