Simon Gray’s final, posthumously published volume of memoirs begins with him receiving the news he has so dreaded throughout the previous three volumes: he has terminal cancer.
But, despite the awful news, Coda is by no means a depressing book, continuing pretty much in the same vein as its three wonderful predecessors: The Smoking Diaries, The Year of the Jouncer, and The Last Cigarette.
In his characteristically rambling style, Gray is grouchy about complete strangers, angry at his doctors (especially those who try to pass off bad news as good), and resentful of people—and his old cat—who are, in all likelihood, going to outlive him (although this turned out not to be true in the case of the cat). As we would expect, Gray is marvellously funny about the awfulness of his predicament, albeit this final volume is inevitably more poignant than its predecessors.
If there’s any justice in this world, Gray’s final four volumes of memoirs will be remembered as classics. Either way, Gray got the final laugh, of sorts: the dreaded cancer didn’t get him in the end; he died of an aortic aneurysm on 6th August 2008.