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An Encyclopaedia of Myself Hardcover – 8 May 2014


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (8 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 185702849X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857028492
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.4 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 18,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘Meades [is] an original in the best sense of combining deep knowledge and keen observation with a genuinely individual viewpoint … The richness of vocabulary is as pleasurable as his honesty is bald … The era is wonderfully reconstructed, the words so impastoed that everywhere you can feel the grain of times … By far the best picture of the 1950s I have read’ George Walden, The Times

‘If this book is thought of less as a memoir than as a symphonic poem about postwar England and Englishness – well, then it is a masterpiece … Meades is a sort of apocalyptic John Betjeman, and the descriptions here rank with the late poet laureate’s eye for detail and nose for nostalgia’ Roger Lewis, Financial Times

‘A vivid and sometimes haunting portrait of a lost England … Seldom has the suffocating sense of self-absorption of the siblingless, of loneliness and boredom and of precocity, imagination and alienation, been more powerfully illustrated … Every page bristles with informed analysis and cogent argument’ Andrew Anthony, Observer

‘A dazzling confection of grown-up sophistication and schoolboy intensity of feeling. Meades may be pushing 70 years old, but like a more literate William Brown or an angrier Nigel Molesworth, he is still energetically kicking at everything that comes his way’ Jane Shilling, Daily Telegraph

‘A brilliant stylist; he seldom writes a boring sentence’ Lynn Barber, Sunday Times

‘This book is a riot … [Meades] writes with such force and originality … Meades is already a cult. This book will make him more so. It is a true literary achievement, and one's only regret is that a sequel is not already at hand to be read straight away’ Simon Heffer, Literary Review

‘[Meades] vividly conjures a vanished world … I loved this book. Meades is a very great prose stylist, with a dandy’s delight in the sound and feel of words, and we are lucky to have him’ Ian Thomson, The Spectator

About the Author

Jonathan Meades’s most recent book ‘Museum Without Walls’ was selected as a book of the year by seven critics. He has since published a box of photos in postcard form, ‘Pidgin Snaps’. His new films ‘Concrete Poetry’ are in praise of brutalist architecture and will be transmitted on BBC4 in March 2014.


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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Adrian R. Fry on 20 May 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you have been a fan of Jonathan Meades' telly essays or, better by far, his forays into fiction, this book is a must have. A memoir of his childhood in 1950s Salisbury, it constitutes a vivid, belligerently autodidactic vision of a vanished provincial England and the vanished child that grew to be Jonathan Meades in it. Picaresque tales of Mr Thick the drowner jostle with accounts of Porton Down boffins and dubious garage owners, all the while showing how Jonathan Meades became the actually rather frightening figure he is today. Militant materialist atheism and a strain of seeming cruelty that sees him mock his Mother even when she descends into the clutches of dementia suggest that his infant terror of decline and death persist unabated. That he is too clear eyed to dissemble at such revelations does him credit, though it may leave some readers wondering at his lack of humanitarianism. His style, as ever, is ostentatious, witty and determinedly idiosyncratic.

For those who don't know Meades, don't start here. Perhaps try short story collection Filthy English first, else his 'sleaze epic' novel Pompey. Like those as much as I do and you'll be back.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Douglas on 24 May 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a remarkable portrait of a certain social milieu, and their rackety lives in the aftermath and shadow of war, both second and cold. The prejudices and social affectations, along with the characteristic silences and inferences are precisely described. Anyone who grew up in the 70s and 80s will recognise much in echo, and it will perhaps reinforce just how much has changed in Britain, and how much had to change. But this book is not a condemnation, so much as a love letter, if not for the social decay and dilapidation it describes, then for those who endured the perennial dislocation of life in post-war Britain. Meades dismisses the Great War epitaph 'their names liveth for evermore' but he reminds us of a past we had almost forgotten by remembering it differently than it was. It is a personal account, but the characters are composites of recognisable members of my own family and background. Not exactly a trip down memory lane, but a vivid reminder of times I had hoped were long forgotten. And all the more bracing and affecting for that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By bookworm on 12 Jun 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
the first two pages or so were slightly over-blown and off-putting. but persevere! it ranks among other classic memoirs (eg George Gissing's; Dylan Thomas's). the atmosphere and attitudes of the 50's in 'small' middle and working class england are captured brilliantly. I gasped and laughed out loud with the authenticity and forgotten familiarity of some anecdotes and passages. if younger people and historians want to know what it was really like in mono-cultural, post-war england, then they should use this as their vade mecum.
although it still has the ascerbic wit and clarity Jonathan Meades is renowned for, its warmth and appreciation of a lost world shines through.

I will re-read this many times and want to buy a hard back copy to keep on my bookshelves.
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Jonathan Meades is a provocateur above all, and his autobiography will not disappoint those who appreciate his grimly sardonic edge - a gift to celebrate in an age where intellectuals tend towards conformities and those who don't are mostly charlatans.The book recounts aspects of his childhood in Salisbury and surrounding places. It's witty, colourful, written with usual sense for the style of good prose, and shows a remarkable memory for period detail. No one since Joyce has used the list to such effect. A brilliant book I already feel like rereading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E. L. Wisty TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 8 Jun 2014
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Johnathan Meades is congenitally incapable of writing an uninteresting sentence, and although he speaks here of a time most of us never knew, of people we do not and will never know, and of places we have never seen and most of us never will, it is all strangely compelling.

Like a Nietzschean "How One Becomes What One Is", we gain insight into the sometimes dark formative years of Meades, and like a Nietzschean wish for Eternal Recurrence, one suspects that Meades would not have had it any other way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Charles Vasey TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 15 Jun 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Fifties were an interesting time. Though as we cannot pick the decade of our birth this was more by luck than judgement. Meades is five years ahead of me but I too remember the half-worlds of former officers, less than modern plumbing and sanitation, parents attempting to join in the current social set and the joys of Punch and Judy toothpaste. Much as I chuckled at Meades's barmy uncles I did have the horrid thought that I may appear this way to my own six nephews. As a recreation of a childhood in that period this is a wonderful book whether it will appeal to the wacky kids of today is a different matter. It seems so very alien now.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Paul S. Fletcher on 11 Jun 2014
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This book was a joy to read. Jonathan Meades can be an acquired taste but his slant on this period of his early years is quite addictive. Get it and be amazed at his language and chuckle your way through his wit.
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Format: Hardcover
A very enjoyable read , as with his television programmes some weird and wonderful vocabulary. would have liked a bit more.
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