Sunday, February 24, 2008
Newsnight on Friday - bear with me, I'll get to Edward Thomas in a moment - had an interview with Alastair Campbell. It was about a novel he is writing that is not to be published for some time. Campbell was not prepared to talk about the novel in any detail. The big issue was, as the web site puts it, 'So can Alastair become a successful man of letters?' This is, of course, not a big issue, it is not any kind of issue. There was no reason for Campbell to be on the BBC's 'flagship' current affairs show - not only because his novel isn't a story but also because Campbell is no longer a story, he's not even a celebrity any more, he's a curiosity. The item left me stricken with a great weariness with the whole business of British politics and the media. Nothing of any significance is being said or discussed. Compare this state of affairs with current American politics. Five minutes of either The McLaughlin Group or Meet the Press (wonderfully understated and rather genteel titles) are worth more than a whole week of British TV politics. Furthermore, I note that young people are excited about the US election in a way they never are about British politics, a development that should terrify any thoughtful people still working for our parties. Obama, Hillary, McCain and even Huckabee as well as the massed ranks of US columnists and analysts are making our people look like intellectual and imaginative pygmies. I now find myself unable to read or watch any British political coverage. This has happened before, it normally lasts a day or two. But, for the moment, I am a happier man as I have been reading this great poem over and over again. It is as perfect a meditation on the predicament of human consciousness as you will ever read.
John Ashbery in my rediscovered interview said 'there are many more interesting things to do' than read poetry. Are there? Really?
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 8:48 am