Sunday 30 March 2014

Deighton on TV redux - "The Lively Arts"

Len Deighton, The Lively Arts
If readers haven't discovered it yet on the BBC's archives, I'd encourage you to watch the 1977 interview of Len Deighton by broadcaster Melvyn Bragg, as part of the BBC's Lively Arts programme.

I've been doing a little web surfing this afternoon and came across it and watched it again. You can find the video on the BBC's website here.

Very interesting interview - one of the few Len's given at length to the BBC, the other being five years ago for BBC 4, marking his 80th birthday.

Filmed around the publication of Bomber, it's interesting to hear Len explain how he came to writing and how his lack of being a professional writer in his thirties shaped his approach to his first books. So, when he talks about writing The Ipcress File as a story, he had no idea what it would become and treated it just as a bit of fun. It was left in a draw, indicating to him that he had no ambition to be a writer until a chance meeting with an agent.

Fascinating to hear Len talking about the English class system, which "everyone seems to enjoy!", and how he got into cooking through his mother, who indulged her son in the kitchen.

If you've not watched it, certainly worth checking out.

Friday 28 March 2014

Not yet a writer ....

I found a little curiosity in a 1963 edition of House & Garden (not a regular read of mine!).

In an article on what makes a great dinner party, the party organiser Luke Prior was asked by the magazine to approach some of London's great and the good - the main party-givers - to find out what makes an evening go with a swing.

One of those interviewed is Len Deighton's first wife Shirley, an artist. In the brief comments under her picture, it's clear that in 1963 Len was not yet widely referred to as a 'famous writer'; rather, his fame, such as it was, was as a food writer and creator of the cook strip. With the launch of The Ipcress File and Horse Under Water on the slipway, this was probably the last time that Len was referred to as anything but a top author.

Interesting little curio...

Shirley Deighton on the fun of dinner parties

Monday 24 March 2014

Oh! What a Lovely War - history as entertainment and entertainment as history

That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.” - Aldous Huxley

History is made up of two things: facts, and everything else. 2014 will mark the one hundredth anniversary of the First World War, the ‘Great War’ as it came to be known, and there are thousands of new facts emerging about the war every year still. Always a source of fascination for historian and layman alike, the destructive nature of the conflict, the inconclusive nature of its origins and the tectonic impact it had on later twentieth century Europe has always pushed people to seek to answer the question: why?

If only things were that simple to answer. The huge numbers of books on WWI now appearing in the shops, the myriad of BBC programmes looking at different aspects of the conflict - including the excellent 37 Days looking at the origins of the conflict - and the multi-million pound government plan to commemorate the outbreak of war across the country all have at their heart a desire to understand and make sense of a senseless conflict.

Because of the savagery of this first global conflict, and its impact on the British psyche and British historiography thereafter, the anniversary provides another opportunities for long-established opinions to be be resurrected and picked over by politicians, historians and media alike. Was it worth going to war in 1914? Were the Germans solely to blame? Was General Haig the buffoon so often portrayed by his critics?

Since the start of the year there has been a noted upswing in the media’s propensity to chew over long-established WWI memes and seek, in this anniversary year, to come up with the answer to the unanswerable question of why the war happened. In doing so, it has also become a hot political and media potato, the war’s origins being a useful prism through which to view the world and defend your own and attack your opponent’s political point of view. This article by Frank Furedi hints at the reasons why WWI has such modern resonance.

Sunday 23 March 2014

A place on the Great British Bake-Off .... redux

In January I posted a link to an article that appeared in the Mail on Sunday about GBBO's Mary Berry and her contemporary food writers and chefs who revolutionised Britain's palates in that decade, Len among them.

I've now got hold of a copy of the original article, which I've scanned below:

Len's cooking is, inevitably, often associated with this single scene
The magazine's editor, in choosing to illustrate Len's contribution, has hardly tried to walk the full length of the counter, choosing the famous press image from The Ipcress File in which Len demonstrated to Michael Caine how to crack an egg with one hand, in order to make an omelette (with Len's hands, famously, appearing in the final cut).

As Len once remarked, he fully expects when his obituary is published in the media, to see Michael Caine's picture accompany most every one!