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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Saturday, 20 April 2019

"One on one" by Craig Brown

This is a great book! It is built on the seven steps premise, the idea that you can link yourself to anyone in the world in just seven steps (this is also known as the small world phenomenon: it is a meme started by an experiment by the psychologist Stanley Milgram as explained in Small World by Mark Buchanan). Except Craig Brown (I knew him at school so that's one step right there) links Adolf Hitler with Adolf Hitler through 101 encounters. Thus, Adolf  was knocked down by John Scott-Ellis who, at another time, met Rudyard Kipling who had once met Mark Twain who sometime later encountered Helen Keller who worked with Martha Graham who taught Madonna who ... and so it goes on until Charlie Chaplin plays tennis against Groucho Marx who meets T S Eliot who reads poetry to The Quuen Mother who discusses kitchens with the Duchess of Windsor who met Adolf Hitler. It goes back in time as far as Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky and Madonna is perhaps the most contemporary; it covers writers and royals, painters and poets and politicians, actors and dancers and rock stars, a couple of religious gurus and a philosopher. I loved it.

It is all extensively researched and cited. To compound the bonkers brilliance of this game, each encounter is written in 1001 words (I don't know whether the many extensive footnotes are counted).

Celebrities, or at least this selection of them, are almost uniformly eccentric to the point of lunacy. Sex comes up time and again. It seems to me that to be anyone in the celebrity world you have to have sex with at least seven other celebrities.

Many of the most quotable moments belong to other people so I have tried to select my favourite bits from what Craig has written:

  • "Gurdjieff ... was the most earthy of men, enjoying huge three-course meals, washed down with Armagnac, while his followers made do with bowls of thin soup. ... he often didn't bother to use the lavatory, preferring to defecate willy-nilly. ... He was a stranger to celibacy." P L Travers, the author of Mary Poppins, was one of his devotees!
  • "Jack Kerouac ... collapsed while watching The Galloping Gourmet on television, then died in hospital of cirrhosis of the liver."
  • "Traditionally, members of the royal family are granted a special licence as entertainers. Their efforts at sparkling, however dim, are greeted with enthusiasm; their repartee, however pedestrian, sets tables aroar; their musical forays, however painful, are hailed as delightful. This conspiracy of sycophancy has, over the years, led one or two of them to gain an inflated notion of their own talents."
  • "When his father first warned him that he was spending too much, Elvis tried to calm him down by buying him a Mercedes."
  • "When the Book of the Month club asks him to change the title [of The Catcher in the Rye], Salinger explains that Holden Caulfield won't agree to it."
  • "Now aged forty-nine, penniless and plump, Isadora Duncan has seen better days. ... Dorothy Parker nicknames her 'Duncan Disorderly'."
  • "She has always been prone to rage, and her progress around the world has been marked by the splinters of hotel furniture."

This book is incredibly clever and great fun. I loved it.

April 2019; 332 pages

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