Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Book news

The big news in my bookish life is that there is no book news! I've been so busy that I've had no time for reading, nor even for buying books! Even the administrators are teasing me now. All I've read is Saci Lloyd's Momentum, which is a cracking and massively left-wing YA eco-dystopian thriller. I've also made a start on David Crystal's The Stories of English: nothing really surprising or new to me in there, but beautifully put together. It's like all my Anglo-Saxon lectures rolled into one. I'm particularly looking forward to the Great Vowel Shift (which has literally never happened in The Dark Place). The pile of unopened London Review of Books is getting bigger - I feel guilty and slack whenever I look at it.

What I have been reading is a massive pile of essays, dissertations and online fora. So far, I've found no plagiarism, which is unprecedented (are they getting sneakier or more honest?), and the overall standard is loads better than previous years. OK, so I was informed that Shakespeare was 'limited', 'Bob Sands' was a 'hungry striker' who died during the Miners' Strike, and that Paradise Lost is 'clearly a post-modern novel', but all the others have been excellent. But my eyes hurt now and I'm going to rip off the eyelids of anyone else who uses Comic Sans. OK?

There have been compensations. My final-year students have all discovered Twitter at the same time, and alternate between moaning about missing each, having nothing to do, and teasing each other something rotten. Though I sometimes have to avert my eyes as they forget that it's a public forum. The other addictive entertainment has been the Leveson Inquiry. It's a constant source of amusement, watching the most compromised, amoral and cynical figures in public life - journalists, proprietors and politicians - pretending to be shocked! shocked! at the idea that they might have played a part in the degradation of the public sphere. I preferred it when reactionary hacks were honest, and it's sickening watching people like Straw and Campbell feign ignorance: they courted the worst elements in British public life in pursuit of votes from the most racist, thuggish elements of the population, and now profess surprise that our public culture is racist, thuggish and antithetical to anything above the lowest common denominator. The sooner these ghastly poltergeists leave the stage the better. I have high hopes of Jack Straw and David Miliband going to prison for their role in authorising torture and rendition anyway. We all know that Cameron and friends are cynical chasers after power - but at least they're honest: they rule to benefit their class. New Labour was particularly sickening because it achieved power by adopting the discourse of liberation, while looking after the interests of the political elite just as much as the Tories do.  Where's it all got us? Bankrupt and bitter.

My office and my hovel are looking utterly squalid and I feel quite ill all the time thanks to the pressure of marking, but that's just how it goes in this rather odd period (high point: watching a law student getting arrested - in a law exam - for theft. In a couple of weeks I'll be able to kick back and… start writing academic papers in a desperate struggle to get into print and remain hanging in the academic community by my sorely bitten fingernails.

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