A Week in Books: Stars fall prey to the scorned spouse
Boyd Tonkin is Senior Writer and a columnist at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Literary Editor at The Independent, and before that Social Policy Editor and then Books Editor at the New Statesman magazine. He has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes and has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize. In 2001, he re-founded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for literature in translation, and serves on its judging panel every year.
Saturday 07 August 1999
So the forsaken help-meet of the man who scanned the universe is pestered by a bullying taxman "usually employed in pursuit of jobbing builders". The authorial voice - a cherishable blend of Mrs Pooter and Guardian woman - seethes with outrage when the vile Thatcherite state treats her just like a tradesman!
Music to Move the Stars (Macmillan, pounds 20) tells us, naturally, little about science (except when the gap between his iron-clad rationalism and her New Age spirituality causes yet more strain). And it explains rather less than it pretends about the burdens of marriage to a disabled scientific mega-star - an unctuous tone muffles the pain. What it does offer is a splendid compendium of British liberal prejudices. Writers in search of raw data for campus satire will mine this memoir for years.
Of course, the apologia would never have surfaced at all (still less at 610 pages) without our decadent desire to see high intellect brought low. Jane admits "a respected editor at Macmillan" planted the seed, writing to ask "whether I would like to write about my life, in my own terms". Those terms include more than enough media-friendly recrimination to reach to the next galaxy. Far better some honest bonk-and-tell tabloid vulgarity than the ghastly genteel prurience of a "literary" publisher with a scorned spouse on its books. A pox on this whole tacky trade in upmarket vendettas.
So leave the first Mrs Hawking to get a new life. Instead, read Georgina Ferry's tremendous book about the great Nobel-winning biochemist Dorothy Hodgkin (Granta), shortlisted this week for the Marsh Biography Award.
Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Katie Hopkins gives rare glimpse of sensitive side with heartfelt open letter to her children penned in case she dies from epilepsy
- 2 Rihanna's Met Gala dress took one Chinese woman 2 years to make, was reduced to omelette meme in 2 seconds
- 3 Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to replace Jeremy Clarkson and co
- 4 Frankie Boyle on Scottish independence: 'In the Interests of Unity, F**k Off'
- 5 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Penny Dreadful, series 2 episode 1, review: It is still gloriously silly
Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to replace Jeremy Clarkson and co
Eurovision 2015: What date and time is the song contest and who are the favourites to win?
How the Other Half Eat, Channel 4 - TV review: Swapping food trolleys shows how food and class are closely connected
Noel Gallagher 'cannot wait' to hear Oasis-inspired One Direction album but rants about 'pointless' Tidal and Spotify
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils