Thursday, October 29, 2009

Book Review: Redeeming Features by Nicky Haslam: Joy of being souffléed alive


Seasoned Arcatistes will know that I am not given to incontinent praise. So when I say that Nicky Haslam's memoir Redeeming Features is the most brilliantly trivial book I have ever read (since the Andy Warhol Diaries) you may need to pause and take a deep breath. Yes, you have my permission not to work for the rest of the day. By all means have sex. At least buy a good champagne.

Redeeming Features is the book Proust might have written had he not literary talent - his curse I'm afraid - or the book Duncan Fallowell might have penned had he not a brain or Oscar Wilde might have dashed off had he not a sense of humour. This is not to say that Nicky lacks literary talent or brains. Or a sense of humour. It is that he has neither (nor the sense of humour) in sufficient quantity to get in the way. His naked magnetism to society and celebrity figures is pure, romantic, child-like: nothing takes priority over his natal desire to nurture intimacies that are worth it.

A reader of average intelligence, and with an above average interest in names (obscure upper class aristo satellites, especially) will find their own delight unchallenged by artistic soul delving, behavioural over-noticing or mere satire. Many a memoir is utterly ruined by the simple inability of the author to maintain the consistency of a soufflé in matters entirely inconsequential. Nicky avoids this. He rises to the occasion all puffed up like a pillow, his named crowns golden, and with a yielding middle bit: yes, he did have a romance with Tony Armstrong-Jones. Redeeming Features is that scrummy.

In keeping with the frothy nature of the book it would be unseemly then to try to paraphrase his tale: it matters only that he is here and the book is there. To say more would be to ruin the effect, to puncture the soufflé. Light things, such as a joke, cannot bear to be named or explained. To write a book which is just there is a high accomplishment: it is an act of witting or unwitting humility. I can't say better than that.

Like all good books, Redeeming Features hosts a mystery. On p283, Nicky writes of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll "meeting a supposed sex-change relative." Of this encounter he recalls once writing in the defunct magazine Ritz: "With a song in her heart, Marg beheld an adorable face. It may be a her to you and me, but it sure is a him to Her Grace." I can't imagine why the "supposed sex-change" is not named but if he means who I think he means he should know she's highly litigious. And she's no sex-change.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

'Lady' Colin Campbell! What a boy!

Marinero said...

Is Prout the famous Brussels Prout?

Madame Arcati said...

No, he's the famous trout prout. And Lady Colin is all woman I can tell you.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Madame a clever cunty.

Anonymous said...

Don't be a churl:

http://madamearcati.blogspot.com/2008/08/madame-arcati-lady-colin-campbell-to.html

xxx

Madame Arcati said...

Churl? Moi?

The Late Mr Chips said...

A deft piece of satirical writing once again. Or are you paying Nicky genuine compliments? I shall ask my students.

Anonymous said...

I loved Ritz mag. Is David Litchfield still breathing?

The late Paul Parsons said...

Herr David Litchfield is alive and well. Heil and Click! http://www.davidrllitchfield.com/

Lavinia said...

I'm in it!

Madame Arcati said...

Darling, I'm sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo pleased for you. Did Nicky get his facts right?

The late Jeremy Thorpe said...

Just read that Haslam, Gore Vidal and Howard Austen cruised hustler bars together. Isn't that common?

Lavinia said...

Don't ask for the moon.

Madame Arcati said...

OK, well give me an approx page ref.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to sodomise Nick Griffin with Haslam's book.

Anonymous said...

smart arse cunt

Anonymous said...

Nicky Griffin's memoirs - Redeeming Futures - will be divine

The late Linda Lovelace said...

Was Marg involved in some oral sex scandal? Disgusting.

Anonymous said...

Nicky for EU President - it's all parties on expenses at Brussells anyway

The late Duchess Margaret of Argyle 's vaseline jar said...

How come this Lavinia cow is in Nicky's book? I've never heard of her.

Madame Arcati said...

That's probably because Lavinia is a pseudonym. I do so deeply disaapprove of individuals masquerading about behind aliases. There should be a law against it.

Madame Arcati said...

I should add that most of the people Nicky writes about have not been heard about. And those you have heard about he's fallen out with such as Cilla Black.

Frances Lynn said...

Nicky and I used to be 'best' friends during our Ritz days in the late 17th Century. Does this help?

Madame Arcati said...

Did you do tongues? We must talk about, I'll email you. x

Von Turd & Taxed said...

NH hates your review and hopes you die

Anonymous said...

Tremendous Madame. Don't let it get to your head though.

Anonymous said...

Proust, Fallowell, Wilde, Haslam. Ye gods!

Fishy said...

Nicky does NOT hate your review

Madame Arcati said...

Is that really you Fish? You never know who's who here. I'm sure NH knows a piece of layered affection when he reads it.

A Tennant fan said...

I have read Haslam's book and agree it is brilliant and trivial. I shall re-read it many times. It is art. Wilde would have adored it.

Anonymous said...

You write - "A reader of average intelligence, and with an above average interest in names (obscure upper class aristo satellites, especially) will find their own delight unchallenged by artistic soul delving, behavioural over-noticing or mere satire."

Then why would one read Haslam's book?

ex-Nicky Haslam fan said...

Nicky asked me to leave one of his parties once. Am I in his book ?

Madame Arcati said...

How traumatic for you, you really must submit yourself to a Madame Arcati email grilling so you can unburden yourself.

You can only move forward once you have acknowledged.

xx

Cruella de JW2 said...

> I do so deeply disaapprove of individuals masquerading about behind aliases. There should be a law against it. >

Coming from you, Victor dear, this is truly priceless!

Madame Arcati said...

Never let it be said you're slow on the uptake!

An Aesthete's Lament said...

I'm startled here—was anyone ACTUALLY expecting NH's memoir to be a majestic literary creation? Of course not, so why pile on him en masse and crush his achievement, slight though it may be, underfoot? I found his book diverting, amusing at times, moving here and there, and superficial in the best possible way. (The Times's review by Camilla Long was repugnant and asinine, a loathesome exercise in cultural superiority akin to shooting fish in a barrel.) I bought the book, I'm glad I did, and like so many light-as-a-soufflé society-driven memoirs (which the British do best, honestly), it was enjoyed by me like a box of candy. A bit teeth-aching? Yes. But nonetheless delicious.

Madame Arcati said...

But darling, my review is a rave - didn't you notice? It is entirely possible to appreciate a book without resorting to the kind of adjectives one finds on movie posters: that would be very common. Well executed souffle is a wonderful thing, and it is very rare, for the reasons I have given. x

Fish Inton said...

Madame,

That was not my comment.

Fish Inton.

Fish Inton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.