Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A rake's progress

On Richard Bradford's Martin Amis: the Biography

Doing the biography of a living writer can’t be easy. Writers like to have control over things – especially over the contents of books. When Martin Amis “co-operated” with his new biographer, Richard Bradford, he didn’t do so unconditionally. He granted Bradford a series of interviews, and gave him the green light to approach certain other approved parties. But he stipulated that some people – including his mother and his ex-wife – would not be involved.

Considering these restrictions, Bradford hasn’t done an entirely bad job. His book is lopsided, but it’s meaty. It contains a better class of information than it would have if he’d tried to proceed without Amis’s approval. It isn’t a first-rate biography by any means, but it has one crucial thing going for it. Martin Amis has lived a life you don’t want to stop reading about.

His personal history seems implausibly heightened, like the plot of one of his novels. His father, Kingsley, was one of the liveliest writers of his generation. His mother was a free spirit who routinely let the kids ride around on the roof-rack of her car ... [read more] 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Less fun than it looks

On the Blue Wiggle's autobiography

Is there a job in the world that isn’t considerably less fun than it looks? Being a Wiggle, you might suppose, would be a breeze. Roll out of bed at around ten, slip on the coloured shirt for a mid-day show, mingle backstage with some celebrity milfs, then spend the remainder of the day reclining in a hot-tub full of cash.

Anthony Field, the Blue Wiggle, has written a book that unveils the less glamorous reality: the bad hotels; the terrible food; the backstage arguments, one of them culminating in the throwing of a toy drum kit; the grim logistics of coping with irritable bowel syndrome on the road. Field isn’t complaining, mind you: he keeps stressing that the joy of the live shows makes it all worthwhile. But he leaves you feeling that he and his fellow Wiggles have thoroughly earned their success.

Field earned his while suffering from a diabolical array of health problems that threatened, at one stage, to curtail his wiggling for good ... [read more]