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on 20 November 2013
Its a cute idea - lost things. The sort of things that defined your youth, the films you watched, the books you read, the little unremarked and unremembered things that have slid unnoticed down the back of the sofa of life, a family photo album of your lost days. And it does that very adeptly. Remember hats? Canford Cliffs? Park Drive cigarettes? You'll probably smile at the recollection. Then he sneaks out the baseball bat and smacks you right across your emotional Achilles Heel. Dog. Mother. The Dead Zone. Believe me - you won't be expecting it. And even Mozart's Little Buttocks (yes, really) won't shake your conviction that this is a genuinely important book. Read it. It's an exercise in lapidary style, deft intellectual brachiation between every literary source you've heard of and many you haven't, and an effective wringing of heart strings that will leave you pondering for days. Read it. At once.
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on 23 January 2013
Ideal to pick up and dip into when you have some time, continues to fascinate. History as it should be taught
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on 25 November 2004
Pick this up in a Christmas-stacked bookshop and you might think you were browsing (yet) another of those Schott-like lists, albeit an aparently denser one.
But do not be deceived by the alphabetical arrangement or the deliciously eccentric index; Bywater's book is not just, or even, a lexicon of loss. It is in reality an autobiography, a celebration of the life of Great Britain in the second half of the C20, its certainties, its conventions, its style and aspirations and of a child growing into a man as some of those solidities proved themselves ephemeral. Darkly elegaic at times, luminous and lyrical at others, angry, affectionate, erudite, self-indulgent and, above all, terribly terribly funny.
(Perhaps garters and Virol will come in the second edition?)
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on 9 February 2006
I came to this having greatly liked Michael Bywater's work in The Independent and I wasn’t disappointed: it’s a marvellous book that contains nostalgia but which is informed by a very sharp sense of humour. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read ‘Ancients, Wisdom of the,’ and each time it makes me laugh again. Wonderful!
Incidentally, theodorawayte is wrong that the Bakelite telephone with its little drawer is missing: it’s right there, in footnote 67, page49, under Bakelite.
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on 28 November 2005
This books sums up the author so totally, with its cocktail of cynicism,nostalgia, hope, angst,resentment, dissatisfaction and almost sentimental yearnings for normality...security....homeliness. This book seems to be intensely personal yet accessible to everyone...we can all remember and indentify with things that he discusses...we get reminded of things from our youth that we had forgotten about and learn about new things that are a focal part of someone else's childhood.But the main thing about Lost Worlds..is that it is unbelievably funny, it had me actually having to lie down cause i got a stitch from laughing...some of the stories will be imprinted on yr brain forever...Its a wonderful, unusual and brilliant book and i thoroughly recommend it.
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on 14 July 2011
To enjoy this book you will need to be in your "middle years" and preferably slightly aghast to have got there. You must also be able to accept that the spirit of comedy lies cheek-by-jowl with the spirit of tragedy (as in the greatest works of our greatest playwright). Michael Bywater has compiled a huge treasury of things that most of us half remember. He has done so with a bitter sardonic wit and a glittering eye. He takes us by the lapels and, like the Ancient Mariner, will not release us until he has told his story. He unpicks the things that we take for granted and forces us to look at them afresh. Fortunately, he does this with great wit and I found myself laughing out loud repeatedly. Even the index is a comic masterpiece and had me re-reading numerous entries, just for the fun of linking the index description to the actual piece.
However, it is not all fun and games. Michael Bywater manages to slip in observations and asides of extraordinary power. He is, as one reviewer says, "...pretty much right about everything." Indeed, everything from Hats to Mortality. One of the most moving and profound entries, "The Dead Zone", tells us more about the latter in the simple memory of a friend than most whole books ever achieve. This is writing full of perceptive wisdom all mixed up with the farcical and the surreal. Hard to tell which is which sometimes and rightly so.
Of course, some people will think that Bywater is pretentious or merely "showing off". This is because they are ignorant (and I mean that as a simple observation and not in a pejorative sense). If you have been around for a while and have a reasonably good memory, you will understand and be enormously entertained.
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on 15 May 2006
I'm so glad that good writing, intelligent humour and fascination with the obscure have not vanished into some lost world! This book made me so happy to be of an age where I can remember some of the lost ideas, objects, smells and values the author so wonderfully recalls and describes.

An unusual book that I won't be throwing or giving away in a hurry.
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VINE VOICEon 16 May 2010
I was clearing a flat and found this book I had last read about 4 years ago. I clearly remember hearing Stephen Fry read parts on the Radio and had to have the book after that.

The funniest bit is about Noddy and Big ears and their attempts at camping- highlighting the perversity of the relationship. Some of the book is very charming indeed and will bring back all sorts of memories if you are old enough (will die soon!). The pages about the 70s made me think of my not so wonderful school days with all the TRex posters on my walls, loon trousers covered with stars, living in a freezing house with lino floors - mixed feelings.
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on 1 January 2014
A mildly amusing trot through the physical and intangible losses of recent and more ancient years, with particular emphasis on what are probably the authors childhood years - the fifties.So something of a nostalgia fest and a lament for times past and a sour critique of modern mores. Undoubtedly erudite and informative, but the tone soon gets wearing.
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on 10 November 2004
Do you know anyone who will have a Christmas Stocking? Then put this book in it. If you don't, then get everyone you do know a Christmas Stocking, and put this book in it. If it isn't Christmas get them the book and the stocking (proper stocking, now) anyway. If you have the lust to laugh, the wisdom to weep and the sheer chutzpah for mental trapeze hopping, buy this book!
Michael Bywater leaps (in fiery spangled tights? I do hope so) from: "Ancients, The Wisdom of"; to "Centres, Call"; to "Invention"; to "Gods, The"; to "Boson, Higgs's". He flits from: "Stockings" (Ah!); to "Paris, the Lost Smell of" (I remember eet well); to "Gloves" (mmm); to "Hats" (Yes!). He evokes tristesse for: "Billy"; "Doctors, Proper"; "Beans, Grandpa"; "Meerschaum"; or "Bottles, Water, Hot".
If you want to let rip with a loud guffaw at a footnote (yes, it can be done), buy this book. And, if you want to preserve the dwindling world of Eccentric and Dazzling Breadth, buy this book!
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