WordSmith: A Memoir



WordSmith is a memoir by Bristol writer A C H Smith of something that was never easy but which must seem almost impossibly difficult to an aspiring young writer today. How to spend one’s life exclusively as a writer and yet manage to pay the gas bills. From fiction, theatre, television, screenplays, poetry, novelising and journalism he has pieced together a literary living for more than half a century, with only an occasional excursion into well-paid academic life. He was part of a glittering arts scene in 1960s Bristol, with playwrights Tom Stoppard, Peter Nichols and Charles Wood, film-maker John Boorman and artist Derek Balmer among the brightest luminaries. Smith recruited Stoppard to write for the remarkable Western Daily Press arts page which he, Smith, edited for several years before it was killed off by a philistine editor. Ghostwriting for Wolf Mankowitz, rewriting chunks of Shakespeare for the stage and hosting a long-running TV arts programme … it has been an immensely varied career. Smith recounts the pinball pattern of freelance life which has included working with Boorman, Richard Hoggart and Stuart Hall, Peter Brook and Ted Hughes, and Jim Henson, the creator of The Muppets. Along the way, there have been meetings with Hemingway, Beckett, John Berger and Allen Ginsberg. Among Smith’s Bristol achievements, the play Up the Feeder, Down the Mouth, a moving and amusing story of the decline of the city docks, is outstanding. Interesting insights into the ups and downs of literary life are provided by his correspondence with four friends who started out at the same time – Janet Burroway, Zulfikar Ghose, B S Johnson and Tom Stoppard. The first two have depended on teaching posts to underpin their writing careers, B S Johnson remained defiantly independent but ended his own life in 1973, while Stoppard struggled until in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead he achieved the perfect solution: worldwide and lasting success. Cricket provides a sub-plot. ISBN 978-1-908326-20-1 235mm x 150mm 264pp + 24pp plate sections Softback