Sunday, 21 March 2010

It's The Terror Of Knowing What This World's All About - The Diary of a Doctor Who Addict by Paul Magrs

I wish this book had been around when I was 13.

This isn't a book about growing up in the nostalgia show approved 80s, where everyone had at some point a Chopper, listened to the New Romantics and ate Spangles. This is the absolute opposite of that, exposing it as a communal illusion of grown-ups trying to refit their adolescence as cool. This is growing up as experienced by the kids who didn't quite fit in, who didn't grow up quite as quickly as everyone else (in every way), who didn't really want to put aside childish things. It understands how growing up can be the most difficult thing in the world, especially if you don't conform to society's conventions. And it adds verisimilitude by understanding how sometimes trivial things that don't matter can be the most important thing in the world at that age - liking the wrong, uncool songs and squirming discomfort with the randomly cruel actions of the friends you've grown up with, friends who're changing into someone you don't quite know or recognise.

Instead of relying on cheap nostalgia for the period feel, Magrs captures the era with the flavour of experiences - the frustration of being stuck on your own in a small town in the middle of nowhere, one the internet generation will never quite understand. There's the wonder of the first VCR, being able to watch your favourite programmes again and again, the wide-eyed wonders of the Doctor Who Exhibition, the huntsman's thrill of finding a Target novelisations you never had... it struck so many chords it wasn't just playing my tune, it was playing my symphony.

If I'd had this book at the equivalent age (that'd have been around 1987 for me) it'd have been an absolute godsend. It would've taught me, turning into a typically self-obsessed teenager, that there was someone else who'd gone through what I was going through. But it would've told me that in a wise, understanding and non-judgemental manner, the only sort of voice I'd have listened to, let alone understood at that age. You need to know you're not alone, but the hardest thing is understanding that.

Magrs flirts with breaking the narrator's heart for much of the novel before finding... not a happy ending but the right ending. The character Davey needs to reassure him you can survive adolescence with your love for Doctor Who intact may appear almost out of nowhere, but in the social hierarchy of teenagers it rings perfectly true. It's as wise and true as I've come to expect from Magrs' work.
The annus mirablis of books for and about Doctor Who fans continues.

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