'Nothing wilfully invented. Memory invents unbidden.' The 1950s were not grey. In Jonathan Meades's detailed, petit-point memoir they are luridly polychromatic. They were peopled by embittered grotesques, bogus majors, vicious spinsters, reckless bohos, pompous boors, suicides. Death went dogging everywhere.
Salisbury, where he was brought up, had two industries: God and the Cold War, both of which provided a cast of adults for the child to scrutinise - desiccated God-botherers on the one hand, gung-ho chemical warriors on the other. The title is grossly inaccurate. This book is, rather, a portrait of a disappeared provincial England, a time and place unpeeled with gruesome relish.
"Meades has been compared favourably to Rabelais and flatteringly to Swift. The truth is he outstrips both in the gaudiness of his imagination." (Henry Hitchings, TLS)"Meades [is] in the upper echelon of 20th-century prose stylists. His use of language is relentlessly inventive, violent, fresh, precise. He shares with the great stylists - Dickens, Joyce, Nabokov, Bellow - the ability to make the world appear alien while rendering it a more intense version of itself, and the power to recalibrate the reader's own perception of the environment in which they live." (Matthew Adams, Independent)"If Meades was a racehorse you'd be calling for a stewards' enquiry. There's something in his feed which gives him the lot. He's working at terribly high octane." (Iain Sinclair, Kaleidoscope)
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A big disappointment
So dense with detail you could cut & serve as pie
- B. Ward