Monday, June 27, 2016

Another Serving of Interviews

     John Mortimer. Character Parts (1986) A follow up to In Character, and just as good. Mortimer had a list of standard questions, but willingly departed from the list if an answer suggested further conversation. The effect very often is that I would like to talk to these people myself, that they would be good dinner companions.
     As in the first book, I get the impression of a complete character with every interview, although rational reflection reminds me that I’m getting a performance. Two performances, actually, Mortimer’s and the interview subject’s, and very convincing ones. Still, some of the subjects seem to me nicer people than others, more aware of their own vulnerabilities, less sure that they deserved their successes, even while they sought them. Lauren Bacall, for example, or David Jenkins, Bishop of Durham. Others have arrived at some certainty about their place in the world, such as Graham Leonard, Bishop of London, whose lack of doubt is dangerous, or Lord Hailsham, First Law Lord, whose certainty about his ability to reason prompts him to change his mind when a question suggests a different take on a problem.
     I think both of these collections are wonderful historical resources. They also allow a wallow in nostalgia. I knew of almost all the characters Mortimer interviewed. But even those who were new to me reminded me of the 70s and 80s, a time when I took many things seriously that now seem to me have been mere bubbles on the surface of the river. ***

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