Our man on the sofa
Even though I have been a fan of Darrels for years, I still cant spell his surname without referring to the printed text at least three times. You will forgive me if I refer to him as Darrel from now on. It is not meant to be disrespectful. Having read every single one of his columns for the Sunday Independent for the last few years, I feel as if I know him personally, anyway.
Darrel, in case you havent heard of him before, writes TV reviews. Thats all he does. He sits on that famous sofa of his from morning till night (apart from occasional trips abroad or the odd beer or two at his favourite pub down the road, The Chalk n Cue) and watches TV. Then he writes about it and gets paid for it. If anyone is a connoisseur of the easy life, of the simple pleasures of the man of leisure, it is Darrel. It is easy to understand why he is one of my role models (even more so than most other great men of leisure, such as the Pope, Nelson Mandela and Bob Skinstad).
When I heard that Darrel had finally published a book a whole book, all by himself I was very excited. Judging from his journalistic work alone, I have long ago come to the conclusion that he is the funniest writer at work in South Africa today. He is funnier than the people who do Noseweek (and that takes some doing). He is funnier than Pieter-Dirk Uys (and almost as clever). Sometimes he is even funnier than Casper de Vries.
His book I Moved Your Cheese was no disappointment.
Actually, Im lying. The first chapter was a terrible disappointment. It was the lamest piece of prose ever written by Darrel. It was all about him leaving the comfort zone of his sofa to find some guru on some mountain-top. Darrel, Darrel, I thought. Stick to writing about things you know something about.
Only later on in the book did I realise that the first chapter was meant to be so lame. He was trying to copy the style of the first chapters of most self-help paperbacks. He was trying to make the readers see exactly how lame, how pretentious, the entire self-help paperback industry was.
Things got better after that, once I understood what he was trying to achieve. And once I got to the chapter about finding and embracing your empty inner ostrich egg, I more than understood. I saw the light.
Here was a man who, from the depths of his sofa, had achieved a new kind of Nirvana. A man who would never ever again be fooled by books about self-improvement. A man with his own, unique truth.
Consider the following extract (from the chapter aptly titled Being and Nothingness):
Another piece of advice that has me chuckling and tutting at its sheer muddle-headed wrongness is the one that goes: Always be yourself. Have you ever heard anything so appalling? Civilisation and all standards of human decency are precisely predicated on us not being ourselves. Havent you ever read Lord of the Flies? Or tussled with another person for the last parking space at the mall? Underneath our glossy hairstyles, we are animals.
This same chapter, incidentally, has a marvelous sub-section called Being Oprah, which contains, among others, the following pearl of wisdom:
You too can be like Oprah, and I dont mean by eating more banana cream pies and extra helpings of hominy grits than is strictly necessary. I mean you can let yourself flow as she flows. She doesnt appear to flow she appears to just sit there like a silo but shes flowing all right. Shes flowing in a non-flowing kind of way, if that doesnt sound too much like Deepak Chopra.
Darrels wisdom also extends to other subjects. He is a firm believer in passive resistance, especially when it comes to things like health care, dieting, and going to the gym. Consider this agonising confession on page 76:
Just the other day, in an unguarded moment, I was prevailed upon to remove my shirt in mixed company. The circumstances arent important, although I can reveal that they involved a deck of cards, a bucket of gin martinis, a small tub of tangy avocado dip and a toothbrush ... a young mother hurried her small children from the scene, covering their eyes with her hands.
In spite of Darrels discomfort with his own body, he is determined not to exercise. Instead, he is working on his attitude, cultivating inner peace and acceptance of the inevitable. Sometimes, though, even a spiritual giant like him is tempted to succumb:
I found myself one night, down at the Chalk n Cue, hovering on the cusp, the very cusp, of ordering a lite beer, when suddenly clarity came to me ... I thought: What am I doing? Will this lite beer make me happy? This dream of having a six-pack stomach instead of a keg is this not my desert elephant? I must seize my inner ostrich egg! I must make a virtue of my failing!
I must admit, though, that I have one complaint about Darrels book. There wasnt enough of it! When I got to page 92, shortly after the memorable reminder:
Do not waste your time wondering if the glass is half-empty or half-full. If the glass looks half-anything, it is time to order another round Ö
I was confronted with a bunch of blank pages. I could see they were really blank, because they had the phrase BLANK PAGE printed in the top right-hand corner. I wanted more Darrel, I wanted more life lessons, and there was no more. The guru had spoken. He had exhausted his fount of wit and wisdom in just 92 pages.
At R59,95, however, I suppose it wasnt that bad a deal. And though I cannot in all truthfulness claim that this book changed my life, it certainly made me feel better about myself the way I am. It bolstered my laziness with a matching and eloquent philosophy. I will always thank Darrel for that. One day I might even teach myself to spell his surname.
© Kopiereg in die ontwerp en inhoud van hierdie webruimte behoort aan LitNet, uitgesluit die kopiereg in bydraes wat berus by die outeurs wat sodanige bydraes verskaf. LitNet streef na die plasing van oorspronklike materiaal en na die oop en onbeperkte uitruil van idees en menings. Die menings van bydraers tot hierdie werftuiste is dus hul eie en weerspieŽl nie noodwendig die mening van die redaksie en bestuur van LitNet nie. LitNet kan ongelukkig ook nie waarborg dat hierdie diens ononderbroke of foutloos sal wees nie en gebruikers wat steun op inligting wat hier verskaf word, doen dit op hul eie risiko. Media24, M-Web, Ligitprops 3042 BK en die bestuur en redaksie van LitNet aanvaar derhalwe geen aanspreeklikheid vir enige regstreekse of onregstreekse verlies of skade wat uit sodanige bydraes of die verskaffing van hierdie diens spruit nie. LitNet is ín onafhanklike joernaal op die Internet, en word as gesamentlike onderneming deur Ligitprops 3042 BK en Media24 bedryf.