It is very rare that I buy actual paper books these days. Basically I just do not have the space for any more books. Instead I download e-books which is not the same experience but is much more convenient. The few ‘proper’ books I get are mostly proof copies from publishers or presents. If I am going to buy the paper version of a book it will normally be because there is something special about it like large illustrations that just are not the same on a Kindle.
In this case, the book is not actually available as an e-book as far as I know, but even if it was I think it is worth having in all its hardback glory.The full title of the book is I, Robert, the far-fetched autobiography of Robert Rankin. Rankin seems to have a terminal addiction to punning book titles (The Sprouts of Wrath, the Toyminator, the Brentford Chainstore Massacre, etc.) and this is one of his better ones. It is also very far-fetched, but I think this is because Rankin’s life itself is pretty far-fetched.
For reasons that are explained towards the end of the book itself, this is self-published by Robert Rankin’s own company and therefore only available from his website as far as I know. It is not cheap, but it is worth every penny because not only is it a fascinating and funny book but it is also a thing of beauty. Each chapter starts with a hand-drawn illustrated letter in a sort of steampunk style. The same design is repeated on a larger scale as a sort of watermark on that page. Throughout the book there are other drawings and photographs which will be of great interest to anybody who has read any of Rankin’s books.
Once or twice there was a slight feeling of deja vu as an anecdote of Robert’s childhood felt very familiar, because it had appeared in one of his books, but this is not because he is stealing bits from his books; it is because some of the very far-fetched bits of his books were actually stolen from his life. The best example is right at the start, where he writes about his Dad’s whaling experiences and funeral. Both appeared in one of the novels, I can’t remember which one off-hand, and I remember reading those passages and wondering how somebody comes up with something so strange and hilarious.
There is no strict chronological order to the book. It sort of tries to start at the beginning but soon jumps forwards and backwards while still remaining readable. The second half is a bit more ordered as there is a chapter for each of the books which either describes where the ideas for that book came from, or some of the circumstances of writing it, although even here there are some tangents to be gone off on.
This book is a must-have for anybody who has enjoyed any of Robert Rankin’s novels, but I imagine that anybody who hadn’t would not only laugh themselves silly more than once, but would want to rush out an buy a Brentford book straight away. I recently re-re-read the first 24 Rankin novels, having acquired e-book copies of them and I am now sorely tempted to find the time to re-read number 25 onwards.
In summary: go to Rankin’s website and buy this book so you can enjoy reading about the injuries he inflicted on Freddie Mercury and John Hurt, how he inadvertantly caused a crime wave and equally inadvertantly stole Ian Rankin’s identity, and how, during the mods and rockers wars he was the only Victorian.