Saturday 5 December 2009
Dylan Jones: 'Seasonal Suicide Notes' is a funny, acute stocking filler that should appeal to any half-decent misanthropist
Talk Of The Town
One of the enjoyable things about being an editor is being able to meet and commission those writers whose work you worship – especially if the interest is reciprocated. Of course there are many aspects to magazine editing, but I've always placed most importance on the production of seriously great writing, which you can only achieve with seriously great writers.
Like Roger Lewis, for instance. Known principally for his extraordinary biography The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (which was adapted into an award-winning film starring Geoffrey Rush), he has also written a lovely monograph of the former Carry On star Charles Hawtrey, as well as a biography of his hero (Lewis's, not Hawtrey's), Anthony Burgess.
Endearingly, Roger also lists his forthcoming books in his lists of achievements; they include The Kill Fees Trilogy, Mister Jesus (a gospel) and When I Was Young and Twenty and I Had a Dainty Quim (madrigals). Lewis is very, very good. And in print, very, very scary. Eviscerating. Savage. Downright rude.
I had lunch with Roger last year, and beforehand I was quite nervous, concerned that our meal might turn out to be some sort of semantic means test. Roger turned out to be charm personified, and has since written some extraordinary pieces for me, the most recent on the legacy of Jacques Tati.
For some years Roger has been "entertaining" his friends with a rather dour diary-style letter at Christmas, a sort of litany of professional and personal disasters (Lewis takes self-deprecation to almost Olympian levels).
A book-length version of these diatribes has been mooted for ages, and finally it has arrived: Seasonal Suicide Notes, a stupendously acute and funny stocking filler that should appeal to any half-decent misanthropist.
Lewis has some slightly predictable complaints about the expediency of the publishing industry – an industry he says is obsessed with the autobiographies and fiction of the recently famous – but that aside, it really is a wonderful piece of work.
Seasonal Suicide Notes comes with a cover illustration of a snowman playing Russian roulette with a hair dryer. Buy this book, or else I'm plugging it in.
Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'
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