Dress Down Friday

Pulp(ed) non-fiction


I suspect that many Harry’s Place readers will empathise when I say that too much space in chez Graham is taken up by books.

The damned things somehow manage to climb the walls and overflow from cupboards. Piles of them gather on the floor and trip me up as I pace the floor, nose in the air and quill in hand, pondering how to put a class-based spin on David T’s latest post about the saved sect.

Well, I have finally had enough and am getting rid of them by the bag-full, trashing the Trollope’s and dispensing with the damned Derrida’s; into black bags they all go, to be collected by a nice middle-aged lady in a mini-metro. What she does with them I care very little, just enough in fact to emit the slightest foetus of a chuckle whilst reflecting that the market in second-hand EP Thompson’s has just taken another nosedive.

Most of things that I am pulling off the shelves are very worthy affairs with titles such as “Patterns of the medieval Welsh Peasant Landscape’ or “Castration: An Abbreviated History of Western Manhood” (Anniversary present from the wife.) But every now and then I find something which can only be termed “lightweight rubbish” and that brings me to what I want to talk about – totally crap books which can be read without any concentration whatsoever.

Twice a year: at Xmas and during the summer, I get to read complete and utter crap. Instead of worthy history tomes, coursework or exam texts, or piles of student work (this year’s award-winning line from an essay on Shakespeare:
Lysander and Hermia are in the forest, sharing lines and getting covered in love juice…”
I read whatever I feel like (mostly picked up from charity shops, not that I am broke (yet) but I just can’t resist the old Ladies of the Greenwich and Bexley hospice shop.)

Last Xmas I read the biography of former Stranglers singer Hugh Cornwall and I have just tackled some completely throwaway proto-pulp by two British broadcasters who I suppose it would be fair to call “much loved.”

Murray Walker’s autobiography is pretty standard fare, written, I think, without the need for a ghostwriter. Walker was once an advertising copywriter, selling new-fangled tinned dogfood in the fifties. (Lookaway now Wardy – Walker recounts the tale of how in order to convince consumers to give the much-loved pooch some tinned whale-meat, he and his fellows had to show they were prepared to eat the stuff themselves.)

“Unless I am very much mistaken” is full of just what you would expect from a man who has been commenting on motor-racing since 1949, although I had no idea that he had commanded a tank during the Normandy invasion. Just imagine driving out of the landing-craft and up the Normandy beach-head with Murray Walker commenting through your earphones. (I’ll leave you to make up your own Murrayism)

John Peel’s “Margrave of the marshes” (just now out in paperback) is slightly more interesting. Only half written by its subject (his wife completed the book after his death.) it follows Peel through public school, his period of National service, his early days in American radio (where he actually met and talked to John F Kennedy the year before his assassination) through pirate radio and of course radio 1 during the sixties, seventies and eighties. It’s fairly entertaining fare but I can’t really see why the Observer music magazine voted it as one of the top books about music of all time.

Anyway tell us if you have ever read a really bad book, or what you are reading this summer (rubbish or not) or your thoughts on Peel or Walker, or anything else at all which does not concern events in the middle-east.