We gave it a B-
The title of British rocker Jonathan King’s dippy-verging-on-incoherent 1965 chart-making pop tune about ”eyes full of sorrow never wet” and ”hands full of money all in debt” is used to sly advantage in Everyone’s Gone to the Moon. Philip Norman’s cheerfully rambling, preening roman a clef takes the measure of London journalism during the swinging late ’60s and finds it a time of cheery inventiveness, indulgence, and backstabbing.
Norman, who has written books about the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, styles himself as Louis Brennan, a bright young writer who lands himself a spot on the luxe magazine of the hallowed Sunday Dispatch (read: the London Sunday Times), working with his mentor, ”Mighty Jack” Shildrick (read: former Sunday Times editor Harold Evans, now editor in chief of the house that published this book). Louis loves the glamour and fizz of Brian Epstein-era London and the perks of the job — all that young music and fashion creativity pouring out, all those outrageously padded expense accounts unquestioningly reimbursed.
But Louis’ rising success is poached by the coyly scheming Fran Dyson, who begins her career as a secretary, delicately claws her way up the ranks, insinuates herself into a romance with Shildrick, and ends up destroying the boss’ marriage as well as landing the editorship of the Sunday magazine. (Shall we read Tina Brown — protege and now wife of Evans, and currently editor of The New Yorker — into this? As scheming politician Francis Urquhart in the TV series To Play the King might retort, ”You might very well say that; I couldn’t possibly comment.”)
It is, of course, just this fictionalized tattling that keeps us turning the pages, and when Norman is occupied with characters other than himself/Brennan, he’s in fine form. But too much self-congratulation (a publisher is clamoring for his novel; Marianne Faithfull confides in him) and too much workaday prose slow the pace of Moon to a stroll rather than a romp. Could it be that exposing the limits of the author’s style is Evans’ subtle revenge? See Urquhart quote above. B-