Books: Petty theft, pornography and pantomime subversion

Prince Charming: A Memoir by Christopher Logue Faber pounds 20

'Books were the thing. Portable, durable, inexpensive - free-spirited, subversive, difficult to police," as Christopher Logue said just halfway through this century while forming a Writer's Group in dim Fifties provincial England. It is perhaps as much of a description of the poet and punster as of a book, though it's unlikely the writer is quite as portable as he once was.

Certainly, the early years of the self-contradictory Logue (born 1926) show the absolute unexpectedness of talent when it descends on an unsuspecting family. Suburb, slum or castle; it is immediately identifiable from an early age. The triumph lies with the parents who do not seek to extinguish it, or, worse, punish the first manifestations of originality. For these are frequently criminal; and Logue confesses to lying and stealing at every possible opportunity. How, then, did the good-natured John Logue, who addressed his son Christopher as "Old John", react to this particular brand of cuckoo? It must be said, despite painful incidents of holidays with relatives and returned bags of toast found secreted in ledges and crannies by the toast-hating Logue - remarkably well. On the lower slopes of Hampstead Garden Suburb the child with the huge appetite - for reading, knowledge, power, mastery of the word - was respected and left alone for as long as he wanted in his room. This is probably all the budding prodigy wants, school and sharing being the worst fate ever devised. At least there were no siblings for this odd bird to push out. Neither spoilt nor neglected, this was a reasonably happy childhood.

Still, there can have been few less inspiring times and places than wartime - and postwar - England for a boy or youth longing for freedom and a sense of new beginnings. Logue, who both sends up and attacks himself in this spirited autobiography, often took a way out, the only way out for those whose lives are circumscribed: he made his own fun. Being found in possession, in the army at Haifa, of a consignment of paybooks, Logue wrote home to his parents: "You denied yourselves almost everything to keep me at a decent school and have my brain trained along the lines of human life and decency." When he was court-martialled, the reality of the consequences of a creative spirit gone haywire soon set in. Yet Logue was never far from trouble - often, fortunately in a more constructive role than petty thief.

It's possible to see Christopher Logue's translations of The Iliad - regarded as equal to those of Pope - as summations of the life and struggles of this funny, opinionated man, whose years as the Napoleon of Notting Hill had many gaping at the swagger and loud theatrical voice, the apparent arrogance. But war, as sung by Homer and rendered by Logue, comes from within - and without the self-contradictions there could probably never have been War Music, Kings and The Husbands, books containing lines that are indeed "free-spirited, difficult to police". The turmoil of the Trojan wars, the lives and hopes of the antique world are brought bang up to date, by Logue. This after a succession of equally contradictory episodes in life: going to Paris (as everyone wanted to in the 1950s) and writing porn for Maurice Gerodias while sleeping three in a bed and suffering from impotence, failing in love, most outstandingly, with another cuckoo's chick, the upper-class, beautiful and talented Nell Dunn. But he never found the reciprocity he craved in a world of "little magazines" (a photo shows a bunch of those leftwing editors and poets in Paris, with Logue in mid-shout and George Plimpton, handsome Urbane Plimpton of the Paris Review, beaming down at him) where there is nothing quite big enough to take Logue's attention for long.

Perhaps by reason of his nature, probably because of the feelings of the times, Logue's high spots included Aldermaston and Nuclear Disarmament, friendships with Doris Lessing and Ken Tynan, and all those who by virtue of their talent and insistence changed the face of Britain. Dissatisfied with the prospect of a poet's career - as Logue saw it, chumming up with other poets, getting good reviews, publishing a Selected Poems and going to the grave - he invented the poster poem and chummed up instead with the Establishment crowd and Private Eye. As often as not involved in controversy - he was the first to write openly of T S Eliot's anti-Semitism - he was never anything other than subversive and remains so to this day. Logue is, like the books he rates over all other technology, durable. He may look more like a revolutionary Buttons than Prince Charming (an ironic title) but his role in the pantomime of post-war Britain has been a significant one. And his memoir is refreshingly sharp and well-written.

Arts and Entertainment Musical by Damon Albarn


Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment


film review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
    Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy