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One on One [Hardcover]

Craig Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
Price: £16.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

22 Sep 2011

101 chance meetings, juxtaposing the famous and the infamous, the artistic and the philistine, the pompous and the comical, the snobbish and the vulgar, each 1,001 words long, and with a time span stretching from the 19th century to the 21st.

Life is made up of individuals meeting one another. They speak, or don’t speak. They get on, or don’t get on. They make agreements, which they either hold to or ignore. They laugh, they cry, they are excited, they are indifferent, they share secrets, they say, “How do you do?” Often it is the most fleeting of meetings that, in the fullness of time, turn out to be the most noteworthy.

‘One on One’ examines the curious nature of different types of meeting, from the oddity of encounters with the Royal Family (who start giggling during a recital by TS Eliot) to those often perilous meetings between old and young (Mark Twain terrifying Rudyard Kipling) and between young and old (the 23-year-old Sarah Miles having her leg squeezed by the nonagenarian Bertrand Russell), to contemporary random encounters (George Galloway meeting Michael Barrymore on Celebrity Big Brother).

Ingenious in its construction, witty in its narration, panoramic in its breadth, ‘One on One’ is a wholly original book.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (22 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007360622
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007360628
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 192,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"The book describes real encounters. Truth being stranger than fiction, many of them are every bit as bizarre as Brown could have invented, and some are as funny… this is much more than a comedy book."--Spectator

"One on One is entirely a work of non-fiction, and very thoroughly researched one, too, while still as funny and perspective as anything else Brown has given us… Those who find gossip not only highly entertaining but also highly revealing about the most complex things we know of in nature will relish One On One from first chapter to 101st."--Sunday Times

"Marvelously inventive and witty book… it’s hard to imagine anyone could do it better. He has an acutely attuned comic ear, an unmatched eye for spotting the absurdities of human behavior and a bloodhound-grade nose for sniffing out phoniness and pretension. You couldn’t wish for a finer exponent of this literary parlour game."--Mail on Sunday

"For those who know Brown as a parodist, this book will come as a surprise. Though often very funny, it’s a work of straight non-fiction whose great virtue is not excess but restraint… A hugely enjoyable book that looks with affection and melancholy on the whirring roundabouts of history and celebrity, and reminds us that the paths to glory lead, handshake by handshake, pratfall by pratfall, to the grave."--Sam Leith, Guardian

About the Author

Craig Brown has been writing the Private Eye celebrity diary since 1989. He has also written parodies for many other publications, including The Daily Telegraph, Vanity Fair, The Times and The Guardian. He is the author of several books, most recently ‘The Lost Diaries’ and ‘One on One’.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As addictive as a good thriller 22 Oct 2011
Craig Brown will be familiar to most people as Britain's foremost satirist, and the author of the merciless Private Eye 'diaries'. In 'One on One' he has taken the brave decision to try something entirely unexpected, recording meetings between famous people in which one leads to another, like a daisy chain. So, the book opens with Adolf Hitler meeting John Scott-Ellis, then Scott-Ellis meets Rudyard Kipling, who then meets Mark Twain and so on through 101 encounters until the Duchess of Windsor meets Adolf Hitler. All the encounters actually took place, and the author has taken great care to record them as accurately as possible. He has also written them as straight prose, with no attempt to tweak them with humour of his own.
The result is an absolute page turner, as good as any thriller. Each encounter gives a glimpse, often sidelong, of a famous personality. Some are quite sad, like the picture of a destitute Oscar Wilde lingering in Parisian cafes because he can't pay the bill. Others reveal the true nature of people you had always suspected were pretty ghastly, like Noel Coward and various other effete Englishmen. The Royal Family come across as pretty dull, and the circle surrounding them as equally dull, and sycophantic to boot. On the other hand, you revise your opinions of others - Kingsley Amis has a particularly good entry. The encounters will vary depending on your taste - I was not particularly interested in the Russian section - but they are all interesting, and absolutely addictive. The book would serve as a work of reference, and Craig Brown has helpfully listed his sources at the end. All in all, a triumph.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A structured approach 6 Nov 2011
By jfitzg
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I love this kind of thing - writing within a highly specific formal structure demands brevity and wit. Craig Brown would be less challenged than most by restriction, given his pieces for Private Eye, but it is impressive. The "chain" drives you on to continue to read the next of the 101 pieces - I read all at a single sitting. Not all of the one on ones are riveting, but even then there's a kind of fascinating awkward silence about them.

Strangest encounter for my money is between Elvis and the Beatles. Biggest "what if" is the man who might have killed Hitler using only a Model T.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Momentary meetings 27 Dec 2011
Craig Brown's sharp sense of humorous dialogue is a delight for many who read his parodies in Private Eye. One on One shines with many examples of the absurd, ridiculous and pompous in meetings between famed figures. It is an incredibly entertaining read and also contains, at times, truly touching encounters.

Over the one hundred and one entries; the reader is given a look into the worlds and behaviours of artists, writers, royalty, actors and politicians. For perhaps not unexpected reasons, given the huge industry in published diaries and biographies, the focus mostly falls on the famous names from the arts and entertainment world. Whilst some of the chance or deliberate meetings are well-known anecdotes, there is a pleasure in reading the often contradictory recollections.

From Michael Jackson's intimidating dinner date with Madonna to an hilariously embarrassing social encounter between Francis Bacon and Princess Margaret, there is much that can be taken as cautionary tales of the rich and famous. There are surprises too, such as the beautifully told meeting between Helen Keller and Mark Twain and the rarely achieved, supportive, bond between two musical titans, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff.

There are a wealth of footnotes to some chapters and very funny asides in the text (comments on Leonard Cohen's apologies for revealing his intimacy with Janis Joplin, frequently before he launches into Chelsea Hotel, are decidedly withering).

The only minor criticism I can give is that this volume does lack a chapter guide with page numbers, so makes it a little difficult to head straight to particular favourites unless you bookmark them.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fabulous idea 26 Oct 2011
Craig Brown is best known to most people as a parodist but I first became aware of him way back in 1982 when he co-wrote "The Book Of Royal Lists", one of the best of its genre. It was apparent then that he had an eye for the cute and the funny, the way out and the wacky. In "One On One" he returns to this arena recounting 101 meetings between the famous and the infamous. the righteous and the rotters, the good and the very bad. Each entry has the exact date (where known) and place of the encounter, is told in 1,001 words and is written in the present tense. The stories are symmetrical and we begin and end with the same man, Adolf Hitler. So we start with Hitler being knocked down by Old Etonian John Scott Ellis in Briennerstrasse, Munich on 22 August 1931. Unfortunately, Mr Scott Ellis wasn't driving quickly enough to do any harm to the Austrian. Then Mr Scott Ellis meets Rudyard Kipling who meets Mark Twain who then has a rendezvous with Helen Keller and so on until the 101st meeting when the Duchess of Windsor takes tea with Hitler and so the circle and the book is complete.

Mr Brown is a terrific writer with a light touch and the book is in terms funny, charming, sad and poignant. More of this please...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Light bedside reading
A chain of 101 encounters: Hitler meets Scott-Ellis, Scott-Ellis meets Kipling, and so on, until the last one, the Duchess of Windsor meeting Hitler, closes the circle. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Ralph Blumenau
1.0 out of 5 stars Damning indictment of the curse of celebrity
Who said what to who and when. And by the way who cares: It belongs in the same bucket as the bulk of twitter feed. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A quirky but fascinating journey.
Brown guides us along a chain of surprising associations between pairs of famous individuals so that, in only a few steps, we're moving into entirely different fields. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Willliam, Oxford
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever and funny
Not sure why no one ever thought of this before. But then if they had what would Crag Brown have done?
Published 8 months ago by CC
4.0 out of 5 stars Original idea for a book
Craig Brown writes excellent spoof celeb pieces for Private Eye, but is a good researcher too, and this collection of unlikely meet-ups and encounters between famous people of all... Read more
Published 9 months ago by R. Hall
5.0 out of 5 stars Sound Sense and Symmetry
Every clever organizational technique works in this charming, witty and
warm chronicle of who met who from Hitler to Monroe. Love it. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Ms. L. Hurcombe
4.0 out of 5 stars Good summer reading!
According to the puff-pieces on the cover, a lot of people have some very nice things to say about Craig Brown's latest book. Read more
Published 10 months ago by N. Young
4.0 out of 5 stars Inconsequential, but fun
As other reviewers have pointed out many of Brown's self-imposed constraints add nothing to the book. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Graham R. Hill
5.0 out of 5 stars FABULOUS CONCEPT
This book is such a simple idea and makes for hours of fun. You can read it from cover to cover, which I have, but it is also an ideal book to dip into, which I also do. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Alison in Marlow
3.0 out of 5 stars Unusual angle
This is a sort of a chain story, describing the encounter of A and B, then B and C and so on. Although some of the stories are interesting and amusing, there were too many dull... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Þorsteinn Sæmundsson
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