Nicholas Lezard: A Not So Bitter Experience

I cannot let the visit from journalist, literary critic and author Nicholas Lezard pass by without some comment. Having had a few days – and yet another birthday – to mull over his guest spot at May’s Head In a Book, the writer part of me is left feeling hopeful despite being suspicious of the rather louche world in which he exists. 

23112.books.origjpgHere is a man who has had to press reset after falling out of the marital home then, re-invent himself as flat-mate to ‘Razors’ in a place he describes as a hovel, off Baker Street. Nicholas paints a colourful picture of the middle class squalor he now calls home – I question whether, not having enough money to buy mayonnaise at Waitrose is really poverty-stricken –  and introduces some of the nefarious characters with whom he shares it.  

The reading from his 2013 title ‘Bitter Experience Has Taught Me’ published by Faber & Faber, is short and hints at a bubble of boozy pub meet ups with ‘The Moose’, rendezvous with umpteen women some with the aid of herbal libido pills – he assures his readers repeatedly that he doesn’t have a problem in that department – something else about panthers… was one of the many women a panther in another life?

You don’t do anything you don’t want to do,’ was the damning edict given by his wife, before she proceeded to show him the door. That self-same approach is very much evident as he shares, with rakish air, stories and anecdotes with Russ Litten and the Hull audience. 

I’ve never, to my knowledge, unjustly insulted anyone in my writing but from listening to Nicholas talking, insults and slurs are de rigueur in the life of a columnist. I’m heartened to hear that he doesn’t use his position as literary critic to the same end. 

‘I’ve done twenty-five years of finding new ways of being nice about books –  it’s tough writing a book even a shit one.’ 

In between stories about dating sites and auditioning for first corpse, he is rejected – by the date –  for not being creepy enough, Nick begins to say a few things that ring universally true. The line about the heart being ‘a stupid organ‘ and, ‘if love was a drug then those that dealt it would be hunted down in the street,’ result in more than a few murmurs of agreement from the floor. 

Russ quizzed him on his position over Europe – I can’t remember what it was, it’s not important, nobody really knows anything about what might happen, one way or the other. I quiz him on the North, South divide, again he responds at some length. I’m not convinced he is on the side of the have-nots despite declaring himself a herbivorist Leftie.   

Nicholas Lezard describes writing as being like a kind of therapy, only you are getting paid for it. Could it be that he himself, is paying for it in some way now? Okay, on finding himself ‘sans famille’ he uses his predicament to his advantage and writes a book, that will go on to be described by Nicholas Blincoe (another Nick)  as being ‘the funniest thing to be written in years‘ in the Telegraph review section. I guess the only way to find out if and where the regrets are to be found is to buy the book and read it.  

I said I was left feeling hopeful and I am. As someone who has had to hit the reset button myself any number of times, and is prepared to do so again if the situation call for it, I am left feeling that at my tender age, there is still hope and much to be thankful for. What I mean is, if all it takes is a bout of precarious living, some questionable friends, a hefty dose of ‘ You don’t know ma pain man’ combined with a predilection for putting yourself in the firing line, then I’m more than part way there already. 

Buy Bitter Experience Has Taught Me by Nicholas Lezard: 

Details of next Head In a Book event  

Head in a Book would like to thank The Arts Council of England, The Library Service, The James Reckitt Library Trust and the City Arts Unit for their support


Filed under Art blogs

3 responses to “Nicholas Lezard: A Not So Bitter Experience

  1. Nicholas Lezard

    If I may reply: I raised an eyebrow when you expressed a doubt that I was on the side of the have-nots. I really am, you know. And then I remembered that when you asked me about the North-South divide, I started thinking more in terms of culture and attitudes, rather than the gross imbalance of wealth. This was incredibly stupid of me, and all I can offer in my defence is the kindness and hospitality I had already been shown, the general impression of Hull as being actually quite bustling (in other words, I didn’t feel like I was in a deprived area at all), and the fact that I wasn’t actually expecting a question on the subject. As for Europe, I believe I pointed out the figureheads of the Leave camp, and how easy, when you considered them, it was to pitch your tent on the Remain side. I hope this helps, and my best wishes to you all. I had a great time, and look forward to returning. NL

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Nick for that clarification – you did indeed point out those figureheads… I haven’t captured you very well – you were a lot funnier. My question was ill thought out, I hadn’t considered cultural wealth… remedy, to read more, listen more, take better notes and develop my own opinions beyond a headline.


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