Bye Bye Balham book review

From blog to book - you can get most of Richard Herring's thoughts online gratis, so is there enough extra value here to actually make a purchase?

Richard Herring - Bye Bye Balham

Richard Herring, as one half of Lee and Herring, influenced a generation of youngsters looking for their first taste of alternative comedy. Over a decade on, Herring himself is still going strong and has recently released the first collected edition of his daily blog, “Warming Up”, which has been running for over six years now.

Bye Bye Balham reprints entries from the first six months of his blog, in which he moves away from his flat in Balham and into a new house. Herring’s devotion to blogging is nothing short of legendary, and while the vast majority of this book is available for free online, the topic itself barely needs addressing – after all, many books are available free online, but everyone knows that it’s not quite the same as being able to hold the book in your hands.

However, in order to give readers something worth paying for, Herring has gone the extra mile and created new material, describing the more personal events surrounding the book. These events are now distant enough that he can comment on them with the required level of detachment, and reveal a canny sense of self-awareness about Herring himself. New annotations appear before each new month and following some entries, offering more than enough insight for readers who may have already gone over the online version.

While you might expect such a blog to vary wildly in quality, Herring’s work is remarkably consistent – it’s true that the weakest entries have been cut, but what material remains is always enjoyable. Whether he’s simply observing the melancholic details of city living, or delivering one of his many elaborate (and hilarious) deconstructions, Herring always manages to find something worth writing about, creating a rewarding network of in-jokes and references along the way to reward persistent readers.

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While the comedy on offer is top notch, the book could also be approached from another angle – as an interesting insight into the life of a writer and performer. Similar blogs-turned-books have focused on the lives of everything from ambulance drivers to sex workers, so if you enjoy getting a glimpse into how other people live their lives, this book will provide a unique perspective on just what a comedian gets up to when he’s not on stage – mainly playing Scrabble on his Gameboy, in this case.

The package assembled by Go Faster Stripe is fantastic value, with the £10 price tag more than worth it for the sheer volume of material on offer. The production values let things down slightly, with a noticeable amount of typos (the majority of which are presumably reproduced from the original writing) and some formatting glitches. The cover of the book, however, is the only area that could be described as a letdown. While it’s clear what the intent was, the fact is that any similar book would have instantly placed a photo of its protagonist on the front cover. The book lacks character as a result, and if future versions do go ahead, it’d be nice to see steps taken to address this.

Overall, Bye Bye Balham is an essential purchase for any comedy fan, but at the same time, manages to be an engaging read for anyone unfamiliar with Herring and his work. The incredibly reasonable price tag more than makes up for the occasional production hiccup, but most importantly, goes to a worthy cause – Publishers Go Faster Stripe are a small, independent operation who support comedians overlooked by the mainstream – so if you do buy it, be sure to support GFS by buying directly from them where possible!

4 stars

Rating:

4 out of 5