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The Smoking Diaries [Hardcover]

Simon Gray
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

17 April 2004
'So here I am, two hours into my sixty-sixth year...The truth is that I'm nastier than I used to be back when - back when I was sixty four, for instance, when I was nastier than when I was at sixty two and so forth, back and back, always the less nasty the further back, until I get to the age when I was pre-nasty, at least consciously, when the only shame I knew was the shame of being found out which was when I was, well, about eight, I suppose.' When he turned sixty-five, the playwright Simon Gray began to keep this diary: not a careful honing of the day's events with a view to posterity but an account of his thoughts as he had them, honestly, turbulently, digressively expressed. The Smoking Diaries is the result, in which one of Britain's most amusing and original writers reflects on a life filled with cigarettes (continuing), alcohol (stopped), several triumphs and many more disasters, shame, adultery, friendship and love. Few diarists have been as frank about themselves, and even fewer as entertaining.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books; 1st Edition edition (17 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 186207688X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862076884
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 13.4 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 763,886 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


‘...Gray’s greatest non-fiction achievement to date...a moving, wildly entertaining classic of the memorist’s art' -- The Sunday Telegraph

‘Biliously hilarious diaries…we are spared nothing’ -- Evening Standard

‘Gray is a very funny and very fine writer…' -- Sunday Herald

‘Gray plays the game brilliantly...a bit of a masterpiece of grim humour’ -- The Guardian

‘Marvellous mixture of informal diary and autobiographical fragments…extremely funny’ -- Sunday Times

Book Description

Published to coincide with the release of the third and final volume in Simon Gray's magnificent and blackly funny diaries. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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So here I am, two hours into my sixty-sixth year. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amusing and moving personal journal 15 July 2004
I enjoyed this book immensely and am rather bemused by the earlier reviews it has received here. The playright Simon Gray begins his diaries in his mid-sixties looking at the world around him and also back to his childhood. This is a hugely funny book, but also full of insight and honesty. Simon Gray has no illusions about himself and does not try to present a sanitised version of himself. He is frank about his faults and weaknesses and it is this that makes the book so special - it is refreshing to read a diary to which the air-brush has not been applied.
Although Simon Gray is deeply involved in the theatre of course, this is not the main theme of the book, as it concentrates more on his daily life and key events from his youth. Despite this, there are some moving accounts of his meetings with his close friend Harold Pinter during the latter's experience of suffering from cancer. Once I started this book I finished it within 24 hours - a rare event these days when few books seem to inspire me.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gray is still at the top of his form ! 5 Mar 2005
By A Customer
If you have read Simon Gray's other volumes of diaries you will find this is a fitting addition to your collection. Gray's self-lacerating wit is still very much in evidence and despite his documented physical decay he avoids self-pity as he invites the reader into his world of cigarettes, writing and dining.
I first read Gray's volume 'An Unatural Pursuit' and was immediately hooked by his penetrating observations of his fading professional fortunes. Whether or not you like the world of theatre is irrelavent for the enjoyment of this volume. The candid observations of this brilliant and witty man in physical and carreer decline are wonmderful.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A contemplative ramble 7 Jun 2010
By L. Hennessy TOP 500 REVIEWER
This is the ideal way to get to know Simon Gray - there is no fixed pattern to his musings here; he writes at quiet moments of the day, or whilst on holiday, or after getting back from evenings out with his wife. It's also very funny, in a gently ascerbic way.

These are the diaries of a relatively content man - although he doesn't have anywhere near as much money as he once had, because of the Lloyd's crash - and he's very at ease with translating his thoughts onto paper. He says at one point that he doesn't go back and edit things - once they're written, they're in.

He comes across as a typical product of 1940s-50s private school to me (certainly his erudite language and straight-speaking attitude, combined with his chainsmoking and problem drinking - although when he wrote this he had given alcohol up in favour of diet coke, poor chap); he reminds me so much of friends of that age - most of them tremendously non-pc (thank God), very entertaining and good-minded company.

It gives an insight into a lot of his plays too - many details of which are certainly autobiographical. If you're an actor looking to get a slightly different perspective on a character, there's so much in here that could inspire. The descriptions of his meals with close friend Harold Pinter are quite moving - especially when Pinter reveals that he has cancer - but as always, it is related with full disclosure in a relaxed way that never goes OTT on the emotions, although it's plain how affected heis by it all.

I never really enjoyed Simon Gray's plays, but this is such an enjoyable book to just sit back with and enjoy. It's a great holiday read if you don't fancy going for one of the usual blockbusters. One gets the feeling that there won't ever be a happy ending, but this is the first of a series of three, so things don't get too bad.

I ended up feeling very fond of the old curmudgeon :)
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A slow burner 25 Aug 2008
I picked this book up with anticipation, having read an extract of it that I thoroughly enjoyed. I expected more of the same laughs and bitter resentments, but was somewhat confounded by the full diaries. The books is more centred around Gray's plumbing of the depths of his past, heaping mockery upon himself, expressing disgust at the man he has become, and thinking about what his 15-year-old self would have thought of his 65-year-old self. The closing 40 pages are a particularly ponderous and heartfelt affair, and for my money the best part of the book.
Gray's musings on growing old, on the changes he has seen in society and youth during his time on earth, are all written down in thoroughly digestable text, rolling on in a way that is practically unputdownable. His death marks a tragic loss.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A book that slowly wins you over 1 Aug 2005
By Lis
The blurb on the cover of this book says something along the lines of "the funniest book I've ever read". I certainly wouldn't go that far, but after a slow start, this book gets the better of you. Dry wit in generous helpings, accompanied with some more personal, intimate truths. By the time you finish it, you'll be surprised to find you were enjoying it it more than you thought you were.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Peculiarly Brave 20 Dec 2009
By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
These diaries/memoirs are a strange beast. I couldn't quite get my head around them if I'm honest. I really wanted to like them. I did find them amusing in part, and I liked Gray's phraseology and his honesty about his behaviour and his life. On the other hand I found them incredibly sad and it spoiled my enjoyment rather. I felt guilty a lot of the time about finding something amusing when clearly it had been rather devastating, no matter how Gray dressed it up. And having known people like him I feel that this sophisticated honesty and the air of it all being very amusing really was a huge smokescreen to hide the utter tragedy of the man's life. A tragedy that he was still running from and that he could admit only in terms of these polished stories which had clearly been trotted out on numerous occasions and which worked as a partial anaesthetic once he had to give up the booze. Too sad.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Simon Gray: The funniest and wittiest of men
Simon Grays' wonderful sense of the ridiculous and his ability to see the funny side of almost any situation and laugh at himself makes this one of the most entertaining books I... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Daphne
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book especially for those who do not know this writer
An unusual book for me ("steeped" in fantasy). Unlike the majority of readers I had no prior knowledge about this author but found that it was impossible to put down once I... Read more
Published 13 months ago by alan
4.0 out of 5 stars I know nothing!
I bought two copies of this book as Ed Smith, journalist with The Times, said it was the book that inspired him to get writing. Read more
Published on 6 Dec 2011 by Lloyd Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars The Year of the Jouncer
Utterly hilarious. Simon Grey is cunning, wise and funny. I cannot wait to read 'The Last Cigarette' and complete 'The Smoking Diaries' saga.
Published on 5 May 2011 by Calio
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful, full and interesting life
A complete, sensitive and honest confession, funny too and enlightning.

I'm a complete Simon Gray fan.
Published on 3 July 2010 by Bastien Sabine
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
this book is fabulous. gray is hilarious and poignant within the one sentence. the ease with which he describes his past could only be achieved by a master. Read more
Published on 17 Oct 2009 by Roisin Byrne
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a rogue
Funny, wry, witty and moving, this memoir of Simon Gray, a playwright and novelist, published when he was 85, is a delight. Read more
Published on 18 Sep 2009 by Eileen Shaw
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good read
The critical reviews had suggested that this book is quite hilarious, but it isn't really like that. However, it is an excellent read, amusing, wry and elegantly written. Read more
Published on 10 Aug 2009 by Caren Firth
4.0 out of 5 stars An honest man writing emotional truths - with a few writer's devices
This book first came to my attention a few years ago when it popped up more than once in a newspaper's `My Books of the Year' feature. Read more
Published on 31 Dec 2008 by Andy Miller
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