I ate this book

Not really, but I did read it in less than two days, and it’s a fat book in more ways than one.

It’s Spilling the Beans, by Clarissa Dickson Wright, who is best known for being the Fat Lady that is still alive.

I have to admit that I am committing a cardinal sin of book-blogging (bibliologging?), and I don’t have the book in front of me. It’s back at the library already! But that doesn’t prevent me from recommending this book, with some reservations. It’s probably best as a book to read quickly rather than a book to be savoured over several weeks.

Why read this book quickly? First, because it’s morbidly fascinating and gripping to read about the author’s childhood as the daughter of a famous surgeon who was also an abusive alcoholic, about her sprees drinking away her £2.8 million inheritance, and finally her recovery from alcoholism. Secondly, because the writing itself is not a thing to be savoured; the book was obviously written very quickly, albeit by a very smart and articulate person who has a massive vocabulary. I couldn’t help thinking at several points while reading that Dickson Wright could have used an editor to tone down the spewing nature of her prose.

Incidentally, I had the same reaction to the massive wordiness of Infinite Jest. The two books were strangely complementary in their descriptions of addiction, and in the way that both draw the reader into a world with totally foreign rules and social mores. In Infinite Jest that world is the world of the elite tennis academy (and, you know, the world of the Quebecois wheelchair terrorist squad) and in this book it is the world of the “horsey set” of British society, and, to a lesser extent, that of Rumpole of the Bailey. For Clarissa Dickson Wright is not only one of the Two Fat Ladies, she was also the youngest woman ever to be called to the English bar. There’s your strange fact for the day!

So, read this book, but read it quickly, and do not be surprised if by the end, the novelty is beginning to wear off, especially since Dickson Wright spends much of the last hundred pages on a rant against the British ban on fox hunting. Still, a good one for the bathtub!


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