Life on the Air – David Attenborough Memoirs

I only read biographical books (or memoirs) on recommendation (usually if they are funny and/or involve animals). I have read some good ones but on a whole, the thought of reading about someone’s life just doesn’t appeal. Is their life really that exciting? And is it actually true? Some people are writing about things that happened 20+ years ago, I have enough trouble remembering last year (though perhaps people with interesting lives have good memories?). I’ve looked back on blog entries with no memory about what I was writing about, let alone details.
It seems to me like everyone and their dog is releasing a biography or memoir. Politician quits parliament, out comes a book. Athlete retires, here comes their life story. Even Robert Patterson has a book out there and he’s only 23 (though to be fair, it is apparently unauthorized).
I feel like biographies should be reserved for special people. Politicians that made a difference, not some silly voice of the moment who will be forgotten in a year. People who have struggled through war or other horrors. People who have labradors (I am biased by the awesomeness of labbies) or have enough writing ability to write something elegant and funny. At least people who are older than 25 and have done more in their life than a bit of acting (save that crap for a blog). And definitely don’t let stupid people with little writing ability, such as Suzanne Somers who is too stupid to recognize a steroid when she takes one (again, stick with a blog like the rest of us). I think I’ll vomit if anti-vaccination loony and bad actor Jim Carey releases his story.

Enough random crap, I’m here to write about Sir David Attenborough’s biography, which my friend was kind enough to recommend me.
It. Is. Awesome.
From the very beginning, the story drew me in in a way that few fiction books have. This man knows how to write (or knows how to find the perfect ghost writer?). It helps that he has such a distinct wonderful voice – I can hear him narrating the book in my head.
His life is so fascinating. Not just because he has made a shitload of great animal documentaries and I’m really into animals but also because he is so much older than me (I mean that in a nice way). He grew up in a time that is so completely foreign to me and my modern mind. It is fascinating to learn how different TV was back then and how it changed over the years.

The evening would then be rounded off some time before eleven o’clock with an epilogue, and a view of Big Ben to give a check on the time (which, it has to be confessed, was in fact a model in a box, suitably lit and adjusted to the correct time according to the studio manager’s wrist watch).

This book makes me appreciate Attenborough’s work all the more. I have never Googled him before so I had no idea that he started out as a producer, or that he played a large role in script writing (instead of being just a voice, like some presenters are). He really knows his stuff and goes out there to experience it.
It’s also good to read about his failures, as well as people’s criticism. He is certainly capable of looking back and laughing.

To understand my point, I panted a little as though struggling for breath. Perhaps I overdid it slightly…one of the newspaper critics attacked the BBC on my behalf. It was unkind, they said, to send a presenter of my advanced age on such arduous trips.

Despite the wonder within the book, there is also an element of sorrow. He is aware of the fact that by showing us the wonders of the world, he changes it by way of tourism.

I could hardly absolve myself from having contributed in some measure to this sorry transformation. I told myself that if animals did not earn their keep, spinning money from tourists, they might not, in the long run, survive at all. And that in the farther recesses of the island there must surely be dragons just as wild and romantic – and disregarded – as the ones I had seen not so long ago.


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