For six years, English novelist Beryl Bainbridge (The Birthday Boys
) wrote a slightly dotty column for the London Evening Standard
. Although the subject matter generally stays within the city's immediate environs, Bainbridge's skewed, droll reports will indulge her fans around the globe. Barmy digression is her stock in trade: attending a meeting to protest budget cuts in library services, she muses about playwright Joe Orton, who was "so incensed at his Islington branch failing to stock a copy of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
that he defaced the jackets of lesser books and substantially raised the expectations of readers of Dorothy L. Sayers
by incorporating the word 'knickers' in the blurb of one of her novels." Like a terrier with a juicy rat betwixt her teeth, Bainbridge grabs onto such small and large events as an MP hauled up for spanking and defended by "a medical chap" who claims "a whipping a day is more beneficial than an apple," a block fair where she is inveigled into reading fortunes, and an intrepid 5-year-old who interrupts a heated political discussion with a hose. --Francesca Coltrera
From Publishers Weekly
Originally when Bainbridge was asked to write a short weekly column for the Evening Standard, she "mistakenly attempted to grapple with so-called burning issues." Daunted by the amount of research and "informed comment" this required, she decided instead to focus on the daily events of her life, hence the rather modest title for this selection of 50 columns. As it happens, things that happened yesterday lead to recollections of things that happened many years previously as well as to things that didn't happen to her at all. Anyone who is familiar with Bainbridge's novels, say, The Secret Glass, will know that even the most ordinary council flat closet has some macabre skeleton ready-made for her sharp satire. Here the same applies: the structural decline of part of her house recalls the time her ex-mother-in-law tried to shoot her; thinking about exercise evokes her attempts to find out what kind of paperwork she would need to bury her mother in the back yard. She has little hobbies, like her museum with its piece of Herod's temple, her mother's teeth, a friend's gallstone, Melvyn Bragg's discarded sock. Her kids appear often, but more often is "a past which has become more real than the present." Bainbridge (who is best known in the U.S. for her novel The Birthday Boys, about Scott's expedition to the South Pole) is very English. Her humor is dry, pointed and very rooted in the culture, and some things may evade an American audience. The funniest bits, and often the most British, are the footnotes?Bainbridge's sober responses to letters from earnest eccentrics who could or should be Bainbridge's creations.
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