And now I get it. This is low-key storytelling at its best, the weaving of anecdotes into a whole: into a life. You can only tell a life in stories if that life is not too mundane, but what Murray challenges himself to do is walk the tightrope of a very ordinary childhood and a not particularly stellar adulthood with his chosen colour. In Murphy’s Favourite Channels it was television, which was perhaps too mundane in itself. In Jazz Etc it is Jazz, and in his leads passionate arguments about difficult jazz we are intrigued by the details. Much of which is made up, including the history of a Portuguese jazz violinist which is used to give the book some exotic colour. These just illustrate the strength of the supposedly ordinary Cumbrian bits, which you welcome back when they return..
Murray also knows how to litter his specific tales with small details which can resonate with a much larger audience (and see me on Murphy’s Favourite Channels for this). Here there are a few Oxford tracts which give you the “I know that” feeling. There are interesting constants between the books. Multiple marriages of the lead which are barely referenced, the Cumbrian childhoods. But if taken as a selection of very funny stories, Murray’s light diversions are surprisingly engrossing. And he pulls off the phonetic transcription of a North-West/Italian accent for both humour and pathos without it ever seeming dodgy, which is a wonder in itself.