Too Much Information by Dave Gorman | Book review by Steve Bennett

Too Much Information by Dave Gorman

Book review by Steve Bennett

Dave Gorman has undertaken some pretty extreme tasks for his previous books: travelling the globe many times over to seek out namesakes, in pursuit of Googlewhacks, or to show how he could cross America avoiding corporate chains But for Too Much Information he has simply sat at home front of his computer and shouted at the internet.

Spam, Twitter, MailOnline, Buzzfeed, social-media-led protests are the sort of thing that gets his virtual goat over 40 short chapters, each of which is a like a mini stand-up routine in his own distinctive voice.

In a similar vein to his entertaining Dave TV series Modern Life Is Goodish (from which a couple of examples have been drawn); Gorman takes a snarky approach to lazy clickbait or dishonestly concealed advertising or search engine manipulation. Sometimes drilling down to where online phenomenon begins to take it apart analytically, sometimes just taking a general grumble at shoddy practice.

Reading the book is an experience a lot like reading a Twitter or Facebook feed itself, with a selection of incredulous links to dodgy content with an exhortation to look what the calculating bastards are up to now. Or perhaps he’ll just something funny, like a supermarket shelf label telling you that the cost of its toilet paper works out at ’36.8p per 100sht’.

However, he doesn’t confine himself to the internet, media in all its forms is grist for this particular mill, from The Sun feeling the need to explain its punning headlines to disingenuous greatest hits albums cynically milking fans dry. Speaking of albums, he does mention the inevitable ‘filler’ tracks that have been with us since music was sold on vinyl discs… but he’s a little guilty of that himself.

There cannot be much new to be said about the Daily Express’s rotation of a limited number of front-page headlines, for example; while elsewhere Gorman takes his time getting to the point  – spending four-and-pages setting up an odd fact The Independent chose to include in a profile of Buckingham Palace trespasser Michael Fagin.

>But generally the tone is as brisk and conversational as the friendliest blog - with an amusing attitude of exasperation at the stupidity of marketeers or those who produce pointless content, whether it’s a poorly-researched list of facts about Richard Branson or the Mail’s attempts to make their vacuous pictures of celebrities sound in any way relevant. Although it’s actually the images they use to to illustrate serious news stories, however tenuously, that is more fertile ground for his arch mockery.

Despite the light feel – this is easily a book you could devour in a sitting or two; or nibbled on in bite-sized chunks – Gorman actually uses the seemingly trivial examples to feed into a serious conclusion. As people ruthlessly chase higher Twitter followers or better Google page rankings in the name of perceived popularity; wouldn’t the net be a better place if people and businesses acted honestly and found their natural audience or customers? Be yourself, don’t pander to a perceived greater audience was once just true for artists; now it’s true for everyone.

Dave Gorman: Too Much Information: Or: Can Everyone Just Shut Up for a Moment, Some of Us are Trying to Think is published today by Ebury priced £11.99. Click here to buy fro £8.75 from Foyles.

Published: 4 Sep 2014

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