Monday, 10 April 2017
In Memoriam: Jeremy Lewis
I knew him from my time at Literary Review, when he would come into the office on occasion as our Editor-at-Large, invariably wearing his blue corduroy jacket; once he appeared rather dazzlingly in a very smart seersucker. If ever the phone rang (which, at Literary Review, was not very often) he would leap up, alarmed, and look round for assistance, to a cry of "Help!" This would extend to computers, which he regarded with mild horror: he would refer to the Microsoft Office icon as "the Henry Moore sculpture."
He would indicate his approval of a submission with a "rather good, I thought"; his disapproval was shown with a hand to the mouth, in imitation of a yawn, and a waggling of his immense eyebrows. He was an acute observer, picking up the tiniest details of dress or habit, which made his work involving and vivid; he was a brilliant raconteur, and would hold us all mesmerised with his accounts of increasingly absurd adventures in which he, invariably and self-deprecatingly, was the butt.
Even in 2005, when I began at the magazine, he mourned the passing of the old way of publishing life: the long lunches and the bibulous evenings. Though we still managed the odd roustabout, it felt as if we were at the end of a span of time that would never be imitated. No longer would publishers tumble out of darkened restaurants at 4pm, hilarious with wine and good writing: what he called the "Perrier" world had already taken over.
Jeremy was always very kind to younger writers, offering advice and cheery goodwill: his writing was warm, humorous and tinged with a clear-sighted knowledge of human folly. We all loved him in the office, and I will miss his presence hugely.