I really enjoyed this book. Loved the cats, loved the dogs, Who could dislike a man who is willing to tell you, in self-deprecating detail, about his weakest, most guilty moments, and then make you laugh? This is a seriously entertaining read. He wrote sublimely, with an absence of everything you ever heard about 'luvvies' and their vaunting self-aggrandisation. He wrote movingly regarding his adolescent love for a taller, more popular boy at one of his schools, and more movingly still about his friends, particularly his great regard for Alan Bates whose death greatly affected him. He was informative about the staging of his plays, including his reluctance to go and see them and had an interestingly warm relationship with Harold Pinter and his wife Antonia Fraser, but his writing was refreshingly free of any sense that a connection with them was anything out of the ordinary.
He admitted in this book that he bore hatred for certain people, amongst them, no doubt, Stephen Fry, who fled a theatrical production by him after Fry received what he felt were less than good reviews. Grey tells the bare minimum about this incident in this book and mentions no names.
He wintered in Barbados with his wife, Victoria Rothschild, for a few years and obviously lived a life considerably removed from the middle classes who provided many of the main characters of his plays. His writing always seemed effortless, and enviably relaxed, yet it sparkled with touches of wit. It's not the sort of writing that courts laughter, more a sense of amusement and often puzzlement at his life. His writing sometimes loses track, meanders on, but one never minds because he has a superb sense of the variousness and unexpected confoundedness of experience. Superbly talented he wrote over twenty plays, many of them great successes. He died of pneumonia in 2008.
on 10 August 2009
Lots of interesting and quirky thoughts and plenty of insight into the playwright's life and business, along with amusing anecdotes concerning Simon Gray's friends (most of whom are famous and interesting in themselves). A lovely chatty style, an easy read, a most interesting and attractive person - what more could you want? However, for chronological reasons, I'd read first The Smoking Diaries, which is also excellent.