Those who follow the erratic career of Jim Perrin may be aware of his apparently leisurely project to write a biography of the Victorian traveller and writer George Borrow, whose most well-known book is Wild Wales. Indeed Perrin has laid claim to the mantle of Borrow, at least as regards his shamelessly exculpatory association, by implication, of his own book West with Borrow’s (as Perrin calls it) ‘fictivized autobiography’, as if this justifies West‘s catalogue of offences to the dead and the living.
But we believe he can lay legitimate claim to many Borrovian characteristics. In his Introduction to the 1906 J M Dent edition of Wild Wales, Theodore Watts-Dunton wrote of its author:
A characteristic matter connected with Borrow’s translation [of a work of literature in Welsh] is that in the Quarterly Review for January 1861 he himself reviewed it anonymously, and not without appreciation of its merits—a method which may be recommended to those authors who are not in sympathy with their reviewers. The article showed a great deal of what may be called Borrovian knowledge of the Welsh language and Welsh literature, and perhaps it is not ungenerous to say a good deal of Borrovian ignorance too. Continue reading
We have discussed, for the most part, Jim Perrin’s book West — the book, his publisher later told us, ‘he should never have written’… But he, no doubt testing the water, first wrote his lies about our sister in The Climbing Essays, before transposing the entire first chapter, with added embellishments, into West. We say ’embellishments’ — they are lies, and lies of a profoundly vile nature. Unfortunately we were unaware of that earlier book’s existence; it was only when we discovered West and did further research that we read The Climbing Essays. Had we known we would have taken action earlier; if a solicitor’s letter had been sent to the publisher of the first book Jim Perrin’s worst excesses in his second (at least as far as our sister was concerned) might have been curtailed. He was however clearly quite taken with his notion of ‘his triad of tragedy’ — going so far as to invent ‘Terminal Lung Cancer’ for his third element, in West.
In the introduction to The Climbing Essays these words were used:
‘And what has distinguished him perhaps above all is his immense lack of ego. “I am not hubristic.” Jim writes, and if anyone else wrote this we would not believe them, for to deny one’s egotism is usually to demonstrate one’s egotism. But with Jim it is true’…
In similar vein the following description of Jim Perrin was posted after the ‘Tremfest’ 2014 event: ‘Jim’s style is very charming and intimate. He’s a relaxed, humble man.’
Sadly these comments are so very wide of the mark — although they do help to illustrate why so many people who, at first taken in by his charm, have been so completely hoodwinked by Jim Perrin’s undoubted guile: there are those who have discovered all too soon that his ‘charm’ is illusory…
We noticed the following on Mark’s walking blog. He posted it on the 10/6/2011 and it was headed: ‘Re-vamped TGO magazine.’
There were flattering and well-deserved observations on the ‘new look’ and among the comments which followed was Alan Sloman’s: ‘They have ditched Jim Perrin (did anyone ever get past the first three paragraphs without wondering what he was on?) and given space to writers who seem able to get their message across.’
Mark replied: ‘I don’t think I ever read Jim Perrin articles let alone get past the first three paragraphs !!’ and Martin Rye said: ‘Based on that I might start reading it again. Got fed up with paying for stuff I would not read like Perrin and water-pistols at dawn.’
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These were opinions to which they were entitled but while ‘ditched’ Dr. Perrin may well (and some think should) have been, we note that somehow he has managed to cling by chalked fingertips to the dizzying heights of this prestigious title and, what is more, is now in a position to review the writing of others — both the quick and the dead. Continue reading