Playing For Time by Jeremy Lewis - review by Richard Cobb

Richard Cobb

I Remember It Well

Playing For Time


Collins 240pp £12.95 order from our bookshop

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.

Part of the charm to be derived from this good-natured chronicle of ordinary events is indeed the sense of familiarity. Yes, one is tempted to say, one has been that way before. Take, for instance, the avoidance of mirrors: I go into a cafe or a restaurant, for a quiet

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