Book Review: Fuck This Journal

fuck this journal

Fuck This Journal, by Dale Shaw, is the perfect Secret Santa gift to buy for that annoying co-worker who sucks in air and shakes their head when you share an amusing anecdote from your drink fueled weekend. Or give it to someone who has just joined the firm to confuse them.

Based on the inspirational tropes which encourage creativity and mindfulness, this does the opposite. Did that last sentence make sense? Neither does much of this book, which is rather the point.

There are pages filled with suggestions for filling time now that your wife has left you for a man who makes his living selling cleansing products at car book sales. For example:

“Write your deepest darkest fantasy on this page. Rip it out screw it into a tiny ball and drop it into the bicycle basket of a passing clergyman. That’ll show him.”

There is advice to ignore and suggestions for stupid things to do (that plenty of people do anyway). Under “Make the whole world your canvas” are instructions for creating what would probably pass as art if placed in a modern gallery.

Or, you could “have an adventure”. You may get arrested if you followed these suggestions but hey, wouldn’t that be a new experience? (if not then maybe don’t read this book after all).

I suspect that there is something within these pages that will offend every reader at least once.

There are sketches of poo, of a wicker man, pictures to colour in, pages to pull out for no reason, and plenty of space for you to “write about how that makes you feel…”

The one thing that you mustn’t do is wear this book as a hat. No, I have no idea why either.

I requested a review copy because I was intrigued that, at its launch party, attendees were given ‘Baddy Bags’ (that’s baddy, not buddy or body, and definitely not goody).

What is your excuse for reading it going to be?

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Headline.


Book Review: Diary of a Diva


Diary of a Diva: Behind the Lipstick, by Barbarella Fokos, is a compilation of fifty of the author’s published columns in which she writes about her life experiences for the San Diego Reader. Selected from over five hundred that have been produced over a ten year period, these are included alongside commentary from both the author and her husband. Do not be fooled by the cover as I was. This is not the fluffy, superficial, amusing if somewhat narcissistic journal that I expected when I requested a copy for review. Rather, it is a searingly honest account of an individual with life issues that she copes with through writing, and which she is then willing to share.

The reproduced columns provide the structure for the book, but it was the commentary around them that held my attention. Covering as it does a lengthy period, the author has grown as a person over this time. She discusses her early relationship with her husband, her many and varied neurosis and how they have both dealt with these, her family to whom she is remarkably close, and her issues with depression and social anxiety.

When I requested the book I knew little about Barbarella. From what I initially picked up I expected this attractive and highly groomed, media type person to be lightweight, fixated on mixing with names and being seen. I was wrong. I lost count of the number of times, as I turned the pages of her book, that I found myself nodding vigorously as she described an all too familiar experience, the anxiety it created and how she coped. Her writing is the antithesis of superficial.

Barbarella is close to her family in a way that I find hard to comprehend. I empathised more with her husband’s upbringing, but it is Barbarella’s analysis of her neuroses that made this book seem real. Her fear of being late, her dislike of raw meat and seafood, her concerns about running into anybody she knew whilst out shopping, all read as familiar. I am left wondering if many people feel this way but simply hide it for fear of negative judgement.

The book offers an honest series of snapshots of a life and I found it affirming to read. Whilst I may not aspire to the lifestyle that she chooses, Barbarella thinks and feels in a way that resonated. If more people could be as honest and talk as openly as she writes then perhaps we would all gain in understanding and judge a little less harshly.

I was amused by the tales of travel, particularly the observations on how Americans are perceived when abroad. I sympathised with Barbarella’s wish to embrace and enjoy new and foreign experiences, whilst inwardly hankering after the cleanliness and comfort of home. The search for WiFi was hilarious, particularly the image of her hunkered down on a kerbside trying to ‘steal’ a stranger’s connectivity whilst a local tried to converse in a language she could not understand.

Barbarella comes across as a human with flaws and I applaud her for acknowledging them. In a world of social media, so many present only edited highlights. This book was a refreshing offering of balance that was as educative as it was entertaining to read.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the author.