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From the self serving grandiosity of Conrad Black to the raise and mysterious demise of Robert Maxwell, I have always enjoyed reading about people in the media. David Leser is neither self serving, nor mysterious, and he has written an at times brutally honest account of his life as a journalist, being a son, and being a husband and a father. Told with much wit and insight, his story cleverly uses world events and the many fascinating people he has met along the way as a backdrop to his own journey. Having spent much time in Jerusalem, a proud, but somewhat agnostic Jew, he agonises over the conundrum that is the Israel oppression of the Palestinian people. He serves up fascinating tidbits of the very long list of people he has interviewed and written about, not shying away from having opinions about those that may not share his own values, yet without malice or the hubris prevalent in the media world he inhabits. His meetings with Allan Jones are told with humour and due reverence to the enigmatic, self important and influential radio host. (That Jones sued Leser for the article he wrote about him speaks volumes about the narcissistic paranoia of Jones, but that is another story, and not one Leser himself dwells on to his credit.)
David is equally candid about his own demons, not least in the way he describes the at times fractious, but fundamentally loving, relationship with his mercurial father, the long-serving CEO of Conde Nast, one of the world’s largest media companies. He weaves the story of his family, fortunate survivors of the Holocaust, into that of his own at times painful pilgrimage of self-discovery. In summary, this is not so much an autobiography but a ripping yarn about a passionate, deeply caring, word- and world-wise man, worts and all. Do your self a favour and read it!
To Begin to Know is in a class of those great, wonderful books which you can fly through in a night, or two; those great books which you don’t want to finish but cannot put down. If there was a book equivalent to the Danish hygge, To Begin to Know is one of those books, despite some of the sadness that swims below some of the stories.
It is brilliantly written, and flows like a conversation with the author - it sucks you into its pages and narrative without making you feel like a voyeur, making you connect with at least one of the themes, or the anecdotes, or stories within the book.
David has written some of the most beautiful, engaging, in-depth profiles on others – somehow, no matter who it is, it seems, he can make you dig deep inside to say and to open so much. Therefore, seeing his keen eye turn on himself absolutely had to be a fascinating, frank piece of writing about the life of a writer of others. And indeed it is, and it is a beautifully candid account of his life, his relationship with his Father, with his two daughters, and his relationship with himself - which turns to be the most captivating of all.
This is a wonderful book. I identified madly through some of it and found it basically fascinating and insightful and wise from page one. And deliciously self-deprecating when it wasn't wise. It was the story of a rigorous and profound father/son relationship. And it nestled itself so snugly into the times, with David Leser's characteristic clarity and insight. So I was led to thinking about all the blokes I know and their relationships with their father which are mostly difficult and painful. Great read.
I read this book while on holidays. Leser's journalism is admirable and this memoir is new territory — startling, discomfiting and eye-opening: brutally self-confessional. Certainly the relations between an middle-aged child and an already aged parent becomes ever more resonant. But there are many episodes: imagine the author curled up in foetal position, later on, surfing. Then driving his car with his partner into contested ground in the Middle East and barely escaping with their lives. O, M, Gee. 'To Begin to Know' is highly entertaining in its very particular way — I read it inside of two days — and terrifically affecting. I can see on the book cover a line like this: "A brave and inspiring story" and it would be truth in advertising.
I loved it! There were places I burst out laughing and then other places that choked me up. I'm not sure I've ever read such a frank self portrait or one so threaded with insight. The portrait of your dad is so clear and loving and forgiving. And a surprise to find my mum in your pages, you know that your friendship gave her so much, that her last years in Australia were rich in experiences and friendships and yours was an important one. Bravos and thanks for a wonderful read.
Few people write with their eyes and ears truly open and their heart fully exposed. David is such a writer. This is a beautifully written and deeply sensitive book. It morphs seamlessly from a tale about his father into his own revelatory journey. Thank you David Leser for having the courage to share your story with us, and to expose so much about your own father, and in doing so, your own good self! Bold, brave writing at its best!
A swirling epic of personal exploration, visceral truth and the longing to understand. A raw (often entertaining) account of the relationship between father and son, son and the world, privilege and humility. As a meditation, hinting at the sharpest edge of the soul's deepest knowings - that momentarily zoom life into absolute focus - I couldn't put this down.
What a great read this is, constantly fascinating and honest and full of insight. My only criticism: I wanted the tantric sex scene to be a lot longer...I particularly liked the raw ragged edges of all the stuff in Paris, and the author's honesty about marriage and fathering.
I found this a terrific read - brave, touching, heartfelt, hilarious. I was fascinated by Leser's insights into the business of writing, but you wouldn't have to have an interest in journalism to be gripped by the book. Just an interest in what it is to be human.