Throw this lazy book down the well
TOURISTIC GUIDINGS TO GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN
WITHIN SACHA BARON Cohen/Borat’s ( is it his?) latest offering — a book, yet! — this singular character’s love of all things Jewish is warmly recorded in a finely detailed map of Kazakhstan’s “Jew Town” and his account of the “Running of the Jew” festival, which is even wittier on the page than on the screen. And his assertion that Pol Pot was Jewish merely confirms what I always suspected.
The front cover of these “touristic guidings” looks at first glance like the 1962 Beano Bumper Fun Annual. But look closer: a picture of Borat in underpants; another picture of Borat with a lead weight attached to his (admittedly underpanted) penis; a green-faced ogre with red horns and a tallit; and — very Beano-like, this — a warning: Parental Advisory — Contains Offensive Material.
Here comes the bad news: this is the best page in the book, better even than the back-page photo of Borat and a random Chasidic gentleman and the words: Touristic Guidings to Minor Nation of U.S. and A. This, it seems, is the book’s other title, and the really funny bit is — and not even Monty Python achieved this until their second book — the whole second half of the book, the American side, is upside down. The satire is so subtle I’m not even sure the minornation folk will get it.
The book is, roughly, on a scale of one-to-10, four parts narrative, six parts pictures. Much of the narrative is built around the words “pussy”, “shave” and “pubis”, and most of the pictures are, how shall I say, consistent with the verbiage. It is a pre-pre-pubescent Viz. Pride of place goes to Borat/Baron Cohen’s penis (a stunt penis, surely) which, er, pops up no less than half-a-dozen times between the sheets of this epic, sometimes entombed in a thong, but by page 115 I was past caring.
I’m not not a fan; it’s just that Baron Cohen’s creation (below) is a one-trick pony that should long ago have saddled up and ridden out of town with its one trick deadand-buried in the local knacker’s yard.
The most offensive thing about the Touristic Guidings is the book-as-marketing-ploy factor. It is a spin-off too far, the book of the film of the TV series of a one-dimensional character that was funny only, like Ali G, when the joke was on us (sorry, Borat, it doesn’t work when the whole world knows you’re not for real) in his first incarnation as a 45-second skit in an otherwise risible faux-topical sketch show.
The book is a lazy and unnecessary compendium of an often very funny film. It adds nothing to the film; in fact, it detracts greatly. But it will undoubtedly find its market, and it is the publisher’s good fortune that most of that market cannot yet read and will not, therefore, be dissuaded by my own modest indifference. One for the
Peter Moss is a travel writer, broadcaster and stand-up comedian