"Murray is the best kind of literary biographer" – The Financial Times.
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Winner of the 2015 Basil Bunting Award for poetry

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Trop Chérie

Perhaps the phenomenon of political memoir or "bystander political memoir" is not a worthy subject for a literary blog because it has more to do with just about anything other than literature but there have been so many of these recently that they are hard to ignore. That by Chérie Booth has attracted a lot of vitriol, in part because (seemingly innocent of British social history since the 1944 Education Act) she seems to think that there is something unusual about a bright working class kid getting a classy education and ending up in Connaught Square. She still believes that it is a miracle that "someone from Liverpool" (where seemingly everyone is an ill-educated slum-dweller) could end up enjoying the high life. Here I declare an interest, having been brought up a few streets away from Chérie in the north Liverpool suburb of Waterloo. Let the benighted working class girl take up the story, in a speech given on 17th June 2004 to the Literatures of the Commonwealth Festival in Manchester:

"I myself have been an avid reader from the day I first learned to read at the age of five. My mother and grandmother were also great readers and I am proud to carry on the family tradition. I read voraciously all kinds of books from different genres. By the time I was ten years old, I had read every single book in the children's public library in Waterloo Liverpool where I was brought up, and the librarian finally gave way to my pleading and allowed me to join the grownups' library where I continued to take out the maximum five books every week until I left school. I believe it is one of the great sadnesses of today that fewer young people, particularly boys, are reading books."

I used the same Library (I'm a couple of years older) and I'm sorry that all that reading didn't rub off on this memoir which sorely needs some literary panache (say I, having read only a few pages standing in a chain bookstore).


Andrew said...

If one were feeling mischievous, one might mention "A precondition for reading good books is not reading bad ones: for life is short" - Schopenhauer. You can't have been expecting much surely?

Anonymous said...

It wasn't hard to read every decent book in Waterloo library's juvenile section in the 1960s - it was a (barely) converted drawing room and the purchasing policy was uninspired - we could probably (if we had nothing better to do eg read a good book) gather up a facebook group of those of us whom the Waterloo librarians let loose in the grown-up (in this context preferable to "adult") section at a tender age.