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His writing is fantastic and very readable. Here's a funny little extract, from when he was on the set of Churchill - the Hollywood Years, in which he plays Hitler.
"... I confine myself to my trailer, which is the size of a horsebox. This is a low-budget movie, and only the two American stars get proper Winnebagos. I always bring books to read and sketchbooks to fill, but a weird apathy takes over, and I end up on the little bed, drifting in and out of dull, sluggish sleep. This afternoon I was out for about two hours! Waking, I had no idea where I was. I struggled off the bed, and suddenly found myself face to face with Hitler. I screamed out loud. For a Jew to wake from sleep, look in a mirror, and see Hitler looking back is a shock of existential proportions."
The only downside to the book is that it is a fairly small publisher (I think he changed after his previous publisher didn't put enough weight behind his autobiography) and I presume this is why there are none of his wonderful sketches. Antony Sher was in one of the best things on the tele in the last couple of years (before Doctor Who made a somewhat triumphant return recently), a TV film called Home by J. G. Ballard. I also treasure a postcard sent to me by Antony Sher on which he wrote a couple of lines about my comic strip adaptation of The Tempest.
I don't know Andy well, but I'd like to share a memory of him. At a UKCAC (UK Comic Art Convention) sometime in the mid-nineties I was getting back into self-publishing comics, and went for the first time to meet some fellow small-pressers. Like many people who spend far too much time in their rooms over the drawing board when they should be out socialising and getting some fresh air, I was quite anxious, nervous, apprehensive about actually going up and talking to these fellow creators, who were likewise mostly introvert, but doing their best. Once you crack the shell they all turn out to be pretty nice and interesting people.
Then Andy Roberts and Jenni Scott came up and before I could even introduce myself Andy was clutching my hand and shaking it, grinning, and saying how much he loved my comics. He acted as if we were friends already, no need for the effort of introductions. Jenni was similarly friendly and totally at ease, showing great interest in my comics and making me feel part of the whole thing. That was the important bit. The weekend got better from that specific point on. That simple meeting did a lot for me, and the effect had its benefit for future conventions too. He'd taken away a lot of the trepidation. I met Andy a couple more times only, during which time he had reviewed two of my titles in Caption and Comics Forum, and his support always meant a lot to me because he had made a connection. I checked his blog pretty regulalry, if not so frequently in more recent times, and was pleased to discover a link-up, through him, with another acquaintance, Martin White.
Andy is an incredibly creative bloke and his value as a person is great. Somewhere out there is a motorcyclist who didn't just crash into Andy a few days ago, but knocked over his good friends and family in a wave that has spread out to anyone who met this lovely chap.
As I say, I don't know Andy well at all, but I'm thinking of him every day, and I truly hope he beats the odds, because any alternative is just devastating to contemplate. Come back to us, old chap.
Update: Jenni has just said on her blog that Andy died this morning at 10.15, Saturday 18 June.
Total Number Of Books I've Owned
I do buy books rather than borrow them from the library. Just before I moved house I gave away some books to various charitable concerns, and there must have been about 100 or more. Yet still my shelves do creak. Too many.
The Last Book I Bought
The last book I bought was 'Bolland Strips!', a collection of the 'Actress & Bishop' and 'Mr Mamoulian' comics by Brian Bolland. But if I follow Pete's lead and discount comics, it would be 'Celebrities of the Army' from AbeBooks, an old collection of portraits of various high-up bods in the Victorian Army. It's a bit the worse for wear, being from 1903. If I really push this and discount that as primarily a picture book, then the last book I bought was 'Something Like an Autobiography' by Akira Kurosawa.
The Last Book I Read
'Something Like an Autobiography' by Akira Kurosawa. I haven't read much fiction in quite a while, but I will... 'Wuthering Heights' beckons.
Five Books That Mean a Lot To Me.
I don't think I've read any life-changing books* and was worried if I'd be able to come up with five that had any major impact, but actually, once I started thinking about it...
Year of the King by Antony Sher. A year in the life of Sher as he prepared and eventually played the role of Richard III for the RSC. Very inspiring for the effort and thought he put into his work, but also personal and touching at times, not to mention very funny. It is all the more interesting because, besides acting, Antony Sher's other creative outlet is sketching and painting. Name-dropping abounds, but it's good. I annotated and wrote a complete direction for King John with the energy gathered from reading this book (though an ever-diminishing cast prevented it from being staged), and I still go back to Sher's book for a boost when Rainbow Orchid loses momentum.
From Hell by Alan Moore. Chucking out the 'no comics' clause just for this. The size and scope of this story is mind-staggering, and I don't mean the physical size. The ideas whiz out of every panel, and I love it for exposing the thread that connects the past, present and future. Give it a tug and see the ripples. The annotations at the back are wonderful.
Complete Prose by Woody Allen. Cheating slightly as this is three books in one (Without Feathers, Getting Even and Side Effects). One of the very few books, perhaps the only one, that has me crying with laughter and clutching my sides in joyous agony as soon as I start reading the first page, no matter how many times. It's full of brilliance.
William Blake - The Complete Illuminated Books. Awe-inspiring, inspirational, stunning, and beautiful. I'm constantly wandering amongst the pages and soaking up the genius (just wish I could retain some it!).
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I loved this book and want to read it again (if only there weren't so many others on the list of 'want-to'). The humour and drama is top-quality, and two scenes in particular typify this; first of all Wemmick's wedding which had me giggling like an idiot on a train journey, "Hello! Here's a church! Let's go in! Hello! Here's Mrs Skiffins! Let's have a wedding!"), and then just a few pages later I had a lump in my throat and very misty eyes as the scene of Magwitch's death was played out. A truly great story.
* Actually there is one book that had a great effect on me, but it only just came to me for some reason. 'Bankei Zen - translations form the record of Bankei' by Peter Haskel was pretty influential on my thinking in my more formative years.
All readers' tickets that have been purchased up to now will be refunded - thank you so much to everyone who took that leap of faith! I've decided I wanted to open the strip up to a much bigger audience, and I'm relying on a small amount of advertising (discreet) and a PayPal donations system to help keep the site going. The advertisers are not sponsors, just Google ads, so only follow the link if you're genuinely interested - too many clicks from a single IP address and they'll think there's something funny going on! If you want to support the comic financially, go to the read strip page, and you'll see a donate button. Thanks.
Most importantly, the income from the webcomic version of the strip is to go towards the printed book version, and that is still the aim of the site.
Anyway, I just came across a copy on ebay, and it sold for £8. Just a little weirdness - it's not the kind of thing I expect to happen upon. [Resist temptation to sell my own copy...]
I enjoyed this production, which was played to a pretty small audience - The Duchess was only about a third full - and the acting was very good indeed (well, except the girl who played Lulu didn't quite have me convinced). Whenever you see something for the first time that makes a strong impression (in my case, the BBC TV version) it becomes something of a benchmark, and I would say the production we saw last night didn't quite come up to that benchmark. The TV play, if I remember correctly, was far less emotive, more subtle, and that made it far more sinister, which is what grabbed me, I think. I didn't come away from last night's production with that same feeling. Perhaps it was because they played up the comedy a little more, or perhaps because it wasn't quite as deadpan as I remember from 1987.
But it was good - it's a fantastic play (despite the fact that at least four people left at the interval, but The Birthday Party can have that effect - or maybe they're just not used to three-act plays, and thought it had ended). Henry Goodman played Goldberg, Eileen Atkins played Meg and Paul Ritter played Stanley, giving a very strong performance of a man right on the edge.