Saturday 19 September 2015

Review by Robert Richardson of “Prince Charming: A Memoir” by Christopher Logue

Prince Charming is Christopher Logue’s memoir, covering a period of time from his childhood and adolescence on the south coast of England in the 1930s to the swinging London of the mid 1960s. By the end of the book he has already achieved success as a poet. Interestingly, it tells the origins of his acclaimed versions of Homer’s Iliad, sections of which he published throughout most of his life.

The title Prince Charming is ironic, for Logue presents himself as anything but nice. Rarely can there have been autobiographical writing that shows its author in such a relentless way to be awkward and peevish. So, why bother with him? Well, there is an honesty to be admired, vulnerability behind the prickliness, and many entertaining episodes. He was also part of fascinating and important literary and cultural movements.

In the early 1950s, he moved to Paris and was involved with other expat writers. His own activity became centred on the magazine Merlin. Its editor, and his closest friend at the time, was the Scottish author Alexander Trocchi, later to produce the cult novels Young Adam and Cain’s Book. From an older generation, Samuel Beckett makes memorable cameo appearances. This is just before the global fame of Waiting for Godot, but Beckett, it seems, always had the aura of greatness.

In the mid 50s, Logue returned to London and became known, with poems published by the Times Literary Supplement and broadcast by BBC Radio. He was, though, never establishment and, as one of the founders of CND, served a term in an open prison. He recounts a wide cultural scene that included Lindsay Anderson and the Free Cinema movement, Kenneth Tynan and the ground-breaking Royal Court Theatre, and much more.

I knew Logue slightly, and arranged his visit to De Montfort University in 2001. At a pub on New Walk, I said to him that I didn’t think I could write a memoir as open as Prince Charming. He replied there was no point writing autobiography unless it was honest.

About the reviewer

Robert Richardson is a visual artist and writer. His work is included in Artists’ Postcards: A Compendium (edited by Jeremy Cooper, published by Reaktion Books, London). He is also the co-editor, with William Pratt, of Homage to Imagism (AMS Press, New York).

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