David Norris is often portrayed as a kind of Irish Political Marmite. Even within the Gay Community, there is a huge divide over whether or not he is the greatest thing to ever happen to the Civil Rights movement in this country, or a posh old idiot who should keep his mouth shut.
In A Kick Against The Pricks, Norris tells us that he often struggles with that question himself- but he does so in such a warm, honest and inherently humorous way, I don’t think there is a single person from either school of thought who wouldn’t enjoy reading this book.
In the first chapter, he states his family have been ‘coming down in the world since 1169 AD’, and it is phrases like this, and the kernels of truth behind them that make this book such an enjoyable read. Perhaps for a gay audience, the most interesting chapters are the ones which deal with his long love affair with Ezra Yitzhak, or his longstanding involvement in the gay rights movement in this country, but it is a testament to the incredible life that Norris has lived that in fact, these are not the only things worth reading about.
While chronicling his involvement in decriminalising homosexuality, and setting up the Hirschfield centre in Temple Bar, he is only as self-congratulating as he is self-deprecating. Norris presents the facts of how everything was done, both those that reflect favourably on himself and those who don’t. Anyone looking to read juicy gossip from the Gay Scene of the past will not find it in this book, if anything Norris is positively respectful, and as a result the information he is giving in these pages is even more interesting, and valuable to future generations.
Of course, the most hotly anticipated section of this book was always going to be his campaign for the presidency, and students of Irish Politics will no doubt gain immense pleasure from those pages. However, the book is so well written, and the story told with such sweetness and graciousness that for the most part, the reader will end up thinking that David Norris has gotten a very raw deal from the country he has devoted so much of his life to improving.
This same graciousness is on display the whole way through the book, and so when he writes a damning indictment on the state of print journalism in this country, it makes the reader sit up and take note of it. David Norris has been on the right side of so many important campaigns in his life, it’s hard to imagine him being entirely wrong about this one.
David Norris is not just a politician or Human Rights Activist; he is also a terrific writer and a great wit. You do not have to be interested in autobiographies, David Norris or even Irish Politics to enjoy reading this book. In fact, I found it very hard not to ingest the whole thing in a day.
Utterly heart-warming, David Norris’s Never Say Die attitude is incredibly engaging, and this is a book well worth picking up for anyone who has ever looked at the world and wondered ‘how can I change that?’ As a guidebook for starting a revolution, you could do a lot worse than read A Kick Against the Pricks.