Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Return to Gove County, Kansas

As soon as the Cameron advance on power stumbles, or the Notting Hill omnibus opens the succession, one of those golden political opportunities should fall properly into the lap of the more-deserving Michael Gove.

Cameron, perhaps recognising his own limits, has the sense to employ a puppetmaster to pull his strings (now shuffling off to California, to tug those strings at a greater distance). Gove, who performs largely unsuspended, has added ingredient X: sensibility -- most of the time.

Goves' lighter side (as evidenced in the revamped Times Notebook yesterday) was a trip down journo-nostagia lane. In passing, Malcolm noticed that so much effort had been expended buffing up the print edition that odd things happened to the on-line site (as with the headline to Goves' piece).

On one level, Goves' effort was a Venture Out (Maricopa County, Arizona) into the reliable Wilderness of Sin (Exodus, 16.2) that involves odd English place-names. For example:
Corbetting (v) - constantly delaying getting to the point in the hope that you can buy time and sympathy with digressions - apart, here goes with some more.

Bourton-on-the-Water (n): That feeling you have after imbibing something between 15 and 20 units of alcohol when you realise you haven't drunk any of the Badoit on the table, you have to go to bed imminently and your bladder won't now allow you to absorb any liquid that could provide hydration.

Moreton-in-the-Marsh (n): That feeling which hits you in your stomach, about five hours after you've been through Bourton-on-the-Water, when you know your system needs purging ...
This is all good Monday-morning stuff: the kind of head-clearing -- Corbetting, indeed -- required before the brute-force-and-ignorance of a party political sally (which, inevitably, comes next).

It is not, in itself, original. The late, great Douglas Adams exploited it at book-length in The Meaning of Liff, as with:
Plymouth (v): to relate an amusing story to someone without remembering that it was they who told it to you in the first place.
Michael Frayn (who has some claim to be Malcolm's unacknowledged antecedent) used to do something of the same.

Beyond that, appropriate names were a stand-by of the great English novelists. Dickens (a favourite of Adams, and it shows) did it for most of his characters; and, of course, for his locations.

The Times Notebook is obviously intended to be a parallel to the likes of the Guardian's Diary column (now, happily, back in the hands of Hugh Muir, after a couple of weeks aimlessly batting about the universe). The bourgeois-gentilhommerie of the Times rules out the true bitchery achieved by Muir, as here:
... imagine the agonies endured by Sarah Jessica Parker as she discovered that the silver gown she wore for the New York premiere of her Sex and the City movie had previously been worn by Lindsay Lohan and the socialite Lauren Santo Domingo. "It's unethical and disappointing that they [the designers] would allow the dress to be worn again," the actress told the New York Times; "Dress Whoring Scandal Snares Sex Star," was how the website Gawker described it. China, Burma. Now this.
[It has to be admitted there are at least two names there that evinced Malcolm's pained "Who she?". It was, however, naughty of the Guardian not to italicize the word "sex", as in the original headline.]

So, yesterday, Gove was reaching for a separate topic for his supporting paragraphs: they turned out to be a Miltonic puff for Philip Pullman wait for it!) and this:
The report that The Guardian columnist George Monbiot disrupted a session at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival when he attempted to arrest the American former diplomat John Bolton for war crimes is One of Those Moments. Like Antonia Pinter's Holland Park dinner parties that were designed to bring down The Hated Thatcher Junta. Or that book by Graydon Carter that was going to halt Bush'n'Cheney in their tracks. Or indeed any interview with Gore Vidal in which he pledges to restore the virtues of the original American republic. They all prompt you to ask - is it possible to be an author and have no sense of irony at all?
Graydon Carter, since 1992, is the editor of Vanity Fair, which has at least as honourable a record as any media outlet over the whole Iraq débâcle. His book on What We've Lost: How the Bush Administration Has Curtailed Our Freedoms, Mortgaged Our Economy, Ravaged Our Environment, and Damaged Our Standing in the World deserves better than Gove's put-down:
In making his final decision to launch an invasion of Iraq, President George W. Bush did not seek the advice of his father, a veteran of World War II and a former president who had gone to battle with the same foe a decade earlier. Nor did he seek the final recommendation of his secretary of defense, or of his secretary of state, the only man in his cabinet who had been decorated for military service in wartime with the medals befitting a national hero. Instead, as Bob Woodward wrote in his book Plan of Attack, he consulted his God, a God that the president presumes takes sides in disputes between peoples.
Gove has, of course, consistently been a right-on warmonger and Bushie throughout, with some Islamophobic Melanie-moments. It was, then, strangely appropriate that Gove (star of those Notting Hill dinner-parties) ironically shoots himself in the foot by the final apothegm on Pullman:
Like Milton's fallen angel, [he] ends up making the case for the divinity against whom he's in rebellion.
However, Gove's dig at Gore Vidal seems even more off-target: pretty well the entirety of Vidal, written and spoken, on the page or off-the-cuff, is self-confessed ludic irony:
... much of what I say and write tends to the ironic (without, however, the cute bracketing fingers) ...
The suggestion that Vidal would ever promise "to restore the virtues of the original American republic" is equally a gross exaggeration. Of which, doubtless, from Malcolm much more anon.

All that said, Gove deserves encouragement. In due course, he may, he should, (or, as Malcolm hopes) he will rise to lead his Party. He will be a more convincing, more cerebral, more sympathetic, less opportunist occupant of that role than the present incumbent.

More substance, less style.
Sphere: Related Content

No comments:

Subscribe with Bloglines International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
Add to Technorati Favorites