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Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Kentish Lad. Frank Muir. Corgi Books (1997)

A very engaging autobiography. Frank Muir worked as a writer, presenter and television executive for decades after the Second World War, starting in radio and moving to television as it was becoming a mass medium. While he had a show business career this is not a show business autobiography, it is is story of a life gratefully lived. At a very young age Frank Muir discover that making people laugh was something he enjoyed, the incidental opportunities provided by his time in the RAF, writing for RAF radio while stationed in Iceland gave him a training and a yearning to make it a career. Post war opportunities arose slowly, luck lead to a long term writing partnership with Denis Norden, which in turn led to a career in television as a writer, presenter and executive. He was also a writer of a very successful series of children's books and other books.
The most significant problem with autobiography is perspective, identifying what would be of interest to a stranger about your life without being a bore is tricky at best, it is always fatal to be too removed and allow others dominate or be to present and loose sight of what is actually interesting about your experiences. Frank Muir manages the task with understated and charming skill, he has a clear and confident voice matched with a nicely self-deprecating wit. His strong enjoyment of and interest in other people means that the famous people he has met come across as people rather than an exercise in name dropping. He writes without malice and with clear opinions and his writing about his family is a model of how to balance relevant exposure with discretion. This is a warm, funny and sharply written book, thoroughly companionable.

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