Friday, December 6, 2013

Book Review - Paul Magrs's From Wildthyme with Love

From Wildthyme with Love by Paul Magrs
ARC provided by the author (Thanks Paul!)
Published by: Snowbooks
Publication Date: April 1st, 2012
Format: Paperback, 431 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Iris and Panda are sadly separated, but despite the time and distance between them they are keeping in touch until the happy day when Panda is back aboard the Celestial Omnibus. While Iris has her bus and is in the far flung reaches of the galaxy, Panda has been more Earth bound going to parties with Ngaio Marsh and spending Christmas aboard an ill-fated star cruiser. Yet they both miss each other so much that Iris aligns herself with a robot version of Panda, Pand R, and Panda goes off exploring the galaxy with an older, sexier, but bleaker version of Iris. Sadly for us readers, once they do reunite we will never get to read anymore of their fabulous correspondence.

I have always been a sucker for the epistolary novel. The nature of reading someone else's correspondence is illuminating and also slightly thrilling, like it's something you're not supposed to read. Fact or fiction, this device gets me every time. I always wonder what it would have been like if Jane Austen had kept Sense and Sensibility in her original epistolary form... ah, what I wouldn't give to have read that version as well. The most famous and one of my most favorite examples is Helene Hanff's 84, Charing Cross Road. In her correspondence with Frank Doel she created an instant classic, a classic that Paul and I are very much a fan of. In fact Paul wrote an homage, if you will, to Helene in his book 666 Charing Cross Road. He perfectly captured her and her voice, though never actually writing in the epistolary form. It has to be said that his foray finally into this style is an unequivocal success. This is Paul's personal epistolary tribute to Doctor Who with Panda and Iris poking fun at and saying all the snide asides we have all voiced from time to time but in the end come from a place of love. From Wildthyme with Love is a snorting good time, literally.

Speaking of snorting... let's talk about the literal LOL, the laugh out loud. If you are lucky you have a good sense of humor. You know what's funny and what isn't and you take joy in sharing a joke and laughing. Yet there are many forms of laughter. There is of course the unexpected laughter where you're out in public and you try to contain it because you don't want to draw attention to yourself, here I will add a note that perhaps it's not best to watch How I Met Your Mother on a treadmill at the gym because, well, this will happen quite frequently. There's the slow build laughter the leads to painful clutching of sides and perhaps falling off furniture, this usually requires other people, usually close friends to help induce and sustain this state. There's just the quick bark or smile you get while watching television, which is probably the most common. But there is a rare laugh... the embarrassing kind that I find to be the truest form of laughter.

When reading I rarely laugh out loud, there's usually a small knowing smile that I get, but beyond that, no verbalization. So when I say that From Wildthyme with Love actually had be doing my most embarrassing snort laugh... you can be guaranteed of the humor. The snort laugh is so guttural and also mildly offensive, that it comes from deep within you and can not be contained. If others are present, you will be red with embarrassment. The fact that I did it more then once... yeah, this book's a keeper. Almost everything in this book is a laugh out loud joke and if I were to highlight all my favorites, well, the whole book would be highlighted if I did each one. In fact, because I just had the word doc that Paul sent me I had to order a copy for my shelves because I knew that without this book proudly displayed my shelves wouldn't be quite the library they would be otherwise.

So what was it that made me snort? Well, Panda and his rather disastrous Christmas back in 2007. In his letter to Iris he said:

"You've missed Christmas. I went off and spent it on a cruise liner. Turned out we were traveling through bloody space! I met a nice girl serving drinks who looked a bit like that one off 'Neighbors'... I wasn't quite sure what was going on at that point - something about angels chasing after us and I almost spilled my drink walking a tightrope over a bloody inferno."

This succinct and cynical take on the David Tennant/Kylie Minogue Doctor Who episode "Voyage of the Damned" captures everything odd and wrong about the episode but never goes so far as to condemn it. This whole book is an ode to The Doctor and his fifty years. There is real love from Iris. There is love for the camp and the crazy, the stunt casting and the multiple bickering Doctors. Having just recently watched "The Three Doctors" I was loving Panda's recap of his own personal "Three Pandas" experience: 

"There are two other Panda's here! One is much younger and far more frivolous than I, and the other seems to be terribly old and venerable. He didn't even make it through the Event Horizon or whatever, and we can only see him on Skype, thank goodness. Looks like he might smell of wee, TBH."

With loving jabs at everything from lost footage to negotiating with an over-sized scrotum (I call him penis face, but to each his own), to the "penultimate question," to a hilarious party where Panda messes with Ngaio Marsh saying that in the future nobody knows who Agatha Christie is but was later interrupted by a giant wasp, from the Hartnell years up to the present series, each and every joke and insight made me want to just embrace this slim volume and never let it go! Also, this book with a nod and a wink brings up the fact that, just perhaps, The Doctor has been taking all of Iris's best stories and claiming them as his own...

This book gave me faith in the show again. This past season with Matt Smith where I kept feeling that the material never lived up to the potential was nicely recapped as "I think she's got her knickers in a twist recently because of the convoluted story arc she's muddled up in. Feeling a bit mithered as a result." After reading and living life as a full time Whovian for the past few weeks I was feeling the same, I was flagging there, but this book brought me back. It refreshed me and made me so happy, which I have to say, some days that's a hard thing to do. If you aren't a Doctor Who fan... and I do know you're out there, will you be able to enjoy this book? Hell yes, even if you don't get all the context, the content is beyond a doubt hysterical. With Pand R being like an annoying Scrappy Doo and little jokes about Philippa Gregory, it does work outside the sphere of Doctor Who. From Wildthyme with Love is wonderfully funny, snarky, and just lovely.


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