e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Archive for the tag “autobiography”

30 Day Book Challenge – day 26: A book I wish would be written

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A book I would love to read would be the imaginary biography or autobiography of Richard Parker. (Note, just in case you don’t know: Richard Parker is the tiger in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi.)

I’ve always thought that giving him a human name was a brilliant move. It makes him seem more of a character, less of a stereotype. In googling for this post I came across a Wikipedia entry for Richard Parker (shipwrecked) which lists several real and fictional Richard Parkers. Apparently it’s from these stories that Martel got the name.

He had an exciting life: captured as a cub, locked up in a zoo, transported on a ship and shipwrecked, on a lifeboat with a boy, finally free in a Mexican jungle. What happened after that? I’d love to know.

I’m sure that in the end he had (or will have) a dignified death.

Picture from Wikimedia Commons.

30 Day Book Challenge – day 25: Favourite biography

My Fathers Fortune coverFor this topic I have no hesitation. I’ve read numerous biographies in my time and could list several that I really like but, of the ones I recall reasonably clearly (oh, for the memory of an elephant!), my favourite is My Father’s Fortune by Michael Frayn.

There are several reasons why I like this book.

It is the story of an ordinary man and it celebrates the heroism of the ordinary life. Frayn senior was born with no particular advantages: his family were not rich and the welfare state didn’t exist when he was young so he missed out on a lot of education and opportunities. Early he developed deafness which made his working life harder than it was for others. But he progressed in his career as salesman, provided for his family and educated his children to have more possibilities in their lives.

Michael Frayn is a writer who can illuminate the ordinary to show its extra-ordinariness and its universality. In this case one of the universal themes is the relationship of father and son – all men have this relationship, even orphans experience it, but as an absence. Another is the value of keeping on even when the going is tough or, worse still, boring.

On a more personal level, the book describes England as it was shortly before my own memories begin and gives me an idea of where my school and neighbourhood came from.

Picture from Goodreads.

Reading backlog – ‘Life’s Rich Pageant’ by Arthur Marshall

I don’t know how long I’ve had this book. It came to light when we moved house. It was Lifes Rich pageant coverpublished in 1984 but I don’t think I’ve had it anything like that long. It’s probably one I picked up in a charity shop or event. Forgotten it may have been, but having found it, I’m grateful for it. It’s a charming read.

It’s Arthur Marshall‘s autobiography, up to the point where he started appearing on Call My Bluff. If you’ve never seen this, you’ve missed a treat. It’s a TV quiz about words and their meanings and is peopled by entertaining broadcasters and their guests.

It’s a book of smiles. Despite the quotes from the famous on the cover claiming it to be hilarious there were only a few places where I laughed out loud. But there was a smile, not to say a grin, in almost every paragraph.

The world the author grew up in, starting before WW1, is long gone, but appreciation of the humour in life transcends time.  Mr Marshall certainly saw humour wherever he went. A tendency to laugh at the slightest excuse got him into trouble several times.

He introduces an array of characters, famous and unknown, and we learn nice things about all of them – if the author knew any horrid people he didn’t write about them.

His life was varied and eventful, including several jobs, service in WW2, a devotion to the theatre both professional and amateur and a lot of broadcasting.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes to smile broadly, laugh loudly and see the nice side of their fellow people.

Picture from ebay.

30 Day Book Challenge – day 6: A book that made me cry

Having let this challenge lapse for several weeks, I’m now back on it and raring to go sharing my discoveries – because discoveries they are. In answering the questions I search my memory and come up with whole continents of forgotten reading territory.

This Day 6 challenge is no different. In fact, because books very rarely make me cry, I had to look hard to find this one.

3685I read Black Beauty by Anna Sewell years ago and the descriptions of the cruelty the horse met in the course of his life shocked and upset me. As it was meant to do. Ms Sewell wrote the book to do exactly that – shock her readers into looking anew at animal welfare. Reading the Wikipedia writeup of this book I was very happy to learn that she achieved her aim. Also, as a result of her book the conditions for hackney cab drivers in London were improved.

Another demonstration of  the power of the pen and how one person can make a difference when wielding it.

For those who aren’t familiar with this book, it’s an ‘autobiography’ of a horse. Black Beauty is sold from owner to owner and experiences the full range of human kindness and unkindness. Ms Sewell had mobility problems due to an accident as a teenager and was dependent on horse-drawn vehicles. This gave her a deep respect for horses and an understanding of their behaviour, both of which she used to good effect in her only book. At the time (1877) writing from an animal’s viewpoint was a novelty and affected readers more than it would do today.

Picture from Goodreads which also has a short review.

Once again with feeling – and not too many clothes

So Gypsy Rose Lee is to hit the big screen again.

I’ve never seen her film or TV appearances nor any of her biopics or bio-stage shows nor have I read the famous autobiography, so I don’t really know what the attraction is.

Surely a pushy mother and an ability to take off her clothes with elegance can’t be the only reasons for her popularity.

Checking around the internet, I discovered that she wrote several books, including a couple of crime stories, and a play. She also knew a thing or two about art and amassed a considerable collection. Obviously a multi-talented lady.

The money she made in burlesque no doubt put her in a position to develop her other talents.

I like this quote from The Wall Street Journal:

Gypsy Rose Lee’s inimitable burlesque act won her fame, but her classic memoir is what made her immortal.

So it is for her writing that she continues to be famous. I don’t wonder so many celebrities publish their autobiographies, perhaps in the hope a good book will keep their name alive. Who wouldn’t want to have musicals, books, films, exhibitions and umpteen web-sites commemorating them long after their death?

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