Eric Idle OnlineMy Life

December Reading.

By , December 30, 2017 6:06 pm

A few friends are on my Christmas gift list, where I send them ten of the books I have most enjoyed reading in the year, wrapped in brown paper, string and ceiling wax, from Mr. B’s Bookshop in Bath.    This year these were my ten gift books.

A Legacy of Spies                   John Le Carré

The Golden House                  Salman Rushdie

Dead is Good                          Jo Perry

An Officer and a Spy              Robert Harris

The Comedians                       Graham Greene

Prussian Blue                          Philip Kerr

How To Build a Universe       Professor Brian Cox and Robin Ince

The Hand                                Georges Simenon.

The Bomb Maker by Thomas Perry would have made it but of course it’s only just now in the shops.

Happy New Year and have a great year of reading.


The Second World War                                           Antony Beevor

I spent most of the month reading this great narrative of World War Two.      Then I found….

Blitzed                                                                        Norman Ohler

A most wonderful read and a really informative book especially right after reading Anthony Beevor’s World War Two where I was constantly asking myself how could anybody do this.   Here is the answer.   They become a junkie.  Crystal meth, amphetamine, coke, morphine, half the Supreme Command was on something, and Hitler was on everything.   At the end his doctor/dealer could hardly find a vein.  The German army, navy and pilots were fed amphetamine to stay awake.  Blitzkrieg?   How did the army move so fast and without stopping?   Easy: Pervitin, a form of speed manufactured in enormous quantities by Merck to keep the armies rolling and the factories churning.  Why did the army stop and not continue their charge to obliterate the English at Dunkirk?  Hitler gave a stoner command!   How did he condemn an entire Army to die at Stalingrad?   Crystal meth.   Locked away in his bunkers he felt invincible.   Possessed of super powers.  This is an important book to read and solves some of the many puzzles about the war.   You can even begin to feel slightly sorry for the Germans, especially at the end when kids were given speed to help them face the Red Army. Ironically, much of the stuff was grown at Dachau.   Oh the unspeakable ironies of History.  This is also downright fucking hilarious.   The picture of the Fuhrer at the end in his bunker, strung out, suffering from withdrawal symptoms, drooling, shaking with reality finally breaking in is just wonderful.  We should check the Doctors of our leaders.

Just saying…

Maigret’s Revolver                                                    Georges Simenon

Another very fine tale from the Master of Maigret.   He is a constant bright spot in the months reading.

Regards                                                                      John Gregory Dunne

I very much enjoyed these excellent essays. He is particularly good on the film industry and the horrors of being a screenwriter.  In fact I enjoyed him so much I turned to:

Monster                                                                    John Gregory Dunne

which I enjoyed all of.   I also bought three of his novels at Iliad but then realized I had already read:

Red White and Blue.                                                John Gregory Dunne

And I wasn’t knocked out by the other two.    Too Irish too Catholic too much dialogue.

Nothing Lost                                                             John Gregory Dunne

True Confession.                                                       John Gregory Dunne

The thriller element is potentially very good but nothing much happens while they talk and talk.  And Apostolic intrigue is not interesting, not even when Trollope did it.

Tell Tale                                                                     Jeffery Archer

Each year the surprisingly nice Jeffery sends me his latest book, and last year he said sadly that I never read them.   It’s not true.   This year I had seen and bought this book of short stories before I even opened my mail.   I enjoyed them very much.  He is a real writer, not just an enormous world-wide best-selling author!    That’ll teach me to be a book snob.

The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve                       Stephen Greenblatt

My old friend Stephen warned me that I wouldn’t like this book, but I read and enjoyed a lot more than he would expect.

How to Build a Universe                                          Professor Brian Cox & Robin Ince

Despite a very churlish intro from me this is a wonderful book.  They have made it as simple as possible to understand as much as possible about the Universe and I really recommend it to everyone.

FCC Again

By , December 15, 2017 9:40 am

Fuck you very much the FCC

For kindly ending net neutrality

The Country’s in the toilet

Now that Putin took a dump

All over your democracy

And left you all with Trump

So a bunch of greedy bastards

Can steal everything they see

Fuck you very much the FCC.

November Reading

By , December 7, 2017 5:56 pm

The Years of Victory                                                            Arthur Bryant

I read about half of this precursor to The Age of Elegance, the sequel of which is Years of Victory, both of which I was able to download, Iliad having for once come up empty.  It’s wonderful up to the sad Death of Nelson, which saves Britain at the same time as Napoleon’s military genius at Austerlitz against the hapless Austrians condemns the Continent to ten more years of his dictatorship.  But of course the coarse Corsican can’t resist hurling himself on those Russians and their endless Empire, which causes the eventual death of his.  Excellent history if like me that is your bag.

The Last Kind Words Saloon                                              Larry McMurtry

Larry McMurtry is some kind of genius.  I always enjoyed reading him.  You look at his list of titles and he has an incredible run from Evening Star, through Texasville, through Lonesome Dove, The Desert Rose, Cadillac Jack on to Terms of Endearment and The Last Picture Show.  An amazing writer of effortless stories, his people spring to life from the page, his characters fighting in and out of bed…  This one is almost mythical in the way he handles Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, so that the O.K.Corrall comes up at you almost unexpectedly so used to their company have you become.  Yes, definitely some kind of genius.

Mr. Hire’s Engagement                                                      Georges Simenon

An exquisite early detective tale, without Maigret but in the same milieu.  An innocent man is hounded to his death by police and public.  The amazing part of the story is the relationship between Mr Hire and the killer’s girlfriend.  The ambivalence, the use of sex to entrap him, Simenon is brilliant, honest and original.

The Vanity Fair Diaries                                                        Tina Brown

Tina Brown is wonderful and I was sorry I missed her talk with Bruce Wagner in LA.  This is not as great a book as The Diana Chronicles because while it fascinatingly charts the amazing rise and rise of Vanity Fair under her editorship, once that has been achieved we are left with a series of social events with New Yorkers, some fascinating, some brilliant, some merely rich.  I found I began to skim the latter category.  She is fascinated with the man who will provide the end game on Reagan Presidencies, but to be fair, in the mid-eighties, who could have foreseen that Donald Trump would be in the White House, even for dinner?  As the Reagans passed from the scene the pursuit of money seemed to replace the pursuit of happiness.   Perhaps that all went up the nose in Studio 54 in the Seventies.  Her achievement in resuscitating an almost dead magazine title and making it hip and smart and funny and readable is clearly and determinedly and modestly described in her extraordinary well-written diary. So I enjoyed the book but it is what it is, and unless you are fascinated by just how the wealthy designed their next party you should be prepared to skip.   Certainly worth it.

Ma’am Darling  (99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret)     Craig Brown

The glimpses go from early intrigue, through contempt for her, through to eventual pity.  A sad life in many ways and surely her greatest accolade was that she ended up as The Pantomime Princess Margaret appearing at all our live Monty Python shows in the Royal Box.  We actually once stayed at her house on Mustique with David Bowie and Iggy Pop when the chartered Yacht didn’t show up for a week.  She wasn’t there of course.  Very beautiful Oliver Messel bungalow in the most exquisite setting.

Our Kind of Traitor                                                              John Le Carré

I was enjoying re-reading this about two innocents recruited on holiday in Antigua to deal with a proposed Russian Mafiosi defector.  I felt the same this time, that it sags after the Paris tennis scenes, indeed once the two leave the centre of the action.  Nevertheless some great stuff.

The Golden House                                                                Salman Rushdie

Possibly the most peculiar experience I have ever had reading.  I was quietly enjoying Salman’s latest when I entered the novel!     Most disconcerting and slightly scary.  I was so shocked it took me a while to go back to the book.  The anonymity that you are guaranteed as a reader was ripped away and I realise how much we are dependent on that.  We sit in the dark and respond but don’t interfere and that is the implicit contract between writer and reader.  When that is gone it is rather like being discovered on the toilet.   A most unique and interesting lesson.  When I wrote to him Salman hoped it was a happy surprise.  I think I’m still a bit shocked…

My lawyer wanted to charge him for appearing in his book, which I thought was pretty funny.

The Rub of Time                                                                   Martin Amis

More fascinating articles from the most fascinating writer.  Dip at will and you will find gold.