To review this in a few words – this is a collection of previously published journalism by a celebrity. With that statement many people will have formed an opinion. I formed an opinion of my own when the introduction ended with a quote from T.S. Eliot, and I have a rule that any book quoting ‘The Wasteland’ is generally awful. But in our separate ways, both I and my fictional reader are wrong. This was fun.
Yes, it’s a relatively slight bit of fun, in the way of these celebrity books gathering previous snippets of verbiage to fill the post-autobiography section of a two-book contract. These books are inherently easy to be sniffy about. But I have liked Arthur Smith since long before Count Arthur Strong replaced him as the funniest Arthur around. And this book seemed perfectly in keeping with his public persona, and with the wit and intelligence I expected of him. You can take just the first few of the hundred pieces here as a review in nutshell – yes, we get what might be expected (what it was like filming “Angry Old Men” for BBC2, how heckling affects a show), but we also get what age has not allowed other such journalists to provide, such as a short essay about when going in becomes the new going out. Heck, we even get a trip to Gainsborough land – only a thousand words to be had by Monday, but Gainsborough all the same.
Arthur’s poetry isn’t going to get him in the running for the Poet Laureate any time soon, but these pieces can surprise – a couple really do turn the topic on its head to prove to be a lot more serious than you first thought. And that’s the thing to take from this whole volume – it has more depth than the celebrity shelf in the store tends to supply. It does feature showbiz anecdote, but that’s tempered with watching his mother’s dementia growing, and other unexpectedly heavy themes. Finally, I don’t think you need to have been a fan of Mr Smith to appreciate this book, meaning that while it will never be first choice for a book group, it’s not to be thought of as at all disposable.
John Lloyd 4*
100 Things I Meant to Tell You by Arthur Smith
AA Publishing 9780749581947 hbk Oct 2019