Living a life of vice

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Have you ever been stuck for a good book to read, settled for a magazine instead and been horrified by the inane articles written for your entertainment? Then The World According to Vice is certainly the thing for you. Written in the introductions to the Interrogations (i.e. interviews) section of the book is”‘we hate this facile world and hope that you do too” and even comes with a warning that it “contains no interviews with girl-band members, in-the-closet gay boy-band members, or prostitutes that had sex with a footballer once”. How refreshing.

© Canongate Books

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The World According to Vice
Hardcover
Nov 4, 2010
Canongate Books
£10 from Amazon

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Vice magazine began in America in 1994, originally named The Voice of Montreal and funded by the State. Eventually becoming privately owned and known as Vice in 1996, the magazine really took off, and came to Britain eight years ago. The World According to Vice is a celebration of the magazine, manifested in a collection of some of the best articles to have appeared over the years.

My personal highlights were definitely The Vice Guide to University, a section available online and that I would definitely recommend. Though the you-are-going-to-end-up-in-massive-debt point is somewhat laboured, they really take a no-nonsense approach to the whole subject. Another especially compelling article was New Frontiers of Society – Being Anti-high Feels Anti-good, an article dedicated to Hamilton Morris taking three anti-drugs and documenting the effects. The article is funny, well-written and interesting, much like the rest of the book. It even ends with a little philosophical thinking: “All that is loved is loved by contrast…We can’t know the high without feeling the low.” Finally the Blacks VS Whites: Who Can Drink More piece was witty, unbiased and, though not entirely scientifically accurate, there was no sense of worry about coming across as racist or un-pc. Again, how refreshing.

The aforementioned no-nonsense approach taken in the university guide is maintained throughout, from articles about mental instability and psychosis to tales of terrorism in various places. Add more than a hint of irony, comments about their own drug addictions by the journalists and one article focused on a bizarre Nigerian film (seriously, look up 666, Nigeria, Vice on youtube.com. You won’t be disappointed.) and you basically have Vice magazine.

Appealing in so many ways, this book of the best bits is perfect, right? Well, not entirely. Though I maintain that the book is worth a read and will maybe even turn you on to subscribing to the magazine itself, disappointment manifested itself in some of the articles that came across as just too pretentious.

Well, perhaps it’s not entirely true of the whole book, rather the grilling of celebrities in the final section. Yes, they despise the celebrity culture based on vacuous beings such as Paris Hilton, but were their choices of celebrity much better? Was it wrong of them to mock people for wanting to read about girl-band members, when they were falling over themselves to suck up to Elmore Leonard and David Lynch? Though their choice of celebrity was perhaps more noble and based on actual merit rather than good looks and money, I can’t help but think that I would skip that part of the magazine, as I was tempted to in the book. Stick to the amusing and thought-provoking articles and The World According to Vice really is one of those books that fit the cliché you won’t want to put it down.

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