By Ben Li
A decade ago, a book like this could not have been possible.
Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack Adventure is a cautionary and autobiographical tale about life and obsession, set in modern times. Warning against mature inaction rather than the follies of youth, Googlewhack is remarkably enjoyable and easy to read.
On the cusp of his thirty-second birthday, the British comedian faces two challenges: writing a novel about a fictional new colour and growing into his newfound age.
Like all great procrastinators of our time, Dave Gorman whittles away at the task of writing his book by surfing the Internet where he eventually becomes caught up in Googlewhacking. Dave Gorman discovers he is a Googlewhack by virtue of his web page, which contains the unique combination of words "Francophile Namesakes", a combination which appears no other page listed in the Google Internet search engine.
Challenged by his old friend Dave Gorman of France to find and meet the two Googlewhacks the Francohpile namesake discovered, Dave Gorman of England regretfully embarks on one last around the world journey. On his publisher’s shilling, he travels to meet the people behind the web pages before turning 32. More importantly, he must convince each Googlewhack he meets to Google up two more Googlewhacks so that the chain of consecutive Googlewhacks remains unbroken. The book deal, and growing up, would have to wait.
Gorman’s adventure of self-discovery is more than just a hardcopy version of an on-line blog. In addition to masterful use of comic relief, he describes with vivid exactitude the good wonder that is human nature. People welcomed him almost without question into their lives–lesbian fan-fiction writers and Mini auto club members alike. Making many friends and some enemies along the way, Gorman’s search for a chain of Googlewhacks ends once with defeat, but not before his new friends come to his aid.
In his words to the reader, he savours these intense moments of pain, victory and defeat. Very real and basic feelings and emotions are conveyed simply, yet powerfully, evoking sympathy, and in some cases pity. Eventually, Gorman realizes that no one, not even he, has live up to his expectations of what growing up meant.
And it is in these moments that Gorman’s command of the English language (from his experience as a comic) really comes through. In several moments of defeat, it was as though he captured the butterflies from his stomach and packaged them in a Sunday Times best-selling paperback.
Though Gorman does not explicitly state it, his search for Googlewhacks masks his journey to find companionship with fanatics and oddballs of the Internet and other seemingly juvenile pastimes.
At this level, the story works very well for almost any reader who has gone to exceedingly irrational lengths to pursue a fleeting passion. The collectors of science fiction memorabilia, the world’s top creationist, the Elvis-crazed inhabitants of Memphis, TN, and everyone else in Gorman’s adventure is in some way a fanatic.
In Gorman’s three months of globe-trotting, through successes and failures alike, he sometimes struggles to maintain a sense of purpose and direction as others understand it. Regardless, he finds acceptance along the way that his adventure isn’t just a fanciful passion, but something with its own meaning. Having abandoned his life as a comic starting up, as a young person and as an aspiring author, he convinces himself and the reader that the only remaining task is to continue on his Googlewhack adventure until it ends once and for all in either success or failure.
Even in the real world, things have a way of working out for the best.