Books & Literature

Book Review: Maddening, Self-Indulgent Crap, by Peter Goers

AUTOBIOGRAPHY: South Australian broadcaster, columnist, theatre guru and critic Peter Goers has been known and loved for his sardonic wit and laconic flair for decades. This collection gathers the best of his Fringe shows, columns and a modicum of memoir.

A wonderful snapshot of Australia and the world through the eyes of the critic who ate Adelaide.

As a 25-year veteran of Adelaide community theatre, I have seen all sides of Peter Goers—the good, the bad, and the ugly. He is the enigma of Adelaide and someone who, strangely, is still referred to as a theatre critic even though he abandoned that calling a long time ago. Nowadays, he is heard regularly on the ABC and read weekly in the Sunday Mail. He is also seen at just about every theatrical presentation you can muster, such is his devotion to the arts in Adelaide. Bless him.

It is unsurprising, then, that his autobiography reflects the haphazard nature of the man. This is not a chronological recount of his life but rather a collection of anecdotes based around a particular theme placed in no particular order. It is the sort of chaos that Goers admires so much in his favourite writers and performers.

Maddening, Self-Indulgent Crap is a delight to read despite the promise of the title. It begins with his many encounters with famous people both local and international and with some of his most famous friends. Barry Humphries is name-dropped a lot in this book and for good reason. The story of Goers watching Humphries morph into Dame Edna is a particular highlight. Local legend Anne “Willsy” Wills also gets a fair run in this book and her stories are great (one can only hope that Willsy herself will grace us with an autobiography too).

Goers rarely focuses on the sad moments of his life, such as the sudden passing of his parents, and he certainly resists the urge to answer back to his own critics. He doesn’t want your pity, just your attention. He would rather share the sad stories of the people he meets who do not have the voice to do so themselves. If that doesn’t tell you something of the man then nothing will.

Along the way, Goers recounts his many travel stories and waxes lyrical about his time in Turkey and the many trips to Gallipoli he took. He also fondly embraces Cuba and the culture that has thrived despite US interference. He reminisces about country towns and the wonderful personalities and buildings that populate them. He takes aim at pollies and celebrities who do the wrong thing (former Governor-General Quentin Bryce cops a serve for a faux-pas that is inexcusable whilst Dick Smith gets berated for a ghastly display of privilege at Gallipoli) while championing those who struggle but maintain a smiling disposition.

He is, of course, incredibly self-deprecating throughout, which is frustrating at times but understandable given the amount of negativity he has copped over the years.

The finale of the book begins with some of his best columns for the Sunday Mail. Lleyton Hewitt would cringe if he read Goers’ thoughts on his DVD. He then finishes with a series of short journal entries from 2012-2020 which are like random thoughts jotted down without context. Who needs context? They are hilarious all the same.

My only complaint is that Goers chooses not to republish some of his most scathing reviews which were some of the most well-written prose you are likely to read. Maybe that is for another book. This minor quibble aside, this is a wonderfully fun book to indulge in. It offers a unique look at the world from a man who has been lucky to have led an extraordinary life. 

Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Twitter: @Wagnerfan74

Published by: Wakefield Press
Released: April 2021
RRP: $34.95

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