Kirkus Reviews QR Code
I'D RATHER NOT by Robert Skinner


by Robert Skinner

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 2023
ISBN: 9781586423780
Publisher: Steerforth

The adventures and misadventures of a young Australian humorist.

Melbourne-based writer Skinner, whose work has appeared in the Best Australian Essays and Best Australian Comedy Writing series, relates telling episodes from his life in short, wry chapters. Variously employed as a dishwasher, tour guide, bus driver, and bookstore clerk, the author’s outlook is refreshingly free of careerism. He is most passionate about the short story journal he co-founded, The Canary Press, but he also discovered that magazines are far from a lucrative business. His slim recompense means he sometimes slept on “couches, lawns and living room floors" and even "in what might reasonably be described as a ditch, though I tried not to think of it in those terms for morale reasons." Skinner’s energies are largely directed to literary pursuits, but the task of writing a book “is a lot harder than reading one.” The author excels in describing his unique approach to leading tour groups on camping expeditions through the Outback. "I never had qualms messing around with the European version of things,” he writes. “Most of the best places were just named after some guy.” More than mere push back against conventional expectations or battles with bureaucracy, Skinner's essays are about what makes life worth living. For example, a 10-day camel trek into the Outback with his parents gave him a new appreciation for rustic life. “One of the reasons people go bush is to trade our old, boring problems…for new and refreshing ones,” he writes. Admittedly no paragon of “industriousness,” the author finds beauty in solitary fishing trips. "Fishing can take you to the most beautiful places…and promptly ruin your enjoyment of them,” he writes. Regarding the fish, "I didn't want to catch them, I wanted to join them." Brevity may be the soul of wit, but the nimble economy of this slim volume will make readers pine for more.

A decidedly skewed, hilarious collection of life reflections and colorful storytelling.