Magic Moments: Life-Changing Encounters with Books, Films, Music… by John Sutherland - review by Diana Athill

Diana Athill

Biographia Literaria

Magic Moments: Life-Changing Encounters with Books, Films, Music…


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Never overlook epigraphs. Writers choose them with care and they signal a lot about a book (and sometimes – though not in this case – more about its author than he realises). I was much taken by John Sutherland's epigraph to Magic Moments:

Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books!

William Wordsworth


John Sutherland

There you have at once the flavour of his book: a bit tart, dead serious about reading, but free of solemnity and reverence. Good, I thought, I shall enjoy this. Which I did.

His first magic moment came in 1944, when he was five, taken by his mother to the Hippodrome in Colchester (once the Grand Palace of Varieties, now a nightclub) to see Tarzan's Desert Mystery. His father had been killed earlier in the war, his young mother cheered herself up by

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