Liddle, Rod 1960–
Liddle, Rod 1960–
PERSONAL: Born 1960; married Rachel Royce (a journalist; divorced). Education: Attended London School of Economics.
ADDRESSES: Home—London, England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Doubleday, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
CAREER: Journalist, editor, and television broadcaster. British Broadcasting Corporation Radio, London, England, editor of Today program until 2002; Guardian, London, columnist; Spectator, London, associate editor. Front-bench researcher for British Labour Party.
Too Beautiful for You: Tales of Improper Behavior (short stories), Century (London, England), 2003, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Broadcaster, columnist, and author Rod Liddle is considered a controversial media figure in his native Britain. Liddle, whom a Publishers Weekly reviewer called "British media's most unrepentant bad boy," revealed details of his bitter divorce on-air, endured public attacks by Rachel Royce, his journalist ex-wife, and answered interview questions with little regard for the effects of his candor. Liddle's maverick approach paid off, however, when it led to a run as editor of a successful, once-stodgy British radio program. Andrew Billen, writing in New Statesman, observed that "the shaggy-haired, untidy-looking Liddle was the most creative and successful editor of BBC Radio 4's Today in years." His broadcasting career ended when he let too much political opinion slip into a regular column he wrote for the London Guardian and resigned from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to continue the column.
In his debut short story collection, Too Beautiful for You: Tales of Improper Behavior, Liddle turns to fiction with an irreverence similar to what he brought to his journalism. Liddle introduces a coterie of South London urbanites whose lives involve copious participation in that favorite topic of bad boys, sex. "Liddle doesn't leave the bedroom door ajar so much as fling it wide open," commented William Skidelsky in the New Statesman. "Nothing seems so squalid or disgusting that it must be excluded from his gaze." The stories include detailed descriptions of the sex act, the processes of sex, and the effects of sex. The end result, however, is not titillation; the sex Liddle describes "is often extremely embarrassing—both for the participants and for the reader," Skidelsky noted.
The stories' "interlocking plotlines are devised with a skilful eye for the absurd," Lloyd Evans remarked in the Spectator. In "What the Thunder Said," a man delights as much in the machinations of cheating on his wife as he does in the illicit assignations themselves. However, a train accident leaves evidence of his double life that he will not be able to explain to his spouse. A Kirkus Reviews critic called the story a "malicious piece of clockwork nastiness." The main character of "The Lost Honor of Engin Hassan," is an inept suicide bomber who becomes an anti-hero celebrity because of his incompetence at bombing. "The collision of militant Islam with western celebrity culture is a clever conceit and results in some penetrating insights," Skidelsky stated. In "Fucking Radu," the title character is a Romanian ne'er-do-well rescued from the streets by Emily. The two enter a desultory, almost mechanical relationship, swallowing a lot of drugs and having lackadaisical sex for no better purpose than to keep warm. Emily's laziness is matched only by her lassitude—she has a son only because she forgot to have an abortion. "In Liddle's amoral dystopia this explanation seems perfectly credible," Evans observed. "These are good stories in general, most of them definitely able to stand on their own," a Kirkus Reviews critic noted.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Broadcast, October 4, 2002, "Today Job Open as Liddle Jumps," p. 8.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2004, review of Too Beautiful for You: Tales of Improper Behavior, p. 885.
New Statesman, July 30, 2001, Michael Leapman, "The Man behind the Today Programme Looks like a Pop Star, Swears a Lot, and Believes in Mischief-Making," p. 18; February 3, 2003, Andrew Billen, "Adding a Liddle Humour," p. 47; October 20, 2003, William Skidelsky, "Let's Talk about Sex," review of Too Beautiful for You, p. 54; July 19, 2004, Amanda Platell, "Watching brief," p. 34.
Publishers Weekly, November 1, 2004, review of Too Beautiful for You, p. 42.
Spectator (London, England), October 5, 2002, Michael Vestey, "Error of Judgment," p. 54; September 27, 2003, Lloyd Evans, "Nowhere to Hide in Dystopia," review of Too Beautiful for You, p. 53.
Random House Web site, http://www.randomhouse.com/ (September 3, 2005), biography of Rod Liddle.