re His word, David Baddiel, The Times, 28 July:


In his column on Howard Jacobson David Baddiel does not deign to give analysis, preferring to trumpet evaluation. We already knew that some people liked Kalooki Nights and some didn't; all Baddiel adds is he liked it. Does this betray overweening confidence in the weighty value of his name, as attached to his opinion? The morsel of evidence he does offer is praised for its 'quantum understanding [huh?] of human truth', is called beautiful, and no more. I don't think it deserves that. To say 'a man lives in' women's apprehension of himself is neither true nor beautiful, because 'lives in' is vague, half-achieved; it makes us think of 'apprehension' as bedsit or basement flat. 'ideation' is overfussily jargonlike, and 'happiness can barely contain itself' in failed revision of the cliché 'I could barely contain myself' loses sense: it's we who contain happiness, for happiness has no means to, indeed no waiting receptacle.

I haven't read Kalooki Nights. Baddiel's lazy piece doesn't persuade me to fork out for it. He exercises neither of the tools of the critic: comparison and analysis — the problem perhaps being that he sees himself as a 'man of letters'.

Yours faithfully,
Simon Cowell

Ps. Also in The Times, on June 30 this year, we find a little paragraph written by the paper's poetry editor, Rachel Campell-Johnston, about Daljit Nagra:

Multi-culturalism need not be worthy. Daljit Nagra makes a warm, witty, mischievous and sometimes painfully moving debut in Look We Have Coming to Dover!, which explores the experience of a second-generation Pakistani immigrant to Britain. A frank and original voice 'foots it featly as a Punjab in Punglish'. This is fresh and delightful.

Read that first sentence again. Isn't the assumption embedded there offensive? Why must the occasion of a second-generation Pakistani immigrant publishing a poetry book make an instance of 'multiculturalism'? Was it multicultural when Gitanjali was published here to celebratory reviews, and Yeats wrote the preface? If multiculuralism is '
the policy or process whereby the distinctive identities of the cultural groups within [...] a society are maintained or supported', Campbell-Johnston is patronising at best: Nagra was published for his talent, nothing less.


The problem of eloquence in Shakespeare

First: You bastards. Not one of you responded to my call for essayists. Will I really have to write most of OP myself, like Paul last year?

I'm composing pseudonyms already – the less amusing the better.

One recent lexical obsession: Scanglish. Which has maybe to do with Wilcox-McCandlish.

(1) Our fascination: the ills of America. (2) Ironic that religion wishes us perfectible while exemplifying variously our imperfection. (I don't say 'thereby'.) (3) Auden didn't make the prosaic poetic. He made the poetic prosaic. (4) To apologists for Islamism: You don't hate them back?

If the justification for high tuition fees (with or without correspondingly good tuition) is not just that, with so many of us now attending university, and so many foreign universities deriving huge income privately, the government simply can't anymore afford to pay for universally free, generally sterling education, but also that the possession of a degree should secure the lucky graduate a salary which makes the settling of her debt look easily manageable in prospect, is not then the government's idea that 50% of school-leavers must enter university, itself justifying in bureacratic circularity the first suggested justification for tuition fees, a little incoherent? For if half of everyone has a degree, the jobs which made everyone's debt look manageable
in prospect will be taken by the fraction of that half who got the best degrees (or those who risked poverty in getting further ones), and the mediocre rest will suffer worse their unlucrative lack of talent because of a debt the justification for which, in being so wishfully promised to all, cancelled itself. There are good reasons for the introduction of partially unsubsidised higher education, but the rise in student numbers is a bad one, because to cite it undermines the very reason fees are thought workable and marketable to an unwilling nation: what pays for the degrees once degrees are so common that to have one doesn't necessarily pay? That the government wants 50% of Britain university-educated shows its unconsidered wish to reduce or further stratify the value of such education; I don't specifically object to this (it might be a good thing), but I know the government, to be consistent and decent, ought to stump up more of the cash needed to build reality of this costly ideal.


Perhaps the relation of Shakespeare's drama to reality is of the same kind as the relation of the reality of our perception to what is real.

It's a mistake to say WS is realist and moving because he represents things as they really are: he is realist and moving because he represents things as we really perceive them, our truth.

But WS is idealist too. His characters speak as we would ideally speak.

The question rankles: Why does Hamlet's impossible eloquence not repel us? Why is he real? It's not enough to answer that Hamlet's impossible eloquence is really Hamlet, because it is rather constitutive than resultant.

Hamlet's is the idealised speech of minds. It may then flatter us: certainly it has the power of beauty to compel forgetting and forgiveness. But this beautiful vehicle for Hamlet's thoughts is also the engine of his character.

In one line he says and is. The beautiful phrases do characterising work, and beautifully. For beauty is useful, not isolate: its use is to convey Hamlet to us well, so that we do not think of his language's beauty as language but of Hamlet's beauty as created character. His impossible eloquence is not abhorrent because with impossible eloquence it enacts his being; to auditors therefore it's not 'eloquence', at which we flinch, but him, whom we love. B
eauty is not attribute but the thing itself.
—A. Pseud