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A Few Selected Exits by Gwyn Thomas

A Few Selected Exits (edition 1993)

by Gwyn Thomas

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Made into a TV filmn starring Anthony Hopkins. An autobiography of sorts; comic episodes with a cast of hilarious characters. Describes Thomas' youth in a south Wales mining valley during the Great Depression.
Title:A Few Selected Exits
Authors:Gwyn Thomas
Info:Dufour Editions (1993), Paperback, 212 pages
Collections:Your library

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A Few Selected Exits by Gwyn Thomas


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Gwyn (ga-win) Thomas. What a funny man! I feel totally unqualified in wit and Welsh lore to review this "autobiography of sorts" by this genius of Wales. But not so unqualified to laugh at his comedic brilliance, which combines the charm of Garrison Keillor's loving but ambivalent Tales of Lake Wobegon with the schtick of Woody Allen - the intellectual who is always put just a little bit off balance by the ways of the worldly.

Thomas's rambling memoir is comprised of recollections and character sketches from periods in his life as a youth in Wales, as a foreign student in Spain, as a schoolteacher, as a budding playwright, and as a TV celebrity, in the BBC show The Brain Trust.

But it's his voice, vacillating between poetry and philosophy, as much as his trove of anecdotes, that makes compelling reading. For example, Thomas writes, of his struggle to find a theme for a commissioned play:

"But my mind came back to the place where it abidingly belongs: South Wales. I wanted a play that would paint the true face of sensuality, rebellion, and religious revivalism; roaring debauch, intemperate petulance, and whimpering hangover. In South Wales, these three phenomena have played second fiddle only to hernia viewed as a way of life, bandy-legs stemming from lack of protein and a compelling urge to walk with a kind of lecherous strut, sex viewed as an aspect of gunmanship, and the Rugby Union as a distillation of the lot, brutal Old Testament ferocity tempered by the curious Greek moods of men crowded together in a steaming post-match bath and a night of beer-logged piety."

In 1993, the BBC produced a film, Selected Exits, based on this book. The film featured Sir Anthony Hopkins. Curiously, and sadly, the BBC never followed up with a DVD release of production. This perverse twist would likely not surprise Thomas. The chapter of the book dealing with his career in television, entitled "See one miracle and you've seen the lot" is perhaps its most biting. To sum up his views on the medium: "If you want to qualify for a lifebelt of benzedrine, try a little TV commentary and interviewing.

Did I mention that Gwyn Thomas is known primarily for his novels and stories? That's because I seem to have backed into the man, by reading his autobiography first. But this sort of slapstick meeting seems to have been a perfect introduction to this gifted and comic writer. Feel free to make the same mistake. ( )
3 vote Ganeshaka | May 27, 2009 |
Thomas' biographer warns against taking every word of this fabulous autobiography for gospel; nevertheless it is true to the spirit of South Wales and the experiences of its people during and after the great depression of the 1930's. ( )
  gibbon | Apr 27, 2009 |
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Made into a TV filmn starring Anthony Hopkins. An autobiography of sorts; comic episodes with a cast of hilarious characters. Describes Thomas' youth in a south Wales mining valley during the Great Depression.

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