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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

I Know You Got Soul

I 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 large piece.
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 pocket money.”
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 with Clarkson!
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.