- Also check our best rated Biography reviews
Life On Air: Memoirs of a Broadcaster Hardcover – 19 Sep 2002
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
David Attenborough hardly needs any introduction; his voice has accompanied so many of the best natural history programs that have graced our televisions over several decades. Life On Air, his autobiography, tells the story of how he has managed to professionalise his schoolboy interests in such a remarkably successful way.
Attenborough's Life On Air began in 1950, having taken a degree in Natural Sciences in the University of Cambridge, done National Service in the Navy, got married, done a year as an editor with an educational publisher, had a son and then answered a BBC recruiting ad in the Times. Turned down for BBC Radio, he was offered a traineeship in BBC TV which was pioneering the medium in Britain and he has never looked back. The rest is TV history and you can read Sir David's personal view of it all in his engaging and highly entertaining book.
This is no boring story of the rise and rise of a media mogul in the smoke-filled rooms of Ally Pally and Lime Grove. Having served his apprenticeship producing programmes like Animal, Vegetable, Mineral? and Song Hunter with the famous American folk singer and song collector Alan Lomax, he managed to escape from the confines of overlit studios into the natural world. Zoo Quest began in 1954 with an animal collecting trip to Sierra Leone and David Attenborough had found his metier. Since then he has managed to bring the wonders of the natural world into millions of living rooms around the world and to reach general audiences without patronising them, without any spurious antics, silly voices or dumbing down. His animal and plant subjects are the stars, Attenborough is the master of ceremonies who introduces the acts for our wonder and amazement. But his scope extends way beyond the birds and the bees.
In the 1960s, it was suggested that he took up an administrative post--"after all, you won't want to be gallivanting around the world when you are 50". Fortunately, he did not abandon gallivanting for admin but went freelance, studied anthropology and helped extend our view of native peoples and sympathies for their life styles. He went on to become responsible for coming up with famous BBC TV series such as Kenneth Clark's incredibly successful Civilisation series, followed by Bronowski's The Ascent of Man. Inevitably, he did become one of the BBC suits but one that wore a camouflage jacket.
What is remarkable is that Attenborough has managed to do it for so long without really changing his own style too much. He has not had to because the technology has changed and so he has constantly been able to give new views and insights into the details of life on Earth. Writing pretty much as he speaks, it is easy to hear his voice, dry sense of humour and generosity coming through all the time. Do not expect to read personal details, navel-gazing or malicious gossip--that is not his style. The only personal note comes at the end with the death of his wife in 1997. Over 100 photos associated with the huge range of programmes he has been intimately involved with decorate Life On Air, a fascinating personal story of our times. He says that he knows of "no pleasure deeper than that which comes from contemplating the natural world and trying to understand it"; he certainly manages to convey that in Life On Air. --Douglas Palmer
In this volume of memoirs Britain's best-known natural history film-maker tells the stories of the people and the animals he has met and the places that he has visited.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Despite being an autobiography, Attenborough does his best not just to describe what many people will have seen of his work on television. There are many amusing anecdotes to be found, and the tales of his adventurers around the world really are quite special, since so much his changed in the intervening years (indeed his experience of Komodo Island before and after is one perfect example). There's also quite an insight to be had into the workings of the BBC, and Attenborough's supporting stance is quite plain (one particular encounter he had with the chairman of ITV springs to mind).
All in all, a mixed bag. It suffers all the pitfalls common to autobiographical works, in my opinion, but his travels and experiences have been interesting enough to warrant it worth the read.
"Life On Air" slickly takes us on a retrospective of Attenborough's career. Much of the book is taken up with those early days spent in TV, the trials and tribulations of travelling to far off, relatively unknown places, and getting co-operation from not only the animals he went to find, but the people in the countries involved-a TV camera was not the magnet for the bystander it is today.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the book deals with Attenborough's time as head of BBC2. Little do we realise that it was during his time the revered programme "Match Of The Day" first came to our screens. He pioneered many new and startling, often original programmes, including "The Ascent Of Man" and "Civilisation", epics that will probably never be equalled. Interesting, to say the least, that he has been the inspiration behind programmes other than those who he himself developed and presented, amongst them, "The Secret Life Of Plants", rejected by companies in the US because plants were, well supposedly "boring"!
Rumour has it that a series on insects is next on Attenboroughs list. It will be as popular as all of his prior programmes have been, most of which are dealt with in the book, including, of course, the seminal "Life On Earth". Take the time to read this book and be immersed with a master, a man who brings quercus robur and macroglossum stellatarum to our screens, and makes them as watchable-and more interesting-than any episode of "Pop Idol"
Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews
I recommend this book to all nature lovers.