Monday, 10 April 2017

In Memoriam: Jeremy Lewis

I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Jeremy Lewis, publisher, journalist and biographer. Jeremy was a familiar and welcoming sight on the literary circuit: at launch parties he would hove cheerily into view, canapé in the act of being eaten in one hand, second or third glass of wine in the other, anecdote at the ready.

I knew him from my time at Literary Review, when he would come into the office on occasion as our Editor-at-Large, invariably wearing his blue corduroy jacket; once he appeared rather dazzlingly in a very smart seersucker. If ever the phone rang (which, at Literary Review, was not very often) he would leap up, alarmed, and look round for assistance, to a cry of "Help!" This would extend to computers, which he regarded with mild horror: he would refer to the Microsoft Office icon as "the Henry Moore sculpture."

 He would indicate his approval of a submission with a "rather good, I thought"; his disapproval was shown with a hand to the mouth, in imitation of a yawn, and a waggling of his immense eyebrows. He was an acute observer, picking up the tiniest details of dress or habit, which made his work involving and vivid; he was a brilliant raconteur, and would hold us all mesmerised with his accounts of increasingly absurd adventures in which he, invariably and self-deprecatingly, was the butt.

Even in 2005, when I began at the magazine, he mourned the passing of the old way of publishing life: the long lunches and the bibulous evenings. Though we still managed the odd roustabout, it felt as if we were at the end of a span of time that would never be imitated. No longer would publishers tumble out of darkened restaurants at 4pm, hilarious with wine and good writing: what he called the "Perrier" world had already taken over.

Jeremy was always very kind to younger writers, offering advice and cheery goodwill: his writing was warm, humorous and tinged with a clear-sighted knowledge of human folly. We all loved him in the office, and I will miss his presence hugely.


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