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Follies

George Melly, 4 April 1991

A Surrealist Life 
by John Lowe.
Collins, 262 pp., £18, February 1991, 0 00 217941 5
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... intended to talk only about his friendship with the Surrealists. ‘But I shall have my revenge on Melly,’ he told everybody in that rapid Edwardian dowager’s voice. ‘I shall ruin his position in English society!’ Lowe, however, is writing with the slate slab firmly in place in the West Dean arboretum, and with full access to the Edward James archives ...

Beau Beverley

George Melly, 27 June 1991

Beverley Nichols 
by Bryan Connon.
Constable, 320 pp., £20, March 1991, 0 09 470570 4
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... that John was not his true father, but had been cuckolded by his artistic, music-loving brother George – the only member of the family to escape Beverley’s obloquy. If this was so, a great deal falls into place: John’s irrational flight from Bristol, his alcoholism, his wife’s expiatory acceptance, and Beverley’s hysterical venom. It was not ...

Robbing banks

George Melly, 25 June 1992

Magritte 
by David Sylvester.
Thames and Hudson, 352 pp., £45, May 1992, 0 500 09227 3
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Magritte 
by Sarah Whitfield.
South Bank Centre, 322 pp., £18.95, May 1992, 1 85332 087 0
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... Inspired by the bourgeois ‘bad taste’ of Magritte’s house in the Rue des Mimosas in suburban Brussels, Jonathan Miller took off into one of his self-intoxicating fantasies. We were there together in the mid-Sixties to make a film for the BBC, and although I had forewarned him, Jonathan couldn’t believe that this overstuffed furniture, this aviary of china birds, these chiming clocks, garish oriental rugs and draped curtains could form the chosen, or at any rate tolerated, habitat of the austere master of unease ...

Rubbing Up

Michael Church, 7 June 1984

Growing Up 
by Russell Baker.
Sidgwick, 278 pp., £9.95, February 1984, 0 283 99056 2
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Scouse Mouse, or I never got over it: An Autobiography 
by George Melly.
Weidenfeld, 208 pp., £8.95, March 1984, 0 297 78277 0
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The Haunted Mind 
by Hallam Tennyson.
Deutsch, 238 pp., £12.95, May 1984, 0 233 97618 3
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... both made into vehicles for their mothers’ repressed artistic ambitions: the early histories of George Melly and Russell Baker run strikingly in parallel. Their books reveal an even more striking coincidence of form. Melly chooses, in his closing paragraph, to play affectionately along with his mother’s happy ...

Edward and Tilly and George

Robert Melville, 15 March 1984

Swans Reflecting Elephants: My Early Years 
by Edward James, edited by George Melly.
Weidenfeld, 178 pp., £8.95, July 1982, 0 297 77988 5
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... last of the 11 tapes which recorded Edward’s recollections of the first 27 years of his life. George Melly handled the tapes and later pruned and rearranged their contents. The book didn’t appear until five years later, but the recording had been a rush job for George, occupying four days between two singing ...

Giving Hysteria a Bad Name

Jenny Diski: At home with the Mellys, 17 November 2005

Take a Girl like Me: Life with George 
by Diana Melly.
Chatto, 280 pp., £14.99, July 2005, 0 7011 7906 6
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Slowing Down 
by George Melly.
Viking, 221 pp., £17.99, October 2005, 0 670 91409 6
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... fixed on mankind and do not pass beyond that sphere.’ Not that I’m suggesting that Diana Melly is a Sufi, indeed there’s very little to suggest any path at all in her life, but the several possible responses a reader might have to Take a Girl like Me are much the same as for those encountering a seeker on the Path of Blame. In a review of the book ...

This Charming Man

Frank Kermode, 24 February 1994

The Collected and Recollected Marc 
Fourth Estate, 51 pp., £25, November 1993, 1 85702 164 9Show More
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... In fact there is not a lot of spikiness, the line flows pleasingly around Noel Annan and caresses George Weidenfeld, though without forgetting to make his eyes wander and his mouth disappear. Huw Weldon holds his teacup in a very refined way, though his partly averted face is aggressively tense. Clive Jenkins is a smiling serpent, Muggeridge has an accusing ...

Amigos

Christopher Ricks, 2 August 1984

The Faber Book of Parodies 
edited by Simon Brett.
Faber, 383 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 571 13125 5
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Lilibet: An Account in Verse of the Early Years of the Queen until the Time of her Accession 
by Her Majesty.
Blond and Briggs, 95 pp., £6.95, May 1984, 0 85634 157 6
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... show: Miles Kington and Russell Davies, Alan Coren and Clive James, Malcolm Bradbury and George Melly. The parodied A’s have it: Douglas Adams (hitchhiking through a galaxy of fading stars), Woody Allen, Kingsley Amis, Anon, John Aubrey, Auden and Ayckbourn. An Auden parody is called ‘Self-Congratulatory Ode ...’, but it is the purr of ...

Truth

Nina Bawden, 2 February 1984

At the Jazz Band Ball: A Memory of the 1950s 
by Philip Oakes.
Deutsch, 251 pp., £8.95, November 1983, 0 233 97591 8
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... in London, he was drawn into what seemed an endless riotous party in which other merrymakers were George Melly, Bernard Levin, Harold Pinter, Alan Brien and the joyfully randy Mick Mulligan of the Magnolia Jazz Band. The account of the pranks they get up to is amusing only in patches – other people’s drunken excesses tend to be boring. The whole ...

Sightbites

Jonathan Meades: Archigram’s Ghost, 21 May 2020

Archigram: The Book 
edited by Dennis Crompton.
Circa, 300 pp., £95, November 2018, 978 1 911422 04 4
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... early 1960s.The subcultural change that led to the demise of this aesthetic was, according to George Melly, signalled by a ‘secret society’ that congregated at the party for the V&A’s Aubrey Beardsley exhibition in the summer of 1966. The next future would be looking backwards. Archigram’s architectural collages had always included ‘dolly ...

How terribly kind

Edmund White: Gilbert and George, 1 July 1999

Gilbert & GeorgeA Portrait 
by Daniel Farson.
HarperCollins, 240 pp., £19.99, March 1999, 0 00 255857 2
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... careful to keep track when it was his turn to buy drinks (which he often did). Gilbert and George, by contrast, are utterly stylised: they speak in relays, move like robots and strongly hint that there is no within within. This book, left incomplete at the time of Farson’s death and tidied up by Robert Violette, is touching and illuminating in part ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: On Peregrine Worsthorne, 4 November 1993

... stodgy. And after some backing and filling, he more or less owns up to having been ravished by George Melly at school and to have been both ravisher and ravishee until his early days in uniform. The remainder of the narrative of this period is punctuated by things like beagling with Father Gilbey or passing weekends in great houses with private ...

Love among the Cheeses

Lidija Haas: Life with Amis and Ayer, 8 September 2011

The House in France: A Memoir 
by Gully Wells.
Bloomsbury, 307 pp., £16.99, June 2011, 978 1 4088 0809 2
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... was called ‘Checkpoint Charlie’). Meanwhile, Gully holidays with boyfriends and becomes George Weidenfeld’s publicity director – more parties, more delicious food to catalogue. She marries Peter, who has ‘the most seductive voice on earth’ (everyone turns out to be the most, the best at everything). They move to New York and struggle to ...

Diary

Eric Hobsbawm: My Days as a Jazz Critic, 27 May 2010

... into the avant-garde cultural bohème in Britain, which overlapped with the non-bop jazz scene; George Melly and ‘Trog’ (Wally Fawkes, the clarinettist of the Humphrey Lyttelton school) were already producing their satirical and socially perceptive comic strip Flook in, of all places, the Daily Mail. I still have the membership card for Muriel’s ...

The Buffalo in the Hall

Susannah Clapp: Beryl Bainbridge, 5 January 2017

Beryl Bainbridge: Love by All Sorts of Means, a Biography 
by Brendan King.
Bloomsbury, 564 pp., £25, September 2016, 978 1 4729 0853 7
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... born on its outskirts in 1932 – provided the background to her early books. But in the view of George Melly, also from the city, it left her and her prose with something more fundamental: a specific flavour. As a jolly man who loved to sing the blues, Melly, not quoted here, was in a good position to assess a ...

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