It’s been a while; ill health reared its scabrous head recently but as with all clouds, there was a silver lining. One of the things I love most in the world is reading. No-one can criticize you for reading when you’re ill. Like a miner, one approaches each new book with the delicious thrill of possibility. This could be one of those missives which changes you forever; touches you deeply or makes you look at life in a different light. Sadly, like the diamonds one metaphorically searches for, these things are rare.
Biographies in particular tend to disappoint and are not favourite fare. Usually they are sycophantic and about as truthful as a government manifesto. Autobiographies can be worse; a vehicle for sly self-aggrandisement or even worse, dishonest humility. But now and again, very very rarely, you come across the real thing. And you know it’s real because nothing that touching or brutally honest could be fake.
A Spectacle of Dust is the autobiography of an actor named Pete Postlethwaite. Not a huge Hollywood name but a working actor who has been in and around films and television for as long as I can remember; one of those actors who was always simply ‘there’. Published posthumously his story is one of simple facts; someone who found something he loved and followed it wholeheartedly. As well as chronicling his life within the theatre he is also refreshingly honest about his political views, apologising for nothing and defiantly outspoken in his beliefs.
I can remember being quite frightened of him as a small child-too young too understand that a person’s face does not represent who lives behind it. As I got older I have a vivid memory of him standing out in the cast of ‘A Private Function’ a film I found otherwise stupefyingly boring not to mention twee. But it was as Mr Kobyashi in ‘The Usual Suspects’ that I finally realised what an absolute genius this understated man was in front of a camera. Being squeamish by nature a lot of his work is too gory and violent for me to sit through comfortably but reading his book and hearing his explanation as to why he chose the roles he did makes feel I should steel myself and try them again. More than his talent though is the humanity that comes across on the pages. This was a human being who, through nothing more than integrity and his own self honesty provides a speck of hope for the future.
I belong to a species whose reprehensible behaviour and lack of moral awareness sickens me daily. Those who need help the most are kicked to the side (unless they are fabulously wealthy of course) and I don’t mean just humans. Ask most people in the world if they are afraid of the future and they will say yes. A small greedy grabbing minority are destroying us and our habitat; wiping out whole species of creatures who were here long before us and it’s usually done for the sake of money. Turn it upside down, inside out and back to front but when you blow away the smoke and smash the mirrors all theses greedy grabbing monsters want is more and more and more. And we give them the power. That, I think, is what hurts the most.
So when you stumble across that rarity of things-an honest soul- it is like a small pure light in the dark. I never knew Mr Postlethwaite personally but his words touched me today; touched me deeply and gave me hope that although the world is now a darker place for his passing, it is an infinitely better one for his having been here. Good souls may be an almost extinct breed but he is proof that they do still occasionally exist.
If you haven’t read his autobiography I urge you to do so. Read his words, hear what he’s trying to say. His family must miss him terribly; my heart goes out to them along with humble thanks for sharing him while he was here.