I am not a big fan of autobiographies (or biographies for that matter) as I find them a touch boring. I have read a couple that are great – and some are obviously vital records of important people’s lives – but they do tend to read as: I did this and then I did that…rinse and repeat. Yawn.
I also hate the fact that celebrities feel the urge, or financial necessity, to ‘write’ an autobiography after a laughably short period of time in the limelight. Geri Halliwell wrote 2 autobiographies before she hit thirty. FFS. Even including being in The Spice Girls, I cannot imagine that she has enough to say to fill in an average questionaire.
Michael Owen wrote his first when he was 21. 21! Apart from playing football – albiet, at the highest level – nothing of any interest has happened to him apart from having an occasional haircut without his Dad and learning joined-up writing.
So it was a welcome surprise to read My Name is Daphne Fairfax, the autobiography of Arthur Smith. For those of you who don’t know he is a stand up comedian, playwright and general raconteur regularly guesting on Radio 4 and is a rather funny man.
The book does start off in a list like fashion, documenting his early life as a boy and then a student. Although this section is somewhat banal, there is something refreshingly candid about it; that he is not ashamed of his past and his snapshot of post-war London is heartfelt.
The resonant feeling upon completing the book is that Arthur Smith is a bit of a good bloke, who loves life, loves his mum and dad and is quite philosophical about where his career choices have led him. The picture he paints of the life of a stand-up comedian is bitter sweet; by turns exhilarating and satisfying but also somewhat isolating and self-reflective.
Finally, he is not shy to have a dig and accuses Jimmy Carr of using post=modernist, ironic posturing to get away with offensive Manning-esque material. I have to agree with him…besides, Jimmy Carr is a bit of a tool.