If you’re an only child, congratulations – you’ve done well. Siblings are an unending shitstorm of abuse and embarrassment. That’s the case even when your brothers and sisters are vastly inferior to you, as in my case.
Don’t be dick, Pete is Guardian journalist Stuart Heritage’s article of impeachment against his younger brother. It lists an impressive number of complaints against a sibling, who does – I must admit – sound like a bloody nightmare. Where the author is quiet, creative and reserved (he says), Pete is loud, relentless and obsessed with “tiddies.”
Like the older Heritage, I too am an almost perfect son with substandard siblings. Although, if anything, my situation is worse than his. I have two brothers, rather than one, and their shenanigans are far more destructive than those of Pete. One accidentally roasted a neighbour’s Guinea Pig. The other likes Dire Straits.
But I was still unsure about the book to begin with. The premise seemed a shallow one. Would it just descend into a series of constructed set-pieces, designed to string out a limited idea?
The answer, for the most part, is no. The book works. While Pete revolves around the sibling dynamic, it delves deeper, covering the full gamut of family life, including love and loss. It is, in fact, a very clever take on the auto-biography. At times, true, you get the whiff of artifice, such as when the author invites his brother to teach him to drive, but this is a rare stench.
It’s funny (I was particularly taken by a visit of the brothers to a winery in Kent) in a dry, British way. At times its light-touch wit reminded me of Bill Bryson. It also works because the author plays with form innovatively, throwing in text conversations with his brother and chapters in which he allows his sibling the right of reply.
As it reaches its conclusion, Don’t be a dick, Pete becomes increasingly warm and good hearted (although Pete remains a terror). In fact, by the end it’s almost touching. I can’t imagine any reader not enjoying it particularly those with terrible siblings. But just remember, yours are nowhere near as bad as mine.
Stuart Heritage is a feature writer and columnist for The Guardian newspaper. In addition to this, he has written for a range of publications and television programmes, founded and edited award-winning blogs and runs the humorously argumentative podcast luvandhat with his wife Robyn Wilder.
For two years running he was named as one of the 50 most influential emerging figures in the British media by The Independent, an honour that has singularly failed to manifest itself into anything even slightly meaningful. He is going bald.
Don’t be a Dick Pete was published by Square Peg on 4th May 2017.
You can purchase a copy of Don’t be a Dick Pete from Foyles, Waterstones, or The Book Depository:
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Review by Joseph Surtees
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Read more of Joseph Surtees’ reviews:
The Owl Always Hunts at Night
Sherlock Holmes: The Counterfeit Detective
Mr Iyer Goes To War
Grief Is The Thing With Feathers by Max Porter
Impact by Rob Boffard
Hack by Kieran Crowley
Habit by Stephen McGeah
The Beginning of the End by Ian Parkinson
Read Joseph Surtee’s Interview with Max Porter below…
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