Literature / I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan
— or, to give the full title, I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan
— is a chronicle of the life of broadcasting legend Alan Partridge
, as written by the man himselfnote
and released in 2011. The autobiography accurately
chronicles Partridge's glorious
career from humble and difficult Norfolk beginnings surrounded by bullying schoolmates whose torments he is now completely over and towards whom he holds no grudges whatsoever
and monstrously Abusive Parents whose cruelty he is not simply exaggerating or outright making up in order to make his childhood seem more edgy and interesting
. From this, he charts an early career as a reporter in local radio which led to the heights of to an ill-fated career at The BBC
as a radio and television sports commentator and chat show host, which came to a premature end mainly thanks to the spite and jealousy of people who just didn't get him or his amazing abilities (and only a little bit due to the fact that his show was rubbish
, he accidentally shot a guest dead live on air and then punched his boss during the follow-up Christmas special
). Partridge then soberly reflects on his divorce from his unfaithful wife and his descent into Toblerone addiction
, before ending with his triumphant return to his local radio roots where he is completely happy and content, with absolutely no desire to get back on television whatsoever
Okay, okay, seriously
now, it's a parody of nakedly self-serving and egotistical entertainment autobiographies, based on the popular British comedy character Alan Partridge. Written by his creators (including Armando Iannucci and Steve Coogan, the actor who portrays him), the book tells Partridge's life and backstory from his perspective, fleshing out the character's backstory and acting as a Perspective Flip
on significant moments from Partridge's various appearances on radio and television shows such as The Day Today
, Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge
and I'm Alan Partridge
. The book thus makes heavy use of the Unreliable Narrator
, as the dedicated viewer (or even not-so-dedicated viewer, really) of these shows will notice that there are many significant differences between them versus how Partridge retroactively presents himself when looking back on them.
The book received a follow-up, Nomad
, in 2016. Once again a parody of celebrity-related literature — this time celebrity travelogues, specifically ones which hinge on some kind of narrative gimmick — this time it involves Alan, after discovering a box of his father's old belongings in his attic, deciding to recreate a journey his father once took from Norwich to the nuclear power planet at Dungeness in Kent for a job interview. This, naturally, leads to all kinds of chaos for Alan, a chance for him to reflect in a rather self-serving fashion on his past, and the (very remote) possibility of a television spin-off that he doesn't care about being made in the slightest
I, Partridge provides examples of:
- Abusive Parents: While it's likely that Mr. and Mrs. Partridge were not the best parents if the way their son turned out is anything to go by, Alan is clearly exaggerating just how abusive they were. It's not just because he's cynically trying to tap into the 'misery-lit' market, though.
- Bad Boss: Although he tries to cast himself as (and seems to genuinely believe himself to be) a Benevolent Boss, even if you've never seen the TV show it's quite clear that Alan is an inept, stingy, bullying and thoughtless boss to his assistant. His employees at his production company don't appear to have come off any better either.
- Bad Liar: Although the book works better if you've seen Partridge's previous appearances (in Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge and I'm Alan Partridge especially), even if you haven't it's still immediately clear that Partridge is shamelessly and feebly trying to make himself look better than he in fact was.
- Blatant Lies: About 33% of the book is Partridge rewriting the past to make himself look good. Another 33% of the book is Partridge, where even he can't get away with doing the former, insisting that he's fine with how things turned out even if they turned out completely disastrously. And the rest is Alan being a blinkered, self-obsessed and moronic Jerkass.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Some of the photos in the insert have captions supplied by the photo agency they were purchased from, so that, for one example, a photo of Alan "addressing a room of teenagers at an event promoting careers in the Norfolk media" is labeled as Steve Coogan appearing in-character at the Brit Awards. At least Alan's performance with Elton John at the British Comedy Awards has an in-universe explanation.
- Brick Joke: The beginning of the novel has Alan complaining about how the publishers wouldn't fork out to produce a CD of tracks to listen to during reading. Later in the novel, Alan demonstrates that he appears to have absolutely no understanding of the concept of music royalties. Securing the royalties for all the songs on his track-list would have been prohibitively expensive.
- Broad Strokes: The book treats On The Hour and The Day Today with this; it's established that Alan worked as a sports reporter for these shows, and some of the other main characters are mentioned, but the more surreal and absurdist elements of both shows are downplayed as they look increasingly out of place in the more naturalistic (if still comedic and absurd) world that Alan has gradually come to inhabit.
- Butt-Monkey: Alan's assistant Lynn. Apparently, I'm Alan Partridge actually downplays just what a huge bell-end he is towards her. To add insult to injury, he doesn't even refer to her by name throughout the entire book (although she is given a cursory mention in the acknowledgements).
- Captain Obvious: Alan is constantly spelling out blindingly obvious points, facts, and lessons to his reader in a way that makes him seem both condescending and stupid.
- Catch-Phrase: Alan discusses the origins (such as they are) of his chat-show bellow "Ah-HAAAA!", while simultaneously not-so-convincingly claiming that it hasn't become an albatross around his neck and that he's perfectly okay with people yelling it at him to try and get a rise out of him. He also ends many a gloating anecdote which ends with him on top after a confrontation with someone else with "Needless to say, I had the last laugh."
- Comically Missing the Point: Alan, constantly.
- It takes him an absurd amount of time sifting through mind-bogglingly obvious clues — including people outright telling him — to figure out that his wife is having an affair with her fitness instructor.
- The book continues a Running Gag from the series where Alan completely fails to get the point of various pop songs, even when it's really obvious. To wit, as part of the reading experience, he includes a track-list at the back with various songs that are to be played when reading several key moments from his life. Several of these songs are ill-chosen at best.
- In discussing Knowing Me, Knowing You, he comments that Tony Hayers sent him various notes about the show after the first episode aired — and then, when they were ignored, sent the same notes week after week. Then, when the notes stopped coming, Alan concluded that it must be because he's doing such a good job.
- He describes a moment early on in his career where he happens to find himself seated on a train opposite a young veteran who has lost his leg. This is around about the time of Gulf War 1, and after a few moments, the carriage bursts out into spontaneous applause. In a perfect illustration of his self-absorbed vanity, it takes Alan a week to realize that the applause wasn't for him.
- What really makes this stand out is that it's probably the most self-awareness he displays in the entire book.
- In general, he tends to react to people laughing at him behind his back or displaying their dislike for him either by assuming they're just amazed and impressed by how brilliant he is or completely misunderstanding why they might possibly dislike him.
- He titles the chapter about his encounter with a stalker (which itself he embellishes as an action-movie fight, when he just ran away) "Proof That the Public Loved Me."
- It's hard to tell whether he genuinely believes that his radio station going from the FM, region-spanning Radio Norwich to the digital-only, region-very-specific North Norfolk Digital is a good thing, or whether he's just putting on a brave face. Either is possible.
- Daddy And Husband Had A Good Reason For Abandoning You: Subverted; Alan is clearly not a very good husband to his wife or father to his children (and in particular treats his daughter as something of an afterthought), but his only justification for this is that he was trying to build a television career. Of course, in his mind, that's a perfectly good reason. He also includes a self-written letter purportedly from his wife (or at she at least allegedly agreed to being publishednote ) which basically absolves him of blame on this score for these very reasons.
- Defictionalisation: It closely resembles Alan's autobiography 'Bouncing Back' which appeared prominently in Series 2 but was never produced in real life. Most likely, it was released due to fan demand for the defictionalisation of Bouncing Back. There's a nod to this in the book, with a footnote that suggests that Alan at one point tried to self-plagiarise large slabs from Bouncing Back to avoid having to write new material.
- Don't Explain the Joke: Alan will often explain to the reader that he's using a particular technique in order to get a particular reaction, which consequently ruins both.
- Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: An in-universe example. Alan is constantly reading way too much into not just what people say, but how they say it, the way they shake hands, nod their heads, and so forth. In many cases, it's clearly a desperate attempt to latch on to even the smallest sign, no matter how tenuous, that the person he's talking to likes him, thinks he's the best thing ever, wants to make a television show with him in it, and so forth.
- Footnote Fever: Alan suffers a very bad case of this.
- Freudian Excuse: Played with. Alan's status as an Unreliable Narrator means that it's hard to determine precisely how much of his recounting of his unhappy childhood can be taken at face value, but even allowing for his exaggeration and Blatant Lies he does appear to have been rather starved of affection as a child. His relationship with his father appears to have been a bit tense (although the man was probably not as abusive as he makes out) and it seems that he genuinely did both have difficulty making friends and suffered a lot of bullying as a boy.
- Hypocritical Humour: A significant part of the book:
- One chapter focusses on the time he shot Forbes McAllister dead live on air during an interview. At the beginning, he asserts that he has to take full and complete responsibility for what happened and how he can't just dismiss it. Every single word of the chapter from that point on is him either pointing out reasons why it's not his fault or reasons why it was on the whole probably a good thing that Forbes McAllister died.
- Alan also tends to reverse his opinions back and forth throughout the novel, sometimes within the same chapter or even within a few paragraphs of each other. In particular, his opinion on the BBC and whether or not he'd like to work there tends to fluctuate depending on whether or not he's dealing with a section of his life where the BBC has bruised his ego in some way (usually by quite rightfully denying him television work).
- Irony: A meta-example. At the beginning of the chapter dealing with his life after the collapse of his TV show and his marriage, he remarks that not a lot of people know that he once lived in a travel tavern for over six months. Of course, the reader probably knows all about this since they've likely seen it on television.
- Jerkass: Alan.
- No Sympathy for Grudgeholders: Invoked. While Alan appears to have genuine reasons to feel bitter towards his childhood bullies, the fact that he apparently continues to borderline-stalk them fifty years on and clearly, despite his denials, obsessively compares his life and theirs rather than just moving on with his life does not reflect particularly well on him.
- Noodle Incident: Alan is very cagey about the exact circumstances of his mother's passing, which required a coroner's inquest, a closed-casket funeral and some soul-searching about what exactly she liked to get up to in her private life.
- Perspective Flip: The book retells several key points from Alan's life from his point of view. They are accordingly distorted.
- Pet the Dog: There are a few — very few — moments which suggest a slightly less dickish side to Alan. As an example, after all the trouble that he and Glen Ponder had in Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge the two have apparently buried the hatchet and become friends, albeit with Alan's usual ineptness when it comes to friendship.
- Plagiarism in Fiction: At one point, Alan copies huge chunks of the Wikipedia article on frequency modulation. He also appears to have tried self-plagiarism by shoving in large sections of his book Bouncing Back from I'm Alan Partridge when discussing his Toblerone addiction.
- Running Gag:
- Whenever Alan has a new show, he systematically wants to call it "Alan's Show", before being told by his bosses that it's a bad idea.
- In the audiobook version, whenever Alan mentions his show on North Norfolk Digital he tries to plug the show by throwing in the show's tagline (North Norfolk's best music mix!), but keeps forgetting to add the 'North' and having to correct himself.
- He's clearly very fond / proud of a metaphor he comes up with regarding his thoughts tumbling "like a pair of sneakers in a washing machine", since he keeps referring back to it.
- Serious Business: Alan treats and tries to depict his over-indulgence on Toblerones following the total collapse of his career as if it were a gritty heroin addiction rather than the minor eating disorder it so clearly was.
- Slow Clap: In Alan's retelling, his final meeting with Tony Hayers in which he is informed that he's not getting a second series of his chat show ends with him delivering a withering put-down to Tony and exiting the BBC restaurant to thunderous applause of this nature from everyone around him "like in a really good movie". In reality it ended with him throwing a tantrum, assaulting Tony with a block of cheese he'd impaled on a fork and running out screeching, while everyone around him watched in bemusement.
- Smug Snake: Alan.
- Stalker With a Crush: At one point Partridge mentions that after his divorce he spent a lot of time eating his lunch outside the gym where his wife had an affair with her fitness instructor. He apparently failed to notice anything creepy about this.
- Stalker Without a Crush: Despite his repeated insistance that he's completely over the torment he got from his childhood bullies and has "forgotten all about it", Partridge seems to know a remarkable amount about where they live (one of the photos in the book is of a semi-detached house "much like the one my childhood nemesis Steven McCombe lives in", and he mentions a confrontation with the wife of one of them after 'coincidentally' stopping outside their house), what they do for a living, who they're married to, and even in some cases their ability to drive.
- Stylistic Suck: Alan constantly loses his train of thought, switches between tenses and writing styles, explains what he's doing to the reader as he's doing it, latches on to trivial and insignificant details while completely ignoring the main point of what he's supposed to be talking about, introduces irrelevant tangents solely to boost up his word count, interrupts his narrative because he's remembered something he should have mentioned earlier, and so forth. His editors don't seem to have been that great either, since he's left in large notes for them to check something which have been ignored and left in.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: When Partridge isn't coming up with Blatant Lies, he's offering preemptive denials for why what happened either didn't happen or doesn't make him a bad person if it did.
- Unreliable Narrator: To a truly jaw-dropping degree if you're familiar with the TV series. To hear Partridge tell it, humiliating disasters and embarrassments become glorious triumphs and moral victories.
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: The book manages the achievement of making Alan seem worse than he does on TV (which is really saying something). His every desperate attempt to convince the reader that he's a likeable and sympathetic guy will usually just further convince them of how utterly loathsome and repellent he truly is.
Nomad provides examples of:
- Blatant Lies: Once again, Alan does not appear to be a trustworthy account of his experiences. In one chapter, he has a conversation with a homeless man who, despite apparently not being very familiar with television to the extent of having never heard of the The One Show, suddenly becomes an expert on behind-the-scenes production (including terminology such as "proof-of-concept") when discussing whether Alan's experiences are worth making into a television show.
- Captain Obvious Aesop: An in-universe example, played for laughs; Alan opens the book by explaining to the reader at length why walking is useful, as if there's anyone out there arguing otherwise.
- Comically Missing the Point: Alan's whole journey in the novel is made of this. When informed that most Travelogue Shows are built around some kind of historically or personally significant journey for the host, he comes up with a journey to an unsuccessful job interview his dad once made. He decides to turn it into a walk when naturally his dad drove there, meaning that a journey that took only a handful of hours originally ends up taking two weeks. When preparing, he decides to go swimming for exercise instead of walking because he hates walking, and buys a ridiculously and impractically large camping rucksack for a minor walking journey when he's planning on staying in bed-and-breakfasts anyway. And so on.
- The Determinator: Played with. Alan is determined to see out his trip come what may, but only because he's deluded himself into thinking he can spin it into a lucrative TV and book contract with associated merchandising. Once even he is forced to accept that this isn't going to happen, and has suffered both an unnecessary 120 mile diversion to Gatwick Airport and a cut on his foot from broken glass that is becoming increasingly infected, he's clearly having second thoughts but forces himself to persevere. However, he only keeps going because he realises that, having boasted about it to everyone he knew, they're now expecting him to complete it and he'll be even more of a laughing stock if he gives up.
- Running Gag: Alan spitefully abusing TripAdvisor to attack the owners of the bed-and-breakfasts that he stays in whenever they do anything to annoy him.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: It should come as no surprise that Alan's walk eventually ends up as this. After his desperation to meet up with Harvey Kennedy Alan eventually ends up getting drunk beforehand and humiliates himself, meaning that his walk is decisively not going to end up on television (not that it was to begin with), and although he eventually does manage to make it to the perimeter fence of the nuclear power plant, he finally collapses due to his injured foot before he can make it all the way.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: As with the previous book, there are buckets of this trope. In particular, Alan certainly isn't just doing this walk as a cynical and thinly-veiled attempt to recapture the limelight by spinning it into a six-episode mini-series shown on BBC 1 with an accompanying book deal and merchandising, and he honestly just wishes you'd let it go (despite the fact that he's the only one who ever brings it up). He's also not bothered in the least that high-powered agent Harvey Kennedy won't return his calls on the subject, and only takes a 120 mile diversion off his route to first try to visit his house and then ambush him at Gatwick Airport because it's convenient. And, of course, he's naturally entirely happy with his trip/life in general despite how dismal and disastrous it is.
- Travelogue Show: The book itself revolves around "Footsteps of My Father", an attempt by Alan to recreate a journey his father once took for a job interview as a walk, with the barely-concealed despite-his-protests longing to have the BBC make it into one of these.
- Unreliable Narrator: Once again, Alan proves a less-than-trustworthy source on the subject of his life and past.
- Wisdom from the Gutter: At a low point, Alan meets Brian, a homeless man who apparently gives him morale support. And then nicks all Alan's stuff once he falls asleep.