Posts Tagged ‘autobiography’
I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf wiggling its eyebrows at me telling me to read it already so last week I complied and have enjoyed it tremendously.
Groucho Marx was apparently born at an early age and was an undereducated boy having left school around his Bar Mitzvah to get a job, according to this book he had to talk his mother into it and so he got a job; he had to sit in the office, hand the boss the mail and answer the phone, occasionally his boss would ring in to ask if there had been any phone calls and with a negative answer so often Marx started to come in late and leave early which got him the sack. Marx went on to a multitude of varied jobs many of which he received the sack fairly early on and it wasn’t until he conceived the idea of going on the stage that he managed to stay the distance for any length of time.
Marx is one of a number of children and the number seems to change with each book. In the movies we saw Chico, Harpo, Groucho and Zeppo but there was also Gummo and I think I heard of a girl or two, Zeppo and the girls aren’t mentioned in this book. There are discrepancies between this book and another book by him (Memoirs of a Mangy Lover) written a few years later and also a book by his brother, Harpo, called Harpo Speaks! It makes it challenging to get at the facts.
All three books are well written and show the Marx wit and writing style. Groucho and Me is written very much in the style of Groucho Marx we’ve come to know and love; I do suspect some of the anecdotes have been exaggerated in some manner to make it more enjoyable reading. Some names have been changed to protect the guilty or innocent and so many of them have been changed to Delaney, one story got quite confusing as more than one person was called Delaney. I also wonder how much he had to suppress of himself in order to play Groucho Marx on screen and radio.
According to this book Chico was much more confident than the others so he pushed them to get off Vaudeville and to give Broadway a try, they never looked back and from Broadway they were given movie contracts leading to 13 brilliant and much loved movies. My favourite scene of all is the state room scene in A Night at the Opera, if you haven’t seen it then you most definitely should. The movies are full of brilliant wit, hilarious chase scenes and great music, they transcend all generations.
Marx details how he got involved in the stock market and how things went downhill very quickly during the crash of 1929. He also talks about prohibition. These help position the events in time and would be good reading for anyone looking at the history of those times.
I could write forever about the Marx brothers but this is already long enough. I loved the book despite the discrepancies and it made me love Groucho Marx all the more, definitely one to stay on my shelf.
This is the first book of Tony Martin’s memoirs, it precedes A Nest of Occasionals and there’s one more book to follow called Scarcely Relevant which I plan to buy in ebook next month after I get paid. I could say all the same things about Martin’s background but I won’t repeat myself.
I have a love/hate attitude to this book. The problems I have with it include the bullying that went on in the 1970s which still goes on today. Martin details it quite thoroughly with the name calling and the ‘funny’ jokes at other people’s expense, he goes through how he coped with it, it’s well written but I’m just not comfortable with bullying.
Martin had an ‘interesting’ childhood, I’ve lost track of how many times his parents were married, it might only have been twice each but I got confused somewhere along the way with the step-siblings and with who was living where and when. Step-families are rarely like The Brady Bunch where everyone manages to get along with everyone else most of the time and all the wrinkles are ironed out by the end of the episode, Martin shows us the other side to merged families and a good thing he does. He talks about how co-parenting from the child’s point of view and how sometimes one sibling will go and stay with the other parent, he talks about the fights between the parents of the merged family and how it can get rather supercharged, he even mentions how they would hide outside as far from ground zero as possible and then be careful not to walk through the loungeroom in bare feet for weeks afterwards for fear of getting shards of glass in their feet. There’s no Brady Bunch goodness here.
He also has an interesting, and apparently fairly common, medical problem – Haemochronmatosis. It’s apparently a problem with iron, not like mine where I have too little but the total opposite where he has too much and has to have some taken out regularly in order to keep healthy. The chapter where he’s diagnosed and has the first couple of years of bloodletting is incredibly funny and is almost exactly the way I deal with my health problems when I’m seeing a doctor i.e. make jokes about it. There is a follow up to this in A Nest of Occasionals where he talks about giving blood every two months, a little more often than you’re allowed.
On the whole I loved this book, it gives a generous and funny insight into his world. How he writes about his landladies and landlords is just hilarious. I would definitely recommend it but be careful as there is the odd swear word.
It is fitting I should read this book of all books about Doctor Who in this 50th year of Doctor Who. A wonderful book, I laughed, I cried and then I finished the foreword by David Tennant.
This book is written in a very laid back style, Sladen is always so amazed at the publicity and the excitement the good Doctor and his companions engenders, right to the end of the book she couldn’t quite believe how excited people were to be seeing her. Finished a few months before she died Sladen never found the time to review it ready for publishing so it fell to her husband and daughter and I don’t think they changed anything, not even the very few typos which I’m sure wouldn’t have been there had she managed to bring herself to review it herself. It is meticulous with detail and with giving credit where she feels it is due.
I love her sense of humour, her self-deprecation and it’s wonderful just reading about the fabulous Lis Sladen creating Sarah Jane Smith. The worst thing about reading this book is I now want to read it again taking breaks to watch all the episodes of Doctor Who she mentions and all the movies she refers to, I have found one movie “Broken Blossoms” released in 1919 she mentions very briefly and will be watching it for the boat scene.
I now have a better understanding of the theatre and the filming business and how all the little details come together, the dedication of the people in the field and how they endeavour to get every little detail just right. Kudos to you all.
If you’re a Doctor Who fan you need to read this book, if you’re a fan of autobiographies you need to read this book and if you’re a fan of figuring out how they do it then you need to read this book. I bought it at Notions Unlimited in Chelsea and haven’t seen it anywhere else.
The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie
Yes, that’s right, Hugh Laurie the brilliant man who played the totally flawed man Doctor House. Reasonably well written but I’m struggling to remember anything special about it. It’s about a man who’s hired to kill someone but renegs on the deal, naturally this gets him into trouble.
Vet in a Spin by James Herriot
One in the fabulous series of All Creatures Great and Small. In this book James Herriot has joined the Airforce during the war, it details some of his interactions with his fellow trainees and some reminiscences. Needless to say this is as good as all the other books. I enjoyed his encounters with the dentist.
Doctor in the Nest by Richard Gordon
Do not read this book, repeat, do not read this book. It will result in hilarity and I will not be responsible for the results. The operating theatre ceiling falls in on Sir Lancelot Spratt, he is embroiled in politics to save the hospital while being attacked by two females intent on being the only female in his life.
I’m fond of a good autobiography or three, I generally read about people who I’ve seen in the public and I feel some connection with or some interest in their story, there is the odd one I’ll read when the description on the back looks interesting. Semi-Detached is in the ‘I have some interest in their story’ category.
Griff Rhys Jones is a writer, actor, comedian of the Welsh persuasion. I first remember seeing him on TV on the Alas Smith and Jones series, a spoof on Alias Smith and Jones, and most recently in the Three Men in a Boat series; the first of which recreated the book by Jerome K. Jerome. He’s one of my favourite comedians and I have great regard for his work.
Upon reading this book it turns out he was at school with the late, great Douglas Adams and it was Adams who got him his first part on stage at College. Reading more about him online it appears he’s been President or Vice President of many different organisations but very little of this comes through in the book. Rhys Jones talks much more about his family, their holidays and how his father always got his own way on these holidays. He talks about travels to and from school and the friends he made, about the areas he lived in and how he fitted in…or not.
The holidays parts are interesting as you can see how he inherited his love of sailing, I’m wanting to watch the Three Men in a Boat series again so I can see more clearly how comfortable he is in a boat and how much like his father he is. Mr Rhys Jones was apparently very much in command when in a boat, his word was law and he constantly told people what to do despite them knowing very well what to do and this comes through in the series his travelling companions make jokes about it constantly.
Rhys Jones gives many anecdotes about being invited back to various places to make presentations, to open new buildings or to just give speeches and he doesn’t pull his punches about his nerves telling us just how focussed he is on getting to the point of getting up in front of people and when something comes in the way he’s taken aback.
This is nicely written, blending the old stories with the new and showing us how scenery and towns can change as well as memories when we travel back through them. I loved how patient he was with his mother driving back through places he’d grown up with her in the back of the car and not able to hear the discussion in the front seat so well.
I seem to have lost Squid Ink, he went to the library and is possible still wandering the book stacks. Whether he’s lost by accident or on purpose is something I don’t know. I do hope when he’s finished adventuring among the books he will return and show us what he’s found. In the meantime here’s some more scribbles about the book I’ve just finished, I had it in train already so it’s perfect as a fill-in until I can write something else for tomorrow.
The Durrell family are all very interesting people but there is little that we can guarantee is correct as they all seem to have the habit of writing things in the most amusing way with some degree of fiction. I’m trying to read all I can of the memoir portions of their writings from all members of the family in order to have something to correlate. It was only when I read this book that things really began to make sense.
Lawrence and Gerald both being writers seem to have this habit of adding some fictional elements to their memoirs. I didn’t think Gerald had actually started his zoo in Margo’s backyard, I thought he’d only had a few animals there and it looks as if I was right as Margo mentions only a couple of types of animals while at the same time Gerald is busy looking for somewhere to move them to. One thing this book does give me is a photo of Gerald in his late 20s and he is gorgeous with movie star looks, Margo mentions him flirting with all the women and getting on well with the men so it makes it much easier to understand how he managed to do all the things he did. He must have been very charismatic.
The photos are very interesting. Margo herself looks very young, a photo of her with her teenage children shows her looking younger than them.
This is the story of Margo’s first year as a landlady. It’s set in Bournemouth, England in 1947. It comes after she has divorced and she takes her two young boys with her into this adventure. Her maiden aunt gives her the idea of a boarding house expecting she’ll put genteel ladies into her rooms but instead she ends up with the most amazing people.
The first inhabitant is Edward and his wife, Olwen. Edward is a painter while Olwen works outside the house, he insists on the best room for light so he can continue painting there. He is a good cook, swapping ingredients and tips with both Margo and her mother.
Along comes Mrs Williams and her boy, Nelson. She is nothing exciting, we do eventually hear about her husband but Nelson is a scream. He should probably be at school but never bothers to attend, instead he follows all the comings and goings of the house, spreading gossip and extending the stories until they’re quite unbelievable.
Mrs Budden is expecting a baby but they don’t get confirmation until very late in the piece. Mr Budden is not a very attentive father, sometimes leaving the baby crying downstairs in the corridor while he takes ‘special’ time with Mrs Budden.
Roger and Andy take up residence, practising on their musical instruments and coming back at all hours, they do play in a band at night. Along with the two nurses who also do nightshift this helps to scandalise the neighbours as they don’t really understand people might possibly have a nightshift and therefore come home at odd hours of the morning. Margo is accused of running a bordello.
I’ll leave you wanting more as there is plenty more in the book. It is a delight and shows us a number of exciting people all gossiping and having a good time despite the mores of the time. I do suggest you read it, although I don’t know where you’re find a copy as I could only find 27 copies available on the internet.
Tom O’Toole is the founder of The Beechworth Bakery and this is his story. It’s part autobiographical and part inspirational…about three quarters of each and I loved it.
Tom was born and grew up in Tocumwal, undisciplined, in a financially poor but loving family with an attitude problem, he was very angry. He started working at a very young age and by the age of 11 had bought himself and his brother a bunk bed so they could stop sharing a bed, at 19 he bought his first business and at 32 he started rebuilding himself emotionally after his first wife walked out on him leaving the children with him. He’s an amazing man and is the first to admit he failed kindergarten, doesn’t know his alphabet nor has he used a calculator.
I don’t normally review business or inspirational books on this blog but I’m making an exception for O’Toole as he’s just so out there and I feel everyone needs to read it. It’s not just for businesses but also for everyday life. He’s got a zest for life that is very infectious and this book shows that in great depth.
This book also gives us some details of the bread industry in Victoria and how some of the big companies tried to take over the small companies or put them out of business, it also gives brief details of the 30km zone so I began to understand why we can get one brand of bread in one place but 50km away it’s another brand. The government put legislation in place to stop the big companies taking over all the small companies.
O’Toole talks about esteem and how he didn’t have any, he had to build it up step by step starting with a chance comment from a friend when he helped him out with a baking problem and was told “Geez Tom, you’re a bloody good baker.” Basically, take a compliment and hold onto it build yourself up from there.
If one of his staff did something outrageous he put them out on the front line. The first time they did pyjama day one guy was standing in the kitchen in an apron with a bare backside, when Tom realised it was made of rubber he put him out cleaning tables. People loved it and came in their droves. He listens to his staff and his customers. If his staff tell him they’re better off with him outside the building then he listens and finds something to do to promote the business as a whole.
He was shellshocked one day when The Beechworth Bakery won a prestigious tourism award. It was something he hadn’t been expecting and he got up on stage to take the award and rather than give a good speech he just invited everyone to Beechworth. I think that’s his secret, he doesn’t just think of himself and his business but he thinks of the whole area.
We’re spending a weekend in Beechworth in a few weeks. We’ve been trying to get away since January but it’s been a mad year and when my OH suggested Beechworth I said ‘why not’ and we booked. We’ll definitely be dropping into The Beechworth Bakery and I hope I’ll be able to meet Tom O’Toole to tell him how I loved his book and how much he’s changed me just by reading it. I did send him a card just in case I don’t see him.
I know you’re expecting Mondayitis but things are rather busy and I find it’s easier to write a book review than to find someone to answer Mondayitis, therefore you’re going to get book reviews until either I run out of books or things become less hectic.
Richard Hammond is that short guy on Top Gear UK, when I say short I don’t mean my height but short in comparison with two men over six foot. Funnily enough he’s also the youngest and best looking but they’re all rather mad and do more than rather mad things. In 2006 he was trying to drive ‘very fast’ in a Dragster, yes he succeeded, but he also succeeded in flipping the entire car with the help of a burst tyre ending up with brain damage. This book is the abridged story of his accident and subsequent recovery.
The book starts off giving us some valuable background about Hammond’s childhood and we get to see why he’s happiest doing silly and dangerous stunts while trying to entertain, this is so ingrained in his psyche that when he’s not in control of his brain following the accident he still sits in hospital trying to entertain everyone who comes to visit him despite not having the physical energy or understanding entirely what’s going on. He describes many times where he’s done silly and dangerous stunts on his bicycle only to look around and make sure someone was looking, apparently he was quite satisfied with the time he could see bone after one such stunt went slightly wrong.
We also get a very good description of the car and all the events leading up to the final drive and then finally a blow by blow description of how it felt to be inside the car and what was actually happening, we get one or more paragraphs of details that happened in a fraction of a second and correlates that with the information they received from the instruments measuring everything.
After the accident Mindy takes over narration for a good deal of the book before they tag team it. Mindy is Hammond’s wife and they have two little girls and an au pair. She does an absolutely amazing job of being there throughout for Hammond while also being there for their daughters and also keeping family and friends updated on progress. I look at what she did and am absolutely amazed at her strength and will power.
Both Hammonds don’t seem to have pulled their punches with information about the effects an accident has on the brain and how the recovery works so it would make an interesting case study for anyone looking after someone with brain damage, it would make it easier to understand and to help. One of the qualities you need is patience as short term memory is one of the things you lose. Hammond would be delighted to find his favourite dish on the lunch menu, order it then forget only to be delighted when his favourite dish arrived in front of him. He’d talk about going outside for a cigarette only to forget and have the same conversation seconds later. Entertaining him with the newspaper was easy as he could read the same article many times without remembering any of it so each time he read it was as if he was reading it for the first time.
One thing he fixated on was Lego so it was duly bought and given to him, the doctors were quite happy with this as a form of therapy as transforming the 2D instructions into 3D models is good for the brain.
A few days ago I was one of a team who unhappily helped a man through an epileptic seizure, it wasn’t a pleasant experience and I hope it’s his last. I mention this here as watching him recover was interesting and I felt his recovery was roughly the same as Hammond’s. There was the coming to, then the starting to understand where he was, followed by recognition, and somewhere in there was speech and short term memory problems. This all only took an hour and a half whereas Hammond took a few more days to go through these stages and it was rather more pronounced.
I found this book to be well written and highly readable. Most technical data was explained so even someone like me who has trouble understanding these things could understand it. Between them they manage to show us recovery both from within and without as they describe the same thing from both aspects. If a book like this could be said to be enjoyable then yes, it is and I enjoyed it despite the tears it created.
Besides shortening the title I’m going to find it interesting writing about this book with my G Rating. Here is some of the description from the back of the book.
Paul Carter has been shot at, hijacked and held hostage.
He’s almost died of dysentery in Asia and toothache in Russia, watched a Texan lose his mind in the jungles of Asia, lost a lot of money backing a mouse against a scorpion in a fight…and been served cocktails by an orang-utan on an ocean freighter. And that’s just his day job.
Taking postings in some of the world’s wildest and most remote regions, not to mention some of the roughest oil rigs on the planet, Paul has worked, gotten into trouble and been given serious talkings to in locations as far-flung as the North Sea, Middle East, Borneo and Tunisia, as exotic as Sumatra, Vietnam and Thailand, and as flat out dangerous as Columbia, Nigeria and Russia, with some of the maddest, baddest and strangest people you could ever hope not to meet.
I found this book a delight and a challenge. Delightful as it gave me a thorough idea of a totally different world to mine and a challenge as the spelling and grammar was not all it could be. They skimped on the proofreading with this book, either that or Carter insisted on writing it his way, I don’t know. On the other hand, some of the misspellings make it really colourful and lend an accent to the text. If you have a strong stomach and want to know more details about what it’s like to work on the oil rigs then this is a good start.
The story about his toothache had me squirming, as did his bout of dystentery, I think he made the right decision taking the plane at that point but judging by how much of the flight he spent on the toilet I’m really not quite sure.
In one brief scene in the Philipines we get to see the ferocity of a hurricane as Carter’s colleague opens the door to look outside at it. It took three of them to close the door.
Carter had an interesting time with a French colleague and they played practical jokes on each other. One of them had Carter and his other crewmates standing waist deep in water for 10 minutes, they were not best pleased so Carter then got the French man back, who retaliated and so on it goes. I don’t know when it stopped.
There are so many illustrations of the most dangerous places on earth. One airport he’s told he has to use a phrase and get the correct phrase in return, if he doesn’t then it means his driver has been killed and he needs to get out of there pronto. It was very cloak and dagger.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and as I said before if you have a strong stomach and enjoy your memoirs a little ‘out there’ then this is the book for you. It’s Australian with the Australian way of speaking but it’s set all over the world, I cannot begin to list the countries the author mentions but I suspect he’s been around the world many, many times. I’d love to have his frequent flyer points.
This Boy’s Life is a memoir of a few years in the life of Tobias Wolff. It is a well constructed story with no wasted words and details how hard it must have been for him growing up. His parents divorced relatively early on and his mother (Rosemary) wandered looking for a place to stay and looking for a man in their lives. Bear in mind this is 1950s America where it was thought every boy needed a father figure in their lives.
His father was profligate, made up stories about himself and changed his name according to what he needed it to be and Wolff was no different. In order to get into a ‘good’ school he created a persona for himself, then he created school reports and referrals to fit that persona, he also embellished his name to Tobias Jonathan von Ansell-Wolff, III.
His mother was not good at picking men. Her father was a bully and she seemed to only be able to pick men like that. She eventually married Dwight who she thought was a good pick but he ended up being worse than any other man. He bullied Wolff both physically and emotionally making things challenging for him.
It’s certainly an interesting read, I probably would have read it even without having it as a text as I like memoirs. Wolff is a very good writer, very skilled and you can see where he got some of his skills. At school he helped other boys with their writing, even doing some of their essays for them. He made up stories about what he’d done and went into quite some detail making sure to get the finer points correct.
Wolff was in the Scouting fraternity although this didn’t make him a paragon of virtue. He was in trouble (or should have been in trouble) far too often and he doesn’t pull any punches in detailing many of these incidents in this volume.
This memoir was made into a film in 1993 with Robert de Niro as Dwight and Leonardo diCaprio as Wolff. We saw a little of the movie in class and it was quite powerful.
Warnings: swearing, violence and boys being boys and talking about sex.