Poets Should Choose Their Partners with Care

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

‘’Whatever other mistakes you make,’ my maternal grandmother warned her daughter, ‘never marry a poet.’ My mother consequently set aside her doubts and started her twenty-two years of wedded blisters cherishing my poet father. It seems Caitlin Macnamara received no such encouragement before or after she first found herself in bar-clinging proximity to Dylan Thomas […]

How To Fill His Diary

Posted on by David Gelber

Alan Coren confesses that he ‘habitually photographs like Kafka’s glummer brother’. As snapped by Oscar Wilde, he might have gone on to say, possibly in a brooding daguerreotype. For this selection from his Times diary prompts the suspicion that Coren keeps in his Cricklewood attic not only his amusing journal, but also an alternative, literal, […]

Not So Easy As This

Posted on by David Gelber

Paul Scofield said recently in an interview that whenever he hears the words ‘Paul Scofield’ mentioned he has to pause a while to consider who is meant. Presumably this is not a condition that afflicts Kenneth Branagh at this time. His face has appeared recently as often as that of Richard Branson. Besides their healthy-sounding, […]

The Train Driver

Posted on by David Gelber

Sir Peter Parker sets out to disarm. He had a happy childhood, has been ‘happily in love’, all his married life and therefore has ‘no right to write an autobiography’. He boasts of knowing ‘zilch’ about the railways, moving from private industry to take over as BR chairman in 1976. William Blake, cited as mentor […]

The Man Who Preceded Michael Grade

Posted on by David Gelber

As its founding Chief Executive, Jeremy Isaacs was almost single-handedly responsible for the distinctive style of Channel 4 from the time it came into being in 1982. The new channel broke the lowbrow stereotype of lTV that all television ought to be family viewing. This attitude persisted not because of an endearing regard for the […]

Good Value, If You Like This Sort of Thing

Posted on by David Gelber

Some time before 1973, when Richard Crossman was still editor of the New Statesman, I ambled along to Mr Benn’s substantial residence in Holland Park. My purpose was to talk to him about his proposed referendum on British membership of the Common Market. The visit was not, I confess, greatly to my taste. My practice, […]

What is It All About?

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

This is rather an odd book, diffuse as well as discursive, deliberately non-chronological for reasons I cannot fathom, and with different sections written not only at different times but in distinctly different styles. At one point, again for reasons I fail to understand, Sisson becomes a soldier called Pearce. But it needs to be accepted […]

‘Gush, Gush! You Simply Must be More Gushing’

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Barbara Skelton has two remarkable literary qualities; she tells the truth and has no illusions about herself or her lovers. She was also attractive. The combination was found irresistible by many talented and devious men. This second volume of her diary/memoirs, gives the reader a fascinating account of her marriages to Lord Weidenfeld and Professor […]

Sad, Articulate Pole

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Such is the empathy elicited by Eva Hoffman’s intimate, exploratory prose that, reading Lost in Translation, I was filled with a powerful sense of tesknota – the Polish word for nostalgia which Hoffman uses, presumably because it conveys better than our word that sense of longing for something understood but unreachable. I wanted to share […]

The Big Trip

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Nobody could accuse Frank Zappa of courting popularity. He has hardly even achieved it accidentally. Instead he has something which was once even more highly esteemed in the murky world of pop. New Musical Express called it ‘credibility’. Today’s popsters strain for ‘street credibility’, but it is a poor relation, flashier and more artificial. ‘Bros’, […]

Greatest Living Greek

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Reading Taki’s High Life column in The Spectator is like being given the key to the door of the secret garden. Once inside you are confronted by all sorts of exotic flora and fauna; ‘Avocato’ Gianni Agnelli, ‘Ruby’ (Portfirio Rubirosa), Aly Khan, Darryl Zanuck, Ari Onassis, a raft of Rothschilds and a Volpe or two […]

Nothing but the Trews

Posted on by David Gelber

A life may well be too short; the same cannot always be said of a book. This is the first volume of Nicholas Fairbairn’s autobiography. The front cover shows a shock haired figure with wild eyes wearing an opera cloak and a wing collar. It might be a mad nineteenth century composer, or a magician. […]

Jolly Hockey Sticks

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The life of actress and amateur philosopher Joanna Lumley is like those dramatic conversations you half-hear from the next table in a restaurant – considerably less fascinating, and slightly disappointing, when you give them your full attention. Lumley’s doings have covered many inches of salacious newsprint, and now her autobiography promises to tell all. We […]

Kid Glove Treatment

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

I called my mother in the USA and happened to mention Michael Jackson. ‘Oh him – that weirdo. He’s funny.’ Not funny ha-ha either. So much for American Grassroots Opinion. It is true that Michael Jackson gets more than his share of unsavoury media attention, but it isn’t easy to ignore the tabloid sensationalism of, […]

What do you print that for?

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

I used to meet Frank Giles from time to time when he was editing the Sunday Times and I was editing the Sunday Telegraph. He always made an agreeable impression – unstuffy, humorous and civilized – as indeed does this book. Yet he seemed a most improbable man to be the conductor of that particular […]

The Nose with a Luminous Dong

Posted on by David Gelber

THOUGH ESSENTIALLY un homme sérieux, I have, as is widely known, from time to time engaged myself in the act of humorous composition. The light-hearted essay containing the jocular (and occasionally waspish!) aperçu has long been a forte of mine, and the list of my contributions to Punch magazine in my Who’s Who entry – […]

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Do We Really Need to Know?

Posted on by David Gelber

Of all the many and wretched women processed through these pages, the luckiest is surely Mildred Martin, who supervised Roth in ‘independent reading’ at Bucknell University. She admired him and has obligingly supplied diary entries as testimony to the boy’s genius in discussing Yeats. She also remained resistant to Roth’s hubris, self-preoccupation and, presumably, his […]

Elegant Pensées

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In conversation at a recent literary do with two eminent Oxbridge professors of Eng Lit, past and present, I felt moved for some reason to drop the name of Frank Kermode. ‘Ah,’ said one of the profs, ‘writing a memoir, I gather.’ ‘Really?’ mused the other. ‘A memoir?’ The word was held in the air between […]

Applause, Please

Posted on by David Gelber

Muriel Spark is the kind of novelist around whom myths and legends abound. My favourite is that Mrs Spark was convinced T S Eliot was communicating with her from beyond the grave, via the clues in the Times crossword puzzle. An alternative version of this, found in the memoirs of her former lover, Derek Stanford, […]

In Her Black Books

Posted on by Marketing Manager

Imagine a philistine England; imagine a country estate in Northamptonshire, an Eden encumbered by debt; imagine the conversation of women, dominated by ‘the three dreadful D’s of dress, domestics and disease.’ Then imagine a little girl of sixteen or eighteen who desperately wants to be good, and has the duties of her time and class: […]

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