- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 192 pages, Ill.
- Publisher: Duckworth Overlook
- Publication Date: 07/10/1993
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780715624456
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Review by franhigg
Jeffrey Bernard, who died in 1997, was for many years the author of the 'Low Life' columns in The Spectator, and this book is a selection. Although at various times he had been a professional boxer, navvy, pub chef, ice-cream packer and dish-washer, his life centered around the Coach and Horses pub in London's Soho, and was concerned mainly with alcohol, horse-racing, alcohol, sex and alcohol. The title of the stage-play 'Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell', a dramatisation of his columns, was the excuse that used to appear in The Spectator when he had been too overcome by the effects of drink to produce any copy.The pieces make fascinating reading, and are quite beautifully written, witty, and often insightful: he is under no illusions as to his own conditon and the degredation that it often involved, as in his description of the refreshing effect on the forehead of a cold porcelain toilet bowl as one throws up into it. Several of his pieces were written from hospital, where he was frequently treated for his multifarious alcohol-induced ailments. He is gloriously politically-incorrect in his opinions, and many celebrated denizens of Soho from the world of literature and the arts have walk-on parts.In spite of the entertainment that the book affords, it is somewhat depressing as a record of a life wasted, since Bernard was clearly a man of considerable talents. The photographs likewise have a gloomy appeal; mostly taken in and around Soho, booze and cigarettes frequently appear as iconic props, and that in which he happily holds his laughing five-year-old daughter, with no booze or cigarettes in sight, seems to supply a much-needed breath of fresh air, and a glimpse of what might have been: all four of his marriages broke down.Highly recommended!