Like nails on a blackboard

Okay, maybe not that bad. What am I talking about? The public library came through for me and sent me The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, which aside from being a very confusing and well, bad biography, has a wreck of an index.

The structure of the book is odd. Lewis goes backward and forward in time and relates Sellers’ film roles to aspects of his life, which is fine in theory, but makes for a very confusing book, particularly when the reader doesn’t know all that much about the subject of the biography. It also doesn’t help if the reader isn’t conversant with the entire Sellers oeuvre either.

But hey, I’m an intelligent, educated person. Heck, I’m a reference librarian. I’ll just check the index. Ha.

For instance, having just seen the HBO film, and being intrigued about the first Mrs. Sellers, I thought I’d see what I could locate about her. So I start with Sellers, Peter to see if there’s a convenient listing of mention of his marriages. Nothing. I do spot a Sellers, Elizabeth and about two page notations, which strikes me as odd because she was married to him for a good junk of time and was mother of two of his kids. Then I find a notation for her under her maiden name. Again one or two page notations–different pages mind you.

Finally after adopting the research technique of the desperate–paging through the book hoping to find what I’m looking for–I came across a few paragraphs. Lewis mentions the woman’s stage and married name. So I check the index once again.

She’s listed under four separate entries in the index.

I am reminded of Dulcie Mainwaring in No Fond Return of Love when she speaks of how a good index can make or mar a book.

Aside from the pitiful index? This is a lousy book. I detest biographers who let their personal bias sneak in. This guy? Hates his subject. What’s worse is that he’s made this an intensely personal biography. I’m sorry that the author’s idol had feet of clay, but why he found it necessary to attack him and call it fact, I’m not sure.

I should explain that I don’t really have a deep and abiding interest in Peter Sellers. I’ve seen a few of his films and thought him excellent, but I am by no means a fan. But if I wanted to read about Mr. Lewis, I would have looked for a biography of Mr. Lewis.


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