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on September 24, 2012
Hello Goodbye Hello has a fine concept: 101 daisy-chained encounters between the great, the good, the bad and the somewhere-in-between. But for some reason Craig Brown decided this wasn't enough of a gimmick. So on top of that, each of the 101 encounters is 1001 words long. This conceit hurts the book. The writing is weirdly choppy, with callbacks to names that have never actually been mentioned; the same snippet being included in both the body of the text and the footnotes; a strange jumpiness between paragraphs; and other visible scars from the editing process. On top of that, not all of these encounters are equally interesting. But because of the gimmick, they are treated as though they are.

A book like this should be an exercise in style. His fixation on 101x1001 crippled his style, knocked the book out of rhythm and in the end made me wish it had ended about 80 pages before it actually did. Which is not really what I'm looking for in light entertainment. When the gimmick hurts the writing, you need to drop the gimmick.
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on August 17, 2012
Hello Goodbye Hello has moments of wonderful, visually-rich description and is generally enjoyable. Very Brit-twit-centric, as you'd expect, and not particularly well-written but Mr Brown has a great eye for hilarious detail from the apparently inexhaustible well of bad public figure behavior. I will always treasure the image of GB Shaw crashing his bicycle into Betrand Russell, then somehow managing to pop up to jeer at Russell at every station as Russell returns by train, his bicycle too wrecked to ride home.
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Craig Brown delivers 101 fascinating, true encounters between the rich and famous as he portrays the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. This perfect summer read is awesome to bring to the beach, or for any leisure time. This collection of true tales is strange, interesting, and witty. Some encounters are simply laugh-out-loud fun. Delightful, and entertaining from beginning to end. Highly Recommended!
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on January 28, 2013
This book is pure fun: informative, entertaining and gossipy. Some readers think the author's self-imposed rules-- 101 encounters that are each 1001 words long-- hurt the book. I don't agree. After all, Mr Brown includes long, gossipy footnotes that make the essays longer than the stated 1001 words. Reading this book is like attending a multi-generational cocktail party with a fabulous tasting menu. I always think that any successful biographical work should tempt one to read more about a person or learn about his or her work. From my perspective this book succeeds beautifully.
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on April 23, 2013
It's a small world — sometimes, almost too small. Which Marx brother drove Rachmaninoff out of his bungalow? Who was sunning naked when he encountered the famous Irish writer — but wait, I've written too much. You get it all: Mich, Tolstoy, Stalin, Harpo Marx, Queen Elizabeth II, Madonna, Elizabeth Taylor... Small, bite-sized vignettes are easy to absorb, quick to read and rather compelling. And really, who doesn't want to know what Richard Burton did in the presence of the Duke of Windsor?
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on October 23, 2012
What was the first (or most significant) meeting between two famous people like? Who else DID they meet? Craig Brown explores this with "Hello Goodbye Hello" - bring us in a wide circle with 101 meetings between 101 famous people, each meeting and each new person acting as a bridge to the next tale stretching in time from 1876 to 2006.

Who is the "1st / only degree of separation" between Adolph Hitler and Rudyard Kipling? What happened during the meeting between Dali and Freud? Or between Houdini and Theodore Roosevelt? What was George Bernard Shaw's first impression of Harpo Marx?

The book's 101 short (1001 words each, 3 to 4 pages depending on footnotes) stories allow for a series of quick reads; you can put the book down and pick it back up without losing your (or the author's) chain of thought. There is an emphasis on British personalities - which is to be expected given the author's heritage - BUT a prefix for American audiences provides an introduction to many of those who may or may not be familiar on this side of the Atlantic.

Definitely an interesting way to devote a little time each day. Or a LOT of time each day ...

DISCLOSURE: I was provided my copy of this book free of charge in a contest. The hope was that I would enjoy it and post a good review; the request was simply to read it and write a review; however, no guarantees were made on my part other than to grant permission for the postman to leave a copy in my mailbox.(
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on September 6, 2012
A delightful book; a collection of brief and highly entertaining encounters with the famous, the obscure, and the unlikely! To be read as literary hors d'ouevres, desserts, and anytime in between. Read on Kindle Touch.
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on July 26, 2014
I just couldn't bring myself to like this book. The premise behind the connections between the people and strict word count for each story etc are cool but I found the stories a little too "us weekly". The writing style was a little too gossipy and mean spirited. Maybe I'm missing something but not interesting to me at all. I really struggled to get through this.
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on December 17, 2013
This is simply an amazing book, but it will not amuse those who don't naturally study people; those types will understandably--based upon their preferences--give the book few stars. I give it five stars.

The work is unique in that it does something I've never seen done before: it records the encounters between famous people, and in that sense it is biographical, however, it is biographical only in the abbreviated sense that it captures, usually at some event, each person's "reaction" to the other person. The amusing thing is that many, if not most, of these reactions are ambiguous, often containing both heightened negative and hightened postive feelings about the other person. This approach to examining and describing interpersonal encounters is hilarious because it resonates with the experience most "regular" people have when they encounter other regular but very interesting people: we tend to admire the new interesting person while simultaneously finding faults in them; we like them and don't like them. This book accentuates that phenomenon, throwing it onto stark relief, because every person in it is both extremely talented (and/or famous, and/or rich) and extremely idiosyncratic, the parties consequently have a lot of material to work with. The reactions are priceless, e.g., you wouldn't necessarily think that the composer Tchaikoavsky would have had a particularly vexing problem with Leo Tolstoy, or Elvis Presely one with Paul McCartney, or Charlie Chaplin one with Groucho Marx, but they all did, and they're amusing problems.

On the other hand, in contrast to the absurdities of life, there are more than a handful of very touching encounters in the book where both people walked away with lingering, life-long senses of mutual regard and warmth, e.g., that between Mark Twain and Helen Keller. Consequently, the book provides an activation of my fascination with both the nastier, judgemental sides of human nature, and the warmer, fuzzier sides of it.

The icing on top of this cake is that all these encounters are linked, namely, one of the parties in every given encounter is a party in the next encounter, so there is a sense of a conversational wave, or more a tide, moving back and forth between the 1876 shore of Tolstoy/Tchaikovsky to the 2007 shore of Dominick Dune/Phil Spector, with the issues in one conversation sometimes foreshadowing issues in another conversation decades away.

Finally, read the book close to Google, as you will want to familiarize (re-famaliarize) yourself with many of these fascinating people.

Anyway, that's what I think.
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on January 31, 2013
The format is great with an exact length for each item. Some of the people were of greater interest to me than others. But there is something for everyone. From Queen Elizabeth to Marilyn Monroe with Truman Capote thrown in it keeps the reader wondering where it will go next. And...it makes it easy to skip to the next item is desired.
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