Friday, March 23, 2007

Reading Gordon Ramsay's autobiography

Also in today's blog
How to shift those books if the author is a plain Jane

Had I noticed Gordon Ramsay's autobiography Humble Pie [HarperCollins 2006 £18.99] on display at the top of the staircase at my public library, I should not have borrowed it.

But, having been lent a copy, I felt I might as well give it a go. To my surprise, a previously unfavourable impression of Ramsay changed to a feeling that he's a much nicer man than I had supposed from his publicity.

Apparently his childhood was ruined by an appalling father who knocked his wife about and used a strap on his children. Anyone who can rise above that kind of start in life has my admiration.

The book has 24 pages of photographs, including one of Ramsay with his wife Tana [see photo] and their four children. I was interested to learn that Tana's problems getting pregnant may have been complicated by her husband's low sperm count – "the result of my balls being in front of all those hot ovens. That's a common problem for chefs who endure all that heat seven days a week," he writes.

Ramsay opened his first restaurant Aubergine in 1995 and 14 months later achieved his first Michelin star.

Some time in the late Nineties I was taken there by Gillian Green, then my editor at Harlequin Mills & Boon, now with Piatkus.

It was not one of the memorable lunches of my life, and Ramsay didn't make an appearance as was usual with top chefs.

The paperback of Humble Pie is due out in May. I think most of the F words [three in one paragraph] could have been cut. I wonder if he uses them at home in front of his wife - whose background is middle class – and children? I suspect he doesn't, that nowadays the bad language is just part of the hype.

How to shift those books if the author is plain Jane

An article under this heading by Ben Hoyle, Arts Reporter for The Times is causing a lot of discussion on writers' forums.

So far there has been one comment at The Times.

"This airbrushing really annoys me; I'm no Jane Austen fan, but I detest the message that those not conforming to a certain aesthetic standard should be doomed to failure. Write as well as you like, but looking slightly off won't shift your books. Why can't the consumer market realise that looks aren't the be all and end all? You can succeed without being beautiful. We are encouraged not only to judge books by their covers, but writers too, it would seem. And, at the end of the day, old age robs us all of our looks- they're transient, unlike literature, which survives us far longer and is a greater equivocator of character. Carly Taylor, Nottingham, England"

As usual I'm taking the weekend off. See you on Monday.


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