Elsewhere: The Kenneth Williams Diaries

In my quest to ensure that I review every book that I read for Amazon (because I find other people’s reviews very useful) I’ve added my latest. It’s for the Kenneth Williams Diaries. I seemed to be reading them for ages – there are forty years worth of entries. It’s interesting for me because, during the time I was reading them I have also been maintaining this blog. While this isn’t quite a diary, the process is very similar and one paragraph in the diaries struck me as interesting:

The preoccupation with diary writing is caused by various things: the desire to keep a record which can be useful later, and committing to paper what canÂ’t be communicated to a mentor Â… oh! all kinds of reasons, but fundamentally it is about loneliness.

Is it? Maybe it is. Who knows?

The Kenneth Williams Diaries, Edited by Russell Davies (Harper Collins, 1993)

I honestly think Kenneth Williams was unique. He certainly seemed to hate much about himself and didn’t have a great deal of time for a lot of other people. Sadly, the Diaries’ reputation precedes them and I expected more of the bitchiness that he is – supposedly – famed for. Despite that, there is plenty of Kenneth’s acid tongue in this book. His barbs are aimed squarely at his fans, his colleagues and the shows he felt obliged to work in. Some of the most intriguing insights are those that relate to the Carry On film series. Before Carry On made him famous, he was a well-respected stage actor. The Carry On films made him legendary (and wealthy) but he often felt they were beneath him.

Kenneth is well aware of his own nature. On 20 March 1987 he writes, “Everyone was v. nice to me … it is extraordinary that I’m so liked because I’m invariably rude & tetchy” and that sums up much of the book. You get a sense of love for the theatre, plays, and poetry and even for some of the work. However he is also offensive to many and seemed to have few good words for much of British Theatre. Much of the hate is due to an inner turmoil over the lack of companionship in his life (“Never to speak of my love for a man”) and some from the frustrations of his nature. Obsessed by noise and cleanliness the very act of living seems painful – and in the end his illness and genuine pain appear to get too much for him.

The diaries are very well written and DaviesÂ’ editing not intrusive. Williams certainly didnÂ’t appear to edit himself and the result is a frank and articulate book. Words seem to flow easily which is, perhaps, not surprising for a man who made a living in the final years of his life from his large collection of humorous anecdotes. Spanning over forty years itÂ’s hard to keep track of the players in KennethÂ’s life and at 800 pages itÂ’s not a light read. Nevertheless, the diaries are a vivid, malicious and (at times) very funny read into the world of a man who, in his day, was considered outrageous.

Views of Florence

I’ve spent just a little over 24 hours in Florence. Most of the time I had a meeting and was working, but for the final hour of daylight I managed to walk around a little bit. The biggest surprise of all was how cold it was. There was a very chill wind and I could have used several more layers of clothing.







I didn’t get to see any of the art of Leonardo da Vinci (his apprenticeship was in the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio in Florence in 1466) but I did get to see Duomo – designed by Arnolfo di Cambio at the end of the 13th century – and Ponte Vecchio (still standing from 1345).

It’s a old city with narrow streets and plenty of squares. The best way to get around seems to be on foot – or in typical Italian style on some kind of moped. Of course I had to take the final picture. What are they up?

Film: Daredevil

I was very surprised that I did not enjoy Daredevil more. It’s darker and more disturbing than many a super-hero flick and while this, for some, may be the appeal, it just didn’t do it for me. It’s also oddly constructed. We first meet the superhero as he collapses on the floor of a church. Why? Well, he’s half way through a battle with one of the villains – Bullseye (an Irish hitman capable of killing talkative old ladies on planes with nothing more than his finger and a peanut).

And so the film lurches backwards as we are told Matt Murdoch/DaredevilÂ’s story. He grew up with his father -a boxer – and singled out for the bully treatment when he was a kid. Blinded in a dockside accident by a hazardous chemical, DaredevilÂ’s face remains remarkably unmarked as he matures in the talented pro-bono lawyer played by Ben Affleck.

Once the Flashback sequence is over we return to our hero in mid-Organ scaling (as in church organ) battle. Who considered the middle of the narrative a sensible place for us to join? I guess it has worked before, but not here. In true super-hero style, our almost dead star rises and battles to the end. Of course, as in all such movies one wonders why the world hasnÂ’t worked out that Matt Murdoch and Daredevil are the same. They are Ben Affleck in red leather.

Ah, dear Ben. I appear to be in the minority who were not convinced by his portrayal of a super-hero. He was too “leading man in a romantic comedy” for me, despite the tight leather gear which didn’t seem to turn him into the sex-hunk that I thought it might – Chris O’Donnell looks better in tight leather in Batman and Robin. Colin Farrell tries hard to be brutish with sex-appeal and he almost pulls it off, especially considering the target on his forehead isn’t really that great to look at.

I really can’Â’t be sure what made this film fail for me. Maybe it was too dark for a super-hero flick or maybe that the story was not compelling. Maybe it was the fact that at least one villain survived for a sequel in a far too obvious fashion. Daredevil may be a comic hero but he you donÂ’t have a super-hero “thing” to latch on to (Superman flies, Spideman has a web and Batman has a utility belt). DaredevilÂ’s other senses are enhanced. Big wow. Maybe it was the violence that felt too real and not comic-book enough or maybe it was that the supporting characters never really moved from being one-dimensional support.

I guess, in the end, I would have been disappointed if this crime-fighter had come to my rescue. IÂ’d have been happy with Batman, thrilled if it was Superman and delighted if Spiderman liberated me. If Ben turned up in red leather I just might have laughed.