Craig Brown tackles the world of celebrities and their fascinating encounters with one another in Hello Goodbye Hello: a Circle of 101 Remarkable Meetings. Brilliant in conception, with each vignette comprised of exactly 1,001 words, Brown entertains the reader with amusing anecdotes of how the celebrated and gifted interacted. Some of the meetings are unlikely and many are just plain weird.
From an opening story in which Adolf Hitler is knocked down by a careless English driver in 1931, to the Duchess of Windsor’s meeting with the Fuhrer over tea, and throughout the ninety-nine tales in between, this book is proof that truth is stranger than fiction. Brown employs a chain-link structure to his narrative so one encounter smoothly leads directly into the next one. Some meet-ups are delightfully pleasant as between mutual admirers Rudyard Kipling and Mark Twain. Less successful encounters include Groucho Marx trying to impress T.S. Eliot by quoting his poetry, and Eliot commenting that he was familiar with his own work and didn’t need a recitation. And a last group of meetings are miserable failures, including one between literary pair James Joyce and Marcel Proust, who barely spoke to one another. Brown, a BBC Radio host and Daily Mail columnist, delivers an absorbing, humorous collection of snapshots in the lives of famed personalities. For readers unfamiliar with some of the characters at play in this circle, Brown provides brief biographies. His snarky asides and enlightening footnotes add to the stories of these often incongruous, sometimes poignant, but always entertaining meetings.