Tuesday, June 11, 2013

John Mortimer. In Character (1983)

     John Mortimer. In Character (1983) The first book of interviews, and reading it one sees why a second collection was published (see above). Mortimer is above all a humane man. Even when he disagrees with his subject’s politics or taste, his disagreement is tempered by his attitude of live and let live. His harshest criticism is directed at a self-righteous chief constable, a truly terrifying man, whose belief in an absolute moral code would be acceptable, just, if he also had a sense of his own sinfulness. He doesn’t. At the end of this man’s profile, Mortimer quotes Cromwell: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.” That’s an injunction I’d have directed at others on Mortimer’s list, too.
     Mortimer arranges his account of his interviews so that they read like passages from a novel. One wants to know how it all turned out. Did the hero learn his lesson? Did his legacy survive, or did his followers betray his vision? In a few cases, Mortimer knows the answer, but in most he shares our ignorance. He also expects his readers to know a good deal of the back story, which makes it harder for North American readers to get all his references. Nevertheless, a pleasure to read. Mortimer clearly believes that public life matters, and hence the people in the public eye matter. *** (2005)

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