The Digested 21st Century

John Crace has been writing 700-word parodies of novels and works of non-fiction in the G2 section of the Guardian since 2000. He has recently published a selection of them – The Digested 21st Century. Here is a flavour of the book:

A Journey by Tony Blair (2010)

I wanted this book to be different from the traditional political memoir. Most, I have found, are rather easy to put down. So what you will read here is not a conventional account of whom I met. There are events and politicians who are absent, not because they don’t matter, but because they are part of a different story to the self-serving one I want to tell!

No, seriously guys, this is going to be well different. How many other world leaders use so many exclamation marks! And it is as a world leader that I’m writing for you about my journey. And what a journey! When I started in politics I was just an ordinary kind of guy. And you know what? I’m still an ordinary kind of guy – albeit one who has become a multi-millionaire and completely destabilised the Middle East!

Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe (2013)

Smack. Thadaboom. SMACK. Thahadaboom. The Safe Boat thadathunks its foam-filled fuckery across Miami–MEEE-AH-MEE – bay. ‘Dere’s a fuckin’ Wetfoot at da top a dat fuckin’ mast a dat boat,’ yelled Sergeant Kite. Officer Nestor Camacho rolled up his sleeves. His biceps were ripped. Taut. :::: What the fuck was he doing thinking like this inside this crazy, mashed-up punctuation? :::: Tappetytaptappetytaptaptap. KER-CHING! Tom couldn’t believe his luck. $10,000 per page to write on steroids. :::: Like taking candy from babies. That’s America, baby ::::

‘¡Madre de Dios!’ yelled Nestor’s father. ‘You’re no national hero. You traidor. You betray your blood. The guy was 17 feet from freedom, and you send him back to Fidel?’ Nestor reeled backwards out of the room :::: At least I have my Malena. Mia preciosa Magdalena con los grandes bazookas ::::

Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton (2012)

The most boring question one can ask of any religion is whether or not it is true. Manifestly, none are. Yet this should not stop us cherry-picking the bits we like and repackaging them as self-help aphorisms for a liberal middle-class who consider themselves too clever for Paulo Coelho. I was brought up a committed atheist, but even I had a crisis of faithlessness that originated in listening to Bach’s cantatas, was developed by exposure to Zen architecture and became overwhelming on reading my own prose.

Empire:  How Britain Made the Modern World by Niall Ferguson (2003)

It has long been fashionable to decry the British empire as a relic of imperial repression, and while it is not my intention to excuse its worst excesses, it is important for a good-looking historian to take a contrary position. So I contend it was also a considerable force for good.

Every iconoclast needs a neologism; mine is Anglobalisation. Other empire builders were little more than pirates, exploiting resources for their own end while seeking to impose their culture and religion on the local inhabitants. Britain, of course, was not entirely exempt in this respect but her interests lay far more in establishing a world free-trade market.

All things considered, both Britain and myself can look ourselves in the mirror and be pretty damned pleased with what we see.

Broken Music by Sting (2003)

This is not intended to be a straightforward autobiography. Rather it will be like my music: a series of atavistic, yet profound and moving sounds that combine to create something utterly predictable and dull.

Celebrate by Pippa Middleton (2012)

It’s a bit startling to achieve global recognition before the age of 30, on account of your sister, your brother-in-law and your bottom. But I am by nature an optimist, so I tend to concentrate on the advantages. Like cashing in while I can. No disrespect, sis, but royal marriages don’t have the best track record! So imagine my surprise when Penguin offered me £400,000 and a full editorial team to cobble up a few lame party ideas that would help to promote my family’s business, Party Pieces. I hope it takes you as long to read it as it took me to write it!

An Appetite for Wonder by Richard Dawkins (2013)

I married my first wife Marian in 1967, though that’s the last time I propose to mention her. Far more interesting are the two computer languages I invented to determine hierarchical embedment. Who would have guessed that P=2(P+P-P*P)-1?! In the early 1970s, I started work on The Selfish Gene. I had no idea when I was writing the first chapter just how remarkable the book would be, as it had seemed self-evident for more than a decade to me that panglossian theories were erroneous and that natural selection took place at the genetic level. What I hadn’t then realised was my remarkable ability to be right about absolutely everything: the consequences of that realisation will follow in a later volume. Though you may be hoping a process of natural literary selection prevents that.

Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (2012)

Wind extinguishes a candle and energises fire. How deep is that? The answer, counter-intuitively, is not quite as deep as me. For I, Nassim Nicholas Taleb alone have discovered the secret of the universe. It is the antifragile.

‘What in God’s name is that?’ Wittgenstein asked me over lunch in a three-starred Michelin restaurant in Paris. Let me explain. You know how some things are quite fragile, and we’re really scared of them breaking? Well, my brilliant new idea is that sometimes it’s good that things get broken, because that’s when important changes like evolution can happen. And because I’m the only person who has ever thought this, I’m going to call it Antifragile.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (2003)

Renowned curator Jacques Sauniere shuddered. The first page of a Dan Brown potboiler was no place for any character. ‘Count yourself lucky,’ growled Silas the monk, as he chastised himself with his chalice. ‘I’ve got to hang around for another 400 pages of this grabage.’

The phone rand in Robert Langdon’s hotel room. After his previous adventure with the Pope, nothing should have surprised him. But he was surprised. ‘I am surprised to be summoned to the Louvre in the dead of night,’ he said to himself.

Round the Bend by Jeremy Clarkson (2012)

As a major celebrity I get photographed countless times a day – all too often with a woman who isn’t my wife. All speed cameras should be burned, preferably using traffic wardens, council officials and gays as lighter fuel. Which brings me to the Porsche Cayenne, the car with the most pointless rear seat ever made. So small it can’t even fit the 8-inch Hammond, a man who gives dwarves a bad name. Talking of which, how come the over coiffed homosexualist had his crash on the one day in the century when the entire NHS wasn’t on strike?

What is the point of a bicyclist? Answer: to die. The only reason any beardy vegetarian or lesbian gets on a bike is because they secretly want to commit suicide. Which is fine by me. I want them all to die, too. The world would be a much better place without them. But what I don’t want them doing is holding me up and tempting me into doing their dirty work for them. If you haven’t got the balls to phone Dignitas, then don’t make me late for dinner at the Ivy by forcing me to crush you under my front wheels. So run along and get a gun and top yourselves in private, losers.

Notes From My Kitchen Table by Gwyneth Paltrow (2011)

I literally could not have written this book without the literal assistance of Julia Turshen who literally did all the cooking and writing while I literally did yoga classes and literally had my hair done for the photo-shoot.

‘Why,’ you may ask, ‘would the world’s greatest actress wish to share her kitchen secrets?’ It is because I have the secret of eternal life. When my beloved father, who taught me so much about cooking, was diagnosed with cancer in 1998, I became convinced I could cure him with a macrobiotic diet. Sadly he died, but only because he had eaten too much steak and chips when he was young. But with these recipes my children and possibly your children, if they have double-barrelled surnames, can live for ever, and if you think I’m going to mention my idiot husband Chris and his rubbish band then you’ve got another think coming – he’s never supported my ambition to be hailed as the new lifestyle goddess of those with too much time on their hands.

Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James (2011)

Here’s the contract for our relationship,’ he says, slipping an oyster down my throat. ‘I will be the Dominant and you will be the Submissive. You will do everything I say and allow me to cane you, tie you up, sodomise you, clamp your genitals and fist you. In return I will buy you a car and a laptop.’

‘But Sir,’ I exclaim. ‘I’m still a virgin, so I will have to draw the line at fisting.’

‘You drive a hard bargain, Miss Steele.’

My inner goddess melts as he forces his tongue inside me. I have never been this wet before, etc. He bends me over his knee and slaps me hard. It feels wrong, but somehow very right. His enormous penis, etc. Juddering orgasms, etc.

‘Sleep with me, Sir,’ I beg, as I try to draw his handsome body closer to mine.

‘I can’t. I had a deeply disturbed childhood and S&M relationships are the only ones I can sustain.’

‘Tell me about your commitment problems.’

‘They are too disturbing. You will find I am 50 Shades of Grey. Yet I find myself strangely drawn to your virginal, 20-year-old body in a way that I have never previously experienced.’

My subconscious tells me I should run away from this control freak right now, but my inner goddess is telling me to stay. That I can help this poor troubled man. Christian changes into a sexy pair of faded denim jeans and leads me to his Red Room of Pain. I willingly allow myself to be chained to a crucifix while he thrashes my clitoris with a leather hunting crop. The pain is intense, but the pleasure more so. My inner goddess is panting for him not to stop until … juddering climaxes, etc.

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