- HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:
by Lang Reid
I Know You Got Soul
laughed so much at Jeremy Clarkson’s “The World According to Clarkson” that
when I spied “I Know You Got Soul” (ISBN 0-141-02292-2, Penguin Books 2005)
on the Bookazine shelves I had to read it.
It is not about the late James Brown and soul music, but a collection of
works involving Clarkson’s favorite machines. As you read, you find these
are not the fastest, most powerful, flashiest and most weird, but are
machines that Clarkson says that show a nebulous aspect of themselves, which
he calls a “soul”.
Written in his usual laconic style of speaking, every page has you chuckling
out loud. Take his piece on Flying boats, for example. “They therefore have
that most human of traits - a flaw. It is a boat with wings, not a plane
with floats,” asserts Clarkson. The Boeing 314 Pan Am Clipper “made the
Orient Express look like a Chinese ox cart.” Or the piece on the WWII
Sunderland, as he recounts the tale of one outnumbered 8:1 by German Junkers
JU-88s on one sortie. “They (the Junkers) were in fighters and they were up
against a converted post-office van.” In case you are wondering, despite the
bullet holes, the Sunderland made it back to Britain, in one reasonably
Another chapter deals with the ubiquitous AK 47, a weapon he was once
offered for $3. “In a competition to find the least-complicated machine ever
made, it would tie in first place with the mousetrap,” writes Clarkson. He
then goes on to describe the silver plated AK 47s used by West African
soldiers. “The soldiers in question are usually only five years old, which
means they’ve bought their guns, and had them customized, out of their
Another chapter deals with the Zeppelins. “The British adore a heroic
failure. And the zeppelins were more heroic and more hopeless than just
about any machine ever made.” And to back that up, he lists the assorted
demises of assorted zeppelins. After reading this chapter, you will agree
Clarkson draws heavily upon WWII for inspiration and devotes one chapter to
battle ships, with the recipient of his research being the incredible
Japanese ship, the Yamato. It had 141 anti-aircraft guns, and as Clarkson
recounts, “But these were an amuse-bouche compared to her main 18 inch
weapons, which were simply humungous. Each one could fire a 1.3 ton shell 25
miles. Yup, that’s right. 1.3 tons and 25 miles. And she had nine of them.”
The book has wonderful color plates of some of Clarkson’s machines with
soul, and these help illustrate the fervor with which Clarkson approaches
his subjects. The research that has been done is very apparent, and the
color plates just show some of it.
At B. 450 it really is a laugh a minute. Being in distinctly separate short
chapters means you can pick it up and put it down at will, but you won’t
want to! A cheap read for some great laughs.
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