Coda, By Simon Gray
Sunday 14 June 2009
Simon Gray's last book, before he died of lung cancer in 2008, is an irresistible, utterly contradictory mix of honesty, cowardice, generosity, intolerance and bravery. It begins with his doctors giving him a year to live. He has no truck with those who refuse to be straight with him, but equally acknowledges that he was warned to stop smoking many times and didn't. Now he has time to assess his career as a playwright, think about how his wife will manage, how to break the news to his grown-up children.
Confessional literature has had a bad press lately, its ubiquity bemoaned and its focus on death considered less enlightening, than voyeuristic. But this last in Gray's series of "Smoking Diaries" is among the best of the confessional genre, and a great postscript to his writing career.
His trips to Crete, always spoilt by British holiday-makers, are the only thing keeping him going. This mixture of light and dark is what marks Gray out as a writer who knows exactly what does and what doesn't matter.
Arts & Ents blogs
He's been a very busy boy: Terry Gilliam on directing Berlioz operas, nightmarish shoots - and the truth about the Monty Python reunion
What are the best first lines in fiction?
Neil Patrick Harris talks shooting 'robotic' Gone Girl sex scene with Rosamund Pike
Boy George: Bad karma
Neil Young reaches Kickstarter target to fund new music player within a day
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
No EU referendum under Labour: Ed Miliband to reveal that vote on membership is ‘unlikely’ in next Parliament if party wins power
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
The quiet diplomat: Catherine Ashton - recognised and admired in all the world’s troubled countries, yet ridiculed at home
Fracking is turning the US into a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia
- 1 Fracking is turning the US into a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia
- 2 Hells of residence: Inside Macedonia's horrifying student accommodation - where the walls are green and the food is black
- 3 Boy George: Bad karma
- 4 Rachel Canning: US teenager returns home after she tried to sue her parents for child support
- 5 Rampaging elephant smashes up house but then 'saves crying baby trapped under debris'