BOOKS & ARTS
I have had more moments of private ecstasy than for a very long time. I feel at peace with the world.
His f inal days, hours and minutes are described in his own words, as well as those of his widow and children.
That Gould should have conceived of writing such a book at all, and that he did so with such honesty, shows a profound generosity. He faced death with tremendous courage, and the moment of his dying was clearly beautiful. This is what Walt Whitman meant when he wrote, in ‘Leaves of Grass’, that ‘to die is different from what anyone supposed, and luckier’. It would be impossible not to find the closing part of this book very, very moving.
And yet. Something made me uneasy, too. Was it Tony Blair’s words to Gould, at the time of the cancer’s recurrence? Blair said: ‘The cancer has not finished with you . . . You may have changed, but not enough; now you have to go on to a higher spiritual level.’ I thought of our former prime minister — at roughly the same time as he was issuing this wisdom — sweeping in and out of the Chilcot Inquiry, never stopping to meet the eyes of the parents of dead service personnel gathered outside, let alone exchange a word with them. Was this someone in any position to offer spiritual advice?
And if Gould felt that death brought a profound need for transformation, what did that mean? Did his life before then still hold value, purpose, meaning? Or was it in fact a tragically empty life, redeemed only by the enlightenment of its end? Did he, then, waste his life? By extension, are we wasting ours, by being too much concerned with worldly things?
So, this is not an easy read. It would be a very much less valuable book if it was. The early part, describing the illness and its treatment, is harrowing and frightening and the end is sad, as well as edifying. It will come as a revelation to the politerati who approach it with expectations based on prior knowledge of Gould’s work. Nothing could be further from the world of spin and focus-group politics of which he was an architect.
Anyone curious as to how to achieve some of Gould’s serenity — short of actually dying themselves — may like to invest in a copy of the exemplary No Death, No Fear by the Zen monk Thich Nhat Hannh, which tells you how it’s done.
You get all sorts on this show. Saint’s hoping for one of his chums from those dusty years in rep. Any excuse to escape another kitchen sink; they’re gagging for a lick of glitz.
Helmut Berger: Mr Aftershave. You could smell him from the Alps. And Britt Ekland, his viper in waiting, Guccied to the gills.
Helmut lurks between the shadows, in and out of the Colosseum arches, sizing Saint up. Whoever’s idea was a shot like this? Visconti would have done his nut!
How he stares when I shift Saint’s Jag; his note: Dinner at 8:00? Helmut x. I didn’t bargain for any of this. Anything to keep my eye on the job, my hands off Veronique, is how Production see it: When in Rome, etc.
— Philip Hancock
Going to the fair Zenga Longmore Sweet Revenge: The Intimate Life of Simon Cowell by Tom Bower Faber, £18.99, pp. 422, ISBN 9780571278350
Why would anyone want to buy this dreadful book? The frightful Simon Cowell appears to have co-operated with the author, and it is littered with repellent photographs — chiefly of a smirking Simon surrounded by beautiful ‘ex-girlfriends’. (Cowell is keen to inform us that he has had lots of girlfriends. He is not gay. Not. Gay.)
Surely, if one wanted to read about Cowell and gaze at pictures of his overindulged, hairy body, why not just browse the internet? The websites featuring comments such as, ‘Simon Cowl is reelly horibel and rood’ are far more amusing than Tom Bower’s repetitive biography. I would forgive the author if his book were entertaining, but it is not — it renders the reader exhausted yet fretful, a sensation similar to overdosing on double espressos.
Bower begins by observing Cowell aboard his yacht, which costs £2 million a month to charter. Detailing the cost of Simon’s vulgar lifestyle is thought to be of enormous interests:
With his annual income heading towards $70 million, Cowell no longer stints on luxuries ... he travels everywhere with at least two large suitcases filled with potions ... spends £5,000 for one hour’s beauty treatment ... Dr Wendy Denning, an attractive British GP, recommended Cowell to have ‘the full blood work’ every six months. I did not make that last bit up, and no, I do not know what ‘the full blood work’ means. It sounds vaguely vampire-istic, a gruesome link to the fact that Simon has negotiated with a Swiss company to freeze and store his corpse for £100,000 in the expectation that mad scientists will one day invent the second coming of Cowell.
The chapter dwelling on S imon’s uneventful childhood surprised me a little, as I would have expected Cowell to have come up with some strange or macabre boyhood event to keep our interest alive. But no, his mother gave up an unpromising career as a dancer to marry his father, a bland businessman.After a lack of education in a minor private school, Simon worked for Sony Music. He promoted Sinitta, a third-rate singer who, in between making records which no one bought, sang in concerts which no one watched. In a cack-handed attempt to rival the success of the Spice Girls, he created a group called Girl Thing which flopped.
In fact everything Simon attempted to do before he thought up the idea of The X Factor met with disaster. Everything, that
the spectator | 28 april 2012 | www.spectator.co.uk