“Woof!” is a relatively short story based on the antics of a diverse group of students studying at a polytechnic up in Manchester in 1992. Purely fictional, but reads like an autobiography, this story is a bag of laughs from beginning to end.
At first I wasn’t sure about the book. The blurb [I was going to say ‘on the back,’ but it’s on my Kindle] suggests that this is a story of a student play put on to pass the course, that of course, is doubted by everyone from those putting on the play and the teachers on the course. The actual story is more about what this group of people get up to when they are supposed to be either studying, sorting out their play, and general student life.
The group is made up from two gays, a Goth, a stoner and a self harmer. It shouldn’t work but somehow it does. It is an amusing read, and I will share my favourite part with you all in a small while, I have to say that my student life was nothing like what was described in the book. Chain smoking galore, weed, sexing it up a lot, binge drinking – I think I must have missed something during my formative years in university – a good thing judging by the ending of said book.
The character that draws all the attention in the novel is the Goth, Kate, as it tends to fall in line with the fact that she was an attention seeker anyways. This is noted more when she isn’t there and all the characters are talking about her anyways. I can’t say I particularly liked Kate as she was the chain smoker, the “I must have an alcoholic drink” blah blah blah. I struggled to feel any empathy for her, for her troubles, for her life – even when she was being attacked for being a Goth, for being slandered – simply because she wasn’t interesting enough. It’s like the author took the character, decided to make her a “Goth” because she dressed in black and did the makeup, then took [what I think is] some stereotypical “Goth” problems and that was Kate. Attention seeker all round. [I don’t like attention seekers]. There wasn’t even a redeeming feature to her character, something to make her more in line with reality.
Written in first person, the main character Peter, describes his antics through that year at the polytechnic [do they still exist?] as he goes on his access course to get into university. Peter is gay, and seemingly fancies every boy he comes across, except the boy in their group, who naturally fancies him. A bit of unrequited love it seems like. Derek seemed like the most sensible and level headed of the group, so finding out what he did at the end was a bit disappointing.
Despite my issues with the characters the book itself did touch upon some issues that are still prevalent in today’s society. I mentioned earlier that Kate the Goth attracted a lot of hatred simply because of her supposed subculture, this is still something that happens in society today, in fact Manchester Police force has notion that hatred against subcultures, such a Goth’s, is the same as racial hatred – i.e. it should be pursued in the same way the police deal with racial hatred. For the most part I think that this is a good idea, although I think there is a line between what could be called “hatred” and pure bullying.
Other issues that arise in the book is through Sophie and her self-harming. This is something that society I think has failed to address. I know several people throughout my life that have been self harmers, and I cannot even claim to try to understand the need to carry out the mutilation on your skin, the release or anything that goes with it, but I like that the fact that instead of this girl simply having this issue, that she actually starts to do something to address the issue. [She is also something of a nympho, and a drug addict something that she also begins to address, and her ending is one of two that is left open].
I mentioned earlier that there was one part that I enjoyed the most throughout this book. As I was reading away last night, the characters had decided to go to the funfair after their final performance of their play. This is shortly after Sophie had begun attending counselling for her issues, and as such she had gained a slightly different, more assertive personality. The only reason she wanted to go to the funfair was to go and see the fortune teller. Kate didn’t want to go at all because she was terrified of clowns, and the others convinced her there wouldn’t be any there. And there weren’t. As they walked into the fair they go past the coconut shy and hover around there for some reason. Kate, shortly after passes out – and it’s revealed that Sophie took them that particular way because of the clown cut out above the coconut shy.
That bit isn’t the bit that had tears streaming down my face in laughter though. Derek, the sensible one, is arranging Kate into a funeral pose. Being all “Goth” clearly got to him, and whilst everyone is focused on Sophie and realising what’s she has done, Derek “the normal one” is being completely ridiculous and even starts arranging Kate’s hair into a halo. They manage to bring her round with alcohol, and the story continues.
I think it’s just how this whole section is written that had me sitting there literally tears streaming down my face laughing away. I think my parents thought I was having some kind of fit or breakdown or something.
Anyway, if you want a laugh, and the metaphorical taste of cigarette smoke and ash in your mouth from all the chain smoking, give this book a read. It’s not a long book either, so really not taking a great deal of time read either.
Take it easy folks!
[Small edit in title correcting spelling of the author’s name! Sorry!]