A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice Selection
Riffing on cats and Brexit, the Royals and the annoyances of aging, the nonagenarian Jan Morris delights with her wickedly hilarious first-ever diary collection.
Celebrated as the “greatest descriptive writer of her time” (Rebecca West), Jan Morris has been dazzling readers since she burst on the scene with her on-the-spot reportage of the first ascent of Everest in 1953. Now, the beloved ninety-two-year-old, author of classics such as Venice and Trieste, embarks on an entirely new literary enterprise—a collection of daily diaries, penned over the course of a single year. Ranging widely from the idyllic confines of her North Wales home, Morris offers diverse sallies on her preferred form of exercises (walking briskly), her frustration at not recognizing a certain melody humming in her head (Beethoven’s Pathétique, incidentally), her nostalgia for small-town America, as well as intimate glimpses into her home life.
With insightful quips on world issues, including Britain’s “special relationship” with the United States and the #MeToo movement, In My Mind’s Eye will charm old and new Jan Morris fans alike.
Morris, author of more than 40 books (most recently Battleship Yamato), offers a slim collection of 186 pithy diary entries that invite readers into her sunny, though sometimes dark, ruminations. With wit and just a bit of self-reproach, she addresses concerns about British politics ("The news from Westminster, concerning the future existence of one of history's most fascinating constructions, just makes me yawn"), as well as her wife Elizabeth's struggle with Alzheimer's ("Kindness reconciles us still, even when she is at her most irritating"). Morris, now 92, writes of seeing another aging acquaintance at the grocery store: "I was foreseeing a tragedy that befalls millions of us, when we are obliged to realize, like Shakespeare's Othello, that our life's purpose is gone." Though the pieces can meander, Morris is always self-aware, playfully interjecting comments ("You think I'm rambling rather?") and forge a frank intimacy with the reader, evoking the patter of a coffee shop get-together ("What should I write about today, dear friends? Good or bad, virile or senile, there's no life like the writer's life"). Morris's diary is a candid, enlightening take on contemporary life.