Friday, 16 December 2011
Why Am I Still Here?
I commend to you Why Am I Still Here? by the under-appreciated Welsh biographer and man of letters Roger Lewis. Lewis's sequel to his best-selling Seasonal Suicide Notes combines irascible commentary on everyday life, arranged by month January-December, interspersed cleverly with short paragraphs about his family. The family sketches, including of a series of extraordinary aunts, are illustrated by grainy black and white photographs of his subjects, as in W G Sebald. That the sign of greatness in writing is the capacity occasionally to make one bark with laughter, or at least smile, is the theme of an interesting essay by Sam Leith in the exceptionally interesting Winter 2011 issue of The Author, the quarterly magazine of the Society of Authors. Roger Lewis writes in the same issue, deploring the crowd mentality of commissioning editors in a line of descent from 'Grim Cambridge don, F R Leavis' ,who - mistakenly in Lewis's view - promoted the notion of consenus in judging literary merit. One does not have to agree with all Lewis's opinions to appreciate his distinctive voice, backed by a lifetime immersed in life and literature. For instance, he revels in Rules, my late father's favourite eating -house on the southern fringe of Covent Garden, which I consider a bit of a tourist trap, too tarted- up since its glory days of moth-eaten red velvet banquettes and dusty hunting prints. Never mind.