Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2020
Known to television audiences as one of the founders of The Chaser, Dominic Knight is also the author of The Strayan Dictionary, Strayapedia and Trumpedia.
The 2020 Dictionary continues his satirical analysis of Australian culture, this time through a set of wry definitions of and observations upon aspects of this extraordinary year.
Perfectly timed for the Christmas gift market, this book will appeal to those who want something they can dip in and out of over the holidays. However, it can also be read cover to cover for a fulsome and revelatory appreciation of the diverse challenges of 2020.
The juxtaposition of the serious and the inane is a good vehicle for the satirist, and Dominic Knight succeeds admirably in entertaining us at the same time as provoking thought and occasional shame or dismay – the death of George Floyd is certainly not the stuff of humour.
Krispy Kreme doughnuts perhaps more so, though and it is Knight’s capacity to comment on such a range of events and aspects of the year that make this book such a good read. It has clearly been well-researched as well as written with accessibility in mind.
Very little of significance in 2020 has escaped the author’s notice – beginning with Aaargh, Abattoir and Tony Abbott (more of that interesting, giggle-inducing juxtaposition) and ending with Zoos, Zoonotic disease, Zumping and Zzzzz, this dictionary will be a potent reminder in a year or so of the many things we will forget with the passage of time and the over-layering of other pressing concerns, viz the entry on Climate Change p. 46: ‘A desperate, urgent crisis threatening the very viability of our planet that we nevertheless forgot about for much of 2020.’
I urge you not to dismiss humour and particularly satirical works such as this as nothing more than entertainment. It’s serious social commentary on our community in all its foible ridden glory, regarded with a clever sardonic gaze and an irresistible wry grin.
While entertainment is good, and we certainly need some levity right now, the intellectual content of The 2020 Dictionary will, I suspect, stand the test of a longer reading time than the six weeks of the Australian summer school holidays, when every person and his or her dog disappear to the coast, either figuratively or literally.
Thank you to Allen & Unwin for the review copy and the opportunity for an interview with Dominic.