STOP PRESS: It is now available here from Langham Literature, and will be on all usual distributors soon. It came as a complete surprise to him, thankfully. But under the guise of a Langham supporters' evening, a number of us…
I wouldn't call it panic or even alarm, exactly. But we could call it mild perturbation. Nearly a fortnight ago, I finally departed the life known as Facebook. I gave a week's warning of this revolution, and it provoked quite the…
I saw this on twitter the other day (@TheWorkshyFop). One of those laugh out loud moments. Comes from the book Watling Street, which I've not read, and this part reflects on the Anglo-Saxon resistance to the Norman conquest. I remember…
There are loads of advice lists from writers out there. But I think I can safely claim to be a writer now. And bizarrely enough, folks do actually ask me for writing advice. So why not add to the plethora…
It wasn’t a plan particularly, but then that’s part of the joy of books – I never have a plan for what I’m going to sink my teeth into next. It is usually just a matter of wanting something different from the one before.
But a couple of books recently have done that self-referential thing: they’re books about books (a bit like U2’s recent self-referential album, I suppose). And it got me thinking about the other books I’ve loved that have done this. (more…)
It’s Friday, and so that would normally call for some Friday fun. Well, this post more or less qualifiesasa bit of fun, but it’s also a bit of seriousness too. So I’ll let it stand on its own merits. Here is a very helpful and salutary public health warning from the great nineteenth century social reformer and polemicist William Cobbett. It has much to teach us. As I’m sure you’ll agree… (more…)
I’m trying to understand power – what it means, how it’s wielded, how it affects us. Big topic. But I’m increasingly convinced that we can’t understand the culture of suspicion without grasping the power of power (and itsabuses).
This has drawn meto someone who has been a bit of a hero, but whose writings I’d only dipped into. Reading Václav Havel‘s masterly and vital 1978 essay The Power of the Powerless has blown me away. Written in the dark days of Czechoslovak communism (only 10 years after the false dawn of the Prague Spring), it is a profound analysis of what it was like to live under a regime built entirely on lies. The only response, the only subversion of the regime, therefore, is to live in truth. (more…)
It has its gainsayers (eg Steven Poole is pretty disparaging, though unfairly in my view) but George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language (the whole essay is online), is prophetic. Of course some of his linguistic concerns are matters of taste and fashion (as Steven Poole rightly notes). But written at the close of the Second World War, this article exposes the sham sincerity and dissembling motivation behind so much political speech and writing. That is the essay’s great virtue. And it has not gone out of date at all. (more…)
Not quite sure what got me hooked on this New Yorker article (sadly the full article is behind a paywall), but I was gripped. Using linguistics to help solve crimes seems pretty counter-intuitive – but the Unabomber was caught by analysing his manifesto – as was Joyce Meyer security chief Chris Coleman who was found guilty of killing his family. (more…)
John Smith MP was one of those tragic political should-have-beens. But while Leader of the Opposition riding on Labour’s 23% point lead over the Tories in 1994 and widely assumed to be Prime Minister in waiting, he died 18 years ago tomorrow from a pair of massive heart attacks. He was only 55. For those concerned with public life, it was one of those remember-what-you-were-doing-moments. But the reason for picking up on it here is that I was blown away at the time, and recalled in conversation lastweek, the piece written by the great Matthew Parris, at the time The Times’ Parliamentary Sketch-writer and oft-quoted by Q. (more…)