Hello Goodbye Hello: A Circle of 101 Remarkable Meetings by Craig Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Interesting Literature is a fascinating online site which, among many other wonderful things, reviews quirky books from time to time. Unfortunately for me (more accurately, my bank balance) these books almost invariably pique my interest and I end up spending a few minutes on Amazon buying a copy for myself. I have to say though, so far, I haven’t regretted it.
Craig Brown’s collection of remarkable meetings is one such book reviewed by IL and I knew immediately I had to get it. I expected terrific insights into famous and key figures in history, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Brown has a wonderful talent of keeping things precise and to the point, not rambling, using economy of words – and yet making it all feel so natural and conversational that you don’t notice. His method is meticulous down to the point of making each entry exactly 1,001 words long and all the various notes, author’s biography etc all exactly 101 words. It takes a special (perhaps warped?) kind of mind to think like that.
Somehow, he manages to infuse this strict word order with humour too; sometimes his own, other times from select choices of quotations from the characters themselves. His writing is never less than interesting and several times made me break off from reading to go and google certain names, places or events. There were several borderline moments where I ‘couldn’t believe it’ and had to check or needed to know more. I suspect that’s a goal of the author actually – that these ‘introductions’ will lead enquiring minds to root out more detail.
For the trivia enthusiast it is a mine of ‘you didn’t know that’ moments about famous personalities. For the 20th century historian, the book contains a wealth of information which help fill the gaps in understanding certain world events. In both cases, the book humanises these figures in history and makes them real again – albeit, often amusingly so and at their expense.
I would list for you some of the names in the book but I’d end up putting down most of the 101 there so there’s no point. Most are huge names though. Cleverly, though just 101 names in 101 entries, the method of using meetings between two people means you actually get two pieces on each person and, equally cleverly I think, see them in very different lights depending on who they’re meeting, how they respect them and whether or not a meeting happens early on in their life or later. It really is a most entertaining and fascinating ride.
In short, for the trivia fan this book is a must. The only upsetting thing for me (and, again, my bank balance) is that I’ve found new interests in certain personalities and this has already resulted in me buying some more books from Amazon. Interesting Literature has a lot to answer for…
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Social Entrepreneur, educationalist, bestselling author and journalist, D K Powell is the author of the bestselling collection of literary short stories “The Old Man on the Beach“. His first book, ‘Sonali’ is a photo-memoir journal of life in Bangladesh and has been highly praised by the Bangladeshi diaspora worldwide. Students learning the Bengali language have also valued the English/Bengali translations on every page. Ken has two new books coming out soon – don’t miss them!
Both ‘The Old Man on the Beach’ and ‘Sonali’ are available on Amazon for kindle and paperback. Published by Shopno Sriti Media.
D K Powell is available to speak at events (see his TEDx talk here) and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ken writes for a number of publications around the world. Past reviewer for Paste magazine, The Doughnut, E2D and United Airways, and currently reviews for Lancashire Life magazine.