Monday, 26 April 2010

Er, hang on a minute...

In Saturday's Guardian, I learnt that David Cameron's favourite book is Robert Graves' 'Goodbye to All That'. It's a relatively interesting choice for a politician as it's a book with a controversial point of view, not the usual unobjectionable chaff (conversely, his most admired living person was Nelson Mandela, as it was for all the other politicians interviewed in this Q&A, natch).

Later on in the same paper* I discovered that Cameron's guru (and many other people's charlatan) Phillip Blond blames our condition of 'rootless cultural relativism' and our 'pervading lack of daily joy' on, amongst other things, the disillusioned war memoirs of Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon.

I don't know whether to be disappointed by the evident lack of real intellectual engagement on Cameron's part or relieved that he isn't taking that seriously Blond's so-called Red Toryism, which when it isn't incoherent is mildly fascistic. I think I'll go for the latter.

* Not available online - I assume this is because it was a re-print of a Jonathan Raban piece for the London Review of Books.

UPDATE: A mysterious, masked reader comes to our aid with this link (I mistakenly thought that the LRB was behind a paywall). Thank you! Read it as it's a very effective takedown.


Anonymous said...

worm said...

bah. I used to like that book.

Not sure which is more anti-intellectual these days, labour's envious class hatred of elitism, or notting hill conservatism's dumb poshness and fear of appearing elitist.

must get that hut in the woods built

zmkc said...

Have you seen Harry Enfield as Nelson Mandela?

Gaw said...

Anon: Thanks!

Worm: GTAT is a book I feel a lot of affection for. However, I haven't read it since I was young and wonder whether I'd still enjoy it as much. Not sure where my copy is...

Watch out for the planners.

zmkc: I haven't but I'd like to.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Thanks, Jonathan Raban: excrutiating prose from this Blond fellow - as if the title "Red Tory: How Left and Right Have Broken Britain and How We Can Fix it" wasn't enough in itself to make one think twice.

Unlike Britain, the part of the world where I live has entirely and blissfully forgotten what happened in WW1, but then, also unlike in Britain, they tend to forget orphans when they put them into orphanages.

Barendina Smedley said...

First thought: I haven't read 'Goodbye To All That' since I was in my teens. Second thought: I bet Dave hasn't, either. Because it's that kind of book, isn't it? One reads it, aged 15 or so, very much enjoying the sensation of being extremely mature, clear-eyed, illusionless.

Later, of course, one reads biographies of Graves and realises he was a bit of a nutter in no way improved by his relationship with the considerably nuttier Laura Riding, hence the protracted adolescence - or one reads Sasson's 'Memoirs of an Infantry Officer' and reflects on the contrast between the two books, which does Graves few kindnesses.

Except, of course, if one is David Cameron. Perhaps 'Goodbye To All That' is simply one of the very few books that he can remember reading?

As for Blond, though, that's a cracker of a Graundiad / LRB piece - so glad you pointed it out. I'd be more worried about Blond's impact on Cameroon philosophy if I believed that the Cameroons actually had a philosophy. As it is, they seem to have short-term tactics, which change almost hourly, and nothing else. So even if Blond has somehow coaxed Steve Hilton into appointing him pet philosopher to the Cameroon court, it might be going a bit far to assume that anyone in Cameroon land has actually read his book, let alone understood it.

Which is perhaps just as well, since of course you're right - although the nice word for Blond's stuff would perhaps be 'corporatist', actually it's a bit more like the intellectual basis [sic] of Mussolini, but without the popular stuff, e.g. the sort of thing that's likely to win elections.

Gaw said...

Bunny: That sounds so true about GTAT. I must re-read it to confirm. And Sassoon's MOAIO is very good (though I couldn't finish the fox-hunting counterpart). And have you read the Pat Barker trilogy as that's good too?

I liked the way Raban described Hilton plucking Blond from obscurity - as if he was muttering 'er, yes, I suppose you'll have to do' under his breath. And I thought things couldn't get more intellectually shallow than Giddens and his Third Way (another fascist, sorry corporatist, trope incidentally).