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Make Believe: A True Story Hardcover – 1993

1 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Occasionally compelling, this brief book recounts a lost episode from the "radical chic" era, British division. In 1969, Athill ( Instead of a Letter ), a well-bred, 50-ish London editor, met Hakim Jamal, an African American risen from drugs and drink through the teachings of Malcolm X. With cool economy, she recalls how her relationship with Jamal, 14 years her junior, intensified from editing his autobiography to friendship to sex; she tells of his strange relationship with Jean Seberg and of his abusive, guru-like friendship with the daughter of a one-time member of Parliament, who so embraced his teachings about white guilt that "she wanted to turn herself black." But Athill overlooked indications of Jamal's madness--he described himself as God--until they were inescapable. She effectively conveys his humane and mesmerizing qualities and her sadness at his violent demise--he was shot to death in 1973--seems genuine. But the author tells too little of herself to make the memoir memorable.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Athill, a founding editor of the British publisher Andre Deutsch, seems to specialize in writing about her relationships with men. Her 1962 memoir, Instead of a Letter , recounted her disastrous love affair in which her fiance married another woman; After a Funeral (1984) told of Athill's involvement during the late 1960s with an Egyptian Communist writer who later killed himself in her London apartment. Make Believe focuses on Athill's friendship (and brief affair) with Hakim Jamal , a charismatic young black American militant who changed his name and his life after meeting Malcolm X. Athill, who edited Jamal's autobiography, recalls his turbulent affair with actress Jean Seberg and his tortured relationship with Hale, the daughter of a Member of Parliament. She traces his slow descent into madness (he believed he was God). Eventually, Hale was murdered in Trinidad, and Jamal was shot to death in Boston. While Athill writes eloquently and compassionately, in the end her book is skimpy and unsatisfying, with no focus. An optional purchase.
- Wilda Williams, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 130 pages
  • Publisher: Steerforth Press; 1st American ed edition (1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1883642213
  • ISBN-13: 978-1883642211
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,930,121 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in 1917 and educated at Oxford University, DIANA ATHILL has written several memoirs, including "Instead of a Letter," "After a Funeral," "Somewhere Towards the End," and the New York Times Notable Book "Stet," about her fifty-year career in publishing. She lives in London and was recently appointed an Officer of the British Empire.

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We are told that the subject is interesting, but he doesn't come to life. Anthill is usually amazing, but she falls flat here.
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