Saturday 14 June 2014

Rod Liddle's Selfish Whining Monkeys

The changes in London since I lived there in the 1980s are not so enormous as I would expect - or perhaps I didn't see them. In Hatchard's, I bought Rod Liddle's new book 'Selfish Whining Monkeys' to see how someone my age saw things. I think Liddle is a writer of genius, but the book is very disappointing. I had no idea he could write badly. People who think him right-wing do not know him, of course, but his socialism is not the reason why the book fails. It is baggy and badly written, like sitting next to someone garrulous, foul-mouthed and pretty dull at a pub or, more likely, at a media party. It is sad because Liddle can write astonishingly well and does, week after week, in The Spectator.

It reminded me of what some reviewer said about Roger Scruton's book, 'England: an Elegy', another book I confidently expected to like but didn't, 
There is always a danger of confusing one's childhood with the universe.
In fact what interested me most about the book were not the politics or the modern social history but the reflections on being in your early fifties. 

In the book Rod Liddle carefully avoided the subject of immigration and race, on which his views raise eyebrows and hackles among some people, but this did not stop his book being the occasion for this wonderful interview where two very rational women try to sweep the floor with him and fail completely. 

The book also led to a character assassination review by a bad writer, Will Self, which also concentrated on opinions about race and immigration which are not in the book. The review in The Guardian was not insightful and not well-written but it garnered many eulogies for its literary skill on Twitter and this bemuses and depresses me. However, Rod Liddle had it coming to him by making heretical statements such as this article on the dangers of increasing numbers of Muslims in Europe.

The Guardian published this week an interview with Rod Liddle in which they asked him about all this. You can judge for yourself what you think. The interview elicited the following letter from a reader.
Is the non-bigoted Rod Liddle interviewed by Simon Hattenstone (Citizen Liddle, Weekend, 14 June) the same Rod Liddle who offered the following gems in the Sun's jingoistic supplement last week: "Obviously, the best thing about being English is not being French. Or Belgian. Can you imagine that? Waking up every morning to the realisation that you're Belgian? You'd go out of your mind." And: "Apparently, the Romanians are just as proud of being Romanian as we are of being English. I know, hard to imagine. But it's true."

Personally, I think Rod Liddle is a Good Thing, though I think he has written a rather bad book.

On the other hand the man from The Independent liked it.

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