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Redmond O'Hanlon is known as an amiable anti-hero - the debunker of classical exploration literature - and here on this joint road trip with journalist Rudi Rotthier, O'Hanlon visits places from his dark childhood. With a fine sense of the comic and beautifully rendered observations of the people they encounter, Rotthier excels in painting a portrait of this English author Redmond O'Hanlon is known as an amiable anti-hero - the debunker of classical exploration literature - and here on this joint road trip with journalist Rudi Rotthier, O'Hanlon visits places from his dark childhood. With a fine sense of the comic and beautifully rendered observations of the people they encounter, Rotthier excels in painting a portrait of this English author as he details the escapades of their journey. O'Hanlon provides a stream of jokey anecdotes which offset the bleakness of almost all his memories as do their conversations on God, Darwin and nature. Plagued by depression and scarred by his childhood and sadistic teachers, O'Hanlon drinks excessively, pops caffeine and nicotine pills. One of his most important possessions is a jar containing some of the charred remains of a close friend who committed suicide. In his house in Oxfordshire piles of books have spilled over tables and shelves and tottering mounds of dirty crockery obscure the sink. Yet, unlikely as it may seem, this is a remarkably light-hearted, sensitive and funny book.


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Redmond O'Hanlon is known as an amiable anti-hero - the debunker of classical exploration literature - and here on this joint road trip with journalist Rudi Rotthier, O'Hanlon visits places from his dark childhood. With a fine sense of the comic and beautifully rendered observations of the people they encounter, Rotthier excels in painting a portrait of this English author Redmond O'Hanlon is known as an amiable anti-hero - the debunker of classical exploration literature - and here on this joint road trip with journalist Rudi Rotthier, O'Hanlon visits places from his dark childhood. With a fine sense of the comic and beautifully rendered observations of the people they encounter, Rotthier excels in painting a portrait of this English author as he details the escapades of their journey. O'Hanlon provides a stream of jokey anecdotes which offset the bleakness of almost all his memories as do their conversations on God, Darwin and nature. Plagued by depression and scarred by his childhood and sadistic teachers, O'Hanlon drinks excessively, pops caffeine and nicotine pills. One of his most important possessions is a jar containing some of the charred remains of a close friend who committed suicide. In his house in Oxfordshire piles of books have spilled over tables and shelves and tottering mounds of dirty crockery obscure the sink. Yet, unlikely as it may seem, this is a remarkably light-hearted, sensitive and funny book.

30 review for The Fetish Room: The Education of a Naturalist

  1. 4 out of 5

    Boyd

    I'm a big Redmond O'Hanlon fan, so I was predisposed to like THE FETISH ROOM before I even read it. Now having done so, I found that it wildly exceeded my expectations. Imagine a hybrid of BOSWELL'S LIFE OF JOHNSON and FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS. This is that book. In something of a departure from the norm, the idea for the project was hatched by a couple of Dutch publishers. In a stroke of inspiration, they engaged travel writer Rudi Rotthier to journey around England with the famously lunat I'm a big Redmond O'Hanlon fan, so I was predisposed to like THE FETISH ROOM before I even read it. Now having done so, I found that it wildly exceeded my expectations. Imagine a hybrid of BOSWELL'S LIFE OF JOHNSON and FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS. This is that book. In something of a departure from the norm, the idea for the project was hatched by a couple of Dutch publishers. In a stroke of inspiration, they engaged travel writer Rudi Rotthier to journey around England with the famously lunatic O'Hanlon, who has recounted his very funny, ill-advised, and generally preposterous adventures in such travel classics as INTO THE HEART OF BORNEO, TRAWLER, and IN TROUBLE AGAIN. Once on the road, the two men drop in on a number of sites of significance in O'Hanlon's past, with Rotthier doggedly interviewing his companion throughout, and consequently unleashing a tidal wave of stories. Perhaps some of them are even true. As a writer Rotthier is no slouch himself: the portrait of O'Hanlon that emerges from his bone-dry account is nearly as entertaining as O'Hanlon's own writings--and also, sometimes, unexpectedly sad. It can't be said that O'Hanlon's childhood was a happy one, though he has a marvelous way of spinning even the bleak bits, as when he tells Rotthier, " A few years ago I was seeing doctors and therapists and someone asked me what went through my mind when I contemplated the death of my mother, who was still alive at the time. I said, 'I know where I can rent a .45 Magnum and I would buy two magazines of bullets. I would stand at her grave, holding the gun with both hands--because it's quite heavy--and empty the two magazines into the grave to make sure that she had really snuffed it.'" If you don't find that passage funny--and many won't--this is probably not the book for you. If you do, however, I would be very surprised if you weren't completely smitten. I'm still laughing as I think about it now.

  2. 5 out of 5

    John

    Like the previous reviewer, I'm also a fan of O'Hanlon's books, although 'Trawler' is not (in my view) as good as his jungle books. I have a prized possession - a copy of the 'Borneo' book signed by O'Hanlon, not in a bookshop signing, but as a gift to a friend (an ungrateful friend, evidently, who sent it to the old Dillons bookshop in London for their second-hand shelves, where I picked it up). But although I quite enjoyed The Fetish Room I can't say it lived up to expectations. As someone who Like the previous reviewer, I'm also a fan of O'Hanlon's books, although 'Trawler' is not (in my view) as good as his jungle books. I have a prized possession - a copy of the 'Borneo' book signed by O'Hanlon, not in a bookshop signing, but as a gift to a friend (an ungrateful friend, evidently, who sent it to the old Dillons bookshop in London for their second-hand shelves, where I picked it up). But although I quite enjoyed The Fetish Room I can't say it lived up to expectations. As someone who does a lot of editing, it was difficult to get over the irritation caused by the erratic use of quote marks, so it was never quite clear who was speaking/writing of the two 'authors'. I must admit to losing patience sometimes with O'Hanlon too. His whimsical, meandering ways are enjoyable when he is describing one of his own journeys, but less so when they are being described by someone else. Nevertheless there are some good laugh-out-loud moments. I particualrly liked his story about the time he offered to clean out a henhouse, to ingratiate himself with the owner (his girlfriend's father, I think). He discovered it was so deep in chicken shit that the chickens 'banged their heads on the ceiling' as they walked around, and the stink was so powerful it even deterred rats. OK - enjoyable - but nowhere near as memorable as the best of O'Hanlon himself.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Veronica

    This one's for confirmed fans of great British eccentric and traveller Redmond O'Hanlon. We enjoyed it; it gives a good insight into the rather dysfunctional childhood that made O'Hanlon who he is. It's clear that the lifelong effects have left him fragile and prone to depression, which makes his adventures all the more remarkable. If you don't know his work, I highly recommend it. It's not just Boy's Own-style adventures; he's also a very skilled writer who knows how to compose for maximum effe This one's for confirmed fans of great British eccentric and traveller Redmond O'Hanlon. We enjoyed it; it gives a good insight into the rather dysfunctional childhood that made O'Hanlon who he is. It's clear that the lifelong effects have left him fragile and prone to depression, which makes his adventures all the more remarkable. If you don't know his work, I highly recommend it. It's not just Boy's Own-style adventures; he's also a very skilled writer who knows how to compose for maximum effect.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    I am one more slightly rabid fan of R.O'H., so this review is of course prejudiced from its start. Still, not what I expected; and yet better in some ways. Rotthier scribed this in a unique approach I found highly enjoyable, and the frankness of this small look into O'Hanlon's life and times was delightful. I wanted more, at the end, which seems better than being glad it was done. This is more to the "home-boy" side of O'Hanlon, not so much about his Adventurer persona, and this may be other than I am one more slightly rabid fan of R.O'H., so this review is of course prejudiced from its start. Still, not what I expected; and yet better in some ways. Rotthier scribed this in a unique approach I found highly enjoyable, and the frankness of this small look into O'Hanlon's life and times was delightful. I wanted more, at the end, which seems better than being glad it was done. This is more to the "home-boy" side of O'Hanlon, not so much about his Adventurer persona, and this may be other than what some might have hoped for or expected.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Torsten Wiedemann

    This book is awesome! Redmond O'Hanlon talks about his life, his family life, his travels, his books, his drinking, his depression, about science, his past, his childhood and his fetisj-room.

  6. 4 out of 5

    K.R. Valgaeren

    In dit boek reist Rudi Rotthier tien dagen door Engeland met Redmond O'Hanlon: de laatste humanist op aarde met een obsessie voor negentiende-eeuwse wetenschappers en avonturiers. O'Hanlon is zonder meer een van de meest fascinerende figuren die ik de laatste jaren op papier en via de televisie heb leren kennen. Hilarisch en tragisch tegelijk. Soms een beetje slordig geschreven, maar een heerlijk document over deze nog levende professor Gobelijn. Wie meer over O'Hanlon te weten wil komen, moet a In dit boek reist Rudi Rotthier tien dagen door Engeland met Redmond O'Hanlon: de laatste humanist op aarde met een obsessie voor negentiende-eeuwse wetenschappers en avonturiers. O'Hanlon is zonder meer een van de meest fascinerende figuren die ik de laatste jaren op papier en via de televisie heb leren kennen. Hilarisch en tragisch tegelijk. Soms een beetje slordig geschreven, maar een heerlijk document over deze nog levende professor Gobelijn. Wie meer over O'Hanlon te weten wil komen, moet absoluut zijn reisverslagen lezen, naar 'Beagle: in het kielzog van Darwin' kijken of naar de recente reeks van de VPRO 'O'Hanlons helden'.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Raey

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 很喜欢Redsi这个典型的英国角色,期待读他的自认为是masterpiece的Congo Journey和TLS上他的自然史的beat.书中很多小玻璃珠子一样的幽默聪明的句子,绝对值得再读一遍。

  8. 5 out of 5

    Karan Singh

    Hanlon is an old-school English explorer: eccentric, brilliant, scatty, repressed, deeply in love with nature, and grumpy. This memoir has inspired me to read his books.

  9. 5 out of 5

    John Radigan

  10. 5 out of 5

    Olivier De Clerck

  11. 5 out of 5

    Fred Motson

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jan Vernieuwe

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bruno

  14. 4 out of 5

    Stefaan

  15. 4 out of 5

    Joke

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jay

  17. 4 out of 5

    Stockfish

  18. 4 out of 5

    Actoris

  19. 5 out of 5

    Readrdead

  20. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  21. 5 out of 5

    John Donne

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ron

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chris Myatt

  24. 4 out of 5

    Vincent

  25. 5 out of 5

    Margreet Heer

  26. 5 out of 5

    Donna Stone

  27. 4 out of 5

    Simon

  28. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mirjam Van der kooij

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn

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