Sunday, January 14, 2007

Decency Will Eat Itself

Nick has at the Indy's books editor Boyd Tonkin today. I don't buy the Indy, but Ellis Sharp does, and you can find his assesments of Mr Tonkin here, here, here, here, and even here where he uses the same joke as Nick. Using the fine interpretative skills I polished reading the likes of Leavis and Empsom, I think I've gleaned that Ellis doesn't like him, but your view may differ.
However, this blog carries no brief for Mr Tonkin, but I'd like to make two observations for the defence. Nick asks

Don't literary editors read books anymore?

Literary editors have never read all the books they receive. They send them out to reviewers, and keep a few back for themselves. Second, Nick's bloody book isn't even out yet, which is a pretty good reason for not having read it.
Jeebus.
Update Monday 7:45 pm. This isn't really relevant, but I'm adding it anyway, as I think AW(INCW) readers will find this amusing. Very very thin excuse for this: Boyd Tonkin is the books editor of the Independent (see above) and Martin Amis meets whatever our criteria are this week for 'being a decent'. Also I found this via Ellis (again). I'm a little surprised that Harry's Place haven't found this and linked approvingly. Martin Amis: You Ask The Questions. My favourite (warning - strong language follows, not that I imagine that will deter any of you):

The phrase "horrorism", which you invented to describe 9/11, is unintentionally hilarious. Have you got any more? JONATHAN BROOKS, by email
Yes, I have. Here's a good one (though I can hardly claim it as my own): the phrase is "fuck off".

17 Comments:

Anonymous Simon said...

When you point out its betrayals, you are accused of betrayal yoruself. I expect a lot more in this vein.

I also expect a lot more on the theme of Nick Cohen as courageous underdog, battling the global liberal consensus conspiracy.

1/14/2007 02:06:00 PM  
Blogger Rob Jubb said...

"...can you see what he’s trying to do? On the one hand, there am I delivering a ’scathing’ critique of the Left, and on the other, there is the ‘brave’ figure of old Footie offering his long life as a rebuke and reply. Except that What’s Left? is a book suffused with the anti-totalitarian and internationalist values of the democratic Left, of which Michael Foot is a part."

So, Cohen accuses someone of attacking him by implicitly contrasting him with Michael Foot, and defends himself against this piece of skullduggery by claiming to have been on Foot's side all along. No actual evidence for this is adduced. Can you see what he's trying to do?

1/14/2007 04:10:00 PM  
Anonymous rioja kid said...

"The liberal consensus is now in a hysterical state".

Every less then ecstatic review of this bookis going to be put down to a secret conspiracy. This is going to be very funny.

1/14/2007 05:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I assume Nick uses the "guff of Tonkin" pun without realising/remembering it is a play on words relating to the phony "Gulf of Tonkin" resolutions - which were the lies about N. Vietnamese aggression giving the US its Congressional authority for the Vietnam War (a historical precendent for the lies behind the Iraq war)

1/15/2007 11:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As there is no mention on this blog of Dave or Nick tackling Bush's "surge" in Iraq, Blair's Plymouth speech or the US intervention in Somalia, I presume that our two heroes have remained silent on these (and other) momentous issues. A bit puzzling, don't you think? Some of those in favour of the intervention in Somalia were claiming that it was buzzing with islamofascists, yet Nick and Dave remain silent. Have Nick and Dave suddenly lost interest in the crusade against islamofascists, or lost their appetite for it?

1/15/2007 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Decentism gone mad, but I thought he was pretty funny in that - another good bit is the 'what job do you think you'd have if your father had not been a writer', and also the love for Hitch bit.

1/15/2007 08:08:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

In his review in the LRB Daniel Soar quotes Amis as saying:

I will never forget the look on the gatekeeper’s face, at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, when I suggested, perhaps rather airily, that he skip some calendric prohibition and let me in anyway. His expression, previously cordial and cold, became a mask; and the mask was saying that killing me, my wife and my children was something for which he now had warrant

I put it to the court that this is as perfect and pure an example of Orientalism as one could hope to find anywhere.

1/15/2007 08:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

That quote is from the 'Horrorism' essay in the Observer. It's basically one part Bernard Lewis to two parts Paul Berman.

With Amis and Ian McEwan (and Clive James, if he counts), there is a bit of a burgeoning 'literary decency' movement which might be worth the occasional Watch.

1/15/2007 08:38:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Clive James wrote a letter to the LRB a couple of years ago, attacking Zizek, which essentially said "if you do not say everything about Communism was bad then you are a support of the Gulag". I do not think I exaggerate.

I didn't know McEwan was in that camnp - is he? Rushdie probably is.

1/16/2007 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschetta Boy said...

McEwan is actually a little bit more sensible than the rest, though the Decents all love him because he poured a bucket of shit over the Stoppers in that novel. Rushdie is not so much Decent as purely and simply Islamophobic, although in his defence the Islamists did try to kill him. But the Lit-Decs don't have much of the domestic Decent agenda of Blairism, quietism, ID cards and the Birtist line on the media. They're more a case of cold war liberals repeating themselves as farce.

1/16/2007 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

"Support" in my post above should of course be "supporter".

I take the view that Rushdie can pretty much say and think what he wants without criticism, for the reasons you give. Amis, though, is really a thug these days. I'd like to take the credit for being just about the first to see this, in my attack on him (Something Slightly Amis) in When Saturday Comes in December 1991.

1/16/2007 01:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can anybody provide a source for Amis's claim that Hasan Nasrallah,"famously advised the West: "We don't want anything from you. We just want to eliminate you."?

1/16/2007 08:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Backword Dave said...

I think Matthew's right about the good bits. I don't think Clive James really counts (anyway, I've a great deal of time for Clive James - or used to have). I think McEwan is more sensible (that is, nuanced) that the rest, though I think Saturday was a bloody awful novel for lots of reasons besides the anti-war march stuff. (Examples: the silly description of the hero as a 'god'; the very boring squash game; the implausible son, the almost-as-implausible daughter, the wife-with-no-qualities-besides-good-wifeliness, the stereotype American, the stupid plot, the stupider denouement. I could go on.)
If I understand Ellis Sharp correctly, he's been arguing for a while that Boyd Tonkin is a paid-up Decent (or should that be shareholder?).
Anon, I put We just want to eliminate you into Google. Martin Amis came out third. The first two are head-scratchers as far as I'm concerned; the gods of Perl having gone mightily wrong there. I haven't found Nasrallah yet.

1/16/2007 11:31:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I searched all UK newspapers since 1991 under various spellings and combinations of words for that quote, and only Amis turns up. So we can at least conclude that it's not 'famous'.

1/17/2007 03:28:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I did some more research. Amis is definitely wrong on the source of the quote, if it was said at all it was a different leader (though who is not clear). The earliest reference I have found to the quote from a different leader is 2001.

http://www.matthewturner.co.uk/Blog/2007/01/martin-amis.html

1/18/2007 03:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

I like Clive James too, particularly his memoirs, but there's no doubt that when he turns to politics, he becomes Decent. Read e.g. his article on the Bali bombs.

1/20/2007 12:25:00 AM  
Blogger Ellis said...

I must hotly refute the suggestion that I still regularly buy the Independent. Yesterday was a rare exception, when I couldn't resist the free postcard of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. But not today. However I am certainly prepared to read any newspaper I find abandoned on a train - I always particularly enjoy the Daily Mail.

I'm not sure where Boyd Tonkin stands politically. In the soporific centre, I suspect.

The 'guff of Tonkin' joke I stole from Media Lens.

1/26/2007 10:32:00 PM  

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