Saturday, July 10, 2010

My hero / Beryl Bainbridge by Michael Holroyd

Beryl Bainbridge, photographed for the Guardian by Eamonn McCabe

My hero: Beryl Bainbridge 

by Michael Holroyd Rankin

'Beryl was sensitive and vulnerable, but usually concealed this under a cloak of eccentricity. Her novels show us a dangerous world seen through the eyes of a supreme comedian'

Michael Holroy
Saturday 10 July 2010


got to know Beryl Bainbridge during a writers' tour of north-east England – not that Beryl gave any sign of knowing where we were (though it was obviously not London, she admitted, or Liverpool). What interested her were her fellow writers. Before the train had reached its destination she knew everything about us, it seemed, and what she did not know she invented. By the end of our tour – one of mingled tragedy and farce – I had fallen for her and so had we all. It was as if we had been released from a commonplace world and become characters in her early novels.

I used to see her fairly regularly at her house in London, squeezing my way past the enormous water buffalo that guarded her in the narrow passage just inside the front door. All her friends, I think, were quite thin. The rooms in her house were like sets for a gothic melodrama and suggested some terrible atrocity which had recently taken place, the evidence of which she had not had time to hide. But Beryl herself, sitting calmly at the centre of this sinister confusion, was a picture of the innocent at home.
In addition to her family, she had a few dashing escorts whom she called her "fiancés" and who were bold enough to keep pace with her drinking at literary parties. She would occasionally invite us all to Duckworth, her publisher. Once she asked me to give her some advice, having become worried at the number of books she was selling – too many, she complained. Her contracts were unusual, giving her a smaller percentage of royalties the more she sold.
Beryl was sensitive and vulnerable, but usually concealed this under a cloak of eccentricity. Her novels, particularly those with an autobiographical source, show us a dangerous world seen through the eyes of a supreme comedian. They are full of bizarre happenings overtaking ordinary people, and though hilarious they tend to end unhappily. She was a true original and her novels were essential reading for me. They still are.

001 My hero / Oscar Wilde by Michael Holroyd
002 My hero / Harley Granville-Barker by Richard Eyre
003 My hero / Edward Goldsmith by Zac Goldsmith
004 My hero / Fridtjof Nansen by Sara Wheeler 
005 My hero / Mother Mercedes Lawler IBVM by Antonia Fraser

007 My hero / Ernest Shepard by Richard Holmes
008 My hero / JG Ballard by Will Self
009 My hero / Alan Ross by William Boyd
010 My hero / Ben the labrador by John Banville

011 My hero / Vicent van Gogh by Margaret Drabble
012 My hero / Franz Marek by Eric Hobsbawm


017 My hero / Jack Yeats by Colm Tóibín
018 My hero / Francisco Goya by Diana Athill
019 My hero / Max Stafford-Clark by Sebastian Barry
020 My hero / Arthur Holmes by Richard Fortey

036 My hero / Robert Lowell by Jonathan Raban
037 My hero / Beryl Bainbridge by Michael Holroyd
038 My hero / Charles Schulz by Jenny Colgan
039 My hero / Oliver Knussen by Adam Foulds
040 My hero / Annie Proulx by Alan Warner

041 My hero / David Lynch by Paul Murray
042 My hero / Edwin Morgan by Robert Crawford
043 My hero / Anne Lister by Emma Donoghue
044 My hero / Jane Helen Harrinson by Mary Beard
045 My hero / Edmund Burke by David Marquand
046 My hero / Shelagh Deleaney by Jeanette Winterson
047 My hero / Christopher Marlowe by Val McDermid
048 My hero / Gwen John by Anne Enright
049 My hero / Michael Mayne by Susan Hill
050 My hero / Stanley Spencer by Howard Jacobson

051 My hero / William Beveridge by Will Hutton
052 My hero / Jean McConville by Amanda Foreman
053 My hero / Alexander Pushkin by Elaine Feinstein
058 My hero / Cy Twombly by Edmund de Waal

079 My hero / Gene Wolfe by Neil Gaiman
087 My hero / Alberto Moravia by John Burnside
096 My hero / Isaac Babel by AD Miller
097 Lucian Freud by Esi Edugyan
100 Thomas Tranströmer by Robin Robertson
102 My hero / David Hockney by Susan Hill


190 My hero / Iris Murdoch by Charlotte Mendelson
194 My hero / René Descartes by James Kelman
199 My hero / Albert Camus by Geoff Dyer


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