The Summer of a Dormouse: A Year of Growing Old Disgracefully

 
9780141803401: The Summer of a Dormouse: A Year of Growing Old Disgracefully

One day John Mortimer is checking a reference in his "Complete Shakespeare" when the page falls open in the middle of "Henry VI, Part II" and his eye catches hold of two lines: "This evil here shall be my substitute; For that John Mortimer which now is dead..." Though the room goes suddenly cold, Shakespeare's acter is of course another person in another place, and "this" John Mortimer - novelist, playwright, erstwhile barrister and scourge of both Tories and New Labour - happily lives on through another gloriously full year which involves working with Franco Zeffirelli ("Darling, I rely on you ...I ask you to save my life!"), raising the Lottery-matching money needed to rebuild the Royal Court Theatre, chairing the committee that will advise on the momentous decision as to who or what will go on the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square, and lunching with old lags and captains of industry in Wormwood Scrubs. Yet there is no holding back the tide of physical afflictions that come at Sir John through the year. His father takes most of the blame - from him he inherited bronchial asthma, glaucoma and a tendency for his retinas to become detached - but sex and flowers share the responsibility too. Between them they account for a couple of falls that necessitate the occasional use of a wheelchair (quite handy, actually, at airpoirts, though a bit of a trial at cocktail parties) and strategies of almost military proportions to cross a room. The falls also make the putting on of socks an impossible task, unalleviated by the strange machine invented for that purpose that suddenly arrives in the post from New Zealand. Public and private, poignant and frank, but above all wonderfuly funny, "The Summer of a Dormouse" is vivid testimony to the pleasures and pains of old age.

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Review:

"The time will come in your life when the voice of God will thunder at you from a cloud, 'From this day forth thou shalt not be able to put on thine own socks'". So writes the playwright, novelist and erstwhile QC, John Mortimer. And as a septuagenarian, he is writing from experience. But it's not the effort it takes to put on socks, or the need to use people as props to stop falling over, or the sad fact that one may be compelled to buy a "Decorative Window Film" to prevent against walking into glass doors that Mortimer objects to. "The real trouble with old age", he says, "is it lasts for such a short time". The Summer of a Dormouse is a wickedly funny journal in which Mortimer wryly observes the absurdities of old age. After all, "No one should grow old who isn't ready to appear ridiculous". And Mortimer freely admits he often does. Such as the time he unintentionally pirouetted down some marble steps after getting out of a hotel bathtub and crashed into a set of shelves. "I fell amongst splintering glass and a hailstorm of cotton-wool buds, aware of a torrent of destruction". However, in spite of his partial immobility, failing eyesight and frequent tendency to topple over, Mortimer deals with his increasing decrepitude with formidable fortitude. Even a death threat fails to faze him: "Some one's offering to kill me--why on earth should they bother?" Sharp and dark, The Summer of a Dormouse is an upbeat account of a man not afraid to stare mortality in the face. -- Christopher Kelly

Review:

'Charming, intelligent, cheerful, mellifluous, gossipy and wise. Buy it for Christmas' - Fay Weldon, Mail on Sunday

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Mortimer, Sir John
ISBN 10: 0141803401 ISBN 13: 9780141803401
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