Book Review: Scorn by Matthew Parris

A collection of biting, witty and other quotes and insults from across the centuries by both well known people and more obscure sources.

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Matthew Parris is a former British MP, now a journalist, TV commentator and author. Selections on the cover of Scorn provide much promise of a book full of one liners and put downs well worth reading: ‘A face unclouded by thought’; ‘A bore is starred’; ‘I’ve seen more excitement at the opening of an umbrella’.

Unfortunately, it went downhill after opening the cover.

I regret that Parris notes: ‘Eschewing political correctness, we’ve included much’ (page 6) in his Introduction. This results in the inclusion of quotes from luminaries such as Adolf Hiltler on race; George W Bush on poverty; and British MP Alan Clark who responded to accusations of sexual harassment with the incredible question ‘How do you know an advance was unwanted until you’ve made it?’. Parris hasn’t just set aside political correctness with such quotes but also good taste and judgement.

While there are clever, witty and biting quotes from across the centuries from both well-known and obscure names, they appear as diamonds shining in a sea of dross because they are so spaced out among the more than 400 pages of other quotes which have little merit. They give hope the tide will turn and the diamonds will appear more often but as you keep going the hope turns to despair, then boredom and finally thinking of how this might be re-gifted to someone you don’t like all that much.

If you do stand-up comedy and are looking for put downs or you fancy going into politics and need a fund of one liners to throw at your opponents then this book may well be a reasonable reference. As everyday reading or something to pick up to fill in some time it is disappointing. There are many other titles using this list approach for quotes, jokes or weird facts which could be explored in preference to this book.

Reviewed by: Jan Kershaw

Rating out of 10:  5

Released by: Allen & Unwin
Release Date: December 2016
RRP: $24.99

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