Hellraisers. I’ve not laughed at a book (as much as I did with this one) for quite some time. These four men were womanisers, adulterers, violent, drug takers and above all, boozers of the highest calibre. When Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton, Richard Harris or Oliver Reed approached, one never knew if one was going to receive a kiss, a bear hug or a punch in the teeth.

It must have been and indeed it was, Hell to be married to these men. However, it was never boring and proceeded to a soundtrack of smashed glass, the clink of glasses and the thump of bodies. Come on admit it, there’s a part of everyone who admires these guys for their unwillingness to compromise and their ability to have one Hell of a good time. Who would you rather spend an evening (or more likely a couple of days with) Richard Burton or the wreckage that is Elizabeth Taylor; Oliver Reed or Tom Cruise and his fifteen bodyguards?

No doubt about it these guys were talented. No forget it- they were stars. Only NZ’s finest Russell Crowe shows signs of being up to them and significantly, he was a big pal of Richard Harris. Towards the end it does get a little sad as the health scares mount up, but the photographs alone are worth opening up the book. As I curl up with it during one of my “early nights” I cannot but feel a twinge of envy.

How to Read Like a President

Jon Meachem has written a fascinating article in the New York Times How to Read Like a President. He surveys the reading of a number of presidents and talks to the current presidential contenders, asking them what books were most important to them.

John McCain mentioned Hemingway (in particular the character of Robert Jordan in For Whom the Bell Tolls), the stories of W. Somerset Maugham, The Great Gatsby, All Quiet on the Western Front and James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, especially The Last of the Mohicans. He likes William Faulkner  especially  The Bear and  Turnabout.  McCain speaks of nonfiction less often but he has read — twice — Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Barack Obama’s list includes The Federalist, Jefferson, Emerson, Lincoln, Twain, W. E. B. Du Bois’s Souls of Black Folk, King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon. Non American writers include Graham Greene  The Power and the Glory and The Quiet American, Doris Lessing The Golden Notebook, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Cancer Ward and Gandhi’s auto­biography. In theology and philosophy Obama mentioned Nietzsche, Niebuhr and Tillich. Obama cites John Steinbeck’s In Dubious Battle, about a labor dispute; Robert Caro’s Power Broker, about Robert Moses; and Studs Terkel’s Working. But he also includes Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and Theory of Moral Sentiments on his list.

Both candidates are fond of Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men, a classic of American political writing about a corrupt Southern governor and based on the real life Huey Long of Louisiana.

Of course, in these days of spin, you might suspect that the reading list was carefully chosen by someone else to create the right impression but read the whole article and judge for yourself.

It doesn’t mention anything about George W Bush’s reading….