Graeme Strachan's Reviews > How Not To Be a Boy

How Not To Be a Boy by Robert Webb
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it was ok
bookshelves: biography

I embarked on this book with more than a little trepidation. I've been long aware of Webb's work from watching the Mitchell & Webb series, and from various other appearances, however have always found him in interview to come across as a snarky and self-important ass. This book goes some ways to explaining that particular side of his personality, as well as some of his more widely held convictions on life, and on the generalising of people.

It's by no means a terrible book. Webb's English degree from Cambridge ensures that he knows how to write well enough and a career in comedy writing stands him in good stead to keep the occasionally smirk-rising quip falling in between the grandiose amounts of self-pity and self-loathing.

What doesn't really work about this book, is that it tries to be two vastly different things; an autobiography, and a passionate treatise on the values of feminism, and associated condemnation of "toxic masculinity" in all its forms. Far be it for me to question an author's convictions and beliefs, but it's difficult not to plainly see the reasons for each and every conclusion that Webb sets up to knock down throughout the book, and more difficult not to questioning the means to which he avoids looking into other aspects of his life.

Put plainly, everything bad in his life is some man's fault. His Grandfather, father, step-father, teachers, lecturers, Dean of faculty and so on and so forth leading down to himself, as he himself begins to act with loathsome and callous disregard of the women in his life as he spirals into alcoholism. Yet never once does he turn that critical view on his mother, or on his girlfriends, or his wife. Which lends the narrative a sense of unbalanced dishonesty. One that I suspect is mirrored in his own mind. Unfortunately that leaves the distinct impression of reading the insistent story of someone who only wants to tell half a story.

The other major issue is that the book is in fits and starts as between several chapters, Webb clumsily inserts a series of didactic pages about feminist theory, patiently explaining to the somewhat patronised reader with the tone of a mid-week Guardian article.

It's an occasionally amusing book. One for die-hard fans of comedy auto-biography, or for first year psychology students who want a clearly written self-account of an as yet undiagnosed Oedipus complex.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
October 17, 2017 – Finished Reading
December 20, 2017 – Shelved
December 20, 2017 – Shelved as: biography

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by David (new)

David Given that I knew Robert at school I’m intrigued to read this from a personal perspective.


Graeme Strachan I'm sure it will be enlightening. He talks at length about those days.


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