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on 14 March 2015
The late Simon Hoggart gives very amusing and witty anecdotes about his life writing sketches the bulk of these as a Guardian writer.

He met politicians that are household names, and wrote his sketches encompassing them all in his very amusing and special anecdotes.

A very good, entertaining read.
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on 9 November 2010
This bright and very fast-flowing book will delight many as a present, but you'll enjoy it yourself, too, if you appreciate Mr Hoggart's unforced with and insights. Here he writes with great flair and fun about some of the characters he has encountered during his interesting life and career, ranging from WH Auden to, er, Jeffrey Archer, and he also recalls many amusing stories about the various shows and publications he has worked on or for. I read this very quickly and ended wanting more, but you could also dip into it as and when you have a spare moment that requires a bit of brightening. All in all it's a treat. Thank you, Mr Hoggart!
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on 9 December 2010
I have been reading this book before going to sleep, and I have laughed hard enough to scatter the cat and wake my wife. Then in the morning I read her (my wife, not the cat) the same passages out loud.

The book is not a pure memoir, but a recollection, as you would hear over a delightful lunch with wine, a cheese course, and port, of persons and places that Simon has come across in his life and as a celebrated Guardian reporter and columnist. There are terrific stories about the British royal family, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Tony Blair, many journalists (nearly all of them quirky), and his travels across Africa, Australia, and North America. I love the accounts of his sports writing in Manchester, and his boyhood year in America. He's met everyone, but the book is absent of name dropping. Each vignette is perfectly pitched, and you will find yourself, if not shaking the bed with laughter, than at least hoping that the book will last forever.

This is a book for Christmas, Easter, summer holiday, the train to work, a book club, your friend's birthday, or just to cheer up a winter's night. When you get it, you will tell your friends, and hope they tell their friends. It's that good. Buy it.
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on 10 June 2013
Hoggart is a long serving political journalist, and is bound to have something to say on most topics in the last 50 or so years. What's interesting about this volume is that he's less focussed on events and chronologies, in normal journalistic fashion, and more focussed on giving a sense of characters, places, and institutions. It's like a long version of his Parliamentary sketches.

Whilst it can sometimes feel a little lightweight (the criticism another reviewer made of it being a record of `who Simon sat next to at dinner' holds some truth), it is also often revealing and funny, which is the point. The portraits of various prime ministers and well-known politicians don't add anything dramatically new, but they are well-drawn and first-hand. The best stories, though, are reserved for his journalistic colleagues. Tales of cynical hacks killing time in hotel bars and bending rules to get stories crop up throughout, and various jokes and remarks are recorded for posterity. The politicians he most warms to, indeed, seem to be the ones who share the journalists' sense of fun and love of winging it, as well as being willing to join them in the bar.

It's clear from the very start that this is really a series of amusing or telling anecdotes arranged thematically, so there is bound to be a certain lightness of touch to it. If you haven't already got a pretty good knowledge of British politics since the 60s, you might occasionally wonder what he's talking about. There's not an enormous amount of space to be spared for broader context when he's cramming up to four anecdotes onto a page, at times. And when Hoggart does veer into broader political commentary, it can feel a little flimsy. In particular, he seems to treat the Irish Troubles as a bit of a jape and tells us journalists, in particular, were generally safe, before revealing in the following pages the hotel most journalists stayed at was `was bombed all the time'. There's also an extraordinary section where he suggests that most people in Ulster were safe so long as they weren't part of an actively partisan political organisation, which both misses the point and would undoubtedly come as a surprise to many of the journalists, public officials, and innocent members of the public who were killed or maimed.

In summary, it is not for everyone, and sometimes a bit offhand and impressionistic, but I thoroughly enjoyed it as an entertaining read, and an interestingly personal take on recent British politics.
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on 29 January 2011
bought this for my husband for Christmas and he has been chuckling ever since
so I am assuming it is good!
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on 27 September 2011
More from the Punch/News Quiz school of literature (see my review of The Essential Alan Coren, who contributes a good though hoary Jewish joke to the present volume, p56). Not so much a memoir, more a concatenation of anecdotes, this is rather tentative getting off the ground - for someone who makes a living from his pen, not to mention a scion of the House of Hoggart*, it's limp, lazy, gutless stuff, more 'Weybridge' than he realises**; it gets into its stride in the Manchester (Guardian) years (how quaint this will all soon seem, when 'newspaper' means your local freesheet) and unlike Coren none of it's made up - not even the jokes. On which two stances are permissable - either that they're not in their first youth, or that you can't beat the old ones. The Roses (Harry and Henry) stir one's interest; the Face the Press anecdote from the following chapter clinches it; the bit on Gerry Fitt's ennoblement in the Irish-themed chapter maintains that level. From then on, though, it just gets scrappier and scrappier. The political chapters (Hoggart's speciality!) are increasingly inconsequential, when not apocryphal. The American chapter's a crashing disappointment

Certain dinner guests would once be described as 'amusing', which meant that two hours of them was about as much as one could stand. Hoggart escapes the charge only because it is not him doing the amusing. David Benedictus did the whole name-dropping shtick with more languid aplomb in his aptly titled Dropping Names; in Hoggart's case, as with Coren, it's the modesty we prize, but his Zelig-like presence eventually palls. We never even learn what he studied at Cambridge! Tellingly, the first authorial mot, coyly rearing its head on p99, is 'we all prefer to deprecate ourselves rather than have others do it for us'. If Nicolas Parsons floats your boat, go for it

* one of the (very) few facts of interest is that Hoggart senior's magnum opus was originally to have been called The ABuses of Literature

** but tonsorial sideboards are only 'sideburns' colloquially, Hoggart, and in Britain we 'raise' livestock; children we bring up. Yet he calls a tanktop a 'sleeveless pullover'. He is younger than me! Or is this my inner Weybridge man speaking? By the way, that Joyce Grenfell - oo, she were a caution!
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on 6 September 2014
Incisive, cutting, witty; this is a trip down memory lane that may be preserved in aspic, if political correctness and democracy kill off the long liquid lunch. Politics should not take itself too seriously. After all, with the EU over us, it is irrelevant in this country anyway!
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on 15 July 2013
A different view of politicians from a sketch-writer of long experience. Amusing and self-deprecating from this well-known journalist. Will read more of his work.
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on 27 August 2013
I've read Simon Hoggart before (Send up the Clowns) and A Long Lunch was equally insightful and entertaining. Splendid bedtime or holiday reading.
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on 22 November 2014
I have always looked forward to reading anything by Simon Hoggart as I his find observations both perceptive and very humerous. So sad he is no longer with us.
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