Sunday, 15 November 2009

Something about the set of the lips

Good lord, where to begin? What a lazy set of non-sequiturs, ideologically-inspired, overblown clichés, and humourlessly and effortfully didactic patches of philistinism, all culminating in a redundant circularity the whiffling of which sounds like nothing so much as butterflies being broken on wheels.

A spectral '[will this do?]' sits apologetically at the end. And I thought blogging could err into the slapdash and knee-jerk. This is a whole manual of contortions worse. Anyway, enjoy.

There's also something about the set of this chap's lips. Reminds me of someone.

17 comments:

Gadjo Dilo said...

Tristram Hunt - by the set of the jaw I thought he was going to be a rugby player - should I know who he is?

Gaw said...

He's an historian and Labour supporter who does some journalism. He wrote a good and readable book on the Victorian city and the main reason the piece annoyed me is that he can do better than this puerile sort of hackery.

Recusant said...

"he can do better than this puerile sort of hackery."

Maybe, Gaw, but I had always had him down as a puerile hack. He is a man with an essentially adolescent mind who was offered a public platform on the Beeb and the Guardian too early for him to develop any maturity.

Gaw said...

Maybe, Recu. But nevertheless the book of his I read was good. There was an agenda there, certainly, but it didn't intrude overmuch.

Nige said...

Dear God - I always had him down as a wrong 'un - now I know just how wrong...

worm said...

good grief. Just goes to show what happens if you hang around in your London media clique for too long.

malty said...

Think you linked to the wrong photie Gaw, that's AA Gill surely, now what a fine writer he turned out not to be.
Wot a job, sitting watching the telly, same programmes that we view, then tells us about it.

Brit said...

Of course not, Malty. Gill, as we all know, is the great slayer of Tristrams.

Gaw said...

...and coiner of cockney rhyming slang. What a Tristram.

Bunny Smedley said...

If I'd sent a child to Eton who later wrote 'different to', I'd probably seek legal advice.

Just to something approaching an interest, Tristram Hunt and I met at university, an experience which at least helped me understand why his success has been so rapid and spectacular - being charming, diplomatic, reasonably clever and extremely attractive (apparently) may well turn out to be an advantage, at least in some circles.

The Grauniad piece is full of nonsense, though - e.g., surely what most people remember about 1997 is less 'the UK as part of a modern, social-democratic Europe no longer solely defined by empire and royalty' than tens of thousands of our fellow countrymen seemingly demented with grief at the death of Diana, Princess of Wales - a public tragedy from which the concerns of social democracy, empire and royalty were not entirely absent?

Tristram's book about the Victorians wasn't bad, but then his book about the Civil War wasn't particularly good. It take a very great, possibly also a very mature historian to flit across centuries and methods of enquiry so casually.

All of which is why, although I do actually quite like the man, I think Recusant makes the relevant point about him - the fruits of the looks, the charm, the sedulously-exploited connections and so forth have, in effect, derailed another sort of career that might, in the end, have produced more of lasting value.

My main reason for never being too nasty about Tristram Hunt, though, reposes in my desire to ensure that whatever else happens, I never appear to be the tiniest bit jealous of his success ... ahem.

Gaw said...

Bunny, I'm not sure we can ascribe his problems to early success. Why has it afflicted him so much but not some others? Andrew Roberts and Simon Sebag Montefiore (incidentally, a couple of years ahead of me at college but I'm fine with it, really, no really) have produced good work despite early-ish success (we'll pass over Alain de Botton, who was a couple below).

I suspect it's more down to him being a party hack. I think this can be quite corrupting for an intellectual, but more the hackery than the politics.

Bunny Smedley said...

If we're condemning people as party hacks, I'd say that Andrew Roberts' attachment to a certain strand of US Republican Party thinking has probably done his history-writing as much harm as Hunt's gold-card membership of what was once known as the FoP (i.e. Friends of Peter, as in Mandelson). Segbag Montefiore, on the other hand, seems to have steered clear of politics, as well as hackery, and to have emerged largely undamaged. So perhaps you've identified the source of the problem after all ...

By the way, if we're sharing 'varsity memories, whatever happened to that arch-Tristram himself, Toby Young? I admit to having rather enjoyed 'Modern Review', a collaborative blog before its time, but after that, Toby's career seems to have consisted of hanging out with people more famous and good-looking than he is, being nasty about them, and then wondering why he isn't more popular - all of it for money. Might this have been a case where the political bug - against which Young was possibly innoculated in childhood, given his father's job, whereas Hunt the Elder was, I think, an apolitical career diplomat - would actually have helped, rather than hindered?

Gadjo Dilo said...

My own brain must be severely dumbed down as at first reading the piece he wrote didn't offend me perticularly, but now I see it: "If I'd sent a child to Eton who later wrote 'different to', I'd probably seek legal advice" ;-)

Gaw said...

Yes, I sometimes have trouble reconciling TV and journalism's Andrew Roberts with the Dr Andrew Roberts, who actually is still writing some excellent books. I read Masters and Commanders in the summer, which is superb - he's a master at digging out primary sources and organising them into a fluent narrative. Lord knows why he was paying court to Bush.

What's a bit amusing about Sebag's current status as respectable old historian is that he was an awful hack (journalism only) and something of a playboy in his younger days.

Toby Young's still around, writing restaurant and film reviews and a column for The Spectator. He's got a website:http://www.nosacredcows.co.uk/. He also wrote that recent Boris/Dave documentary.

I did think his How to Lose Friends and Alienate People was terrifically funny and I can't help thinking he's a good thing. He's a sort of Gonzo jester.

And now I'm not sure where all the above leaves my theory!

Gadjo: Perhaps in Romania you've been happily untouched by the New Labour Year Zero nonsense. It's probably just as well as Romanians might recognise it as a weak echo of something a lot more unpleasant.

Bunny Smedley said...

There's a paradoxical point to make about the journalistic end of hackery, though, which is that even at its sillier extremes, there must be some pressure to write in a way that encourages reading. So maybe the hackery without the politics was actually beneficial to Sebag? Anyway, while I probably wouldn't nominate 'King's Parade' as one of the greater novels of, err, the relevant month in 1992, it was, at least, hilariously accurate as an account of Cambridge at the time ... and who knows, perhaps that experience set him up for accurate evocation of social networks in e.g. 'The Court of Stalin'? Odder things have happened ....

Gaw said...

I'm sure you're right that hackery can help on more serious writing. You've got me laughing though about your Kings Parade to Court of the Red Tsar point. But, as you say, a connection not to be discounted!

I never knew Sebag - he was in the third year when I was in the first. What he's done is very impressive - not least in its seriousness given his reputation as a student!

Bunny Smedley said...

If there's one thing more encouraging than late-blooming historians, it's late-blooming non-academic historians. There's hope for us all ...