Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Krugman scores a hit

Krugman on 9/11 and More About the 9/11 Anniversary.

Roy Edroso has a round-up of rightblogger responses. (Thanks to Flying Rodent.) There's an accompanying blogpost.

Really, I have so much to say on this, I find starting impossible, but if I can cut it down to one thing, I advise anyone who has ever considered claiming to be part of a "war on" anything and anyone else who thinks that belligerence is a solution to try sneaking up on a goose and saying "boo" before deciding whether they're really cut out for a life of conflict.

Update 2:20pm Jon Stewart goes one better.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked how Gawker called Krugman "conservative persona non grata". That's quite the sea change from normal conservative attitudes toward Paul Krugman.


9/13/2011 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

You've got to love Krugman - whatever his other faults, he says what he thinks, regardless of how much hysteria it'll cause.

I'll heartily recommend Roy Edroso's blog to anyone, by the way - a man who knows his internet nutters inside out and maintains both humour and sanity above and beyond the call of duty. Back in the day, when it seemed like the world was jam-packed with belligerent lunatics, Roy's blog was a welcome reminder that for such people, paranoid, angry wingnuttery is both their crime and their punishment.

9/13/2011 03:31:00 PM  
Blogger hardindr said...

A different take:


9/14/2011 05:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Larry said...

o/t and HP, so double apologies.

I haven't clicked over there for over a year, and I am actually shocked at the depths to which they have sunk in the mean time, as witnessed by the vitriol being piled on Peter Tatchell here. Astonishingly unpleasant and completely unwarranted.

9/14/2011 06:33:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Thanks. That's an interesting POV. I usually don't like mind-reading, but that's mind-reading of a specific individual.

I don't think it was Krugman's best column, but I think it needed said. Perhaps John Stewart said it better. But I think Krugman is largely right (as much as anyone can be) about 'the mood of the nation'.

This last decade has not been American's finest. Maybe all decades look low and dishonest in retrospect. I can't define what leadership is - other than I know it when I see it - and I'm not even sure it's a good thing. But Bush didn't offer any leadership before or after 9/11. He should be remembered as a weak and indolent President as well as a particularly stupid one. Those who rallied behind him should be ashamed.

Where's all this "Ra-ra-ra-America" nonsense got anyone? It's just promoted some borderline psychotics to TV slots so they can gripe about Birth Certificates (which have, in fact, been released) and buildings which are not at "Ground Zero" and are not mosques.
Anyway, whatever Krugman said, it would have enraged the easily enraged right. One of these days I'll try to set down my ramblings on why the right are so angry, but in the meantime, I'll just enjoy the way they perform to order.

9/14/2011 06:34:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Read some of that. Good for Peter Tatchell, IMO. He's standing up well.

9/14/2011 06:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Asteri said...

HP has basically sunk to sub zero levels. The commenting quality is on par with You Tube.

9/14/2011 08:29:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

That's exactly the sort of thing Hitler would have said.

9/14/2011 08:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Asteri said...

To be fair, Hitler has got it in for You Tube - for obvious reasons.

9/14/2011 09:59:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

And to be fair to HP (well, if we can be fair to Hitler...) there are a few people defending Tatchell, although a couple of the more obnoxious commenters are actually above the line contributors.

9/15/2011 08:47:00 AM  
Blogger levi9909 said...

a few people defending Tatchell? I just had a look and I couldn't find more than two but then I didn't look at all 412 comments.

9/16/2011 10:44:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Anyone see Nick in the Obs? He really went off the deep end again today. He is really cultivating that Manichean outlook to a tee. I think most rational people would probably look at Assange and say 'clearly a very odd bloke who keeps questionable company and may have some very strange beliefs. But on the other hand the leaking of the cables has brought some much needed transparency to the murky world of international affairs'. But to Nick he is all darkness. I am pretty sure that David Leigh, who really is a first rate investigative journalist, doesn't see it as being so clear cut.

9/18/2011 09:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

From memory, I thought he did make some more positive comments about the Wikileaks project - or at least conceded that a positive view was a reasonable initial position (without further information about Assange, Shamir etc).

9/19/2011 06:22:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

I believe he did Orwell again, hilariously.

You really don't get to be Orwell reincarnated simply by supporting the Iraq War, denouncing the rst of the kleft every week and quoting the old man wherever possible.

9/19/2011 06:43:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

nick's attacks on assange - entirely sourced from blogs, of course, with zero original research - are opportunism. originally he lived wiki leaks cos it was an 'ally vs libel' (incidentally am I the only one who finds it funny that 'libel reform campaigners' are now outraged at johann hari for what they consider, um, libellous comments?) but he's had it in for wiki leaks ever since its big Iraq and afghan leaks, because of 'danger' - but in reality it's the danger of journalists being useless in the days of instant online publication (and, unacknowledged, the danger of the bullshit, unverified propaganda nick was peddling back in the mid 00s bring exposed - possibly even his sources being exposed...)

9/19/2011 07:45:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Dumbed-down Orwell appropriation from an Engage thread:

And, btw, if she and her ilk wonder why George Orwell was so anti-Communist, she need read only “Homage to Catalonia”. I would be surprised if she has actually read either book.

9/19/2011 10:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Asteri said...

Got to gorp at the sheer obliviousness of the charge of 'half-educated condemnations.'

Oh Nick

9/19/2011 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

Ayup. That Orwell crack about people playing with fire who aren't aware that fire is hot might better be aimed at other, more obvious targets, I'd have thought. For example - people whose personal political epiphanies encourage them to cheer on decade-long wars that kill tens and tens of thousands of people.

Notice, by the way, that ISAF is currently heavily publicising the fact that it is killing hundreds of Afghan civilians every year, because the Taliban finally overtook them in the pointless slaughter stakes back in 2007-08, and they see some kind of propaganda coup in it.

And while we're at it, let's also note the total bodycount resulting from Wikileaks' despicable behaviour. Here it is... (drumroll) - Zero!

Honestly, that lad Nick. I don't think there's a single point in that column that wasn't previously posted on HP Sauce in far greater detail. Hell, I could do that with my eyes shut for a quarter of whatever price Nick is charging.

9/19/2011 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Rosie said...

Lazy lazy piece from Nick. HP covered the Assange/Shamir relationship about a year ago. All the other info in the piece has been covered by HP - in fact they should be denouncing Nick as a plagiarising Hari.

What Nick has done is read WikiLeaks by David Leigh and Luke Harding. It was published back in April. It's an easy, entertaining read, a kind of journalistic thriller.

What he did then is google Israel Shamir to find out what a horrible antisemite and totally dodgy character he is. If you google "Israel Shamir" "Julian Assange" you will find information about their association, including Assange's bizarre comparison of Shamir to Rushdie.

Knock that together with a little bit from James Ball, formerly of Wikileaks and you have an article.

I know as I wrote a piece myself about 6 months ago on the weird Mr Assange using the above methods (though James Ball wasn't around then). I don't claim to deal with breaking news. I don't think I garnished with Orwell either.

This is old well-used stuff. Nick really has been very idle.

9/19/2011 05:24:00 PM  
Anonymous bensix said...

I had to moan about the new Spectator piece on Le Carre. This seems a fitting home for post-Cohen catharsis...

English gentility prevents literary journalists from adding that we also know that he committed an act that was a kind of treachery himself, not only against a fellow writer in Britain, but against authors struggling against religious censorship in Iran and the principles of free speech, which had served him so well.

English gentility, eh? Hrm, well - here's another theory. It's totally irrelevant.

Today’s literary journalists do not talk about the attack on Rushdie – one of the most notorious incidents in the literary life of the 1990s – because they believe that respected writers must be decent people.

Except, of course, here, here, here, here, here et cetera. (My thanks to Mr Google.)

The thing I find incredibly annoying about certain columnists who might not be insulted by the label "decent" isn't really their politics - I enjoy reading people with far more unpleasant views but less obnoxious styles - so much as their attitude. They're always looking for a fight that no one has to have. (And I'm not talking about "liberal interventions" here.)

On the other hand, this...

Voltaire complained of the “infamous trade of vilifying one's colleagues” which “has made of literature an arena of gladiators."

...is very funny.

9/19/2011 11:49:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Anyway, is Nick still not doing the PhD letter?

9/20/2011 04:08:00 AM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

The Spectator piece is indeed splendid in its unintentional humour. It really is all there (with a bonus ignorant dig at decent "enemy" Günter Grass). The Voltaire quote seems to have been lifted from this page


reproducing the Rushdie/Le Carré/Hitchens letters in the Guardian. Le Carré actually comes across rather better than I thought he would. The (hypocritical, of course) Voltaire quotation, which seems to appear on the interwebs only in relation to this spat, reads in slightly fuller form:

"The infamous trade of vilifying one's colleagues to earn a little money should be left to cheap journalists... It is those wretches who have made of literature an arena of gladiators."

Nick has excised the reference to cheap journalists, of course.

9/20/2011 07:57:00 AM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

On Günter Grass, btw, it is worth clicking through what Nick says, to the Spiegel article he refers to, and onwards to the Haaretz interview with Grass.

9/20/2011 08:06:00 AM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

And further from Haaretz:


AFAICS, the decent animus against Grass is mainly based on Crabwalk, which they take as committing the cardinal crime of "moral equivalence". Having read the book, I can only say that that's an absurd judgement.

9/20/2011 08:14:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

On Nick v Le Carré, isn't this Nick v Brecht all over again?

9/20/2011 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Ooh, can we look forward to one of Oliver Kamm obits on Le Carre? "Just as Johann Hari hid behind the alias "David r from meth productions" former spook David Cornwell concealed himself in the pseudonym John Le Carre, and like Julian Assange, he was willing to give away the true facts about our security services to anyone prepared to hand over the price of a book. Etc."

Never forget the importance of timing in Ollie "Carrion" Kamm's feuds. Wait until they're dead, then stick the knife in.

9/20/2011 08:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice turn of phrase from Voltaire there, but the thought is a standard mid-eighteenth century trope, that--far from being a Habermasian world of the unforced consensus of the public sphere--the Enlightenment republic of letters was structurally analogous to Thomas Hobbes's state of nature, and therefore a war of all against all.

-- Couscous Kid.

9/20/2011 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

CK -- that's clearly true as regards the origin of Voltaire's thought. But gladiators do it for the entertainment of others, to the detriment of themselves. It's a trade one is better out of, no?

9/20/2011 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

Meanwhile another of Nick's projects bites the dust...


Just Journalism, the organisation set up three years ago to monitor media coverage of Israel, is closing down.
A brief statement announcing the closure on its website this afternoon told supporters: "Despite our extremely modest budget it has become increasingly difficult to financially sustain the operation in the current economic environment".
As well as daily online briefings, it published more detailed reports to expose "skewed" reporting of Israel.
Its advisory board includes MP Denis MacShane, political commentator Robin Shepherd, think-tank head Douglas Murray and the editor of Standpoint magazine Daniel Johnson.

9/20/2011 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Am I right in thinking none of those four are Jewish? Daniel Johnson is Paul Johnson's son, so presumably Catholic. What is it with self-appointed guardians of Israel?

9/20/2011 09:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, to be fair to Nick, he severed his ties with JJ almost three years ago.

--Couscous Kid.

9/20/2011 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

Chardonnay Chap, I don't want to go all Harry's Place on you, but so what?

9/20/2011 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Well the what includes that many of those they attack are Jewish -- and often Israeli. This smelling out anti-Israel bias goes rather further than non-crazy Israelis would.

So Gilad Atzmon is some kind of anti-Semite, and Douglas Murray is a defender of Jews from the likes of Atzmon. Something is just very wrong there.

I suspect an agenda is being pushed, and that agenda is not philo-Semitism, but simply Islamophobia. (Not a word I like, as it's used to defend Islam from criticism which is entirely deserved sometimes. But I don't trust Murray in his choice of enemies any more than I do in his selection of friends.)

Little of this is about Israel. It's a cover for attacks on the Guardian, the New York Times, the left and so on, with the largely undisprovable slur of being an anti-Semite.

9/20/2011 10:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

To be fair, Atzmon is some kind of anti-semite - he really does blame "the Jews", openly & with relish. (Specifically, he's the "twattish provocateur who can and should be ignored" kind of anti-semite.)

9/20/2011 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger levi9909 said...

I think islamophobia is certainly part of the agenda, maybe the main part, but there is also an agenda to essentialise Jews as zionists and restrict the Jewish identity to supporters of the State of Israel. Many Israel advocates appear to think that if they can silence Jewish critics of Israel it will be that much easier to accuse non-Jewish critics of Israel of antisemitism.

Of course, this essentialising of Jews as zionists dovetails with Atzmon's brand of antisemitism which holds that anyone identifying as a Jew who isn't devoutly religious like Neturei Karta, is actually a crypo-zionist. The defences I have seen by Atzmon against the charge of antisemitism is to say that a) there is no such thing as antisemitism and b) an antisemite is someone the Jews hate rather than the other way round.

Having said that, I agree with Phil that he is best ignored and he mostly is but zionists love him and they have so abused the term "antisemitism" a lot of people are genuinely confused by it.

9/20/2011 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

Specifically, he's the "twattish provocateur who can and should be ignored" kind of anti-semite.

Yeah I think the "provocateur" aspect of this should be emphasised. In the Jazz world he's always been known for this kind of thing. I suspect the key thing about Israel/Judaism, is that this got him noticed. Though to be fair, he is quite philo-arabic, and has always (as long as I've known of him) been very hostile to the IDF.

9/20/2011 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

Specifically, he's the "twattish provocateur who can and should be ignored" kind of anti-semite.

From what I've seen, he's a nutter first and foremost.

9/20/2011 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Le Carré's position on Rusdie appears to be that he knew what he was getting into and is not without some responsibility for getting into it, or something. I'm not sure if there's supposed to be an accusation of deliberate provocation, or whether he's suggesting that SR should have written the book differently or written a different book. That might come down to opinion about the motivation and merit of the book.

AFAICT, the only web-extant part of the extract of that 1989 unpublished letter publicised by Mark Lawson once the spat took off is:

"When the death sentence against Rushdie was first pronounced, I saluted his courage. As time went by and I had a chance to think, I realized that I had less and less sympathy with Rushdie's position."

And that JLC said the book shouldn't be published in Penguin ed. (shades of Lady Chatterly). Which seems a wrong 'un really, though it's hard not to look back on the events in the light of subsequent history and impute deliberate provocation to Rushdie and the rest, in the self-fulfilling kind of inflammatory stakes-raising we all know so well.

JLC's remarks about the Islamic world being only a few decades behind the West on this issue - as others (we leave aside the issue of barbaric penalties as the US spoils that one for the West) - is one worth making in the context of the 'clash of civilisations' incorrigibility thesis beloved of the misislamists, but I'm not sure what use JLC was making of the point.

His explanation in 97 after the A-S imputation spat blew up was:

I never joined his assailants. Nor did I take the easy path of proclaiming him to be a shining innocent. My position was that there is no law in life or nature that says great religions may be insulted with impunity.

Which sounds to me like a reasonable point so far as it goes, and to have been pounced on by the usual Decent method of insisting there is not enough blame left over for anyone else once the trrrists have had their share. (cf. also rioters/govt, Libyan rebel army v Gaddaffi, pissed arsehole v pusillanimous vindictive little shit in the outrageous St Andrew's 'hate crime' case ref'd by skidmarx's Engage link above, etc).

Rushdie's resurrection of those remarks (which may be incorrect or not, but certainly not clearly mental or vile) is a bit of whataboutery though. It is tenuously if at all relevant to the occasion of SR's comments, which was the Hitchensesque light-touch concern trollery about how faintly troubling the Tailor of Panama was because the tailor! was Jewish! Which means his being a fantasist and liar = Judas Trope.

Not only that, but since the book was basically Our Man in Havana, there's added Graham Greeney goodness - I'm sure I've recently encountered troubled concern about his attitudes somewhere too. He is a left-footer after all. If only the troubled reviewer Rush had known then that self-hating Pinter would play the Tailor's venal dad in the 2001 fillum version.

9/20/2011 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Oh yeah - in the JC, an otherwise workmanlike review of the new T,T,S,S film ends thus:

For most of the film it is possibly to forget that le Carré himself - who is listed as a producer - has become something of a crank. His recent novels and public statements manifest a bitter anti-Americanism and an obsessive dislike of Israel and its supposed influence on US foreign policy. He makes sophomoric statements about the evils of Western capitalism in the Third World. Arguably some Graham Greene-like prejudices about Jews are evident in novels like The Tailor of Panama.

However, the only trace of le Carré's late-career creepiness is the presence in the screenplay (by Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan) of snide anti-American notes that are not in the original novel, including a reference to the Americans torturing a would-be KGB defector.

9/20/2011 12:31:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Ah, Nick Cohen on literature. the gift that keeps on giving.

Today’s literary journalists do not talk about the attack on Rushdie – one of the most notorious incidents in the literary life of the 1990s – because they believe that respected writers must be decent people.

what evidence is this based on? well, we know the answer - the evidence solely consists of Nick Cohen's prejudices - but still...

English gentility prevents literary journalists from adding that we also know that he committed an act that was a kind of treachery himself, not only against a fellow writer in Britain, but against authors struggling against religious censorship in Iran and the principles of free speech, which had served him so well.

it's surely not 'English gentility' that prevents this but rather the fact that it's not very important at all in the grand scheme of things - it's the equivalent of a page-long tribute to Dickens failing to focus on his shabby treatment of Leigh Hunt in Bleak House.

what's even weirder is that this straw man argument is the only thing Nick's got to argue with, because his ultimate conclusion - that a writer's politics don't really matter lal that much - aligns him WITH the 'genteel literary journalists' he's just made up.

But there's a problem here too, which is that the reason Nick et al are so keen on Rushdie is not because of the quality of his writing - TSV is really not a very good novel at all - but it's because of, um, the political situation he found himself in and specifically because a lot of Nick's enemies didn't support Rushdie loudly enough.

On Just Journalism - will anyone, except HP Sauce whose pages it used to fill, be sad to see it go? Its 'media analysis' would shame a piece of GCSE coursework, and if it was too partisan for Nick Cohen... But I don't think its outlook was islamophobic per se, even if Dougie Murray is an outright antiMuslim bigot whose interest in matters middle eastern is based on his bigotry. Its outlook was always intensely supportive of the IDF and Israeli Govt (regardless of who was in power) - it was just a UK equivalent of 'honestreporting'.

9/20/2011 12:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- TSV is really not a very good novel at all

I agree that the whole is less than the sum of the parts, but some of the parts are really very good indeed.

-- Couscous Kid

9/20/2011 12:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That review of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in the Jewish Chronicle accusing Le Carre of "manifest[ing] a bitter anti-Americanism" seems like McCarthyite drivel. The reviewer, Jonathan Foreman, is the son of Carl Foreman, who had to flee America for the UK in the red scare - he was attacked by the House Un-American Activities Committee - Foreman senior wrote "High Noon" . Forman junior writes for Standpoint.
Ann On

9/20/2011 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

it's surely not 'English gentility' that prevents this but rather the fact that it's not very important at all in the grand scheme of things - it's the equivalent of a page-long tribute to Dickens failing to focus on his shabby treatment of Leigh Hunt in Bleak House

Well quite. I mean I know Le Carré was in the wrong re: Rushdie, and if I were Rushdie himself I'd hold a grudge all right (I do, in fact, harbour grudges from longer ago than that) but just because something that happened over twenty years ago doesn't get mentioned in reviews of the films of some chap's book, doesn't mean nobody knows or cares about it, it means that it happened over twenty years ago and you don't actually need to bring it up every time the chap is mentioned.

Except, of course, on what I recall was referred to in a previous comments thread as the "I shag one sheep" principle.

I read TSV. Didn't think it was all that, as we did not say at the time (and probably don't say any more). Might even have marked the point where I started losing interest in contemporary literature.

9/20/2011 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

The Satanic Verses - brilliant, attention-grabbing opening; looks like an interesting premise, gets hopelessly muddled and I can't remember what happened at the end. Beautiful prose at times, IIRC.

On the other hand, I can remember the entire plot of Midnight's Children 14 years after I read it, which may or may not say something about their relative merits.

9/20/2011 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

As one of the pieces Ben linked to either showed, JLC wasn't the only writer critical of Rushdie at the time. I'm not sure about this story that all booksellers were crying out to sell paperback copies of TSV. No doubt some were. I bought my hardback from a chap who was very keen to produce it from under the counter, but people did get killed for that book: mostly translators who didn't enjoy SR's security services protection. I largely think JLC was right. There wasn't that much of a demand for paperbacks: pb buyers like me had the bloody thing in hardback.

I don't know what SR knew. I think he was being naively provocative, and that's not to exculpate the nutters who burned the book. I also agree with JLC that literary merit is a poor excuse. We should defend bad books too, if we're defending books. We've stood by the right of SR to publish and Thatcher rightly defended him from nutters. That's point made and honour satisfied. After that, enough.

Unlike Justin, I think JLC won that exchange.

I'm grateful to John le Carré for refreshing all our memories about exactly how pompous an ass he can be. He claims not to have joined in the attack against me but also states that "there is no law in life or nature that says great religions may be insulted with impunity."

A cursory examination of this lofty formulation reveals that (1) it takes the philistine, reductionist, radical Islamist line that The Satanic Verses was no more than an "insult," and (2) it suggests that anyone who displeases philistine, reductionist, radical Islamist folk loses his right to live in safety.

Thankfully, noone could accuse our Salman of being even a teeny bit pompous. And he's mates with Bono!

9/20/2011 05:26:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I couldn't get into Midnight's Children. TSV was a dutiful effort, but no fun whatever.

You can be both a righteous victim and righteous dick. Rushdie manages to be both.

In short, I bought TSV to spite the book-burning headcases. Not because anything SR has ever said or done has made me like him. And this habit of his and the Decents' of picking over every slight in print and responding is tiresome. Jesus. Get a life. (As we used to say, and pace Justin, probably no longer do.)

BTW, is Michael Gove of the H'S'JS on topic? What do you all think? Fair discussion of party politics in private of FoI dodging slimy politician?

9/20/2011 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

If I remember right, you're about a quarter of the way into Midnight's Children before the principal character is born. I probably wouldn't have got into it myself if I hadn't had two hours plus a day of commuting to do at the time.

9/20/2011 05:45:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

If I remember right, you're about a quarter of the way into Midnight's Children before the principal character is born.

So what. In Moby Dick, the principal character turns up about twenty pages before the end.

9/20/2011 06:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

Chardonnay Chap - I was encouraged by your comment as I've never managed to finish a novel by SR. (I think I've begun three.) I've happily read various things which are legendarily long and/or unreadable - but just couldn't get on with SR at all.

Is there anything else people are ashamed of not having read/liked - or ashamed of *having* read/liked, for that matter?

9/20/2011 06:14:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Sarah, I have read (and enjoyed) SR's "Haroon [sp?] and the Sea of Stories" but that's for children and lacks SR's overblown prose. Other than that, SR and I don't get on.

Nick's argument, BTW, seems to be that Le Carre is a shit, but also a good writer, while it seems to me that JLC accused Rushdie of being a shit and a good writer. This doesn't seem like a particularly shitty thing to say; it's a perfectly common opinion about most famous and celebrated people.

I haven't even finished 'Moby Dick'. I never got near the arrival of the titular character. I always gave up at the "a whale is a fish" point. Silly perhaps, but when an author stops the plot to lecture the reader and is wrong -- that's going to happen.

9/20/2011 07:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Waterloo Sunset said...

or ashamed of *having* read/liked, for that matter?

I want to hate PJ O'Rourke, but I actually really enjoy reading his stuff. Even if I'm shaking my fist at the same time.

On the other hand, I still haven't read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

9/21/2011 04:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

Yes - when I tried to read the Rushdie novel about Orpheus (title escapes me) I found myself thinking that the prose had this strange, hysterical quality. Moby Dick - I abandoned that quite quickly too.

I can't think of anything I wish I hadn't read/liked - I enjoy plenty of lowbrow weriters, but I don't mind that fact. I'm trying to think if there's anything I've read which was politically distasteful but swept me along. But I can only think of being swept along in a utopian/left direction (Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, Ragged Trousered Philanthropists) - which doesn't bother me. Jack London's The Iron Heel was an interesting example of something which looked 'left' at first but started to feel fascistic - but I didn't get caught up in its rather odd narrative.

9/21/2011 06:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Ground Beneath Her Feet? Everyone I know who read that said it was terrible.

-- Couscous Kid

9/21/2011 08:02:00 AM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

moby dick is tremendous, you are all quite mad

9/21/2011 10:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Waterloo Sunset said...

Also, despite being a big scifi fan, I've just never been able to get into Perdido Street Station by China Miéville. It just seems really slow to me. I don't know whether that's specifically that book, or if it's him in general.

9/21/2011 12:43:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I've not enjoyed much Rushdie I've got to admit. He and his 80s chums are pretty much all busted flushes - Amis, Barnes (though his recent LRB Flaubert essay was good), McEwan, the list could go on; I've been singularly underwhelmed by almost everything I've read by them (Even Money, I think, is really very flawed). It's clear, too, that academia and lit journalism have also pretty much given up on them all - the only Rushdie likely to be on reading lists in Midnight's Children, the only Amis will be Money, etc etc. Nick's ideas of what literary journalists think don't really tally with any of the ones I know, and nor does his obsession with these has-beens sit with the general reception of their works in yer actual literary journals, as opposed to broadsheets.

It's interesting how committed most of the above are to secularism, enlightenment values etc, because the fact is that in years to come they're going to be packaged in literary history as embodying some of the worst excesses of their own dreaded Postmodernism.

In short, I bought TSV to spite the book-burning headcases. Not because anything SR has ever said or done has made me like him. And this habit of his and the Decents' of picking over every slight in print and responding is tiresome. Jesus. Get a life.

Indeed - and one could also direct that towards the millions of blog posts about how awful Johann Hari is for making a couple of 'libellous' wikipedia edits.

But on Rushdie - I think the Decent approach to him is similar to the 'buy it because it cvaused the fuss' - their approach seems to be 'TSV was the one that caused all the fuss THUS it must also be his most important and best work'. Andrew Anthony had a column saying exactly that - iirc berating Waterstones Piccadilly for not having more copies of TSV on the shelves. Rushdie, aside from a few godd essays, has always struck me as a pompous, arrogant dickhead as well.

If we're doing our 'no need to be a cunt about it' test, by the way, then I think Hitchens and Rushdie fail on that front, in that exchange - and JLC isn't too much better either. One thing I've never got about Hitchens is just how much of a dick he acts in print - there's so much needless cock-waving from him and his chums, which again I don't think history is going to treat all that kindly (as I think I've said before on here, all these people like Amis and Jacobson who claim to be 'feminists' are actually just misanthropes at best, and at worst seem to think that feminism simply means pointing out how silly men are, while still acting in a chauvinist, misogynist manner).

I'm kind of ashamed of having read 'One day' by David Nicholls, simply because I did read it all - it's such a terrible novel, but I did finish it. In my defence, it had been loudly praised by people I trusted at the time, and I didn't buy it but found it in a hotel when I'd read everything I'd brought on holiday.

9/21/2011 01:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

Of the 1983 Granta 20 best British novelists (which featured several of the authors people have mentioned) my personal favourite is Chrisopher Priest. He's got a new book out tomorrow.


I suppose he's a slightly contrarian choice for a favourite - but I do also very much like the crowd pleasing David Mitchell and Sarah Waters.

9/21/2011 04:57:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

for me, Ishiguro is miles ahead of most of the rest of the 1983 list (and most of the 1993 too - Ish is on both iirc). Though I've not read any Priest - if i had but world enough and time...

I really enjoyed David Mitchell's early stuff but he's lost his way, for me... and I find Waters patchy - The Night Watch is brilliant, but I've not enjoyed any of her other novels anywhere near as much.

9/21/2011 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

We've all lost our way, young man. We've all lost our way.

9/21/2011 07:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Indeed - and one could also direct that [get a life] towards the millions of blog posts about how awful Johann Hari is for making a couple of 'libellous' wikipedia edits.

You've got your "millions" and your "couple" the wrong way around.

As for "get a life"...you're the guy who forensically deconstructs every sentence ever typed by Nick Cohen, right?

I enjoy a Jeffrey Archer every now and again. He's the McDonalds of pop-lit. Sometimes you just want a burger.

And 'Engleby' was very good.

9/21/2011 10:59:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

But have you read Tony's PhD letter, Brownie? It's a breeze.

9/22/2011 05:46:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeesboard said...

yes it is weird just how silent Blairites are on his dealings with the Gadaffis, not least that letter.

You've got your "millions" and your "couple" the wrong way around.

not really - millions might be an overstatement, but the only two wiki edits which are even vaguely a problem are the Odone ones - which I've stil yet to see, despite looking into it quite far - and the Cohen 'alcohol' entry, which doesn't deserve to be on wiki but which isn't exactly libellous, given that his public pissedness is a matter of record, covered a fair few times by his own Private Eye.

As for "get a life"...you're the guy who forensically deconstructs every sentence ever typed by Nick Cohen, right?

oh yeh, granted i'm a keyboard warrior. But almost everyone commenting on the Hari business is the same - you run Harry's Place ffs - no 'forensic deconstruction of statements by people the website returns to repeatedly with little reason other than personal grudges' there, no sir. To reiterate for the nth time - these wiki edits do not matter at all. The people 'outraged' by them have been storing this 'outrage' up for years, and their mates are piling in in a depressingly oppportunist fashion. The journalistic ethics breaches are serious, if ultimately fairly minor - but the wiki stuff does not matter at all.

I enjoy a Jeffrey Archer every now and again. He's the McDonalds of pop-lit. Sometimes you just want a burger.

I'm in complete agreement with this if it's about cinema - am happy with shoddy romcoms and action films - but for some reason it's different with books. I think this is a problem with *me*...

9/22/2011 07:03:00 AM  
Blogger levi9909 said...

But have you read Tony's PhD letter, Brownie? It's a breeze.

Is this the opening shot of a will-you-condemnathon? I hope so.

9/22/2011 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

If I am "the guy who forensically deconstructs every sentence ever typed by Nick Cohen" I'm clearly slacking. So, no. But fair point, though I see posts on this site more as provocations to divergent open thread discussions than forensic anything these days.

I think a post on that Blair letter would be on topic. Nick had quite a go at the LSE (several commenters here were on his side there), although it seemed that they were only doing what the government wanted, and short of a blanket academic boycott on Libyan money or Libyan students, at least one institution would have taken the cash.

As regards Harry's Place, I can't tell if the following is unsubtle parody or genuine.

rabid anti americanism of the worst sort, singling out that fine nation for criticism when so many other places are much worse.
shame on mr ezra and mr hirchens.

I'll go for parody, but, as expected, many with working shift keys are making similar arguments.

9/22/2011 09:42:00 AM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

I hate to bring this up again but,

the man who wrote


'We need also to question the motives of the wider transparency movement. Anti-Americanism is one of its driving inspirations and helps explain its perfidies.'

also wrote


Why It Is Right To Be Anti-American
Nick Cohen
Published 14 January 2002

'There we have it. "Anti-Americanism" is a transparent slur that libels and subverts the best of American freedom. It's a propaganda insult that is as contaminated as "terrorist". Right-wingers in London and Washington use it shamelessly to suggest that those who are not happy with their abysmal status quo are the moral equivalents of blood-drenched murderers.'

And to think that some people still take him seriously. The saddest thing about Cohen these days is that he writes most of this nonsense when clearly sober.

ps I read Midnight's Children (bad) and Shame (worse) in India in 1987. They were so awful about contemporary India and Pakistan that I gave up on Rushdie. It is interesting that Rushdie has never been very popular or taken seriously in his native country and it was the aggressively secular Kushwant Singh who told Penguin India not to publish TSV.

For an Indian perspective on Rusdie's writing, this is a superb demolition job,


The Emperor's New Clothes. Salman Rushdie Has Written An Alarming New Kind Of Anti-literature, With Banal Obsessions And Empty Bombast, Pseudo-characters And Non-events
Pankaj Mishra
Published 09 April 1999

Wordver 'extermo'!

9/22/2011 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

The difference between the reactions to JLC and Hari and the limited analysis of Cohen (and some other bloke whose name I forget) here is pretty clear. One consists of heaping obloquy on people in repsonse to inconsequential remarks, while the other is indeed analysis which (a) has some wider salience since the object is commentary aimed at influencing opinion, and (b) is done in a proportionate and somewhat wry way and not treated as though it's the final battle between good and evil.

As Ch.Ch. points out, JLC's remarks are not very important at all in the grand scheme of things

Unless your grand scheme of things amounts to a lattice of gossip, opinion, posturing and verbiage.

I mean, he committed an act that was a kind of treachery himself?

'Committed an act', as in Sir Arthur S-G: The war? Dreadful business. I was very much against it.

Interviewer: I think we all were.

S-G: Well I wrote a letter.

Of course there are substantial speech acts going beyond pure self-expression or chat ('smearing' springs to mind). The currency of the Decents though is gossipy bickering over positions and allegiances and ritual condemnation, with functionally speaking a strange incuriosity and lack of concern about the consequences or lack of them in the wider world of flesh and blood (and in particular of the abrupt estrangement of the two).

So if Aaro (that was it, all comes back to me now) - or Dershowitz for that matter - takes advantage of nominal leftiness and wide reach to subtly cheer-lead for a prospective discretionary war as it unfolds, that's a serious business and merits discrediting and a fair bit of outrage. Failing to condemn someone or other, or even retaining some long-dormant and inert bit of rhetoric in some charter, on the other hand, not necessarily quite as significant. But to the Decents it's all about the symbols.

Which ironically echoes the primary way in which a bete noir of many of them, 'Theory', goes awry: treating absolutely everything as a text.

Perhaps some relationship with Decent antinomianism there. It's all about purity, the right gestures and postures, and given that, nothing else matters.

Books too readily embraced? Uris, Exodus, as a kid.

9/22/2011 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Correction: in the case of responses to Hari's wiki editing, the attempt to influence opinion, i.e. element (a), does have some relevance. The difference in that particular case rests more on (b), proportionality and prespective.

The schema was intended as one size fits all, covering the wider phenomena as well as just those two e.g.s

9/22/2011 12:21:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

I thought DeLillo's Underworld was massively overrated. The prologue is great but after that it's just dull. I wouldn't say I'm ashamed of not liking it but I do seem to be in a minority.

As SarahAB mentioned Sarah Waters I have to say that I just finished The Little Stranger and really enjoyed it.

9/22/2011 02:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

I haven't read it Andrew, but I don't think you should feel ashamed because you found it dull - I'm sure lots more people find lots more books dull than they generally own up to. My favourite recentish piece of Americana is Neil Gaiman's American Gods.

Although I agree with organic about Ishiguro I found The Unconsoled dull, for example, and stopped reading it. Christopher Priest (sorry, I'm rather evangelical about him!) is much better at doing that disorienting, uncanny thing.

I enjoyed The Little Stranger but not as much as Night Watch.

It's a bit sad that most of the writers I've recently developed an enthusiasm for are dead - Shirley Jackson and Sinclair Lewis, in particular.

Brownie's mention of Jeffrey Archer reminded me of distant school days (my friends read him though I didn't) and made me think that, although I'm not precisely ashamed of having read them, I'm not sure how wholesome it was to read, not just Flowers in the Attic, but all the sequels then available too.

9/22/2011 03:56:00 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

The Unconsoled is wonderful. I'm a huge Priest fan, but I always end up wondering how it's all supposed to fit together - I always think there's going to be some huge & elaborate multiple-paradox Dr Who-type plot that makes sense of everything, & there never is. I think what I love about The Unconsoled is that it tells you straight off that it's not going to make sense - it's not an elaborate game, it's just someone taking words for a walk.

9/22/2011 04:43:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I've liked the Chris Priest I've read, and I'm going to read more. Just can't get into Mieville. Tried, but remained utterly ungrabbed a few pages in.

Best novel I've read recently was The Slap though if I'd read the Amazon reviews, I may not have bothered. Then again, going by this one, I may have.

I bought this title for my wife. She insisted on finishing it even though she moaned about it from start to finish. It's full of foul language, and there's no story. I know because she kept on telling me.

I like that sort of thing, though. The Guardian is closer than most Amazon reviewers, although I think it's a far more liberal book, with many more liberal characters, than that write-up suggests. FWIW, I think the central characters of Hector and Aisha do represent liberals (but what the Guardian misses is that they're first generation liberals, whose parents don't share their educated and progressive ideas) and that Rosie and Gary aren't. Almost all the characters are kneejerk left-wing and hate Bush and Blair, Iraq, and Americans generally. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I think William Skidelsky has it all wrong.

I'll stop now.

9/22/2011 05:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah AB said...

Phil - perhaps I should give it another go - I loved 'Never Let Me Go'. About missing 'answers' in Priest - I've just been writing something where I try to identify some possible hidden punchlines - in particular I think there are various ways in which the novels link up and echo each other in uncanny ways. There are obvious doubling relationships in The Prestige - but I think the novel's modern narrator (Andrew?) is also the double of some of the characters in Priest's other novels (both earlier and later ones).

9/22/2011 06:14:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...


American Gods and Night Watch are both on my "to read" list, hopefully I'll get round to them soon.

The only Ishiguro I've tried is An Artist of the Floating World abd I couldn't get into it. That's one I do feel slightly ashamed of.

I'm currently reading Catherine O'Flynn's The News Where You Are, which is pretty good, although not quite as good as What Was Lost which I really loved.

9/23/2011 07:07:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I think a post on that Blair letter would be on topic. Nick had quite a go at the LSE (several commenters here were on his side there), although it seemed that they were only doing what the government wanted, and short of a blanket academic boycott on Libyan money or Libyan students, at least one institution would have taken the cash.

I'd volunteer one but I have a lot of horrible deadlines etc. But it strikes me as nonsensical that a University following Blair's lead, and govt policy, of looking for donations and specifically looking to our new chums in Libya, is then castigated for doing so by someone who has recently become such an enthusiastic fan of Blair's foreign policy. This is what's so weird about Blairites (and I tihnk we have to call Nick Cohen a Blairite now) - and I guess about Blair too - that they can just ignore any of the myriad unsavoury things Blair's done and said.

tim points us towards Pankaj Mishra - he's one of my favourite writers at the moment. always worth reading.

onto fiction. as sarah says, I'd urge everyone to read 'Never let Me Go'. It's a phenomenal novel.

recently I've liked the new ali smith and alan Hollinghurst - I can see why they didn't make the booker cut, mind you, as they're both very characteristic of their authors and arguably self-indulgent, which is fine if you're a fan as I am. Saying that, the booker list is really underwhelming this year.

9/23/2011 08:02:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

I can't claim credit for the Mishra ref - it was Coventrian.

BTW Aaro has cancelled his appearance at British Humanist Association's decent/bright jamboree on the topic of CTs. Also features one of the authors of that facile Demos CT paper that went down the Sunstein route of (otiosely) recommending the security services infiltrate CT sites.

(cf http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/blog_comments/counter_subversion_in_the_uk)

His replacement appears to be a strawman conspiracist: http://www.ianrcrane.co.uk/

Some of the quasi-mystical charismatic shite might be for show and for all I know he's capable of being sensible about things, but one is not optimistic.

9/23/2011 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

Only Glasgow Rangers fans call me a 'Tim'.

9/23/2011 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Forgot to say, A's cancellation is on ill-health grounds.

9/23/2011 03:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quite. We hope Aaro recovers soon.


9/23/2011 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

American Gods is great fun, but very silly indeed. Perfect book for a holiday, although I very nearly stopped reading instantly when I found out that the main character was called "Shadow". Fortunately, I persevered.

9/23/2011 04:49:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

And of course, all the best to Aaro. His "OMG it's 1914" piece from this week's TImes doesn't indicate a man in a cheery frame of mind, so I hope he's back on his old form sooner rather than later.

9/23/2011 04:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

Perdido Street Station is slow going and anybody wanting to try Mieville may be better off trying with either King Rat, his first novel (drum 'n bass meets mystical London underground) or more recent novels like The City & The City or Kraken.

PSS is Mieville at his most baroque and squelchy and not for everybody.

Christopher Priest is one of my favourite authors and his work on Black Panther as well as Quantum & Woody was some of the best the superhero genre saw in the nineties.

9/24/2011 09:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Bill said...

The Black Panther guy is a different Christopher Priest from the British novelist. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Priest_%28disambiguation%29

9/24/2011 11:00:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

You almost have to admire the sheer size of Nick's Chutzpah today.

To understand the effrontery of his candidacy, imagine that Britain was a republic – as we ought to be – and that Tony Blair was considering a bid to be head of state and supreme commander of the defence forces. A brief glance at the rolling news channels would tell him that he was bound to lose. The records of the fallen Gaddafi regime suggest that his administration sent suspects to Libya, who were then tortured. No man should be able to run for office with allegations like that hanging over him.

But the hacks that bayed for those same policies don't even need to proffer a retraction or an apology?

9/25/2011 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

pThanks bubby,

in case anyone has forgotten

'We have to deport terrorist suspects - whatever their fate'
Nick Cohen
The Observer, Sunday 5 November 2006


9/25/2011 10:44:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

One also wonders about the myriad instances of former terrorists being elected to positions of power in other countries - Israel, Libya now, etc etc...

it was just a shit article I thought. He can't help himself - if he'd stuck to it being about McGuinness's own actions he'd be on much surer footing - all the stuff about Gadaffi muddied the waters in a sort-of-interesting-but-not-actually-useful way.

9/26/2011 07:40:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

via gogle news:

Left-wing broadcaster and commentator Nick Cohen refused to shake hands the other day with Andreas Whittam Smith, churchly co-founder of The Independent.

Why so? My source – who attended the same luncheon – says: ‘Because Andreas was in charge of burying the scandal over the paper’s devious, in-house plagiarist, Johann Hari, sending him off to America for journalistic training instead of sacking him.

'Nick was one of those who had his Wikipedia entry falsified by Hari.’

I think this is fairly embarrassing for Cohen and rather undermines the idea that his objections to Hari are anything other than a personal grudge - what the hell does the Indie's co-founder have to do with Hari's wikipedia edits?

Found at:


9/27/2011 08:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

I think this is fairly embarrassing for Cohen and rather undermines the idea that his objections to Hari are anything other than a personal grudge - what the hell does the Indie's co-founder have to do with Hari's wikipedia edits?

The only thing that's "embarrassing" is your determination to continue to comment on a subject around which you have patently read so very little.

9/28/2011 12:21:00 AM  

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