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Interesting life - but what does he think about homelessness?
on 7 March 2010
John Bird is famous for being the editor of the Big Issue. The book sets it streight that John did not actually "create" the big issue but was given the job of editor by the social entrepreneur Gordon Roddick who wanted someone for the job who had experienced homelessness first hand.
Although John Bird's life is an interesting one the book leaves more questions than answers. It's not made clear why he went off the rails and chose to start sleeping in a cement shed as a kid and why he took so long to sort his life out as an adult. The book also describes, but makes no attempt to explore, the criminal and antisocial behaviour that characterised his life into his late 20s meaning that it often reads like a list of unexplained misdemeanours which suddenly end when he sets up a successful printing business.
Perhaps the most important ommission is any sense of what John Bird actually thinks about issues like homelessness, delinquency, social and personal breakdown etc, so anyone buying the book in order to hear his views on what should be done to tackle social problems will be sorely dissappointed.
The book's strengths are John's writing style, which is very easy to follow, and it is a good documentary of what it was like to grow up in a poor family in 1950s London but for people wanting something that touches in any depth on social issues you will probably get more from buying a copy of the Big Issue than from reading about the life of its editor.