Celebrity Scientists Gone Wild!

Katie Gibson 25 October 2007

Mark Booth

The Wonderful World of Joseph McCrumble


To clarify, I am not a scientist, I rarely find Natsci-ish jokes remotely funny and yet here I am, reviewing the ‘blogging sensation of a celebrity parasitologist.’ Parasitology is, after all, ‘the new sex’… according to ‘The Parasite Weekly Digest.’ McCrumble’s book is an attempt to reveal the dazzling artistic side of scientists, which is displayed throughout by small collections of his inimitable artwork. Based on McCrumble’s blog at http://mccrumble.blogspot.com/, it is a collection of the bizarre events which happen to the unlucky and slightly bemused scientist. It pokes fun at over-dedicated research scientists like Joseph, who too might regard the accidental ingestion of tapeworms by their assistants as ‘a unique opportunity which no self-respecting experimental parasitologist would refuse.’

The humour feels like a mix of Monty Python and car crash TV – you know you shouldn’t enjoy it but you can’t look away, like the anecdote of the demise of Professor Cumbernauld’s wife, who was ‘trampled to death by sheep that panicked’ as she attempted to perform ‘a forerunner of today’s colonic irrigation technique.’ My favourite moment is Joseph’s rescuing a pair of Z-list celebs when he’s involved in ‘Celebrity Jungle Love Island Extreme – Return to Irin Naya.’ The ill-fated two are balanced precariously on a tightrope when a crocodile appears and they promptly freeze. Meanwhile, Joseph remembers that ‘larger males will attack any mammal at the waters edge,’ immediately before the hipflask swilling psycho producer is swallowed by the hungry crocodile, whilst shouting ‘get this f*king thing off me McCrumble!’ Joseph proceeds to shimmy across the tightrope to the now praying celebs and shouts helpfully, ‘God isn’t here right now, so I’ve come instead.’

There are also some fairly gruesome moments, such as when a maggot is stuck in the only eye of the judo fighter and whilst fighting to get it out, our hero manages to drop some rat liver which was stilled attached to his tweezers into the hole the maggot left in the eye. Like I said, car crash TV. These are somewhat alleviated however, by the inclusion of ‘Five days in Denver,’ the story of a very naughty weekend which is officially known as the World Ecology Congress. It gets pretty racy and just as it’s getting very exciting, a grey box blocks out the writing with the fatal words ‘this has been censored by Delores McCrumble on the grounds of public decency and avoiding any accusations of bad writing about sex.’ Needless to say, I was disappointed, on grounds of censorship and…yes, well maybe that says more about me than any lack in the book.

All in all, The Wonderful World of Joseph McCrumble is a bit of fun, especially to be enjoyed by Natscis, but accessible to all. Importantly, profits go towards establishing safe sources of water for schoolchildren in rural Kenya through Stand Up for Africa See http://www.matangini.org.uk/ for details and for a way to buy the book directly from Cambridge’s own Dr. Mark Booth, of which all the author royalties go towards the project. It is also available at Borders and Heffers and on Amazon. If you’d like a taster, check out the blog and keep it in mind as an excellent, light-hearted gift for anyone, especially Natsci types who want to embrace their artistic side…or just have a giggle at maggots in eyes.

Katie Gibson