I read very little non fiction and, the odd passage by Samuel Pepys aside, have never read any published diaries. So I’m handing over the blog today to Mr BookerTalk who is far better acquainted with this form of the written word. Here are his thoughts on Madly, Deeply, The Alan Rickman Diaries
All these things could be said to be true of Alan Rickman. He was:
- a thoroughbred and gifted actor;
- a fascinating character;
- an intellectual of sorts;
- good company (as long as you didn’t get on the wrong side of him);
- fun-loving and
- as lovable as a labrador.
Why then are his diaries so relatively dull? I was expecting to find in Madly, Deeply, a generous sprinkling of waspish remarks concerning his fellow screen stars and some gossipy stuff about celebs along with entertaining and insightful scribblings about the atypical days of an actor and his jet set lifestyle.
Instead I get lists of names, some well-known, some obscure except in showbiz circles. Sometimes there are not even names but just initials. All events are précised to the bare bones; a taxi, a venue, who’s there (usually an alphabet soup of initials), maybe a mention of the restaurant fare. We are told that a particular evening takes a bacchanalian turn before becoming, it seems, something of an orgy (“lights out and a pile of bodies on the bed”). But we are left without the juicy details.
Similarly frustrating is to read entries concerning doubts about fellow actors’ abilities and attitudes which are couched in arcane and disguised terms. We want the hot gossip!
It’s unfair to lay any blame for this on the author who almost certainly did not envisage his diaries finding their way into print. The fact that they have is perhaps down to his heightened profile thanks to 10 years as of Severus Snape in all eight Harry Potter films (2001 – 2011) meaning there was a ready market of new and older fans interested in the thoughts of one of Britain’s most charismatic actors.
Madly, Deeply –The Alan Rickman Diaries appeared in 2022, six years after the actor’s death from pancreatic cancer just shy of his 70th birthday.
It took editor Alan Taylor five years to tackle the million or so words recorded in the 1993 – 2016 journals and manhandle them into a publishable form and for that he must be credited. But the diary entries are effectively in shorthand and that produces a level of frustration for the reader due to a feeling of not being in on the full story.
The picture is fogged and some kind of unobtrusive continuity narrative — italicised paragraphs here and there — to explain projects and set events in context would add clarity and turn a mildly interesting book into a throughly absorbing one.
Madly, Deeply –The Alan Rickman Diaries: Footnotes
Alan Rickman began his career as a stage actor but was an equally successful film actor. He trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London (RADA) and toured with British repertory theatre companies before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1980s.
On screen, his breakthrough came when he appeared as the Reverend Obadiah Slope in the BBC adaptation of The Barchester Chronicles. He began appearing in films in the late 1980s, gaining critical acclaim for his supporting role of Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role nomination and a Screen Actors Guild Award. He played opposite Thompson in the 2003 film Love Actually.
Though a highly respected actor ,it was his involvement with the Harry Potter film series that brought him national and international fame. He first appeared as Severus Snape, the potions master, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 2001 and continued to play the role through until 2011.
Throughout 2005, Alan Rickman received treatment for an aggressive form of prostate cancer. In August 2015, he suffered a minor stroke, which led to a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. He died in January 2016 having revealed his illness to only a few of his closest friends and confidants.