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3.8 out of 5 stars42
3.8 out of 5 stars
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I got this thinking it would be like David Sedaris' brilliant "Santaland Diaries" and would be a good read for the airport/plane on holiday this year - well all I can say is thank god I brought other books with me! This was a real stinker for many reasons.

The book is divided up into years starting in 2004 and then every year is broken down into months where Lewis talks about what "hilarious" things happened to him in that month.

Lewis talks about how his 1200 page autobiography of Peter Sellers was so much more complex than the film was (fair, given nobody would sit through a 20 hour film) but goes on and on about this for pages. He moans about how his work is underappreciated, how nobody likes him, how little his books sell, and how much he deserves fame and wealth for his book on Sellers and a similarly long and inaccessible book on Anthony Burgess.

And that's what really gets me - the tone. It's this whiny, annoying whinge throughout about how he deserves fame for his work coupled with the sniping at colleagues and "the London literary clique" which he goes to great pains to stress he's not a part of. He goes on about how he's not invited to parties in London but when he is invited to The Times party he makes a point of saying that he stayed home and watched "The Bill". Then he's invited to a magazine party and he stays home to watch "Eastenders". And so on, etc. I think he wants the reader to think he's a cool outsider? It's a bit grasping given he complains yet again about how little he earns and deserves millions for his work. Would a literary outlaw be so tedious?

The completely uninteresting and upper-middle-class worries (good school for the kids, money for expensive holidays), coupled with Lewis' repellent tone of bitterness make this a totally unfunny book for anyone unless you come from a similar socio-economic background. Really disappointing but I'd hate for anyone to be stuck with this for a holiday read given there are much better books out there. The other books I took with me which I highly recommend are "War" by Sebastian Junger, "The Ghost" by Robert Harris, and "Hearts in Atlantis" by Stephen King.

I ended up leaving this in the sick bag on the plane, where it belongs.
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on 25 October 2009
I asked for this book in the Picadilly branch of Waterstones, 'That's by Lewis Roger' said the pretty sales assistant. An apposite anecdote given the bile contained within this book. Lewis Roger is a grub street journalist trying to make a living when grub street has collapsed and instead of living in London schmoozing with literary types he is washed up in the 'Herefordshire Balkans'.

This short book is a seriously funny account of his life, his complaints, and his erstwhile desire for recognition. Following a much misunderstood, much maligned biography of Anthony Burgess (10 copies sold in the last year of counting), Lewis bewails just about every successful recent British writer/celeb. Delightfully in various ways, he lays into Clive James - a writer of 'mouldy fudge', Andrew Roberts (a baboon), Ned Sherrin, Simon Cowell, Julian Barnes (and his late wife Pat Kavanagh), Jeremy Clarkson, 'sad mother' Julie Myerson and best of all, Harold Pinter (obit) 'what a dreadful clanking beast he was'. Heaven knows how he got this past the libel lawyers. I for one am delighted he did.

Interspersed with this literary bile are delightful snippets of his life as a marooned intellectual in the provinces. He cuts out articles from the local paper and offers snippets of local life: 'Age Concern has introduced a Toe Nail Cutting Scheme in the Community Centre run by "our trained volunteers", and tells filthy jokes picked up from Barry Cryer.

Also in these diaries are laments at his health (he is fat and has fat person's ailments), his kids, his class (he was a butcher's son and feels the London establishment looks down on him accordingly), his lack of money, his envy at other people's money (such as Gyles Brandreth and the late Alan Coren) and his continual snubbing by his publisher's literary parties (which he doesn't want to attend anyway).

Frustrated at being born in a time when the commercial imperative is everything in publishing (true, I used to work as one), and the weak collapse of the educated elites as they pump out more Jordan and Jamie Oliver, Lewis fancies himself as a contemporary, neglected version of his hero Anthony Burgess: a man of voracious intellectual appetites, though sadly without anyone to appreciate it. In the end, Suicide Notes is more like a contemporary Diary of a Nobody (extracted from in the epigram).

Some people predict this book to become a cult classic and I certainly hope it does, as this book is one of the funniest I have read. I think Lewis is due a break, just so pretty Waterstone's assistants will know his name. I think he would like that.
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I don't blame the publisher for trying to maximise sales by having the standard, insipid Christmas humour title dustjacket, but it doesn't do justice to the book. This is one of the funniest and most incisive books I've read for years and I hate Roger Lewis for being far wittier than I could ever hope to be. At least I'm slimmer (just) and less Welsh ( a lot).

This book will probably appear on gift tables (or even worse, "gifting", which sounds a little rude) in bookshops, but this wonderful, liberating, vitriolic rant is far too good to waste on others. Buy it for yourself.
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on 19 January 2014
A happy read. Wickedly funny. But do not buy if you are a fully-paid-up PCP (Politically Correct Pillock)
or take yourself (or others) too seriously. If,however, you are not a member of the sad majority, then buy
it,read it and enjoy.
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on 4 April 2013
Bitter. Sweet. Candid. Foul-mouthed. Honest. Conceited.

Simply brilliant. A pitch-perfect look at life as it really is. If, like me, you hate 'round robin' notes at Christmas you'll love this book.
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on 25 September 2014
Very funny, in places. Reading it is a guilty pleasure; you keep going to see who will be the next victim of his paranoid, foul-mouthed rant - some pretentious celebrity, or an innocent member of the public who has done nothing to deserve it? Anyway, no one who drops so many names, and can write of Mark Rothko that 'even his jet black pictures have hidden shades and shadow, which loom and shimmer and have vertiginous geological depths,' can afford to mock the pretensions of others. Unless he's being ironical? Either way, I shan't buy any more, even at 1p plus postage.
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on 9 October 2009
then the book itself will probably set you off into a convulsion. Lewis is the voice of the everyman, if only the everyman was disgustingly bright, frighteningly insightful, and with an eye for the brilliant awfulness of most of life. I LOVE IT.
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on 1 January 2010
Roger Lewis makes a great deal of his lowly upbringing - butcher's boy, Wales etc. What he doesn't tell the reader, and which you may not have known, is that his great uncle was the famous novelist, painter and polemicist, Wyndham Lewis. A beautiful, if ferocious, prose style, a keen eye for suitably odious targets and a dark sense of humour - all talents the great Wyndham had, which, sadly, are lacking in his dipstick of a nephew.

Rog doesn't live in Fulham. Ok? Got that? Sure? Good. Rog wants to come on like a rebel, an outsider, but he went to Oxford, he spends half his year in Austria, his book on Peter Sellers was made into a feature film and he is matey with 'loyal comrades-in-arms' Lynn Barber, Sam Leith, Francis Wheen, Gyles Brandreth amongst bag loads of other well-known, well-paid, establishment journos and writers. What exactly is the difference between someone who boasts of being a member of the Garrick and someone who boasts he is the 'only person to refuse an offer of membership of the Garrick?' Both are conceited bores.

'Seasonal Suicide Notes' is a well-presented little book with a nice Christmassy cover and it fits neatly into a Christmas stocking. Respect to the publishers who have done a good marketing job on it. The contents though are mediocre. Roger admires fine writing, but continues to fail to be able to produce it. This book is marginally better written than his biography of Burgess, having, as it does, a subject much closer to the writer's heart. At least, on this occasion, the scattershot spleen and monotonous, whiney tone only dirty the reader's feelings towards Lewis and not to somebody they might actually care about.

If you are looking for a great book about those left behind by life, try Lewis's Austrian compatriot, Thomas Bernhard. His novel 'The Loser' is as fine a book as I have read. Or if you like a narrative brimming with snotty cynicism how about 'Snooty Baronet' by Roger's uncle? Wyndham also has the humour, humanity and classy prose style that eludes his untalented nephew.

This is not to say that 'Seasonal Suicide Notes' is 'hateful' or 'unreadable' as some critics have suggested. It is far too bland for that. It is basically a book that might be enjoyed by those readers of the Spectator that particularly delight in the columns of Taki and Charles Moore, appreciative of the work of comfortably off, socially-established, middle-aged men, who write in a mean-minded way about any trivial subject that happens to have annoyed them that day.
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on 5 November 2012
A collection of desperately unfunny round robins. (Round robins that don't strive so strenuously for laughs are funnier by far.) Roger Lewis enjoys being miserable ('splenetic', he calls it). He laments the disappearance of 'centuries' old literature and culture' yet turns up his nose ('daft') at words like aleatory, allophone, apocopation. If popular culture enrages him so, why not just ditch the TV? A real life Ed Reardon - sans pathos
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on 16 September 2012
I have just read this on my Kindle and I am about to buy a copy for my cousin; it is brilliantly funny. Lewis builds witty portraits of his Welsh relatives, interlaced with wry asides and swipes at familiar media figures served up with his deeply felt grievances at the publishing/media industry that has yet to appreciate and remunerate his obvious talents. Loved it.
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