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The Kenneth Williams Diaries

4.24  ·  Rating Details  ·  468 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
'I'll put you in my diary!' comedian Kenneth Williams was known to threaten on occasion, although tantalisingly he kept the journal to himself during his lifetime.

Here at last, in one spellbinding volume, are four million words of it. For more than forty years, from his sixteenth birthday until the eve of his unexpected death in 1988, the beloved actor and outrageous 'Car
Paperback, 827 pages
Published December 1st 1994 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published January 1st 1981)
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Jul 10, 2008 Tosh rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Morrissey
Recommended to Tosh by: Morrissey via an interview in some British music paper
i just finished the Kenneth Williams diaries and what is amazing is that he barely acknowledges the 60's pop culture around him. No Stamp, a little bit of David Bailey, and almost no acknowledgement of The Beatles! His world had no rock n' roll, no hippies, no teddy boys, no mind-expanding drugs, and no free love His world was British variety music halls, radio shows, occasional TV appearance, Carry On film series, classical music (which he adored), Philosophy, and his hatred or unease with his ...more
David Rain
Jun 08, 2012 David Rain rated it it was amazing
The English actor Kenneth Williams, best-known for his roles in the Carry On films, kept a diary from 1942 until his death, probably from suicide, in 1988. This book, a necessarily but expertly edited version, functions in effect as his autobiography. It’s astonishingly vivid, intimate and compelling. This is one of the best pictures we’ll ever have of an actor’s life, of the day-to-day realities of a long career. More than that, it’s funny: bitchily, brilliantly funny.

Kenneth Williams was fame
Sarah Tipper
Aug 17, 2015 Sarah Tipper rated it really liked it
A huge capacity for sadness and for joy is shown in this fascinating book. Be warned that it ends sadly (it’s unclear if he took an accidental or intentional overdose leading to his death). Williams had pain from stomach ulcers and hated his Mum getting old. His many frustrations are laid bare, he disliked himself for his homosexuality and his inability to be close to people. He berates himself for being unpleasant to friends and colleagues. He goes around in circles, he is hard on himself for h ...more
Paul Doody
Jun 18, 2010 Paul Doody rated it it was amazing
Astonishing account of a life - from the 1930s to the day of his death. Hugely rewarding and endlessly rereadable.
Mar 08, 2016 CQM rated it liked it
Shelves: diary
While this is always interesting and there are some lovely snippets about the people he worked with, people in whom I have a great interest, I found it a little depressing. Williams leaves his "acid drops" scattered liberally throughout but it can become a little wearing at times, coming across as a bitterly frustrated and sad man rather than the witty raconteur he could be. That's not to say it doesn't sparkle on occasions though.
Definitely one to dip into every now and then rather than read c
David Latham
Jan 21, 2015 David Latham rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013, non-fiction
What a great and tragic look into one of the greatest performers of the 20th century. He was known for making us laugh yet under the comical persona was a broken soul whose life was filled with pain and a longing to be loved. Which is a great shame because he was loved and admired by so many. Chronicling over 40 years of Kenneth William's life we get to see how he saw the world around him and how it changed and how he saw himself when we could only laugh. Its a momentous achievement to read and ...more
Jun 29, 2013 Kerry rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
I’m so glad that I finally took the time to read the diaries that British comedian Kenneth Williams kept throughout his life. At 801 pages long, ‘The Kenneth Williams Diaries’ are not a quick read, but as you follow the actor from his adolescence through to his golden years, you really unravel the true Kenneth Williams, the sad clown behind the camera.

A truly encapsulating figure, this book delves firsthand into events that left their mark in British history and popular culture: the Second World
Brian Hartgen
May 25, 2016 Brian Hartgen rated it it was amazing
I've read this book systematically through several times over the years. I have an audio narration of it which is beautifully delivered by Ronald Markham. Unlike many personalities who profess to be able to imitate Kenneth Williams, (and cannot), Ronald Markham delivers a straight narrative, with inflection, which says "If you can't accurately imitate someone, its best not to try". This is absolutely right.

Apart from capturing the essence of the man himself, this portrays a good picture of life
David Cheshire
Dec 27, 2012 David Cheshire rated it really liked it
The word used to describe Kenneth Williams on the blurb is, predictably, "outrageous." And he could be impossibly rude (in all senses), high-maintenance and difficult. But the surprise is that the Kenneth Williams of these diaries emerges as erudite, self-critical, tortured and a brilliantly sharp critic. Above all he is a brilliant diarist: honest, self-revealing and funny. His diaries give a truthful and compelling picture of a life and career in "the business", the Carry Ons, theatre (one ser ...more
Ian Ashley
Sep 27, 2013 Ian Ashley rated it it was amazing
I suppose anybody editing a lifetime collection of diaries faces a choice of how do I present this person and which extracts do I use? However hard that choice must be Russell Davies has edited the Kenneth Williams Diaries as objectively as you can considering the enigmatic nature of the subject.

You read this and get the impression that there is no agenda beyond presenting the subject to the world, it's fair, not always pleasant, often sad and sometimes downright hilarious.

Infact I've just fini
Richard Thomas
The real Kenneth Williams exposed in his diaries. In turn pathetic, angry, sensible and brighter than he gave himself credit for, these show him as he saw himself rather than the public persona.
Feb 08, 2015 Anne rated it it was ok
I didn't enjoy this as much as I hoped I would. I am a fan of Kenneth Williams but got tired of his sneering contempt of others and his self-pity.
Sep 04, 2014 Andy rated it it was amazing
Hilarious, bawdy, outrageous and tragic, an unvarnished insight into the fascinating and tortured life of a truly original talent.
Pace Lockwood-davis
Dec 19, 2015 Pace Lockwood-davis rated it it was amazing
I stupidly recycled this book. Worth keeping in your collection. This chap was terribly self torturing yet genius at work.
Dec 26, 2010 Jim rated it really liked it
Shelves: autobiography
"Infamy, infamy! They've all got it infamy." Too true, that was often Kenneth's view of the world, and he wrote most of it down in unflinching detail. An inspiration for fellow scribblers like myself (although I'm glad I don't note my "barclays" in my diary, all the same!) This took over a month to read, but I enjoyed it and it pleased me to see that a diary can be interesting in itself even when there's seemingly "nothing to report". Overall, it's reporting a life, and given it's the only one w ...more
Jun 11, 2013 Fellini rated it really liked it
I have certainly never read anything like it. It dawned on me that I have read someone's life (and not reading a properly written and edited autobiography). This collection of Kenneth's diary entries is fascinating. You never know what you will get with each daily entry because his personality is so volatile. One passage can seem like he is at the top of the world ... followed by suicidal pity the very next.

The one lesson that I walk away from (whether Kenneth would have agreed or not) is that
May 05, 2008 Richard rated it it was amazing
Kenneth Williams was famous in the UK for his multiple TV and film appearances, including many of the Carry On films. He kept voluminous diaries throughout his life, and they reveal a deeply conflicted, spiritual, arrogant, waspish man who could be his own worst enemy. He was obviously gay but mostly avowed celibacy. He resisted all offers to appear in the US, but his diaries offer a compelling look into the the English theater, movie, and television business as well as a look at his largely lon ...more
Mar 16, 2014 Leo rated it it was amazing
Fascinating, funny, but ultimately very, very depressing.
Rob Manwaring
Jun 10, 2012 Rob Manwaring rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-hold
Just started this - a birthday present. A narcissistic, self-hating, gay, hilarious, bilious, talented, contradictory, gorgeous, infuriating, Englishman. What more could you possibly want form a set of diaries? Russell Davies' introduction is penetrating (ooer) and insightful, and a real taster of hopefully what is to come. Impossible to write anything about Williams without double entrendres.
Nick Bishop
Jan 19, 2015 Nick Bishop rated it it was amazing
A fascinating read. KW was more complex than he seemed to be, and quite a sad character who really found life, and fame, quite hard.
Larry Schwartz
In fact, I didn't finish -- the interlibrary loan period was too short and I had to give it back.
Apr 09, 2015 Robert rated it liked it
First read Sept 2002.
Pete Hardy
Nov 05, 2014 Pete Hardy rated it it was ok
I couldn't finish this as you learn all you need to know about by the hundreth page. He was a very unhappy man and, to be fair, was as hard on himself (at times) than he could be on others. But his unmerited sense of superiority gets a bit wearing after a time so took it to a charity shop to share the misery.
Jane Macmullen
Apr 08, 2012 Jane Macmullen rated it it was amazing
I found these fascinating although I felt uncomfortable reading them. Clearly they were not written for strangers to read and I felt rather like a voyeur, as if I was reading with the extreme disapproval of the author. Sorry Kenneth, I loved this book.
Dec 14, 2010 Alex rated it it was amazing
I've read this twice and was enthralled each time. If you're at all interested in Kenneth Williams, or the Carry-On scene then you must read this. He must surely be one of the most complex characters that has ever lived.
John Grinstead
Jul 26, 2011 John Grinstead rated it really liked it
A real insight into the mind of a really complex character; always felt that something better was around the corner yet remained unfulfilled both in terms of his acting and his relationships. Quite sad really.
Mike Jennings
Aug 12, 2013 Mike Jennings rated it liked it
A long, looong read.
I have to admit I became frustrated along the way (ooooer Matron!) but it gave me the peek inside his life that I wanted. Ironic that such a talent should reside in such a sad, unfulfilled man.
Nov 06, 2012 Bookworm1976 rated it really liked it
Waspish and tinged with tragedy, an extraordinary insight into a man unable to accept the flaws of those around him and seemingly disgusted by his own sexuality. Compelling.
Andrew Brown
Jan 29, 2012 Andrew Brown rated it really liked it
Quick version: A real insight into Williams' life.

Longer version here:
Simon Fletcher
Jun 29, 2016 Simon Fletcher rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
This is not a book for the faint hearted as it's 800+ pages of hate, vitriol and self loathing. As such its been a slog from start to finish.
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Kenneth Williams was an English comic actor and comedian, star of 26 Carry On films, numerous British television shows, and radio comedies with Tony Hancock and Kenneth Horne.

His professional career began in 1948 in repertory theatre. Failure to become a serious dramatic actor disappointed him, but his potential as a comic performer gave him his break when he was spotted playing the Dauphin in Geo
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