Thursday, April 02, 2015

"Beyond the Microphone" - a brief review

The process of reading is difficult because it sends me to sleep, quickly. And because bed-time is the only time I don't feel guilty about indulging in a book, getting through one is a challenge. Day-time reading makes me feel guilty. Surely there is always some other obligation requiring my attention.
Image result for leighton smith beyond the microphone

So to get through Beyond the Microphone, Leighton Smith's 2013 auto-biography, in a matter of days, is extraordinary. So readable was it that I even broke my day-time rule reading upstairs whilst son practised Scriabin, Debussy and Rachmaninoff on the piano downstairs (most ably). This strangely and poignantly provided a soundtrack to much of the book. Quite suitably for the chapter on Leighton's visit to the Soviet Union - an eye-opener for someone who has not travelled to that part of the world. The grimness, yet refusal or inability of indoctrinated citizens to recognise their circumstances are stark, shocked me.

Almost immediately, on beginning to read, the question poses itself. Are there two Carolyn's? Who knew Leighton's producer, Carolyn, is also Leighton's wife, Carolyn? Obviously lots of people but not me. The discovery made me happy and somehow more kindly disposed to Smith. Romance that grows out of a lengthy working relationship has something of a fairytale yet solid quality about it. His deep regard and affection for Mrs Smith (if indeed that is what she calls herself) is terribly evident.

Beyond the Microphone is an engaging and easy read. By 'easy' no slight is intended. Easy is what good writing should be for the audience. Hard is for technical information. Easy is for when you want to be entertained.

Smith is one of those characters that gets obsessed with something to a degree most couldn't find the energy or means to. An interest in wine culminates in establishing a successful vineyard. (Don't believe him about Minchinbury. By coincidence it was on special when I did my weekly shop. To my palate - cheap - it isn't great fizz. Too sweet for Brut. Though he would probably be embarrassed that he thought it once was, having moved on to more sophisticated wines and varieties.)

An interest in greyhounds culminates in ownership of a hugely successful racehorse trained by none other than the larger- than - life Gai Waterhouse. An interest in Italy culminates in building a replica villa in Clevedon.

From a childhood influenced by strict religious values, to teen rebellion amidst 1960s music and culture, to a shot-gun wedding, to sporadic university education, to meaningful drifting (though he may disagree with that description) to numerous radio jobs, to eventually putting down roots in a country seemingly better suited to his persona and values, he must never have experienced boredom. Would that we could all lay claim to the same.

Leighton's personal life is not delved into deeply. Good. A respect for the privacy of other players doesn't detract. It adds. This auto-biography proves that an otherwise intensely private character can create a story that holds the interest from go to whoa.

Highly recommended for Easter reading.


Anonymous said...

The grimness, yet refusal or inability of indoctrinated citizens to recognise their circumstances are stark, shocked me.

Hmm. Been to Cannon's Creek recently? or Newlands? or frankly anywhere in a Labour electorate?

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Newlands is in Ohariu.