- Tired and Emotional: The life of George Brown by Peter Paterson
Chatto, 320 pp, £20.00, May 1993, ISBN 0 7011 3976 5
Anyone who lived in London during the Blitz will be able to confirm the important part played by the bomb stories in the vibrant folklore of the city. Everyone had at least one yarn about the bomb that had fallen on them, their neighbours, their aunty’s neighbours, and they told them eloquently to anyone who would listen. Many of the most fantastical were perfectly true. It was the mundane ones – insofar as there were any mundane bomb stories – which one had to distrust.
Vol. 15 No. 12 · 24 June 1993
Ian Aitken’s piece on Lord George-Brown in your 27 May number ought to serve as a stern warning to governments and electorates everywhere in regard to intemperate men in high office. President Lyndon Johnson was known to be a heavy drinker, contemporaneously with the tragic USA involvement in South-East Asia, and the later US President who adamantly escalated that war – US libel law precludes further identification – was described in print by his Secretary of State as drunk a good deal of the time. The world is an increasingly fragile place. Mental incompetence in its leadership isn’t needed by any of us.
Greer, South Carolina
Vol. 15 No. 13 · 8 July 1993
Ian Aitken’s review of Peter Paterson’s Life of George Brown has one or two charitable passages (LRB, 27 May), but 35 lines on getting a gin and tonic for George suggests he is working a long-time grudge out of his system, and when George said ‘tout de suite’, why spell it ‘toot sweet’, on the assumption that that is how he pronounced the phrase or would have written the instruction? A classic case of the mincy patronisation that he had to tolerate from media colleagues. To call George’s 40-year marriage to Sophie ‘gruesome history’, when such epithets as ‘unhappy’, ‘failed’ or ‘difficult’ are quite serviceable for other public figures, is calumny against the shades of both of them. I bear witness to summer holidays and Christmases of expansive warmth and profound hilarity between them, without denying the effect of drink and its incipient cruelty as their relationship drew to a close.