Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Breakfast in Brighton - Nigel Richardson

I have breakfast in Brighton every day and have yet to write a book about it; it's just not that interesting a topic, no matter what you have on your Weetabix. Needless to say, Richardson does not just write about breakfast, but his scrabbling around to find a book's worth of stuff to say about the town has some mixed results.


The Brighton described here is that of the mid-late '90s, before the prices shot up and the London fashionistas came down to suck out its soul. It's hard not to blame books like this for mythologising the Brighton Experience and attracting all the twats in the first place, but hey ho, the damage has been done. This is a tourist's-eye view, with Lonely Planet-style reporting - slightly trendy, with anecdotes from locals to illustrate the town's darker past, but mostly just focusing on the more arty-farty aspects of the place.


Breakfast in Brighton tries to be many things - character sketches of eccentrics, snippets of local history, and a couple of peculiar artistic quests. Richardson goes on a fishing boat, and the Pier, tracks down an actress from the film Brighton Rock (not to be confused with the website of the same name), and interviews some local people about the razor gangs, the Brighton Trunk murders and the history of the gay subculture - all of this is interesting, but kind of pointless and formless; the purple prose gets very wearing after a while.


The two "quests" are the only real structure the book has. One of these is for the Le Bas painting "Breakfast in Brighton," which the author is trying to find; the other involves a portrait of Shakespeare his friend bought from a junk shop, and the various art experts and psychics that they consult to check its provenance. While quite entertaining, neither story has a particular conclusion, and they both seem to have been added just to bulk out the book a bit when the actual Brighton material started to run thin.


I'd say that this is worth reading for the history bits, but on the whole is just rather too pretentious for its own good. Rather like Brighton itself, unfortunately.


6/10

2 Comments:

Anonymous Adam Khan said...

As one of the new twats you speak of I did enjoy the book. I liked the Shakespeare painting quest -- I think it conjured up the sweetly hopeless pretentions of this most congenial town -- sorry, city.

Enjoyed your review; bookmarking your blog.

9:47 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought your review was spot on - brilliant, and indeed the post 90's London twats really have made it what is is today, just like the fops and toffs that forced the indigenous Brightonians out ( my family history dates back several generations to the fishing industry of Brighton and lived in slums as a result ). I grew up on the so called 'rough' council estate Moulsecoomb that the author states as 'one of any of the roughest you'll find in Britain' - um, no. Its very harmless, socially and economically deprived, and ironically full of indigenous Brightonians!! Brighton has had its time, and is steeped in history and formed the backdrop of many a film, drama or book. I for one, am leaving the place to raise a family, as I cannot afford to live here anymore, and instead of allowing my families' tales of glamourising the place in the rocking 60's when aunt Rita and Lizzie worked in the many dance halls and cinemas here, and listening to tales of how they hand crocheted tea cosies to sell to tourists to earn a few bob, and how my grandfather used to wear a sandwich board advertising fish for sale when he was a boy. This place represents MY ROOTS, and social history, unlike the twats that come here to live and party on their parents inheritance money, or commute to London to continue earning their top salaries so they can offer the place nothing during the week, yet take off in their porches and open-topped sports cars with their rich friends on weekends. I have had to accept it for what it has become - a playground for rich 30-something 'trust-a-farians' with fake dreadlocks. AM off, disillusioned and heart-broken that this place has never offered me quite what I expected to gain as my birthright and indigeous roots here; security, proximity to local friends and family, a decent standard of living, a job.....hahaha! Am off to Worthing.

9:06 pm  

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