Quietly speaking volumes

KINDRED SPIRITS: Adrift in Literary London by Jeremy Lewis, HarperColli ns pounds 17.99

AS Andy Warhol would have said, Jeremy Lewis was famous for five seconds. He was featured in an excellent television dramatisation of the Birmingham Six scandal: the campaigning MP Chris Mullin (played by John Hurt) rings his publisher and says, "May I speak to Jeremy Lewis?"

Well, that's it. The scene changes to something more exciting, but those few words would have made a great title, perhaps slightly doctored: Get me Jeremy Lewis, and Pronto. This book is not named after that piece of dialogue, largely because Lewis himself missed the programme and no one told him of the name-check.

A pity. The author of Kindred Spirits could have constructed a paragraph or three out of it. Since he coaxes an entire page out of the way in which Kingsley Amis made him a cup of tea, and five pages about having a slice of cake with the warden of All Souls, an actual televisual event would have loomed like a mountaintop in the flat landscape of his life. He is the exact opposite of those famous folk whose autobiographies reduce each achievement to a couple of lines of PR prose; in a one-and-a-half inch thick paperback, David Frost could spare only one-sixteenth of an inch to his entire time at university, tucked into a chapter about how he started in television.

This, by contrast, is Lewis's second volume of memoirs, covering his career, if that's the right word, in publishing and a short intermission as "England's most ineffectual literary agent". And the book is not an adjective too long. His strength is as a sometimes horrified observer, rather like James Stewart in Rear Window but without the window. He has a photographic memory - or possibly photographic imagination - for the down-at-heel decor of the publishing houses (publishing shed, in the case of the London Magazine) where he went through the motions of being an executive.

This is the real humour of observation: the staff who are the mainstay of the office and the oddballs who can bring an organisation to its baggy knees. He harks back to the time of doors and typewriters, before open- plan floors and VDUs. Lunch in those days lasted for most of the afternoon, while those kindred spirits of the title refer to both friends and what they had in their glasses.

This is the antithesis of Nineties laddism. No gamesplayer he, on or off the field. "Iron" and "John" are not his middle names. But he is also too old at heart to be a New Man; both his wife and daughters, to whom he is clearly devoted, have only walk-on parts in his account.

If there is such an institution as a Museum of Publishing hidden away in some dusty Bloomsbury basement, this will be the most consulted volume. Scholars will come for the latest research into Victorian sales figures and instead spend the afternoon with Lewis's anecdotes about turning up for a job interview with Andre Deutsch and being told he is exactly a day late. His words should be buried in a time capsule under the Publishers' Association premises and dug up to remind future print-free, interactive, CD-Rom generations what it was like to put witty words down on the page.

You will have deduced that this is no incisive guide to success in the world of publishing. He gives the impression that the books he published had more spine than he did. His single successful career move was being on the large side: he seems to have landed his first job by being hefty enough to heave filing cabinets up the office stairs without rupturing himself.

In fact, he surely must have been far more competent at his trade than he lets on. He once wrote an introduction to Diary of a Nobody; and I suspect him of being a Mr Pooter in reverse, wilfully underselling himself.

Certainly he is not always Mr Nice Guy. Although he has always been a non-combatant in the office jungle, he has a few missiles to hurl. If I were him, I should not like to bump into Carmen Callil, the ex-chatelaine of Chatto, in a dark bookshop. There are one or two arts producers who will not want him back on their programmes. The "vestal virgin" of Oxford University Press, a one-time colleague, may take a dim view. The next caller who asks, "May I speak to Jeremy Lewis?" could be a lawyer. This book will do as a character witness.

Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Reach for the sky: there are around 250 new buildings of 20-plus storeys planned for London alone, some 80 per cent of them residential
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
filmReview: The ingenious film will intrigue, puzzle and trouble audiences by turns
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey


Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
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.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower