The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism is a self-published book of collected columns and never before printed pieces from the San Francisco Chronicle journalist Mark Morford. Known for publishing controversial pieces that nearly got him fired (as well as his editors), 92 articles are collected here.
The thing I like about collections of columns is that you can dip in and out of them if you don’t have time for massive intakes of text during your busy day. While I think everyone should make time to read during the day (I’m a book lover, can you tell?), sometimes it’s just not possible.
The voice of the author is present throughout, as each column has notes on its writing, any more thoughts about the topic that he’s had since, and how people received it. He has also written an introduction in which he explains his choice to put articles into sections rather than in chronological order (as he deals with hot topics of the day, reading four in a row on the same topic would be rather boring). While in principle this is a sound idea, it can make keeping up with certain topics hard to do. At the end of the book, there is a column that is the precursor to one very early on in the book. I’d forgotten the previous one by the time I got a chance to read it.
While the main block of The Daring Spectacle is worth reading in itself, the more fascinating bits are the hate mail. He has placed selections from his inbox of hate mail that he’s received over the years. Some of the senders are astounding in their ignorance of the English language (somebody who I am guessing was a Christian spelled Satan wrong, of all things) and the bile that issues from them. I was tempted to conclude that he made up some of the worst spelt mistakes but the sad thing is that I really believe that people are that stupid.
Morford has also placed the best of the mullet haikus (a concept I’m still not sure I understand but I enjoyed reading them) throughout. Some were his creation and some were sent in by readers. My personal favourite was “Stop sign on dirt road, taunts me with its brand new face, hand me my damn gun.”
The main themes that run throughout the book are humanity rising higher than before to a new stage of enlightenment (a worthy goal) and embracing ourselves and learning to be happy. There is a lot of talk of mystical energies and appreciating the supernatural. Having said that, there is quite a lot of sex-based talk and photos you may not want to look at on public transport, or indeed anywhere. There is much political commentary to be had here, but also a lot of sexual columns (one of the highlights was his Cosmo-mocking “101 Reasons Why Men Cheat On Women”, which just devolves into an argument between two separate viewpoints).
I may not agree with all of Morford’s ideals (especially the mysticism) and opinions, but I enjoyed reading his work nonetheless. It made me laugh in many places, which is what I ask for from a book really. As I mentioned, the hate mail was very interesting to read and went well with the columns that despaired over the fate of humanity.
One of the quotes on the back of the book is from the Christian Resource Network: “a misguided, lost and carnal individual…filled with vexation and ignorance of God who will gladly cheer the anti-christ” Somehow I think he took that as a compliment — it suits him down to the ground.