Jeremy Lewis proposes, at the outset, a programme that is both modest and promising: a slice of autobiography that is entertaining, evocative of place, and in some way representative of many other equally unimportant lives: a middle-class chronicle between the late-1940s and mid-1950s. When writing about himself, he is always engagingly self-deprecatory, without ever being in the least bit arch, a difficult balance that is achieved with a touch that is constantly light. He is funny on the subject of himself because he finds himself, especially as a schoolboy, or as a large, hefty, clumsy nineteen year-old, genuinely funny, and he convinces the reader that he is. About others he is always good-humouredly observant. He displays a wonderful ability to laugh at the active and unremitting malevolence of objects, so that I can at once recognize in him a fellow-sufferer at the hands of that animate and constantly resourceful enemy, though I have been in that game, always on the losing side, for twenty or thirty years longer. It doesn’t make any difference, the outcome is always the same, as the object hits him (or me) on the chin, wraps itself around us, trips us up, spills itself over us, or throws itself over the floor.
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Though 'the hotel had a reputation as the area’s best, its staff were not used to looking after world leaders, so the arrival of Cuba’s new strongman, Fidel Castro, came as something of a shock.'
@dcsandbrook on @simonhallwriter's 'Ten Days in Harlem'.
'After all, who knows what anybody is really like, or what they really think? The biographer – same as a painter of portraits – cannot help but reproduce himself to some degree.'
From the archive: Beryl Bainbridge talks to Sebastian Shakespeare.
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