There were times, while reading Extreme Rambling, when I had my fist shoved in my mouth to stop myself laughing uproariously out loud. That's the penalty for losing myself in its pages at 3am, when the rest of the house is asleep.
That's one of the major selling points of this book. It's funny. It's more than funny. It's Mark Thomas at his dry, satirical best.
It felt wrong finding so much humor in a dire situation, but his story-telling wasn't irreverent either. When the jokes stopped to describe a terrible instance of civil rights abuse, then that hit all the harder for the previous levity.
Within the space of a paragraph sometimes, I could go from crying with laughter to staring in shock at the words on the page. Goosebumps get raised reading this; and the whole gamut of emotional responses are reached.
Some things stand out, like Mark's increasingly desperate responses to Palestinians mildly asking if he'd heard of the Balfour Declaration. He ended up trying to pretend he was Scottish and using Culloden as a historical flashpoint of solidarity.
Or like the 85 year old man with a broken back, lying for over three hours in the blazing sun, just feet from an Israeli checkpoint. His family had watched him over-reach and fall from an olive tree. They were begging for the guards to open the gate, so they could get him medical attention. But the gate only opens twice a day and regulations were regulations.
Sixty women have given birth at checkpoints, before the eyes of the unyielding military unwilling to allow passage to the hospital. Five women and thirty-six newborn infants have died as a result.
Then you get the pure farce. Like the moment when the barrier was deemed to pass right through a West Bank apartment block. Overnight the balcony, living rooms and a bedroom, in several homes, were in Israel, while the kitchen, bathroom, hallway and other bedrooms were in Palestine. It took mere hours for the residents to get arrested for illegally crossing the border.
There are wry smiles reserved for some of the uses given to the wall in remote places. It serves as somewhere to project movies onto, during film night in one village. Others use it as a canvas for their artwork or slogans, though not always with any real intelligence. "It's like Hallmark-does-graffiti!" Mark bemoans, looking at one section.
These stories and more are recounted faithfully in Extreme Rambling. I thoroughly recommend it.