My Name is Daphne Fairfax, By Arthur Smith

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The Independent Culture

Like its author, this autobiography is witty, engaging and unconventional. It begins with four Chapter Ones – presumably Smith thought (correctly) that they'd all make a good starting point, so threw them all in.

The comedian writes of his childhood in post-war south London, his friendships, his love affairs, and his gradual evolution as a writer, radio wit, raconteur and Grumpy Old Man. The book bristles with jokes and funny footnotes. (Man goes to the doctor for a check-up. Doctor says, "You'll have to stop masturbating." Man asks, "Why?" "Because I'm trying to examine you.")

I was in the audience for some of the gigs described and it was pleasant to be reminded of the hilarious drinking song "I've seen your arse", and a shock to learn he was suffering from severe depression when he performed it. Smith writes of his alcoholism, his near-death from pancreatitis, and the deaths of his father and close friends, movingly but never veering within sight of the maudlin. As funny and emotionally satisfying as a great stand-up performance.

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