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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The old master hasn't lost his touch
Richard Hoggart was the best teacher I ever came across - humane, rigorous, wise and hugely intelligent. This slim volume reflects all these facets.
Published on 2 Aug 2010 by J. M. Cutler

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2.0 out of 5 stars Living on into one's eighties
Richard Hoggart is best known for a book published in 1957 called "The Uses of Literacy", a wide-ranging study of the impact of mass culture on community and working-class culture. He wrote much else and, together with a number of academic posts, was also Deputy-Director-General of UNESCO, Warden of Goldsmiths College, and a genuine public intellectual with deeply-held...
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The old master hasn't lost his touch, 2 Aug 2010
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J. M. Cutler (Cotswolds, UK) - See all my reviews
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Richard Hoggart was the best teacher I ever came across - humane, rigorous, wise and hugely intelligent. This slim volume reflects all these facets.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Living on into one's eighties, 30 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Promises to Keep (Hardcover)
Richard Hoggart is best known for a book published in 1957 called "The Uses of Literacy", a wide-ranging study of the impact of mass culture on community and working-class culture. He wrote much else and, together with a number of academic posts, was also Deputy-Director-General of UNESCO, Warden of Goldsmiths College, and a genuine public intellectual with deeply-held views on communications and the media. Although he wrote a three-volume autobiography, "Promises to Keep", published in 2005, when Richard Hoggart was 87, is a rather indeterminate mix between meditations on old age, dying and death, seen through reminiscences of family and his times, principally, the Second World War, the Cold War and left-liberal politics. He groups preoccupations with his own lack of confidence, with money, and with writing and the intellectual life into other chapters. Family predominates, however, and is the main prism through which he considers old age and what follows.

Having just retired and, with my wife, moved to be near our children and grand-children, I found a good deal with which to sympathise and, generally, felt encouraged if I should also live into my late 80s or even beyond, and in reasonable health. Hoggart quotes a lot from the writers who have spoken to him most closely and also from common wisdom, and it is the latter that helps him define his outlook: seize the day and live as though one will live forever. "Depending on mood," he writes, "I seem to swing between the two epigrams, though leaning more toward the second."

Although a reader who doesn't know Richard Hoggart will only know him through his writing, I would also like to benefit from the reflections of someone who keeps "going on going on" (another to epigram he borrows during the book and at the end) but without the help of being a writer, an activity which fills up a lot of time and gives purpose - that of leaving something behind. To that extent, the book didn't quite meet my needs, but that is hardly Hoggart's fault.

The book's ordinariness is its strength and weakness. Hoggart seems to have been quite down-to-earth in his often high-profile public career - probably a consequence of the material poverty of his early years - and, rarely does he show off, and even then it is to make a point about what old age does to self-esteem. He is also modest enough to defer to writers whose insights into his main themes are particularly "sombre", a word whose meaning he has come to appreciate. Shakespeare is quoted most often, followed by Tennyson and W. H. Auden. And the opening and closing chapters, "Realising that Old Age Has Arrived" and "Epilogue: Among Thoughts of Death", are quietly moving. The middle chapters are ordinary in a less interesting way: his discussion of the Cold War, the family, personal preoccupations, and British intellectual life add little to common knowledge and, occasionally, sound platitudinous. Hoggart makes no claims for his literary style but he is repetitive and the many clauses between dashes work less well than they would in an academic book.

Even so, Richard Hoggart's "thoughts in old age" are well-worth sharing. He comes across, as he does in his professional writings, as thoroughly decent and, in his way, a model of how to try and be "a part of all that I have met", as Tennyson puts it in words that mean a lot to Hoggart.
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Promises to Keep
Promises to Keep by Richard Hoggart (Hardcover - 10 Sep 2005)
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