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Nov 04

The cover of Murphy’s Favourite Channels is not very promising

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 267 views

The cover of Murphy’s Favourite Channels is not very promising, it is indeed almost offputtingly poor. John Murray’s book which, in a cosy fashion, juxtaposes the life of a Northern lad made good with the television he watched is actually a better book than that cover would suggest. It is the kind of book though where the conceit too often comes to the fore, and perhaps coupling the backstory with a modern story of life with multichannel television was a mistake.

The real issue is one of balance. Well over half of the book is taken up with Murphy’s youth, evoked with a number of well drawn vignettes. When Murphy reaches London, we speed through the rest of his life (including four wives) in much less space. Perhaps it would be less interesting, perhaps nostalgia for 80’s/90’s television is not Murray’s strong point – but it does leave the book wanting. Equally the modern day television review section is hampered by involving fictional programmes and fiction channels (thinly veiled mind), whereas the historical bits are quite clear on its Z Cars and Brains Trust lineage.

Nevertheless I enjoyed it, and part of that may well have been due to the books crossover with my own life. The foreword (Murphy can watch the Arabic News Channel as he took Arabic at the School Of Oriental and African Studies in 1971) was enough to make me flick through it. The SOAS sections are plenty inconclusive. But then coning across a character near the end called Shona MacLean (mis-spelled name of ex-flatmate) was enough to give me pause. This has happened since (Ronald Gannon, another ex-flatmate in David Peace’s Nineteen Seventy-Four) and is both arresting but disconcerting.

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