“I’d run away to Hollywood to write movies. Unfortunately people who were good at writing movies got there first, so instead of writing Casablanca I found myself writing about what a fantastic bloke Ashton Kutcher was. Worse, I was by trade a comedy writer, trained to say the most inappropriate thing possible; now the reflex had mutated into some kind of cultural Tourette’s, and I was scared, because sooner or later I was going to explode all over Paris Hilton.”
“Except, as I’d learned over the years from talking to endless celebrities, fame arrests social development at the exact age it strikes. It’s not the celebrity’s fault; Britney is doing pretty well for an 11-year-old left in the care of pharmaceutical giants and K-Fed’s winkle. Michael Jackson was completely normal for a five-year-old who loved pajama parties. On the reverse side, George Clooney famously slogged through twenty-odd guest roles, including ‘Lip-synching Transvestite’, before hitting it big with ER, so he’ll be a graceful thirty-something for the rest of his days.”
“Museveni, the poor bastard, had his fair share of problems, what with poverty and AIDS-6.4% of Ugandan women were trotting round full of HIV. Luckily Museveni got budget support from Britain and America, probably as a thank you present for not being Robert Mugabe.”
“There were 150 people flopping around and one young doctor walking among them. House had more drugs in his urine than this guy had in his medicine cabinet.”
A Journey to the Dark Heart of Nameless Unspeakable Evil is the true story of bitter British comedy writer Jane Bussmann’s departure from her job interviewing celebrities in Hollywood, in order to try her hand as a foreign correspondent (and win the heart of peacemaker John Prendergast) in war torn Uganda. This book was originally published in the UK as The Worst Date Ever, and is now being brought over to us in North America under a different title. Amazon says it will be available to purchase on May 13th of this year.
As she says in her book, it’s Bridget Jones’ Diary meets Private Benjamin meets The Devil Wears Prada meets Out of Africa and The Constant Gardner. I’m not going to lie, it’s a weird genre to wrap your head around. I chose to read this book because I was genuinely curious; with all the initial reviews describing its hilarity, I couldn’t imagine how one could report on Kony and the disgusting atrocities facing Uganda right now, and be funny about it.
While I will admit that yes, I did laugh out loud a few times, it was really only at the beginning of the novel when the author’s focus is on poking fun at celebrities and Hollywood. Even then the laughs were limited as whenever I hear someone whine and complain about an opportunity they should be grateful for, I can’t help but tune them out. After she reaches Uganda I didn’t really laugh at all. Even during the breaks where she wasn’t interviewing abandoned children or rape victims and was instead trying to make light of a lack of toilet paper or her maxed out credit cards, I couldn’t really find the humor. How could I laugh at her complaining about a temporary living situation in a war-torn country, when at the end of it all she is able to hop a British Airways flight home and escape it, leaving behind the people that are forced to live like that without a way out? Cognitive dissonance apparently. It made me feel a little sick to be honest.
I commend Jane Bussmann for wanting to make a difference, and shining a light on several challenges Uganda is trying to overcome in a way that makes it more approachable for the layman than the often heavy and micro-focused articles featured in political publications. Perhaps it is because I am already fairly familiar with Ugandan atrocities that I couldn’t find the humor in this novel, but if you’re still really in the dark about Joseph Kony and the LRA then perhaps this is actually a good way to begin your learning. I think the most upsetting thing about this book is that its British counterpart was originally published in 2009. Here we are five years later and the situation in Uganda has changed so little that the author didn’t need to adjust it at all before its North American publication.
While I would have to say I disliked it, I would still recommend it for someone who knows nothing about the current situation in Uganda.
Until next time,