Thursday, July 02, 2009

Those dinner parties again

Gary Brecher aka The War Nerd, reviews a decent neocon thriller. It seems that the Islington dinner parties of Nick's imagination have their Manhattan counterparts:

And just in case you were in any doubt that they really are the forces of evil, there’s a long scene at a snooty Manhattan dinner party where the reader meets Johnson’s lefty boss, Josephine Parker von Hildebrand. Josephine is just about the evilest witch-queen since Snow White: “Josephine had practically every desirable personal characteristic, except wisdom and mercy.” Gee, that sounds like she actually isn’t a nice person at all! Well, this isn’t one of those subtle type novels. If it had a soundtrack, it’d be heavy on the Count Dracula organ notes every time Josephine appears. The scene at her snooty dinner party is maybe the worst in the novel. Basically, all the cool lefties at the party turn into rabid Jew-hating Nazis after their second glass of wine.

There's much more, of course.

63 Comments:

Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

This is an early and stern warning that anyone trying to pretend that linking to Taki's magazine constitutes an endorsement will be dealt with sternly. In particular, Phil D'Bap is pre-emptively encouraged not to bother with the line of thinking that connects TT's well-known and universally reviled anti-Semitism, the use of the word "neocon" in Brecher's review and anything to with us.

7/02/2009 08:37:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I never knew he had a magazine. The book looks really funny mind you. looking on google, a lot of the reviews say things like 'awful writing but very good morals' or something, which I think says it all.

The 'liberal dinner party as place where lefties say revealing things about the general state of anti-imperialist politics' is a staple in contemporary fiction - maybe fiction generally. You get it in Andrew O'Hagan's Be Near Me, On Beauty by Zadie Smith, Mother's Milk by St Aubyn, multiple times in the wretched Saturday by McEwan... I'd be very surprised if the new Martin Amis didn't have such a scene too.

I might have mentioned the book before on here, but Joseph O'Neill's Netherland has its decent-ish moments, but also contains a really well-done version of such a scene.

7/02/2009 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

I didn't know O'Hagan did that stuff.

7/02/2009 09:29:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

It's a set-piece in his last novel, Be Near Me. It's done better than most (the St Aubyn is particularly poor) but it's still pretty basic and is one of several attempts in that novel to 'make it relevant' (what with the novel being set in 2003 and all that) and also to show how misguided the central character - pro-Iraq war, former 1968 demonstrator - is. Proof that this stuff is hard to do even if your heart is fundamentally in the right place, as o'Hagan's is.

7/02/2009 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

"I'd be very surprised if the new Martin Amis didn't have such a scene too. "

Much as I loathe him (but still am fond of much of his early style) I don't reckon he'd stoop that low today, especially considering the battering Eagleton gave him.

7/02/2009 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

Given the nature of the issue, and what we know about scale-free networks and strange attractors, it's possible there are a couple of people somewhere in North London who are both gregarious and anti-semitic, and are entirely responsible for this trope.

I'm currently trying to work out if I know either of them, and if not, if it's possible to identify them and get them to knock it off, whether by education, the effective threat of force, or banishment from London.

Meanwhile, can we retire the Islington meme? I actually live there, and it's very noticeable that the specific borough does a lot of work in this manner of speaking; I presume the subtext is that if you live in the London Borough of Camden and hold dinner parties attended by columnists, you probably live in Hampstead and are therefore rich, or else you're Alistair Campbell (Estelle Road, NW5) and they don't want to piss you off. This being especially true when the meme was originally launched.

A typical Islingtonian, statistically, is probably a Caribbean or Irish working class sort...even if Upper St is admittedly permanently 1998.

7/02/2009 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Have I done the story about asking for pork scratchings in the Slug and Lettuce in Upper Street and being given Japanese rice crackers instead?

7/02/2009 11:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

There was a weirdly revealing story in the Graun, years ago, about when Tony Blair first moved to Islington; he looked out of his back window (in Up-And-Coming Nice Islington) at the tower blocks (Old Nasty Islington) and said to whoever was listening, "This is exactly what we've got to get rid of." Or words to that effect. Not "we've got to help those people", just "that lot's got to go". The weird part was that the Graun really didn't seem to think there was anything odd about that.

There's a really Hobbesian dynamic to the ASB/'Respect' agenda, I think - we give these people every chance to play by the rules, work hard and make a better life for themselves, and if we come back in a year's time and they're still poor and living on chips, well, sod 'em. Islington doesn't want their sort.

7/02/2009 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Damn those lefties! They sniggered at Rich Lowry's most beautiful moment, ever.

7/02/2009 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

Phil,
much as I like Blair bashing, I have a slightly different take. I think one of the main problems with Blair was his detached idealism. He may have genuinely thought that nobody should have to live in something so ugly (and some of the early New Labour rhetoric did seem to see old fashioned socialsim as somehow ugly and utilitarian), and that his better world would have no place for such things. As to what would happen to those people - well that was a mere detail, the thing was to have vision...

7/02/2009 12:20:00 PM  
Anonymous saucy jack said...

"it's possible there are a couple of people somewhere in North London who are both gregarious and anti-semitic"
and who nonetheless constantly invite the likes of Nick and Melanie Phillips to their dinner parties, and seem wholly unoffended by having their anti-American and anti-Jewish ravings meticulously chronicled by their guests (why said guests never turn down their invites is a mystery, though given what we know about Decent culinary tastes, if David T is at all typical, maybe it's not such a mystery).

7/02/2009 12:21:00 PM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

"the thing was to have vision"

this only just struck me but in a way weird blair's achievement seems to have been to re-establish the very worst of old-school local or municipal labour council corruption (as detailed in "our friends in the north"; as manifested in corner-cut highrise fall-low building projects like ronan point) at the national and indeed the international level (academies; PPIs; the remaking of iraq and eastern europe); i agree with cian -- the issue with blair is not a lack of idealism, it's a lack of the slightest grasp of and humility about where the corruption of ideals comes from

7/02/2009 12:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the self-hating anti-hero's based on drunken Aussie war correspondent Peter Arnett, is his villainous Euro liberal proprietor Josephine Parker von Hildebrand based, perchance, on Arianna Stassinopolous Huffington Puffington?

johnf

7/02/2009 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I totally agree with BLT. All of this comes from Blair's "I'm a pretty straight guy" thing. (See also the cover of Andrew Rawnsley's book, which had a cartoon of TB in a pulpit bearing the words "Trust me.") Blair thought that he meant well: therefore everything would be all right. There's something sociopathic about that. What was worse was that the Party let him get away with it. The whole point of politics in a mature democracy is not to trust people, but to scrutinise and evaluate their every action.

Of course, no Decent ever observes that in his religiosity and conviction, Blair was an anti-Enlightenment politician. (NB as regards the sanctity of the Enlightenment, I believe there is post-Enlightenment thought, which is critical of the flaws of the Enlightenment era, and which is worthwhile, and there is simple anti-Enlightenmentism, if you will, which tries to ignore everything sceptical and empiricist. Blair is among the worst of the second class.)

7/02/2009 12:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of Blair's idealism (turning Iraq into a democracy in a few months, using the US military as a tool for solving world poverty) is more like fantasy.

Guano

7/02/2009 12:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Cian - I don't think I disagree. The trouble with detached idealism is that politics is anything but detached. You have to have something in the mid-range between long-term vision and immediate action - to help you understand why your visions haven't been realised yet and what you may need to do differently - and Blair didn't have much to put in that gap apart from narcissism and self-righteousness. The appeal of the Respect agenda is that it turns the self-righteousness outwards - the reason why the New Labour vision keeps on not coming true is that people aren't nice enough. (Or, indeed, decent enough.)

7/02/2009 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

regarding Blair, Margaret Thatcher did say "we've got to do something about people in the inner cities", and did them but good.

Regarding Alex's hypothesis, I tentatively advance the hypothesis that Patient Zero here is actually Carol Gould, who is a) gregarious b) in the media industry c) a resident of NW3. She's also Jewish and American, and crucially extremely nasty, hostile and quick to take specifically ethnic offence (evidence; her blog - there is a particularly gorgeous post about how she just happened to remark that Madeleine McCann's parents clearly didn't love her as much as Jewish parents love their children, and do you know what? they turned on her, those awful liberals!).

I suspect this trope is similar in origin to Nick Griffin's belief that black people and socialists are obsessed with throwing eggs.

7/02/2009 01:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The whole point of politics in a mature democracy is not to trust people, but to scrutinise and evaluate their every action."

Quite, though I would say that trust comes from scrutiny and evaluation. What Blair seemed to want was blind faith and, to a large extent, that is what the party gave him. A mature democracy doesn't work on blind faith, it requires trust which is developed by proper deliberation of different courses of action, and scrutiny and evaluation of what is being done by government.

I agree that Blair was an anti-Enlightenment because he wantecd blind faith. I don't think that the Decents can see that, though, because for them the Enlightenment means modernity and technolgy, not deliberation and scrutiny.

Guano

7/02/2009 01:45:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

"There's something sociopathic about that. What was worse was that the Party let him get away with it. The whole point of politics in a mature democracy is not to trust people, but to scrutinise and evaluate their every action."

I'd replace the word sociopath with Kurt Vonnegut's description of Blair and Bush as "personable psychopaths"

Apart from that, the comment is on the money.

7/02/2009 01:48:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Gpold:

Her book Don't Tread on Me is about anti-Americanism in Britain and will be published by Social Affairs Unit in the UK

who also publish... Standpoint.

Weirdly, the book has been out since January and I've not sen any reviews. Surely Cohen should take it up? He knows the subject beter than most...

On Islington - I've never really understood the obsession with the place in Decency and elsewhere. Strikes me that people usually mean Hampstead when they use islington as shorthand.

I do find it weird how many Decents who profess to hate these places still live there, ie Cohen in Islington and Aaronovitch in Hampstead.

7/02/2009 01:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Don't tread on me" was of course once an inspiring, anti -imperialist slogan used by the American revolutionaries (accompanied by a picture of a snake on some early revolutionary flags). So sad but I guess inevitable it would be misused like this

7/02/2009 02:09:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Statistically, my newspaper database says 'Hampstead dinner party' has been seen 40 times since 2000 in the London press, 'Islington dinner party' 85 times and 'Notting Hill dinner party' 32 times. In the last 12m the same pattern holds, with IDP 6 times, HDP 3 times and NHDP 2 times. However HDP was the clear winner in 07/08 with 8 to IDP 4 and NHDP 6, whilst in 06/07 it was NHDP with 8 to IDP 7 and HDP 4.

[back to work]

7/02/2009 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Is this the sort of thing that will be cited by all those crypto-Nazis? If so, well bugger me, I'm an anti-Semite on 0 glasses of wine.

7/02/2009 02:33:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I think the idea is that amnesty is 'disproportionately critical of Israel' or some such, as has been proven by the 'empirical research' of pro-Israeli think tanks, ergo if you cite Amnesty reports you are teh nazi, or something.

7/02/2009 02:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

First four words:

"Israel committed war crimes"

Third paragraph:

"Its report also calls rocket attacks by Palestinian militants war crimes and accuses Hamas of endangering civilians."

Feel the anti-semitism!

(A fiver says someone will post this for real.)

7/02/2009 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

I do find it weird how many Decents who profess to hate these places still live there, ie Cohen in Islington and Aaronovitch in Hampstead.

This is because they are actually rather nice, and most of the people involved made a killing in property (twice - first time in the 80s, which meant their self-destalinisation, then again since 2001...hmm, is the timing signif?)

Statistically, my newspaper database says 'Hampstead dinner party' has been seen 40 times since 2000 in the London press, 'Islington dinner party' 85 times and 'Notting Hill dinner party' 32 times

"Notting Hill dinner party" is the Tory equivalent. Of course, the Islington meme was invented by Tories to pop at Labour for living there instead of some more authentic and gritty part of London, like Kensington & Chelsea, or Bromley.

7/02/2009 03:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's alsoa way of distinguishing themselves from the other Islingtonians. You know, those ones: the anti-semites who keep inviting us to dinner.

rioja kid

7/02/2009 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

(A fiver says someone will post this for real.)

Talking of fivers and places where such a thing could possibly occur, I'm off for a week at a chess tournament (possible occasional internet access but not much) so there's an amnesty in operation until Monday week...

7/02/2009 03:46:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Incidentally my understanding is that if a report criticises Israel more than the Palestinians it must ipso facto be anti-Semitic at one level or another.

7/02/2009 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Weirdly, the book has been out since January and I've not sen any reviews.

it says that, but the timing must have slipped. I have an Amazon alert set up to tell me the minute it becomes available for purchase (and I'm not the only reader who does).

7/02/2009 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

@EJH - If past form is anything to go by, it'll transpire that the Amnesty report isn't anti-semitic in itself, but that its one-sided criticisms will make it anti-semitic in effect, i.e. in that it will lead people to conclude that the IDF kills people for no apparent military purpose.

Milder criticisms will include the charge of rhetorical inflation, being that Amnesty should have instead referred to "accidental deaths" rather than implying that the IDF kills people for no good reason. This will raise questions over Amnesty's disproportionate criticism, which some people could take to imply that Amnesty has some whiffy institutional biases.

Further, I have a fiver here that says Professor Norm will eventually find some joker on the internet who will claim to have overheard an Amnesty official making some mildly incriminating comment, meaning that AI's report can be safely ignored. You heard it here first.

7/02/2009 04:07:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I do find it weird how many Decents who profess to hate these places still live there, ie Cohen in Islington and Aaronovitch in Hampstead.

Presumably this is the point? They actually do get invited to dinner parties and they actually do have rows about Mr Blair or Israel or what you will, likely after drink has been taken.

So in their social circle, perhaps these people do play a role rather more significant than they do considering their numerical weight as part of their wider world, or indeed their wider intellectual and political influence. I suppose it's easier to overestimate the importance of people you meet at dinner parties if you're used to living in a world of influential people.

But without denying either that some individuals have more influence than others, or that middle-class North London plays a social role out of proportion to the size of its population, the invocation of Islington dinner parties is still a lazy and meretricious way to go about one's business and it does say rather more about the life and perspective of the people who use it than of the people and views they're seeking to criticise.

7/02/2009 05:10:00 PM  
Blogger Gregor said...

I have no intentions to read that book soon, or ever for that matter. But I thought the Brit lapsed leftie type sounded more like Christopher Hitchens.

Or at least how Christopher Hitchens may seem to a literal minded person. E.g. Hitch will say 'I was in the same foxhole as Paul Wolfowitz', meaning 'I sat on my huge fat behind and wrote articles praising the Kosovo war whilst Wolfowitz did the same'. If someone didn't have a basic ability to filter bullshit (which to put it mildly, the Banquo's Ghost authors didn't have) they may see Hitchens as such.

7/02/2009 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

"the invocation of Islington dinner parties is still a lazy and meretricious way to go about one's business and it does say rather more about the life and perspective of the people who use it than of the people and views they're seeking to criticise."

Indeed, it's the last poker card of a scoundrel - from whatever side you eventually come down upon.

And not dissimilar to the rhetorical ideological meta-geographical attachment of an argument that ends up with "well you lot are from Islington you're bound to be...etc etc" used by either side.

7/02/2009 07:29:00 PM  
Anonymous magistra said...

I thought the protypical dinner party anti-semitism claim was the alleged remarks by the French ambassador at a dinner party to Conrad Black.

For an added bonus, the news story includes Ariel Sharon's spokesman saying he didn't know if the alleged remark had been made, but the French should apologise anyhow.

7/02/2009 08:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

organic cheeseboard:

The 'liberal dinner party as place where lefties say revealing things about the general state of anti-imperialist politics' is a staple in contemporary fiction

...and contemporary satire: maybe Nick keep confusing Rory Bremner sketches for fly-on-the-wall documentaries.

[redpesto]

7/02/2009 08:41:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

I think the point is that if Aaro and Nick actually read any fucking fiction or books that didn't just self-satisfy them, they may have not been drawn into a losing battle.

It's like the "leftie" or "rightie" who scans every article in a newspaper and finds something that identifies him or inversely identifies what he is not in order to fulfill their own version of the world.

It's a short cut to thinking about things and leads to the horrendous polarisation between Decency and un-Decency. (Obviously I know where I stand btw!!!)

7/02/2009 09:50:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

For the record, in June I went to a dinner party , of sorts, (personally I think it's dinner, unless there's something like named places or ..staff) in Northish London (Maida Vale) and a heated debate ensued, in which one person quoted us the charges at Nuremberg, and declared Tony Blair was guilty of all but one, and then another said that the Iraq war was a success because Gadaffi immediately gave in afterwards.

I almost emailed Aarowatch there and then.

7/02/2009 10:02:00 PM  
Anonymous John Fallhammer said...

Oh goodness, is that Carol Gould still around? I still haven't stopped laughing at An American in London from 2004.

7/03/2009 03:55:00 AM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

These events all sound very earnest. ISTR that the last time I went to someting resembling a dinner party the big topic of conversation was that kids TV isn't as good as it used to be. Mind you it was east rather than north London.

7/03/2009 07:06:00 AM  
Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

What's appalling about that Gould peice is not just that her evident delusional perception of her personal life is mirrored in her delusional attitude towards the US and Israel.

Now, unless the incidents that she describes are all made up (and I suspect that the bit where an old lady is being assualted on a bus while all the passengers and the driver laugh is total bullshit), Gould is omitting the part where she behaved like a wanker. I get in a fair few arguments, and I have never seen the kind of behaviour she describes. Every argument appears to end up with her being mobbed by crazies. She just can't understand why they would behave like this, I mean, she didn't do anything out of order, right?

At the level of the US and Israel, she is similarly blind. Dealing with anti-Israel sentiment in 1998, she suggests that it is inexplicable by reference to Israel's actions, as this was before the Intifada and the wall. Then, discussing pre-Bush anti-American sentiment, she simply cannot locate a pre-Gitmo, Pre-Iraq War reason why people might reasonably hold anti-American sentiment. She must live in a world where America hadn't spent the last quarter of the twentieth century helping turn much of South East Asia and Central America into slaughterhouses.

This is jaw dropping historical blindness. If she knows of these events, then it points towards Gould being someone who argues in bad faith. If she habitually does this, no wonder people quickly learn to hate her. If she doesn't know of these events, then she is simply a moron. Given she swans around pretending to be an intellectual, when people notice that she is a moron, no wonder they get angry. But, as she is a moron, we can discount the accuracy of her descriptions, especially the parts where she imputes motivations to her mob. A last option, of course, and this is ungenerous, is that she knows all about the Occupation, the treatment of Palestinians, the invasion of Lebanon, the Vietnam War, the bombing of Cambodia, the rampaging murdering and torture of Negroponte's death squads, and the rest. She knows all about this, and she doesn't have a problem with it. In which case, any decent person would join the mob when they heard her version of history.

7/03/2009 07:49:00 AM  
Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

Yes, I changed my mind about the first sentence half way through, so now it makes no sense. I daren't re-read the rest

7/03/2009 07:50:00 AM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

Talking of barking mad right wing pro-Israel types Mad Mel is berating Alan Dershowitz for being insufficiently forthright in speaking up for American Jews.

7/03/2009 08:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

"Sorry I bumped into you" is met with "You Americans, I hope you die! I hope you all die!" Delusional is the word - it's not so much that I don't think it happened, more that I don't think it could happen.

7/03/2009 08:49:00 AM  
Anonymous saucy jack said...

"Mind you it was east rather than north London."
I remember John Lanchester saying that it was quite refreshing to eavesdrop on conversations in north London restaurants, after coming from south London where the usual topic of discussion would be reminiscing about the time Wolf out of the Gladiators appeared on Jim'll Fix It. Maybe Nick would find more congenial company if he looked southwards...

7/03/2009 09:21:00 AM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

the last south-london conversation i had -- admittedly in a pub not a restaurant -- we were unlearnedly speculating on why the germans got called "the hun" and "the bosch" in WW1, and a nice gentleman at the next table leant apologetically over and cited the very speech kaiser bill gave that "hun" came from

surely this is not a mere outlier?

7/03/2009 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

I still haven't stopped laughing at An American in London from 2004.

My God, An American Werewolf In London was a more credible and authentic work of fiction. How did I miss that one?

And why is it that those possibly-allegorical American-hating Nazis always scream things in people's faces, rather than speaking normally? Perhaps it's a stylistic thing.

BTW, that bit where the racist, semi-psychotic clerk is "grinding his teeth and close to hitting" her... and then they continue to converse for another twenty minutes? She must have the patience of a saint and the courage of a lion, I say.

7/03/2009 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Further, I have a fiver here that says Professor Norm will eventually find some joker on the internet who will claim to have overheard an Amnesty official making some mildly incriminating comment, meaning that AI's report can be safely ignored. You heard it here first.

in fairness to Professor SadlyIamtoosnootytoaddresshimbyname, you are probably going to lose that fiver, FR - while NG does often stray into Israeli nationalism in the cause of Decency, he has always consistently and specifically condemned war crimes when committed in both Lebanon and Gaza (I only know this because I always check because it's a useful stick to beat DA with!)

7/03/2009 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

"BTW, that bit where the racist, semi-psychotic clerk is "grinding his teeth and close to hitting" her..."

Reminds me of Martin Amis' telepathy, where, in an essay on the terrible Mozzies, Amis knows from unspectacular facial expressions that the caretaker of a holy site wants to murder him and a his family. Amis doesn't really explore that he was arrogantly trying to blag his way in when the site was closed. Even as a rich (comparatively speaking), white westerner, I'm pretty disgusted when a rich, white westerner believes that the rules of poor brown people do not apply to them. Now, I don't want to murder Amis and his whole family (and I suspect that Amis would not use his telepathy to impute such a desire in my face or that of the warden of a British heritage site), but it serves Amis' prejudices to read hatred and fanaticism in every facial twitch and sneer. If Gould isn't making it all up, I can't help but believe that a similar process is at work here.

7/03/2009 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger FlyingRodent said...

...you are probably going to lose that fiver, FR

Actually, that's fair enough - I shouldn't say that Professor Norm is dishonest about war crimes etc., since he's generally okay on that stuff.

I meant this kind of thing...

http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2007/12/a-higher-standa.html

...In which he reproduces a rough summary of a statement which some-guy-with-a-website claims that the head of Human Rights Watch more-or-less said about a fairly complex question of international law, and then gets all tut-tut waggy-finger. That's more the kind of thing I'd expect - the kind of thing that casts doubt and raises serious questions.

7/03/2009 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Gregor said...

'BTW, that bit where the racist, semi-psychotic clerk is "grinding his teeth and close to hitting" her... and then they continue to converse for another twenty minutes? She must have the patience of a saint and the courage of a lion, I say'

More than that. She so kindly uses the circumlocutions 'my favorite tape duplicating shop'... 'the proprietor, whom I have known for some ten years.'

Yet she doesn't name and shame a Nazi who obviously loathes her. Or even drop a hint who it is. Such a bighearted lady.

'Israel is not a country. I just hear the word and I turn peuce.’

For a playwright she has a staggering anti-talent for writing dialogue. For some reason (probably because I'm a weirdo) I couldn't help imagining William Shatner saying 'I turn peuce'. But I don't think even he would deliver that line with a straight face.


‘ Just say Israel and I can’t be depended upon for the consequences of my actions, Carol.’

Did anyone else think that John rank and file Brit Bulldog has an oddly American diction? Or am I just reaching the conclusion because I've never come across anyone with those speech patterns? Even taking away the Israel/ America/ Jewish stuff:

'Just say Robbie Williams and I can't be responsible for my actions Carol'

'Richard Littlejohn is not a journalist. I just hear his name and I turn peuce.’

7/03/2009 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

I'm impressed by the ingenuity of the analysis. Rather than there being a Typhoid Mary of the pinot grigio circuit, steadily spreading anti-semitic rhetoric, I should have realised the importance of the back-scatter factor.

No, it's someone who goes around North London constantly complaining about imaginary anti-semites. It's an auto-immune disorder; like those e-mail anti-virus systems that used to send a "warning" to the address in the Reply-To field, until everyone realised that this was always false and that the AV system was a major source of spam itself.

Anyway, regarding Amis and the caretaker, surely killing the entire Amis family is the only way to be sure? Three generations is enough, as someone once said. Strangely, killing his entire family is a bit of an Amis trope; didn't he write a whole essay in the 1980s about nuclear war in which he *adumbrated* that he would have to kill them if he survived the first strike?

7/03/2009 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

For some reason (probably because I'm a weirdo) I couldn't help imagining William Shatner saying 'I turn peuce'. But I don't think even he would deliver that line with a straight face.

Shatner can't keep a straight face. He never even tried in Star Trek. That's why his cover of 'Common People' is so good.

Alex, I think you're right. Amis seems to have conveniently 'forgotten' that period of his writing. That was the beginning of his "I am a serious" phase - his decline in other words. In retrospect it looks like he was just looking for something 'really heavy, man' to write about. (Ditto Ian McEwan who has also forgotten his CND years.)

OTOH, I think Kingsley will be read in 50 years. I doubt Martin will.

7/03/2009 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Gregor said...

I used to read Martin Amis when I was 19/20; still have positive memories of Money/ Einstein’s Monsters/ London Fields. Don’t know how they’d stand up now. Given his recent work, I’d dread to think.

The Gould article also reminded me of a piece of crap by Hitchens portraying himself as an understated urbane chap surrounded by angry noisy foreigners. It’s like wingnuts with severe temperamental trouble write these articles accusing other people of having their faults as displacement therapy.

‘Shatner can't keep a straight face. He never even tried in Star Trek. That's why his cover of 'Common People' is so good.’

Shat definitely has a strong understated irony, but it is his deadpan delivery that really makes it.

‘Amis and the caretaker’

Sounds like an absurdist play.

7/03/2009 12:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of Mad Mel -- back a few comments --, the last 10 minutes of this week's BBC Radio 4 dinner party (The Moral Maze) are worth a listen, while you wash the dishes. First the snide Michael Buerk, then Claire Fox do their best to trip up Bruce Kent, and then Melanie Phillips takes over -- "to go back in time to Hitler -- if Hitler had had a nuclear bomb ...". Kent comes out of it with his morals intact. Reminds me of the occasion when George Monbiot made mincemeat of Fox and Phillips over global warming. These opinion-journalists don't do so well when there is someone to argue with them, live.

K

7/03/2009 01:44:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

Very true - when Mel's on Question Time she tones it down somewhat and comes across as relatively sane. Relatively being the operative word. Which reminds me, Jarvis Cocker was dreadful last night - he didn't have a coherent opinion about anything.

7/03/2009 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Re Jarvis Cocker: what! weren't there any questions about Jacko? That's not what I'd call a topical discussion programme.

7/03/2009 02:59:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

Actually yes - Jacko was mentioned at the end. Dimbleby asked Jarvis why he did the bum waggling thing, and he did manage to give a decent answer.

7/03/2009 03:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

No idea why they asked Jarvis - he was on Newsnight Review a while ago, and all he could say was "ooh, well, this wasn't my kind of thing really". Maybe they were hoping he'd say that that cunts are still running the world.

7/03/2009 03:50:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

I think Dinner Parties may be code for other journalists/columnists.

7/03/2009 08:52:00 PM  
Anonymous James said...

I <3 Brecher very hard. Fantastically sharp writer, check out his columns for exile.ru and http://exiledonline.com They're immensely compulsive: his is one of the few archives I read right through.

7/06/2009 05:04:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

A couple of things I meant to add at the weekend:

No idea why they asked Jarvis

I've no idea why anyone bothers with him any more. He seems to have lost the wit and always seems pretty uncomfortable when he's asked to be a pundit. Also his solo stuff hasn't been much cop at all - the grousing at the world doesn't really seem ironic any more.

Ian McEwan who has also forgotten his CND years

Well, he claims he hasn't. In fact he makes quite a big deal of having been a vocal supporter of CND back in the day, though this is at the expense of offering a, actual contemporary opinion on, say, Trident.

I think Kingsley will be read in 50 years. I doubt Martin will

Other than his first novel, Kingsley is barely read now at all (and that is usually read purely as a comic novel), and his stuff is taught on very few university courses (the main way an author stays read more generally). Like it or not, Martin probably will be, because the books lend themselves better to academic study and the 'movement' he was a part of is a lot more interesting - as an artistic phenomenon, as opposed to spawning some really funny letters.

His nuclear stuff was the first attempt at 'seriousness' but it does inform London Fields, which is still very good. So far this horrorism material hasn't really informed any good fiction.

In general, the current McEwan/Amis mindset seems to produce very poor art, because they're both obsessed with rational vs irrational and are only really concerned with praising the former. McEwan has claimed that his earlier, better fiction was the same, but if it was, it left sufficient room for the irrational stuff to breathe. Now we get dross like 'Saturday' in which everything appears to be set up as a 'dialogue' but it's clear who McEwan sympathises with. There is some extremely dodgy stuff in that novel, too, if you follow McEwan's logic through to its conclusions...

This is all symptomatic of a much wider literary phenomenon - that of ageing writers trying desperately to secure a 'legacy' based on the things they find important in old age. And it never works.

On Gould, and dinner parties more generally - I do find it odd, as a few up there have said, that in 'confronting fascism' Decents and their mates always seem to end up either chickening out of naming and shaming antisemites (despite otherwise loving whistleblowers - and as someone said just above, that might be explained by its being code for 'other journalists' I guess), and they all seem really willing to accept first-person, impressionistic, clearly dodgy accounts of antisemitism/anti-Americanism/etc as evidence - which rather flies in the face of a professed commitment to enlightenmnet and empiricism.

verification: 'scouser'!

7/06/2009 08:21:00 AM  
Blogger Gregor said...

'In general, the current McEwan/Amis mindset seems to produce very poor art, because they're both obsessed with rational vs irrational and are only really concerned with praising the former.'

Amis used to be an open mouthed follower of Vladimir Nabokov, and ironically his book 'The war Against cliche' is deeply derivative of Nabokov's ideas.

Whilst Nabokov the literary theorist is engaging, his novels do not live up to his ideals. Look at the Harlequins, King, Queen, Knave and many others are rather tepid and forced with tiddlywinks level wordgames (the narrator of Look at the Harlequins wrote a book called Camera Lucida... how mind bending is that?).

I was also a fan of Nabokov in my teens, but increasingly prefer his bugbear Dostoyevsky.

In my opinion The Possessed is probably the greatest (and most misunderstood) political novel.

It is notable that contrary to the common perception of it as a piece of Tsarist propaganda, not one character is a devout monarchist. To have a Dostoyevsky like character who is good and sensible would be bad art and tiresome. In fact practically all the characters are devious and/or wicked/ ignorant/insane. The ideas that they are inspired by seem to hover around their heads like flies or possess them like demons, neither fully part of them nor fully separate.

So Dostoyevsky makes a Christian/ Monarchist argument not through directly arguing for these ideals but through presenting fallen nature and the way in which people who rely on what they think of as 'scientific methods' are themselves making a subjective decision.

However, what most people miss is that The Possessed is also a very funny book that makes its points fairly lightly. It is perhaps Dostoyevsky's misfortune to be praised as a 'psychological' writer, when he is more akin to a surrealist. IMHO his influence is most directly seen in the painter Munch.

By contrast to Dostoyevsky's indirect arguments and intentionally bizarre characters, it is precisely because Saturday had a very 'decent' narrator that it was flawed. An authorial voicepiece never works.

So to get back to where I began, after writing some interesting books (which nonetheless suffered from purple prose and confusing trivia with profundity) Amis seemed to decide one day that he would be a philosophical writer.

This resulted in the decision to shock the world with news that Stalin wasn't very nice. And just in case that wasn't original enough, he had the Mel Brooks style idea of subtitling it 'laughter and the twenty million'.

Then after writing an opinion piece directly after 9/11 chiding the Americans for their treatment of Iraq, he probably noticed what voluminous praise his pal Hitchens was getting for shocking the world with the news that Osama Bin Laden isn't very nice and jumped on the bandwagon.

After that i lost track of Amis's career, though reading a few pages of House of Meetings and Yellow Dog hasn't convinced me that I'm missing anything.

7/06/2009 11:59:00 AM  

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