Posts Tagged ‘biography’
I’m going to begin this today with a disclaimer. I have not written a biography and do not plan on doing so, this is just one possible method of structuring it brought to mind while reading an article by Russell Brand on Margaret Thatcher. You can read it yourself here and I suggest you do so.
Brand is a rather controversial figure, not just because he’s an outspoken comedian but because he really pushes boundaries. The day after the attacks in New York in 2011 he arrived at work dressed as Osama bin Laden, naturally he was sacked. I’ve seen part of one of his shows where he invites two men from the Westboro Church to find common ground. It is awesome.
Basically, Brand is youngish and outspoken. He’s led an interesting life with several medical diagnoses in common with so many people and it’s very easy to identify with him.
Margaret Thatcher, on the other hand, needs little introduction but I’ll try just for comparison. She has little in common with Brand being very self-disciplined – her nickname of The Iron Lady was given to her with good cause. She was the first female Prime Minister of Britain and led the country with an absolute iron hand for 11 years. Brand was 15 when Thatcher was finally ousted from office, an impressionable age.
What struck me about the article was how apt it was. It was a nice little snapshot of how Brand viewed Thatcher and it got me wondering what other people born in different decades might have thought of The Iron Lady. What might they have seen in her, what were they doing and how did she impact on their lives? This led to the next train of thought, what about an biography constructed around articles written from these different points of view. If you take one person born in each decade starting in say the 1970s going backwards, get them to write their viewpoint on Thatcher and then use that as the starting point of each chapter.
Biographies have to start somewhere and they often start with an interesting point in the life of the subject working backwards and or forwards in time as the narrative and personality calls, often they include a section about the subjects parents and grandparents to show the bigger background. The biography of Yitzhak Rabin written by his widow, Leah, starts with his funeral, a finalising event in everyone’s life. The biography of Sir Frank Packer also starts with death but the death of Julius Caesar and Joseph Stalin. Both books then move on to other events. A book about Thatcher could start with her election to the office of Prime Minister, the riots in 1981 or even her death, I feel to be really different, to really get Baroness Thatcher’s point of difference would be to take one of these articles and start with that before moving on. Yes, I agree, it is starting with her death but in a different way to any biography I’ve seen before.
Anyway, it was just a thought. Vale Baroness Margaret Thatcher, a woman who polarised opinions.
Thank you to Peter Evans for writing this book about the very brilliant late Peter Sellers.
Peter Sellers was a very talented mimic and all round actor. He had a wicked sense of humour and was married multiple times. These were the things we saw as the public but there was a lot going on behind the scenes and in his head. When I picked up this book I expected to read about the many gorgeous women he’d taken on dates and the many parties he’d been to and how successful he knew he was. I had conflicting emotions when picking up this book, on the one hand I was ambivalent about when I ‘knew’ I was going to read about and on the other hand I really wanted to find out more about the man. I got so much more than I bargained for. Peter Evans was a close friend of Sellers and he managed to give us the man warts and all, there seems to be more warts than anything else. In this book Sellers is depicted as being very hard to define as he doesn’t know how to be himself, he apparently came very close to playing himself as Chance, the gardener in Being There.
He was very dogmatic and superstitious, consulting a clairvoyant at key times and non-key times. Very hard to be work with, if he saw the wrong look in your eye he insisted you be sacked and that happened on far too many occasions.
The book starts with his death in 1964 and then ends with his death in 1974. They managed to revive him the first time but it made no difference, he didn’t change his ways. It’s a very sad book, to start with the death of a much loved actor, I felt as if from them on we were reviewing everything from that point of view. There is much about his time with Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe in The Goons. We also get to read about his exploits in the army and how he masqueraded as an officer on many occasions, even drinking in the officers’ mess with real officers and fooling them completely. Sellers came from a theatrical family, both his parents and at least one grandparent were in the business, his mother was very much in control and remained an enormous part of his life even after her death.
I loved this book as it showed us someone I’ve loved and admired for a very long time. We see him in all his glory and see how he went from being a mediocre actor to being one of the best there have ever been. I’m sure there are other ooks out there about Peter Sellers and one day I might read them but this one will do for the present.
I read biographies and autobiographies to find out about other people’s lives, to find out how other people do things and to get a different point of view. In one respect this book was good as it showed me all those things, but on the other hand it was too close to home as I remember some of the incidents discussed and they affected me greatly even though I was half a world away.
Yitzhak Rabin was a peacemaker in Israel and he spent most of his life working towards that goal. He was assassinated by a Jew before he could complete the task. This book was written by his wife, Leah, who was married to him for 47 years and had the enormously hard task of comforting the family, Israel and Jews throughout the diaspora, from what she’s written in the book she didn’t really have a lot of time for her own grief as she was too busy comforting everyone else. Behind every great man is a great woman and this marriage was no exception. Leah Rabin was one such lady, strong, with a mind of her own which was in perfect accord with her husband’s, she was able to slip in with diplomatic statements made at the correct time and was able to make speeches which concorded with Yitzhak’s policies both during and after his death.
When I first started this book it was at the time of my aunt’s death and the book starts with Yitzhak’s assassination. My grief was rather raw already so I didn’t cope at all well with the remembered grief of losing Yitzhak who was Prime Minister of Israel for the second time and had to stop reading it…I find it hard to read through tears. I only picked it up again recently and found it much easier to cope with, the tears still flowed but not as much so I was able to keep reading. I found the book to be very well written with just a few phrases where Leah reverted to Hebrew grammar rather than English grammar. It talked about both of their lives and showed how they both came to Israel, both fought in the War of Independence, how they met and then married. This is not really a book about Yitzhak and his achievements but more a book about the two of them and how they both fought for the Independence of Israel and also for peace.
One thing I found most interesting was during the War for Independence. When I was growing up one of the authors who seemed of great importance was Leon Uris. He wrote a number of books and the one I read was called Exodus which is about the foundation of Israel and the conflicts that were fought in order to bring this about. One of the things I remember quite clearly from the book is the Arabs abandoning their homes and villages before the Jews could get there to fight them and the Jews being concerned for the Arabs and asking the few they saw to stay. Leah does talk about this and talks about the fighting that happened and how the Arabs generally stayed and fought. I never wondered about Uris’ version of those events but now I read about it from a different point of view I have to wonder why he exaggerated this point. Definitely Leah Rabin does mention some of the Arabs and how they evacuated before the Jews got there but quite clearly talks about it as something that happened in places and was not widespread as Leon Uris made me believe.
Leah and Yitzhak Rabin spent some time overseas and she makes it quite clear how they made friends wherever they were and how upset everyone was at Yitzhak’s death.
Anyway, I do recommend this book. I think it is a fairly balanced view of events and does give some insight into both Yitzhak and Leah and how they coped with different problems.
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
Even schoolchildren went into action in the weeks before the war began. Scout troops in Zahala had dug foxholes.
Hancock: Man of Iron – Neil Phillipson
This book is a comprehensive book describing Lang Hancock and his association with mining in Western Australia. It gives a good deal of information about mining and helps to understand Hancock’s personality. He was a third generation North Australian and his name was synonymous with the Pilbara region, so much so that it’s quite amazing his name is not found there more often. When I opened it I expected to get more details on Hancock himself, but was quite stunned to find very little information of a personal nature. His second wife, Hope, was mentioned a number of times as was his daughter, Gina Rinehart but the book finishes in 1972, 11 years before Hope’s death and therefore 13 years before his marriage to Rose Porteous, eliminating any probability of having the later events mentioned.
It is very well written and gives a great insight into the events of the period from 1952 to 1972 as well as giving a good background into Hancock as a child and Hancock’s family from when they first settled the area. Phillipson has endeavoured to present a balanced view, even disagreeing with Hancock about his first sighting of the iron ore as well as mentioning how Hancock would sometimes visit Sir Charles Court, the Minister for Industrial Development at his home to discuss small points quite amicably in stark contrast to his vicious attacks in the media.
Despite having so much detail on mining I quite enjoyed this book. It mostly explained the mining terms so I put the book down feeling I had a much greater understanding of the mining industry, the politics of the time and also how Hancock worked within or without the system. The Pilbara is a very hard country and everything there is so distant from every other place so you really need to be made of stern stuff to do as much as Hancock. The weather in that area is also incredibly hot with Marble Bar having the distinction of recording many days with temperatures in excess of 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).
This book is currently for sale at Suz’s Space.
This is the story of how John Harrison solved the greatest scientific problem of his time, how to find longitude. His clocks are works of genius and artistry and he was truly an amazing person. Yes, I have read this book, I really enjoyed it and learned an enormous amount about the struggles he went through and the politics of the time. It felt like an extension of the program on the ABC called Longitude.