Copies of Perpetual Astonishment that don’t say “Full release edition” on the technical page (is that what it’s called? The bit with all the copyright notices on it) contain the mistakes listed below, which I corrected on 24 July. I hope they don’t spoil your enjoyment of the book. If they do, let me know and I’ll replace it. If you spot any other problems, or want to give me feedback, please contact me.

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On becoming less apologetic

Today I rewrote this post about my book to sound more confident and adduce some evidence in favour of the proposition that the book might be good. I’d almost forgotten how diffident and apologetic I felt about this whole self-publishing thing a couple of months ago, before some people started liking the book.

I still get twinges. A couple of days ago I found that there is now one review of the book on (they’re kept separate from the UK reviews). It’s a four-star review, but there’s something about it (the words, principally) that suggests that the book really isn’t that person’s sort of thing at all.

Today’s top search term

Of the searches that brought people to my website today, my favourite by far is “grow a beard like Nicholas II”. It’s great that someone out there wants to grow a beard like Tsar Nicholas II’s and is using the internet to find out how. It’s even better that Google thinks my site (this post) can help.

I think that beats “banana piano” and “what looks like a bunch of bananas but isn’t” as my favourite searches leading people here. Perhaps I should run a competition.

Stylist review

Well, here we are. I cycled and Tubed all over London this evening trying to get an early copy of Stylist, only to find that my housemate had one. Here is the (extremely nice) review from their Book Wars section at the back of the magazine. I’ll start with their verdict – but read on for the full review.

(You can also read the review of Perpetual Astonishment on Stylist’s website.)

The verdict: read the comic gem The Perpetual Astonishment of Jonathon Fairfax

Exuberant is the word that comes to mind when describing this book. It’s one of those reads you can take an age to get through – simply because you find yourself re-reading joyous passages of comedy and revelling in the carefully constructed characters. One scene involving a murderer, a gym manager and a copy of The Cat In The Hat left one of our reviewers giggling helplessly. It’s a rare book that does this. Utterly recommended.

(And here’s the rest of the review…)

The Perpetual Astonishment vs Comfortably Awkward

Thanks to Fifty Shades of Grey, independent publishing is in the spotlight, so we’re putting two new self-published titles to the test

The Perpetual Astonishment of Jonathon Fairfax’s online writer Anna Brech backs The Perpetual Astonishment of Jonathon Fairfax by Christopher Shevlin

Not many books make me laugh out loud, but The Perpetual Astonishment of Jonathon Fairfax is one of them. Like Comfortably Awkward, it stars a hapless and bumbling lead – Jonathon – who is struggling to come to terms with life in the urban fast lane. But while I found Albert Ferenzo’s never-ending neuroses over corporate life in New York grating, Jonathon’s foot-in-mouth persona is wonderfully endearing and acts as a perfect launch pad for the rest of the story. Continue reading


I’ve always tried to tell friends if I notice something about them that I like – a new coat or a tendency to be tremendous. But since my book’s been around (I mean the one I care about, rather than the two rubbish ones I was paid to do) I’ve started to tell people who I don’t know when I like their stuff. It means such a lot to me when someone is obviously and genuinely enthusiastic about my book, that I’m now much more motivated to tell other people when I feel that way about their writing, or whatever it is. I’m sure that even successful people don’t get tired of hearing it (except Eminem).

Watch Friday Night Dinner

The last TV series I saw that made me laugh as much as Friday Night Dinner was Arrested Development. It’s on 4OD, but you have to search separately for episodes 5 and 6, for some reason.

Four ages of the beard

My beard began about two and a half years ago, and has passed through four ages, as I believe all beards must.

1. Neglect

Most beards aren’t planned. The man just stops shaving, usually as a result of some crisis. My dad’s beard began when he had chicken pox and couldn’t shave. Mine began in a very cold winter in a very cold flat, when I was writing Perpetual Astonishment and had lost interest in everything else. It was so cold that just getting out of the shower was an ordeal, as the water would instantly turn into a thin coating of ice that I would have to chip off my body. I couldn’t face applying a cold blade to my face, so I didn’t. After a few days of this neglect, people started to say that it suited me.

2. Mime

After perhaps three weeks, when I met people who hadn’t seen me for a while, they would invariably say, “Oh, this is new” and then they would wiggle their fingers in front of their chin. At this stage, people couldn’t bring themselves to call it a beard; they could only refer to it by miming the strands of hair on my chin.

3. Undeniability

After a while, people begin to call the hairs on your face a beard. At this stage, you can’t just say that you haven’t shaved for a while. You have to admit – if only to yourself – that you have deliberately grown a beard because you think it looks better than your face. People will then tell you what you look like. In my case it was Tsar Nicholas II (shy, ineffectual autocrat, murdered) and “someone who’s just got out of the Gulag”. This may not sound great, but it was infinitely better than the people I’d looked like before – Peter Baynham, Ronnie Corbett and Paul Whitehouse.

4. Maturity

I realised that my beard had attained full maturity a couple of weeks ago, when a friend I hadn’t seen for a while said, “Oh, hello Tolstoy”. I very much enjoy the Russian aspect of my beard, and there are a great many other advantages. For one thing, a beard functions as a facial expression in itself, so you don’t have to move your face muscles about so much. For another, you don’t have to deal with it much. If you stop shaving for a week, everyone notices and you can’t go to business meetings. If you stop looking after your beard for a week, it looks pretty much exactly as it did before.

There is a slight prejudice against beards, but I think this is misplaced. The main objection is that men with beards are hiding something. We are: our faces. However, we are completely up-front about this concealment, unlike those devious clean-shaven men, who hide what they are hiding.

Low-key supernatural

Last weekend I was at my friend Francesca’s house. There were four of us there, drinking wine, talking and listening to music on her boyfriend’s iPod, which was on top of the bookshelf. (Incidentally, Francesca is the only person I know who orders her books by colour.)  We were sprawling around on the sofa or the floor, because we are bohemians and the Man ain’t gonna tell us where to sit. On the other side of the room sat a MacBook, slightly open but in sleep mode, the white light on its front breathing peacefully in that way MacBooks have, and which contributes more than it ought to our collective desire for them.

A song came on from one of Johnny Cash’s American albums – maybe American III. I suddenly had a great urge to listen to Hurt from American IV, and I asked Steven if he could put it on. He said that he didn’t have it on his iPod, only on his laptop. And then, suddenly, the untended laptop on the other side of the room roused itself from sleep (but without turning its screen on) and played Hurt. We stopped the music on the iPod and listened to it. When the song finished, the computer resumed its silence, and soon the light on its front was softly breathing again.

This sort of thing occasionally happens to me: an event that is completely inexplicable and very powerful in the moment, but which isn’t verifiable and – crucially – doesn’t make a very impressive story. Nonetheless, this one happened.

Hurt is about a man who has ruined his life with heroin. The bit that affects me most is where he sings, “If I could start again / A million miles away / I would keep myself / I would find a way”.

When I feel particularly depressed, I sometimes imagine that twenty years in the future I have done something unforgivably terrible and some supernatural agency has given me the chance to put it right, and I’ve been allowed to go back to the part of my life where the trouble began, and start again, put it right.