Drawn Out is brilliant!
By Roger Childs
This is Tom Scott, the wider family, friends, colleagues, politicians and world movers and shakers – wrinkles, warts and all.
The man is a living legend: virtuoso journalist, cartoonist, playwright and entertainer.
The cover calls it A SERIOUSLY FUNNY MEMOIR and this is an apt description.
As expected, the pages are riddled with cartoons and humorous observations, but there is also plenty of perceptive, poignant, tragic and wonderfully descriptive writing.
Definitely five star stuff.
A tough childhood
To start at the beginning, my first memory is of being pink and naked.
Drawn Out logically starts with Tom’s Irish roots and his childhood growing up in the Manawatu, often in considerable poverty. He was a quick witted lad and a skilful illustrator from an earlier age, and this often provided hilarious entertainment for family, class mates and neighbours.
But not everyone was laughing, least of all his self-centred, and sometimes violent and drunk, father. Scott Senior never warmed to his talented son and called him Egghead throughout his life.
A few years ago, Tom wrote a play about his father called The Daylight Atheist which was a smash hit on both sides of the Tasman.
He was in the Himalayas with his close friend Edmund Hillary, when his father passed away. Uncannily, without any verification, he knew it had happened.
Back in New Zealand, his twin sister Sue was at the send off and wondered what people would say.
She was relieved and happy for our father that he’d had friends who loved him and who he loved in return. It was just a shame it didn’t include us.
Masterly perception and insights
When New Zealanders migrate to Australia, it raises the IQ of both countries. A Tom Scott original, which was claimed by Rob Muldoon
Tom tells his story in a highly entertaining 400 pages, and there is clearly room for a sequel. (Politically there is little on the Clark and Key years.)
Much of the interest lies in his often self-deprecating approach, and the reader get plenty of detail and stories on his life’s up and downs; triumphs and tragedies; mistakes and inspirations; times of joy and despair.
There are some wonderful accounts of his experiences and collaborations with people he had huge admiration for: funny men like John Clark, Murray Ball and A K Grant; and leaders like Norm Kirk, David Lange and Ed Hillary. He is fulsome in his praise of the people he respected, and is quick to acknowledge the help, inspiration and friendship they provided.
Equally so, he doesn’t spare the less talented people he came across and is withering in his well merited criticism of some of the arrogant, egotistical phonies who crossed his path in the media and politics.
Not surprisingly, his sparring with Rob Muldoon gets plenty of mileage, including detail on the India trip for the 1980 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, despite the PM not wanting him there.
From his experience as a long-time member of the parliamentary press gallery, the reader gets the inside story of what was going on in the corridors, rooms and wardrobes of power, sometimes in intimate detail.
An hilarious and contemplative observer
Humour is a prominent feature of Drawn Out and you will get plenty of laughs from his quick wit and wonderful turns of phrase.
However, there are also plenty of serious and highly perceptive reflections of the history he has passed through, and observed in his columns, cartoons, plays, films and documentaries.
His imagery and similes are creative, vivid and often shocking.
Pity the poor mothers of Lublin hanging out their babies nappies during the war. They would have had to watch out for wind shifts like America’s Cup tacticians less soot from other mothers and babies being incinerated suddenly swirl in their direction.
There are fascinating observations, for example, on Nazi Germany’s treatment of the Poles, the 1981 Springbok Tour, being with Hillary in Nepal when the great man nearly died, Muldoon’s snap election, and meeting African leaders Nelson Mandela and Julius Nyerere.
Book of the year
It was printed back in November, but currently ranks as my non-fiction work of the year.
Tom Scott has set the bar very high and it’s a big ask for any writer to match the fluency, perception, entertainment, illustrations, wit and wisdom of Drawn Out.
Very highly recommended.