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Sunday, September 22, 2002
 
Influences

It seems to be the done thing to confess to one’s influences. Lest spliffs and snow spring to mind, let me make it quite clear that this means ‘literary influences’. Some of the following might be flattered to be called ‘literary’ but it’s the best I can do. Here they are but the order is not significant.

First of all, Private Eye. The Eye has been on my reading list on and off since it was founded. They have sometimes broken interesting stories that the rest of the Press has failed to notice (or wouldn’t dare to touch) but, more often, they get a story wrong. Very occasionally, they are sued by someone totally beyond criticism and with lots of money, e.g James Goldsmith and Robert Maxwell.

When I worked in London, I used to travel on the tube. On Eye days, I would read it on my way home, but I soon stopped doing that: the cartoons were so funny that I would often laugh out loud. Anyone who has ever travelled on the London Underground will realise that that is not an appropriate thing to do – everyone else looks at you as though you’re mad. Thus, I took to putting it away until I got home.

The link to Private Eye may not come up with very much. However, I can recommend a subscription. [May I have my reciprocal link now, please, Ian?] The cover photographs are sometimes spot-on. Recently, just after a new financial scandal in the USA, the Eye cover had a picture of Bin Laden saying ‘Forget terrorism; I’m going to be an accountant’.

Simon Hoggart writes reports on Parliament/politics, for The Guardian, in a very entertaining way. He also writes a sort of weekly diary. Although his writing is often mundane, he manages to be amusing about it. If only the bloggers who take themselves so seriously would try to do the same. Simon and I also seem to share an opinion of several people. So, with the exception of the mystically talented Uri Geller and the provocatively sane Camille Paglia, we seem to be very much in tune. Here's an example of his humour:
An elderly thespian is drinking with his nephew and trying to persuade him not to enter the profession.

"I have had some terrible times in the theatre. I recall the rainy night we played Goodnight, Vienna in Accrington. There were three people in the audience: the soubrette's mother, the critic from the local paper, and a tramp who'd come in to keep dry. It was appalling."

"Gosh, uncle, was that your worst ever night in the theatre?"

"Oh no, dear boy. That was the time we played Goodnight, Accrington in Vienna
Of course, Ambrose Bierce [Bride – a woman with a fine prospect of happiness behind her] and Oscar Wilde [I can resist everything except temptation] go without saying. But how about I.F. Stone? He produced his own radical newspaper but had to give up for health reasons. He died in 1989. He was scrupulously accurate and honest, earning the wrath of both the left and the right, arguably more for his tendency to whisper ‘Horseshit’ when faced with establishment mendacity than for his left-leaning. I suspect that he too would have been outraged to see the many uncritical reports of Rumsfeld's statement, together with those of all the other idiots/liars (which?) that the weapons inspectors were ejected from Iraq.

The list is longer than I had expected so I will write a Part 2 of influences later. There are more shibboleths to abuse...


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