Book Festival Review
Baillie Gifford Tent
**** (Four Stars)
Ruby Wax appeared at the book festival to promote her fourth book ‘How to be Human: The Manual’ published by Penguin Random House. After her last release ‘A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled’ she vowed never to write another book as it was ‘worse than giving birth’ which she likened to ‘passing the state of Texas through your vagina.’
This new book follows on from ‘Frazzled’ and was written with the help of a monk Gelong Thubten and neuroscientist Ashish Ranpura who contributed to every chapter. I enjoyed Frazzled and haven’t stopped recommending it, but I like the balance of this new book. It takes a more in-depth look at mental heath and what happens in the brain when we are stressed or depressed. It is still very accessible and of course hilarious in parts. Ruby writes the way she speaks and elicits a laugh on almost every page.
I was intrigued to see how Ruby Wax would come across at the book festival. Known for her close-to-the-bone comedy, I was hoping she would shake up the usual seriousness of those events. I was not disappointed. At one point during the event, sirens sounded in the street outside the Baillie Gifford tent. Ruby announced, ‘I have a mental issue’ then got up and began walking towards the exit, saying ‘They’re coming to take me away now!’ to uproarious laughter and hearty applause.
As well as the book, Wax spoke about her recent experience of appearing on ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ When she was contacted by the programme she had to give a lot of family information and memorabilia that was found in her attic. It all came as a bit of a surprise, she said ‘Nobody told me I had relatives, I didn’t even know I had an attic.’
She kept hoping to discover a relative who had been an actor as so far, she was the only one in her family lineage she knew of. Instead, she kept coming across people who were ‘insane’. Both her great aunt, and great-great aunt spent a large amount of their lives institutionalised in insane asylums (as they were called then).
The producer of the show took her to visit one of the asylums, expecting Wax to be saddened by the experience. She said ‘They expected me to cry but they didn’t know this is my happy place. Love the food, the people, the atmosphere.’
On finding that her great-great aunt Olga did not have a gravestone, Ruby had a ‘gigantic tombstone’ put in place. She wanted to show she was proud of her family. I’m sure there was a ‘fuck you’ in there but I don’t want to quote her directly in case I got it wrong.
Chair Jackie McGlore went with the flow and didn’t try to impose restrictions on the comedian, only gently bringing her back on track when she went off on a tangent. Whilst this was a lively and fun event, for me Ruby shines most when she owns the stage, she is at her most entertaining and brilliant when allowed free reign.
You can see Ruby Wax in ‘Frazzled’ the sell-out show which has returned for the last week of the Fringe. On at 4pm every day at The Pleasance Courtyard. I reviewed it last year and gave her a well-deserved five stars. Last show is on Sunday 26th August.