Elegant and entertaining
Circus of Dreams, the critic and journalist John Walsh's rambunctious and hugely entertaining history of the British literary scene in the 1980s, summons up something of the excitement, and the absurdity, of the period
Walsh makes London seem like the place to have been. The stage was smaller; everything burned more brightly; more angels teemed on the head of a pin . . . One of the best things about Circus of Dreams is Walsh's memories not of the big beasts of literature, but of the smaller players - the editors and agents and clubmen and hacks and P.R. people, the various legends in their own lunchtimes.
An entertainingly gossipy memoir of the period . . .
Reading John Walsh's adventures in the literary world of the 1980s is like donning a pair of spectacles that bring blurred memories into sudden, sharp focus . . . Walsh describes people, events and places with such accuracy that he will transport oldies back to the era, allowing them to reappraise and appreciate it afresh. His memory - even if dependent on a diary - is prodigious, and his anecdotes polished till they sparkle.
Through it all, Walsh was there. First as an eager wannabe, then as a full-blooded insider. Any disappointment that his own efforts at a novel didn't prove a ticket to the dream-circus was quickly mitigated once he discovered his potential as a critic, commentator and general facilitator, swishing through the forest as interviewer, literary judge, pundit, speaker, partygoer par excellence . . . An immersive literary history . . . highly readable
Alternately fascinating and provocative
[An] elegant and elegiac memoir . . . the vigour of the book's attack and the hilarity of its anecdotage ... [shows he was] one of the great power-brokers of literary London . . . He was (and is) a good thing and I salute him.
This is by no means just a book of literary history, fascinating though much of that is. Walsh also gives us plenty of terrific stories/gossip from those far-off days when newspaper offices were full of typewriter noise and cigarette smoke, and the choice of lunchtime drinks was definitely not restricted to still or sparkling.
Walsh's appetite for celebrity gossip is supplemented by a keen understanding of the business moves behind the invention of these literary stars, while his candour about his own shortcomings is endearing . . . [this] memoir is highly recommended
John Walsh's Circus of Dreams sent me reeling nostalgically back to the literary 1980s, where I may remain happily trapped for some time to come
[There's a] mixture of high and low, sacred and profane, running through Walsh's account of literary London in the 1980s that makes it such a joy
Walsh's enthusiasm for the writing of the 1980s is infectious
Very funny . . . I laughed long at the set-piece lunch with [Martin] Amis