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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crazy guy
I read this in two days so I suppose that makes it an "easy" read. Donaldson seems to have been one of those dissolute souls who had trouble coping with the realities of the world. Initially divorced from such reality through extreme wealth he later escaped through drugs and debauched living. Undoubtedly a witty and engaging man, he appears to have had little loyalty for...
Published on 26 Feb. 2008 by Big Jim

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Review
You would have to know something about this very curiuos man to fully appreciate his eccentricity.

Ultimately a futile life but for any student of the 50's and 60's including those of a certain age it is an entertaining and enlightening read.
Published on 20 Mar. 2012 by B.Graham


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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crazy guy, 26 Feb. 2008
By 
Big Jim "Big Jim" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: You Cannot Live As I Have Lived and Not End Up Like This: The thoroughly disgraceful life and times of Willie Donaldson (Paperback)
I read this in two days so I suppose that makes it an "easy" read. Donaldson seems to have been one of those dissolute souls who had trouble coping with the realities of the world. Initially divorced from such reality through extreme wealth he later escaped through drugs and debauched living. Undoubtedly a witty and engaging man, he appears to have had little loyalty for his friends which makes it quite strange to find how much loyalty they had to him.

This is an engaging biography of someone who could have been much more famous than he was, and anyone who obviously upset the incalculably smug editors of Private Eye has to have had something going for him
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars unprepared, 27 Nov. 2008
Nothing in my experience of life to date could prepare me for reading this book. All templates or "character types" have to be ditched in the case of this gentleman. He not only made it up as he went along but also fashioned a crack pipe out of it on the way. Hamilton's life makes that of aleister crowley seem like that of head girl at my grandmother's convent school. I flatter myself that he'd have enjoyed the exaggeration and reproach myself for not knowing such a card as this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loving portarit of a deeply weird individual, 6 Sept. 2010
By 
Nagronsky "Nagronsky" (Skagit Valley, Wa USA) - See all my reviews
I just got done re-reading this, after recently finding my dogeared & stained copy of Brewer's Rogues, Villains and Eccentrics: An A-Z of Roguish Britons Through the Ages. I'm not ready to go visit the Continent with Henry Root and his lady wife(Root Into Europe [VHS] [1992], but I just want to say, Willie Donaldson was definitely a CHARACTER!!.
His obituary in the Telegraph was classic, featuring this quote from Kenneth Tynan: "...an old Wykehamist who ended up as a moderately successful Chelsea pimp". He was also a successful(and failed) "theatrical impresario, a crack-smoking serial adulterer and a writer of autobiographical novels; but it was under the nom de plume Henry Root that he became best known."
Now all we need is a biopic based on this book, starring either Mark Gattis or David Walliams, maybe with Rachel Hurd-Wood as Carly Simon(she's almost got the lips for the role)

BTW, I give this book 4 of 5 stars. I give "Brewer's Rogues, etc" 5 stars, and would joyfully give it more, if only an updated version would include Willie Donaldson.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a really good read, 8 Sept. 2007
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I was drawn to this book because William Donaldson was the author of the excellent and subversive Henry Root letters. His life and times were as bizarre as you might expect from that author... This portrait opens up a fascinating world, and makes you feel as if you have met 'Willy' - who was witty, creative but also repeatedly self-destructive. It's a great read because the author is sympathetic and clearly likes his subject, but he can see all Donaldson's faults. He appears to have interviewed all the right people, who knew the man well. The book is often very funny indeed, and truly weird at times, not to mention seedy ('nothing wrong with that'as Root would no doubt say), but it's also moving and sad. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True Eccentric, 6 Nov. 2009
By 
B. Schofield (Birmingham UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: You Cannot Live As I Have Lived and Not End Up Like This: The thoroughly disgraceful life and times of Willie Donaldson (Paperback)
A hilarious account of a self destructing true eccentric who lived a unique existence, unable to comform to normal social values and habits. He lived and died on the edge of chaos and this book I think is quite a kind and fond study of someone who lived his life his own way. Compelling.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Somehow I ended up liking Willie Donaldson, 4 Jun. 2014
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This review is from: You Cannot Live As I Have Lived and Not End Up Like This: The thoroughly disgraceful life and times of Willie Donaldson (Paperback)
I had heard of The Henry Root letters, but Willie Donaldson and his career had passed me by. He belongs- on the margins, of course- to the generation of the Sixties satire boom. Peter Cook, the Pythons, Jonathan Miller, Richard Ingrams, Paul Foot, John Wells, John Bird etc, although mercifully of the showbiz and hedonism tendency of Kenneth Tynan rather than the Christian moralism of the loathed Ingrams. Invariably Home Counties, upper middle class, minor (or major in Donaldson's case) public school, inevitably Oxbridge. They always seemed pretty establishment to me, the sort of men destined to be partners in law firms in county towns, specialising in conveyancing. But the 60s made them entertainers, and they organised their media career just as wisely. But not in the case of Willie Donaldson.

The book moves along at an agreeably brisk pace. I much appreciated the use of short chapters where appropriate. There are three movements. The first takes us rather pedestrianly through the earlier years, where it is all too clear Terence Blacker has only secondhand knowledge of him- the affluent but unlovely childhood; Winchester and Oxford; his first successful and then disastrous steps in showbiz; the start of his compulsive romances; the negligent father to Charlie. There are few insights, Donaldson finding his true self as the rebellious sixties became the sleazy, top shelf seventies. Then the quality of Blacker's writing and enthusiasm for his subject improves as Donaldson, unemployable in showbiz and with a string of dodgy failed business ventures behind him, settles down to a career writing what the trade calls 'toilet books', fuelled by his big success, Henry Root-- presumably when Blacker first knew him personally. Here I found myself warming to Donaldson's well-tempered parodist's talents. Finally there is the collapse, no hair, no teeth, no money, unreliable, addicted to crack and promiscuity, dangerous to know. There is plenty of information on Willie's tragic loves of prostitutes (a touch of an earlier addict, De Quincey?) and the financial recklessness, but the author stands back from speculating about the damaged and damaging mind of such a person, leaving the reader still on the outside. But it is sometimes difficult to decide if this is comedy or tragedy.

Ultimately Willlie did belong to that 60s set, who found a career deriding a decaying culture, and it is tempting to concur with Jonathan Miller's bleak dismissal of "an idiotic, fly-by-night flaneur who had some sort of pleasure at his own bad behaviour and thought it was all rather charming and forgivable. He was typical of the Sixties, really."

But maybe Donaldson was a little different. Posher and highly self-destructive, evidently lacking the `middle class gene' of providing a safety net for himself. I dread to use the phrase, but true to his (damaged) self, true to being a failure of sorts. The book is generally sympathetic, but I could certainly imagine a different book that would make him look like a not very nice man.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Immensely sad, immensely funny, 6 July 2008
By 
Drayton Bird - See all my reviews
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An extraordinary, fascinating, alternately depressing and very funny book - like its subject. I could not put it down, as they always say in the reviews.

Only someone with vey little sense of humour could dislike it - or him.

If you want to know what it was like to live in a certain milieu in the late 20th century, this is the book - I say this from a little experience.

As I knew some one or two of the people involved, I had a couple of complaints about the facts, and the grammar is a bit odd five or six times, but an astounding, alternately sad and hilarious life well described.

Also, for me anyhow, Donaldson comes over as having great charm and often being surprisingly thoughtful with a great gift for seeing and joyfully skewering the ludicrous.

His writing style was extraordinarily good; anyone praised by Auberon Waugh and Craig Brown has to be very special. The person who comes out of it worst is that pompous prick Sir Jonathan Miller.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book, funny, warm and gobsmacking, 3 July 2013
By 
Pam Vick "Pam Vick" (London) - See all my reviews
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What a life! I absolutely loved this book and would have dearly loved to meet its subject too. The writing is warm, generous and knowing, as befits an old friend, but also objective and perceptive. It's also very funny.....how could it not be, given the subject. Great title too.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Well organised biography, 5 Nov. 2011
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This is a thorough-going well researched piece of writing from a great journalist, and a warts and all presentation . Willie seems to have been a very complex character fairly lacking in commonsense and stability, but an ability to charm a wide circle of diverse people. I think his writing in the Henry Root phase of his output to be the funniest in the language, and Terence Blacker covers all known aspects of Willie's work. A first-class job, moving and enjoyable.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I've read in a long time, 28 Feb. 2014
By 
D. G. Short (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: You Cannot Live As I Have Lived and Not End Up Like This: The thoroughly disgraceful life and times of Willie Donaldson (Paperback)
Hilarious. So much so I looked into buying the Henry Root Letters which I remember from the 80s but it's obviously out of print as it's horrendously expensive to buy on Amazon. Will just have to keep an eye out for it in secondhand bookshops or in libraries.
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