Our essential books of 2014: Revolution by Russell Brand

Carys Afoko

If Thomas Piketty had been born in Essex and married Katie Perry he might have written a book like Revolution. Russell Brand’s first foray into political writing is part manifesto, part memoir, part polemic and a stand out contender for political book of 2014.

Roughly chronological, Revolution follows Brand’s personal political journey from a teenager obsessed with buying as much as possible from the Lakeside shopping centre in Grays, to a man who goes on Newsnight to call for the overthrow of global capitalism. I say roughly, because the book is packed with verbose tangents, anecdotes within anecdotes and digressions that mean you can lose Brand’s opening point until he picks it up again three pages later.

This stream of consciousness style works mainly because it is funny. Dotted throughout the sprawling prose are some razor-sharp one liners, which made me smile and occasionally laugh out loud. The Kyoto agreement was the “equivalent of giving Fred West a detention”, arrests are “like STD tests” and the global elite inhabit a “bejewelled double decker bus”.

What I like most about Revolution is that it is personal and heartfelt. Brand talks about how alienating and unfulfilling he has found consumerism rather than condemning it from an imaginary moral high ground. He is angry and passionate and engaged with his subject matter – refreshing given how detached political writing can be. Even the parts I didn’t agree with (I remain dubious about the power of yoga) were entertaining or thought-provoking.

I’m not sure if it was the self-deprecating style or the funny gags, but I had much more time for Russell Brand after reading his book. Even if you disagree with his rallying cry not to vote, this account of disenchantment with modern politics is compelling, popular and rarely boring.

Carys Afoko is adviser to Lisa Nandy MP

1 comment:

  1. David Walker

    If Thomas Piketty was born in Essex and married Katie Perry

    Surely ‘if TP had been born …’

    The comparison doesn’t make much sense anyway. Piketty’s distinctiveness is his marriage of theory (in the French manner) and Anglo-American empiricism; no one would accuse Russell Brand of thinking quantitatively. Whatever else he is, Russell Brand is no scholar. A better analogue is Michel Houellebecq: comedy meets politics meets sex

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