Magazine article The Spectator

Nothing Succeeds like It

Magazine article The Spectator

Nothing Succeeds like It

Article excerpt

REFLECTIONS ON SUCCESS by Martyn Lewis Lennard Publishing 20, pp. 960

Martyn Lewis is best known as the newscaster who complained that the news he was being asked to read out was too bad. So it is perhaps to be expected that this hefty volume, a series of interviews with 67 successful people, has some Pravda-esque qualities about it. There are better times than this, surely, to publish 13 pages of John Major answering questions like, `What is the single greatest pleasure you have had from your success?' One keeps expecting to turn over the page and read the words: `So, comrade Stalin, why do you think you have been able to spread such happiness amongst the peasantry?'

That said, Martyn Lewis is not so much a creep as an evangelical. Reflections on Success turns out to be part of his ongoing campaign to promote good news: in this case he wishes to celebrate success because he feels the media too often concentrate on failure. The choice of subjects may seem a little curious -- David Mellor, for example, might be rich but does not at present appear to epitomise success -- until you realise that many of them are people with a grudge against the media. They've either had bad reviews, had their names muddied on the front pages, or been pummelled by Paxman, and here is TV's Mr Good News inviting them, sometimes in vain, to open their heart about the experience.

Hence Sir Cliff Richard:

I've spent two or three days in my home not going out because there's been some silly article that doesn't bear any resemblance to what I was trying to say in the interview.

Or Billy Connolly:

There's a lust for failure in this country, a desperate lust, especially in Scotland. If you can make up for your lack of success in yourself with hatred of success in someone else, that'll do.

The interesting thing to emerge from this is that it is mostly the television celebrities who take up Lewis' invitation to denounce the media; perhaps the mark of success in this field is when you begin to forget that you are part of the media yourself. Nonmedia figures such as George Carman QC are more likely to reply to Lewis' question, `Are successful people fair game for attack?' with the words: `If you make any kind of mark in your life of course you are a legitimate target. …

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