The TV chat show, if not actually dead, has been in intensive care for a while now, hooked up to machines that go bleep. But the long-form interview, as pioneered by John Freeman’s Face to Face in the 1960s, is a tougher customer.
Laurie Taylor’s In Confidence series on Sky Arts has featured the great and the good, the less great and the really quite bad, all of them attracted by the professor’s gentle sociological probing and the show’s reliably modest viewing figures, which suggest that no one will notice if it all goes terribly wrong.
This book is Taylor’s artful distillation of more than 60 interviews, shaped according to his own tastes and preferences. Cleo Laine was his teenage crush, Alan Ayckbourn is a friend from way back, E.L. Doctorow clearly his favourite novelist. Tom Baker, another old friend, admits that when he was young he had only one ambition: to be a martyr. Michael Frayn discusses farce and the philosophy of farce. Damien Hirst is proud that his hero Francis Bacon liked one of his works, and abashed that he didn’t appear to like any of the others. Stephen Fry frets; Michael Winner boasts; Lily Allen distinguishes stage ‘Lily Allen’ from the real thing; Uri Geller struggles to distinguish reality from fantasy.
Best of all are the two Hitchens brothers, interviewed separately, agreeing to disagree as always, while agreeing more often than either of them would care to acknowledge.
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