'Meades has been compared, favourably, to Rabelais and, flatteringly, to Swift. The truth is that he outstrips both in the gaudiness of his imagination.' Henry Hitchings, TLS
The Plagiarist in the Kitchen (Unbound, 2017)
This is an anti-cookbook, a recipe book that is also an explicit paean to the avoidance of culinary originality (should such a thing exist), to the daylight robbery of recipes, to hijacking techniques and methods, to the notion that in the kitchen there is nothing new and nor can there be anything new. It's all theft. Read an extract here.
‘The Plagiarist in the Kitchen is hilariously grumpy, muttering at us “Don’t you bastards know anything?” You can read it purely for literary pleasure, but Jonathan Meades makes everything sound so delicious that the non-cook will be moved to cook and the bad cook will cook better.’ David Hare, The Guardian
'One of the best and most original writers of our day is incapable of plagiarism and, if you don't like it, the last line, worthy of Evelyn Waugh is succinct: "No replies/queries/complaints will be attended to in the author's lifetime."' Rowley Leigh, The Oldie
'Meades has made a cookbook that is itself a work of literary art.' Steven Poole, The Guardian
'Part of the joy of the book is the glee with which Meades tramples on foodie (a word I imagine he loathes) shibboleths... But asides aside, The Plagiarist in the Kitchen is actually a very thorough cookbook taking in classic French food as well as Italian, Spanish, North African, Scandinavian, German and British recipes.' Henry Jeffreys, The Spectator
'The Plagiarist might not look like a working cookbook but between bursts of explosive provocation, and vaguely disturbing monochrome images, there is plenty to eat. If you require ideas for cooking brains, tripe, eels or fresh blood, you will find them here.' Jane Shilling, London Evening Standard
An Encyclopaedia Of Myself (Fourth Estate, 2014)
Winner of Best Memoir in the Spear's Book Awards 2014
'Nothing wilfully invented. Memory invents unbidden.'
The 1950s were not grey. In Jonathan Meades’s detailed, petit-point memoir they are luridly polychromatic. They were peopled by embittered grotesques, bogus majors, vicious spinsters, reckless bohos, pompous boors, suicides. Death went dogging everywhere. Salisbury, where he was brought up, had two industries: God and the Cold War, both of which provided a cast of adults for the child to scrutinise – desiccated God-botherers on the one hand, gung-ho chemical warriors on the other. The title is grossly inaccurate. This book is, rather, a portrait of a disappeared provincial England, a time and place unpeeled with gruesome relish.
Buy it here. Read extracts here and here.
What the reviewers say:
'If this book is thought of less as a memoir than a symphonic poem about postwar England and Englishness - well, then it is a masterpiece.' Roger Lewis, Financial Times
'I loved this book. Meades is a very great prose stylist, with a dandy's delight in the sound and feel of words, and we are lucky to have him.' Ian Thomson, Spectator
'Pathologically observant, his memoir is quite the most brilliant, bracing but hairshirtless social history of mid-20th century provincial England that I have yet and, likely, will ever read.' Caroline Jackson, Country Life
'The richness of the vocabulary is as pleasurable as his honesty is bald... what can appear as isolated jottings in the end come together in a pointillist canvas to form by far the best picture of the 1950s I have read.' George Walden, The Times
'Sulphurously opinionated... a dazzling confection of grown-up sophistication and schoolboy intensity of feeling.' Jane Shilling, Sunday Telegraph
'Meades has an endless curiosity about people and what becomes of them; his writing gives the everyday world of 1950s Britain a full colour, respiring immediacy... It's a true literary achievement.' Simon Heffer, Literary Review.
Museum Without Walls (Unbound, 2012)
There is no such thing as a boring place: Birmingham's beauty, the Isle of Sheppey, the Isle of Rust, postwar churches, Pevsner and Nairn, the futile vanity of 'landmark' buidlings... A collection of 54 pieces and six film scripts on topography, urbanism, architecture and non-architecture which dissolve the barriers between high and low culture, good and bad taste, deep seriousness and black comedy.
'Sceptical, forthright, unbiddable and seriously droll.' Anthony Quinn, Metro
'One of the best writers on architecture this island has produced.' Douglas Murphy, RIBA Journal
'For the last 30 years Britain's most consistently surprising and informative writer on the built environment.' Owen Hatherley, London Review of Books
Museum Without Walls is available to buy here at Unbound.
The Fowler Family Business (Fourth Estate, 2002), is inventively nasty, gruesomely comic. It is, too, a paean to the sylvan heights of Forest Hill and Upper Norwood, a warped map of the death trade's quotidian strangeness, a sly drama in which nothing is quite the way it seems.
Henry Fowler was twice, long ago, runner-up in the Oil Fuels Guild-sponsored Young Funeral Director of the Year. His intense loyalties are to his parents, to his wife and children, to the family firm and the trade it practises, to his native south-east London and to his best friend Curly, traffic wonk and surviving brother of his former best friend who fell to his death at Norwood Junction. Well into middle age, and Henry's life is running as smoothly as he always hoped it would. But then his wife's tennis partner, a celebrity florist and BBC2 star, is accidentally beheaded by his electric hedgecutter while crimping a three-metre-high topiary poodle. Curly, newly married and eager for a child, is diagnosed as suffering 'waterwork problems'; and Henry cuts a lock of his sleeping daughter's hair. The foundations of a world, a family and an identity begin to rock.
'Meades is a genius at provoking horrid laughter. However, there is a lot more to him than that.' Mark Sanderson, Evening Standard
'Indecently funny... as black as black comedy can be.' Christopher Bray, Daily Maiil
Buy it here.
Incest and Morris Dancing. One mouth, 15 years, 700 restaurants. Jonathan Meades is a gastromartyr. For 15 years the food critic of The Times, he has put his mouth where our money is. Meades knows the truth about the British gastronomic revolution: he's tried everything once. He knows the human cost of spending three weeks in the Fens or a month in Worcester. He's been served raw bacon on the Isle of Wight and was told he was a fussy eater to have complained. He has eaten at Gannets in Aberystwyth and lived to tell the tale of the galvanised bucket and the school gravy. He has taken the John Major Heritage Trail, which included a Little Chef. Published in 2002.
'A dish of foie gras and truffles, finished with butter and cream, or, if you are King Henry I, a boatload of lampreys.' Tom Jaine, The Guardian
Buy it here.
Pompey (1993) recounts scores of stories: of HoTLoVe, OMO, AO-1; of a pygmy hunt, an assassination, a crucifixion; of a human blood bank and a man with metal in his head and a dentist with nasty habits; of sick sex, ill winds, malignant diseases; of the Voys, the Halals, the Puppymen. Most of all it tells the story of a flaky pyrotechnicist, Guy Vallender, and of his four progeny, chief among them Poor Eddie, who was quarry, whose gifts were otherworldly, whose gruesome fate was perhaps transcendent.
The action stretches seamlessly between the mid-40s and the mid-70s; its many topographies include Brussels, Salisbury, the Teutoburgerwald, the Congo, the industrial wastes of Lorraine. But the dominant setting is the titular city - a nightmarish brick grid set on mud and populated by garish freaks. It is here that the characters move to their unique and inexorable ends, fuelled by the bad faith of the former comedian Ray Butt's Church of the Best Ever Redemption and by the bad blood of the gerontophiliac Jean-Marie.
Pompey is a witty, gripping, emotionally harrowing work by a viciously inventive writer - part hallucinatory adventure, part unhappy family saga, part perverse tragedy of fundamentalist delusion, it is persistently, hurtfully entertaining. And it includes footnotes. Heed the author's warning: 'After using this book please wash your hands.'
'If Meades was a racehorse you'd be demanding a steward's inquiry. There's something in his feed which gives him the lot.' Iain Sinclair, Kaleidoscope
'Disgusting and brilliant - should earn Meades justifiable comparison to Joyce, Celine, Pynchon.' Paul Spike, Vogue
'The product of a brilliant mind: one would not, however, wish to dine with its author.' Nick Hornby, TLS
Buy it here.
Transsexuals, soldiers, meat on canvas, drugged hippies, lager and lads, anonymous letters, wrestling, French slang, Marienbad, Aids, dogfood and much, much more... Peter Knows What Dick Likes (1989) showcases the astounding talents of one of the most original, incisive and provocative writers of our time. The earliest work in this collection is fiction. The stories 'Could This Be Greatness?' and 'Perfect Portrait' were written in 1970-71, soon after Meades left RADA not knowing what he wanted to do but knowing for certain that acting or, rather, the life of the actor, was not going to be it. The film Millie's Problem (1985) is the missing story from Filthy English. Some of the journalism - essays, reportage, reviews, squibs, portraits, etc - was written between 1971 and 1975; most of it is of '81 to '88.
'A one-man howl against cultural yobbishness... informed to the point of mania... articulate to the point of obnoxiousness.' Eve Macsweeney, Time Out
'Meades is monstrously powerful. All you need to savour him is a strong stomach.' David Sexton, Vogue
'Meades is unique, original and clever.' Philip Howard, The Times
Buy it here.
A dog who stars in bestial pornographic movies describes the slippery slope towards aniseed addiction in Fur and Skin. The Sylvan Life is a story of rustling, hallucinogenic mushrooms and incest in the New Forest. In Spring and Fall a rich and childless woman offers a sybaritic young boy a clandestine family life which becomes his downfall. The most extraordinary circumstances combine to provide the perfect alibi for a homosexual crime passionnel in Oh So Bent. The Brute's Price demonstrates the inadvertent steps an innocent man may take in bringing himself under suspicion of heinous murders on Portland. An injection of the criminal element into the pretensions of suburban Surrey provides the squalid drama of Rhododendron Gulch. In the title story a relentlessly pedantic urge of a lexicographer to discover why his surname is a slang word for 'foot' leads him to a nightmarish revelation. Filthy English was first published in 1984.
'The modern British story's most exotic blooms.' Martin Cropper, Today
'Reaches into parts of society more sensitive black comedians might well retch away from.' Valentine Cunningham, The Observer
Buy it here.