23 April 2024

Review: That's Not How You Wash A Squirrel by David Thorne

That's Not How You Wash A Squirrel by David Thorne book cover

Residing in USA, David Thorne is the Australian author behind the notorious Missing Missy and despite a scathing review of Look Evelyn Duck Dynasty Wiper Blades. We Should Get Them in 2020, I still owned two more of the author's books. At the time I expressed my irritation at the fat phobic content and uncertainty around whether Thorne uses creative licence in a self deprecating manner in an ironic attempt to further his unlikable persona in the pursuit of entertainment; or if he's just a dick.

Four years have passed and many books have been read since then and I believe enough time has elapsed for me to tackle the next one on the pile. Did it make me chuckle or frown? Short answer, both!

The author does write humourous dialogue, and I enjoyed this excerpt from an exchange with partner Holly:
"No, you're supposed to say something nice back."
"Your hair looks nice today."
"Thanks. I used your conditioner in the little red tube."
"That's foot cream." Page 20
The title story about rearing a baby squirrel was my favourite from the collection and it was very cute. But then the author churns out a comment like this one that left a sour taste in my mouth for a few pages:
"We did visit my sister a few weeks later but there were no secret passageways in her house and neither Seb or I gave a fuck about her origami owls or potplant hangers. Any halfwit with a roll of string and a few sticks can set up an Etsy shop." Page 39
There's no context about Thorne's sister and she isn't referred to often. That particular comment came off the back of a reunion with his estranged father who had a secret passageway in his house, but without context or knowing anything about the author's sister, it's hard to interpret that comment as anything other than rude. Who writes like that publicly about their sibling anyway?

If he's joking, then it's not a joke I can join in on. I found it rude and insulting and it made me wonder if this guy means every word he writes or if he's just an arsehole. I'm starting to lean towards the latter, but you be the judge:
"I fully support discrimination against fat people but if one sat next to me on a plane I wouldn't move, ask them to move, or talk to them. I'd just be quietly annoyed the whole flight and try to breath through my mouth." Page 52
Seriously? Is this guy the real deal? Published in 2015, thankfully That's Not How You Wash A Squirrel contains fewer fat phobic references, but the fat shaming was still there. At one point he refers to a 'crazed looking flabby woman in her thirties named Rian', but it's not just fat people and fat women who irk our author:
"Penguin represent my first book but my marketing person there is a small angry Asian woman who yells a lot so I have her number blocked." Page 147
Wow, blocking the Marketing Rep from Penguin on your phone when you depend on their representation, hilarious! Hopefully you could hear the drip of my sarcasm there. It's just not funny.

The occasional fat phobic content was off putting and while I enjoyed a somewhat amusing story about hunting for the first time in the USA, I can't tell if the content has been inspired or lifted from the author's lived experience or whether it's all fiction. Is this self deprecating humour written by a humble guy unafraid of being judged harshly? Or is he just a run of the mill arsehole, wandering aimlessly around a camp site so that he doesn't have to help his mates pack up? He sounds like a tool, but that's also what used to make his writing funny.

There's a fine line and I'm never sure how close to it we are, but it feels like we're getting further away from the author's core talent for entertaining the reader. In a different example, Thorne shares a section detailing the passing of a friend after a dramatic car accident that was incredibly moving, yet I'm not sure if he's 'taking the piss'* or not.

I decided years ago not to purchase any more of David Thorne's new work, but I still have Walk It Off, Princess on my TBR pile. I can hear some of you thinking 'don't read it if you don't like his work' but have you ever decided not to read a book you purchased? Published in 2018 three years after this title, I'm hoping the downward trend on insulting people continues and the sense of humour so prevalent in his earlier work resurfaces in fine form. There's hope yet!

Check out my reviews to some of the author's better books:
- The Internet is a Playground ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- I'll Go Home Then; It's Warm and Has Chairs - The Unpublished Emails ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- Wrap It In A Bit Of Cheese Like You're Tricking The Dog ⭐⭐⭐
- Look Evelyn Duck Dynasty Wiper Blades. We Should Get Them ⭐⭐

My Rating:

*Australian slang term for 'having a lend'.

Would you like to comment?

Thanks for your comment, Carpe Librum!