This great book in celebration of life has two special features. One is lists, long, loving lists that really do come near to capturing the detail that makes up a life in all its variety. The other is word-play: seldom the outright pun but time and again the extension of a phrase or figure of speech that makes it new, relevant and fun. I thought he dwelt rather too much on the state of death and the process of decomposition: Ecclesiastes 9. 10 pretty well says it all. But perhaps the repeated contrast with life was part of the force. Over all, this book has made me, an elderly bloke myself, appreciate even more the wonder of the life I can still lead.
The Black Mirror Raymond Tallis (RT) has overachieved with this wonderful book and may well have created a new category of literature. Black Mirror is an autobiographical framework which could be used by future autobiographers. RT uses his own life experiences to populate the framework in fascinating ways. He is at heart a writer’s writer and the words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters flow easily into each other making a fascinating whole. His erudition is such that scrabble competitors may well make this compulsory reading. He has creative tricks to invent new words or words soon to be in the OED. RT is also a scientist in the sense that he is never completely sure of even fundamental concepts. He includes his musings on deep scientific matters and is clearly well informed on the latest thinking. In the coda he even opens the possibility that consciousness investigations lead to form of existence beyond materialism. Above all RT is a real human being who has his passions and his hates. Every now and then he has a rant as we all do. A passion is his use of puns that are spread across the whole book in odd places. RT claims he has underachieved in his life. This time not. Michael Horner
Like the jeweller displays his diamonds on black velvet to make a dazzling contrast, so Raymond Tallis dazzles us with vivid descriptions of life against the backdrop of death. More than that he takes a magnifying glass and revels the many intricate facets of this diamond we call life.