I really enjoyed getting to know SG in the first volume, and the familiarity I have with him now made this even more enjoyable. He writes more about theatre in this volume, and he examines his own behaviour a lot more, too.
There's a real sense of being there with him as he writes - at one point he's describing what's actually happening as he's writing (a couple looking at him) as he writes it, not watching the pen on paper, which was so vividly 'in the moment' that it almost seemed like some kind of hallucination. Almost ;)
He's impeccably honest, and the writing style is something to savour - he's spent so many years writing that he writes effortless sentences that read like trains of thought - fascinating and funny - that just flow. There's a natural ease of expression that gets you happily going along with it all. I smiled all the way through.
Recommended for those who don't like autobiographies - I don't, but I loved this; it's an easy, entertaining read that was over far too quickly. Great for the beach - if you're off to Barbados it might be worth taking, as SG spent his holidays there, and quite a few of his entries are written there. Time for me to buy the third volume, I think...
I really enjoyed this book. Loved the cats, loved the dogs, Who could dislike a man who is willing to tell you, in self-deprecating detail, about his weakest, most guilty moments, and then make you laugh? This is a seriously entertaining read. He wrote sublimely, with an absence of everything you ever heard about 'luvvies' and their vaunting self-aggrandisation. He wrote movingly regarding his adolescent love for a taller, more popular boy at one of his schools, and more movingly still about his friends, particularly his great regard for Alan Bates whose death greatly affected him. He was informative about the staging of his plays, including his reluctance to go and see them and had an interestingly warm relationship with Harold Pinter and his wife Antonia Fraser, but his writing was refreshingly free of any sense that a connection with them was anything out of the ordinary.
He admitted in this book that he bore hatred for certain people, amongst them, no doubt, Stephen Fry, who fled a theatrical production by him after Fry received what he felt were less than good reviews. Grey tells the bare minimum about this incident in this book and mentions no names.
He wintered in Barbados with his wife, Victoria Rothschild, for a few years and obviously lived a life considerably removed from the middle classes who provided many of the main characters of his plays. His writing always seemed effortless, and enviably relaxed, yet it sparkled with touches of wit. It's not the sort of writing that courts laughter, more a sense of amusement and often puzzlement at his life. His writing sometimes loses track, meanders on, but one never minds because he has a superb sense of the variousness and unexpected confoundedness of experience. Superbly talented he wrote over twenty plays, many of them great successes. He died of pneumonia in 2008.
Lots of interesting and quirky thoughts and plenty of insight into the playwright's life and business, along with amusing anecdotes concerning Simon Gray's friends (most of whom are famous and interesting in themselves). A lovely chatty style, an easy read, a most interesting and attractive person - what more could you want? However, for chronological reasons, I'd read first The Smoking Diaries, which is also excellent.
This style may be copied but it'll never be surpassed. Simon Gray was a one-off and as much as The Smoking Diaries is the best of these autobiographical studies, The Year of the Jouncer is great fun. The worst thing about his books is they end too soon.
I am so happy that Simon Gray saw a significant re-birth of his career (and in the general interest in him as a writer) in the final years of his life. I simply loved the Richard E. Grant helmed production of "Otherwise Engaged" and Gray's "Little Nell" is a fine, thoughtful play that will find its place one day.
The Smoking Diaries are a fitting (and accomplished) final contribution from this very interesting and complicated man. That Simon Gray was able to record them on CD is all the more exciting because you may now hear Simon Gray eternally. (A good thing I assure you!) Would that so many others had the opportunity to do the same!