Lindsay Duguid has reviewed my new book Memories in this issue of The TLS. I’ve posted the review below… If you like the sound of it, you can buy a copy of the book here:
Memories, Naim Atallah’s sixteenth book, is his most recent volume of memoirs. It is a record, or a flow, of jottings and thoughts, a “pot pourri of vignettes”, set down in allusive rather than chronological order in support of the author’s belief that “It’s lovely to evoke childhood memories later on in adulthood”. Recollections of his early life and of his adventures as a bouncer and bodyguard in Soho come late in the book, as do his melancholy teenage poems and his evocations of married life in a small flat in Holland Park. The latter include his morning task of carrying a half-naked girl from her mattress on the kitchen floor to sleep in the empty marital bed after he had left for work. As a story it is characteristic of the author in being of its time and challenging to propriety, while also having a sympathetic element.
The girl on the mattress is one of many young women he recalls. All young, some titled, many “sultry”. Characterized by old-fashioned expressions such as “buxom blonde” or “impish teenager”, they are signed up and put to work in the office or at launch parties and publicity events where they appear wearing rubber dresses or pvc skirts. Their warm and grateful letters are reprinted here. Here too are fond recollections of “dear friends”: John le Carré, Harold Acton, Lord Lambton, Quentin Crewe, Auberon Waugh.
A picture of 1980s London, pulsating with opportunities in celebrity publishing, plays and films, is summoned up through parties at Langan’s and West End first nights. Slightly hazy anecdotes are backed up by press cuttings of reviews, gossip columns, malicious newspaper articles and his own dignified letters to editors responding to
criticisms of his publications and anti-Palestinian slurs. The idea that notoriety brings success, though never stated, lurks behind many of his projects from the 1984 hotel guide the Dirty Weekend Book to the controversial Women interviews of 1987; from Melissa Sadoff’s Woman as Chameleon: Or how to be an ideal woman of 1988 to Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Prozac Nation of 1994. All reliably created a storm of
disapproval and personal invective.
The solid achievements of his publishing firms Quartet – especially its Encounters series of novels in translation – and the Women’s Press, his support of the Literary Review and the Oldie and even his success in bringing new designs to Asprey’s, of which he was managing director, are there to be admired, alongside the blue Rolls-Royce he
bought on impulse, the bright silk ties he favoured, his diamond-studded Rolex and the tiger skin rugs in his office. (Oddly for such a name-dropping book the names are sometimes garbled: Salmon Rushdie, Lucien Freud and the Cray Twins.)
David Elliott of Quartet Books comments are as follow:
“Nice though it is to see an agreeable review in this week’s TLS for Memories by Naim Attallah, the final sniffy comment on misspelt surnames might have had more impact had they spelt Attallah correctly. Glasshouses and stones come to mind.”