John Crace Digested

Have any of you heard John Crace’s “Digested Read” podcasts for The Guardian?

I downloaded some to have on the iPod while on vacation. Upon listening to podcasts, my initial confusion over what he was doing led swiftly to annoyance and eventually to a grudging…hmm…respect may not be the right word. Something short of that.

For those of you who haven’t heard these podcasts, author John Crace (haven’t read him) gives these supposedly humorous digested versions of famous/popular books.  I say supposedly humorous because they all seemed a little too snarky and crabby to be truly humorous. I perhaps made the mistake of starting with his take on The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch. I thought it would be an interesting little talk about said book but instead it was just Crace taking the piss out of the book and those that take it seriously. I found it kind of ham-handed like something a too-clever undergraduate thespian might think hilarious. He sounded like the evil vicar on Mitchell and Webb but he seemed to have pretensions at something more profound than the hilarious skits of M&W.  My overall thought was “Why does he hate everything?”.

Then something happened. I listened to one of his Digested Reads of a book I didn’t love and the satire suddenly made sense. Actually I hadn’t even read the book–the gigantic bio of the Queen Mum that came out a few years ago. I probably would enjoy reading it but I still found much humour in the way Crace excoriates the author for being a fawning sycophant.

In the end, and mainly in retrospect, I kind of ended up liking the Digested Read. Just be ready to have your favorite book trashed.

4 thoughts on “John Crace Digested

  1. bookssnob August 18, 2011 / 2:50 pm

    I love Digested Read! The best one I've read is of A S Byatt's The Children's Book – I didn't know he had podcasts! I'll be downloading those later!

    I think his scathing wit is rather British…

    I have read one of his books, Being Dead – it was beautifully written and I highly recommend it.


  2. David Nolan (dsc73277) August 18, 2011 / 3:32 pm

    Thomas, you ask “Why does he hate everything?” I think this is a current trait of the British. We have, as I think Rachel is alluding to, a long-history of raising people up so that we can start knocking them down again. We seem to be going through a particularly negative phase at the moment in which many of my compatriots are all to willing to throw abuse at anyone, particularly anyone we think might be having more fun than we are – a category in which we tend to place authors, creative types, indeed, just about anyone who is not trying to save the British economy by being more entrepreneurial. Even on the websites of supposedly “quality” newspapers I now seldom read the comments posted below articles because I'm terrified of the bile that seems to pour forth from them, almost regardless of the subject in question. Fortunately, blogs like yours offer a haven of a civilised debate, for people who understand the difference between engaging in a debate and simply shouting, even if the present commenter is currently balanced precariously on the edge of ranting here!


  3. David Nolan (dsc73277) August 18, 2011 / 3:34 pm

    Correction: I meant “all too willing”. Apologies for the sloppy proof-reading on my part.


  4. winstonsdad August 19, 2011 / 5:36 pm

    I love this as well I like his take on the antonia frasier bio of pinter was really funny ,and the sea the sea by murdock was good as well ,all the best stu


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