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Absolute Pandemonium by Brian Blessed

I can see a dwarf, Terry!
I can see a dwarf!
As soon as I began reading this, I immediately regretted buying the hardback and not the audio book. Blessed starts with an instruction on how to read this, his sixth book and the first in twenty-two years that hasn't been about mountain-climbing, and it's to imagine sitting opposite Brian and having him yell his life story at you as a series of long, rambling but gently themed anecdotes. Which as I understand it was how this was written–James Hogg, Blessed's ghost-writer, must be a brave man of renowned endurance.

And it certainly helps to have this framework in mind when you read it. With his sonorous bass-baritone booming in your mind's ear you can't help but chuckle when he describes punching Harold Pinter, who was 'in a heightened state of celebration,' down some stairs, or telling his co-stars on The Trojan Women that rather than make love he'd prefer a big shit. I can't help but imagine that hearing him boom these tall tales directly into my actual ear would add significant value to the experience. Nonetheless, it's still a humorous and enjoyable read, for all its faults. And there are a few. 

First off, it's hard not to judge a book like this by its cover, and large, easy-to-read font, and publication date. There is something tawdry about the cult of celebrity that spews forth these memoirs just in time for Super Thursday and the early-gifting phase of retail bookselling. This is one of those. Regardless of my respect for the man, his work (what little I've seen I've enjoyed), and his beard, it's hard not to feel that this is written for a particular market, for people who enjoy reading the serialised scandals in tabloid newspapers, the 'secret' feuds of zed-listers, the back-stage shenanigans of the rich and fabulous. What I'm trying to say, in a way which hides the fact I'm a fucking great snob, is that I'm a fucking great snob and look down on the people to whom this is marketed. Secondly, it's very conversational, in that he wanders off topic and repeats himself, which is okay, and I imagine adds to its charms for some, but it's also a very self-aware memoir, looking to justify itself and its style by self-reference, and that feels a little artificial.

But then what can I say? Blessed is a one-off. He's also an enduring and instantly recognisable figure, and captures the hearts of most people; who am I to criticise his decision to publish another memoir while he's riding some sort of zeitgeist?. Also, bearing in mind I have one of the great Jim'll Paint It's canvas prints of the man punching a polar bear in the face–"Right in the fucking face!" (sadly an anecdote that didn't make it into this book)–I'd look a right chump being anything other than grateful it exists.



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