Do you like film? Do you like consistent and unwavering sarcasm? Do you too have a “passion for rhetorical questions?” If the answers to any of those (rhetorical) questions are ‘a little’ or ‘a lot’ then you are in for a treat with Richard Ayoade’s debut novel: Ayoade on Ayoade.
My first impression from the way Ayoade writes is that he clearly has a lot of self-restraint, for he has a character to maintain. He constantly uses his fantastic humour to avoid personal confrontation, as well as his impressive knowledge of film; it feels as though there is a definite barrier between author and reader. We are assured that this book is not autobiographical, though there are definitely, and inevitably, elements of truth present in the anecdotes and opinions expressed.
However, as the narrative progresses (there is only a loose narrative, as it’s not particularly critical for this almost-Bildungsroman-style of novel), it felt as though Ayoade opened up a little, perhaps accidentally, as he seemed to become more deprecating of his own skill. With statements like: “I’d discovered a director. I’d wrestled a writer. I’d acknowledged a ‘writer'”, it’s hard not to laugh out loud, but it also sends me into despair at the thought of this brilliant artist ridiculing his own achievements. I’ve always known that his comedy persona is very pedantic and silly, and this book fell consistently within that, with additional elements of surrealism and off-beat joke delivery. A peculiar quirk was that Ayoade chose to display a good portion of the text as footnotes, which made me feel sorry for those reading on an e-book.
Ayoade on Ayoade is a fantastic piece of satire that has many layers; I’ll admit that many of the references were lost on me, as I have a very limited knowledge of cinema, but that didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the text. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this witty portrayal of the film industry as it was niche, yet still accessible as well as being very cleverly executed.
“My name is Richard Ayoade and I’m one of the least-respected actors of my generation.”