A Life in Questions
The witty, incisive and frank memoirs from the legend of Newsnight and long-standing quiz master of University Challenge. Filled with views, opinions and stories from 4 decades in front of the camera.Jeremy Paxman is Britain’s bravest, most incisive political interviewer. The no-nonsense star of BBC Newsnight, Paxman is a supreme inquisitor, a master at skewering mammoth egos with his relentless grilling. Few figures in public life have escaped. From John Major to Theresa May, from Tony Blair to Ed Miliband, Paxman had them quaking in their boots.His working life has been defined by questions. ‘Why is this lying bastard lying to me?’ was at the front of his mind as he conducted every interview. But it wasn’t just politicians. Paxman’s interviews with Dizzee Rascal, David Bowie, Russell Brand, Vivienne Westwood are legendary. He discussed belief with religious leaders and philosophers, economics with CEOs and bankers, books with writers and art and theatre with artists. After 22 years on University Challenge, Paxman is also the longest-serving active quizmaster on British television.Now, in these long-awaited memoirs, he spills the beans behind four decades in front of the camera. He offers reflections and stories from a career that has taken him as a reporter to many of the world’s war zones and trouble spots – Central America, Beirut, Belfast, to the studios of Tonight, Panorama, Breakfast Time, the Six O’clock News. Filled with candid stories about the great, the good and the rotters that have crossed his path, his memoirs are as magnetic to read as Paxman is to watch.Candid, uncompromising, compassionate, reflective and astute, he writes of the principles that have governed his professional life, the inner workings of the BBC, the role of journalists in political debate, the scandals and rows he’s been part of, the books he has written and the series he has made. In a book that tells some terrific stories and laughs at much of the silliness in the world, A Life in Questions charts the life of the greatest political interviewer of our time.
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This eBook first published in Great Britain by William Collins in 2016
Copyright © Jeremy Paxman 2016
Lyrics from ‘Mrs Worthington’ by Noël Coward, © NC Aventales AG, 1935, reproduced by permission of Alan Brodie Representation Ltd, www.alanbrodie.com (http://www.alanbrodie.com)
Jeremy Paxman asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Cover image © Carsten Windhorst
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Source ISBN: 9780008128302
Ebook Edition © October 2016 ISBN: 9780008128319
Here richly, with ridiculous display,
The Politician’s corpse was laid away.
While all of his acquaintance sneered and slanged
I wept. For I had longed to see him hanged.
Title Page (#u077c88da-97ba-575a-8934-383079134698)
1 Why Do You Talk Like That? (#uf954ef03-0e97-593c-9b1e-c22d7a35b6f4)
2 Didn’t You Hear the Bell? (#u9622a830-f929-5a6d-bc82-5bf2897b17c4)
3 What Do You Really Know? (#u54d64e7f-69aa-5b38-b87a-ebc511fe4e5e)
4 Why is it Like That? (#ufce812d9-ffe2-53bf-b4ff-692d5a2d65b3)
5 What is ‘the Oxygen of Publicity’? (#litres_trial_promo)
6 Remembered that Question Yet? (#litres_trial_promo)
7 What Sort of Pizza Topping Would You Be? (#litres_trial_promo)
8 Dizzee Who? (#litres_trial_promo)
9 What is Torschlusspanik? (#litres_trial_promo)
10 Would You Answer the Question? (#litres_trial_promo)
11 And? (#litres_trial_promo)
Picture Section (#litres_trial_promo)
Also by Jeremy Paxman (#litres_trial_promo)
About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo)
What do we know of our lives? I am certain my blood group is A Negative, because the nurse vaccinating me before some trip to a war zone sent a blood sample off for testing. I noticed that, in private, we all scrawled our blood group onto the back of our helmets, in case something awful happened. I know I passed my Eleven-Plus, took two attempts to get good enough marks at my Common Entrance exam, failed Maths and Latin O Levels at the first attempt, got pretty average A Levels, won an exhibition to Cambridge and got a 2:1 in my final exams. The mere facts which categorise you aren’t interesting. If only one could tell children that once you’ve finished your exams, no one cares much about how you did, or even asks to see your certificates. Instead we expect them to play the game we played.
When the time came for me to start work I applied for the obvious jobs, but without much enthusiasm. I was then astonishingly lucky. One of the irritating characteristics of life is that it can only be understood looking backwards, yet you must live it looking forwards. Though it didn’t really seem like that at the time, I now see that there was only one occupation suitable for someone who, like me, was driven by curiosity and loved words. For over forty years I have followed the same trade, whether in radio, television, newspapers or books.
As my own shelves show, the world has a surplus of books. Why perpetrate another? I have no great prescription to dispense. But it’s been fun, and along the way I met some interesting people and heard some terrific stories, which I might as well share before I forget them. I have no scores to settle, no unfinished business. I just did things that seemed interesting at the time. A collection of memoirs offers the chance to try to set the record straighter than it might be otherwise, and to laugh at the silliness of so much of life.