Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Spectator Speaks

Having never had a review in The Spectator before, I'm tremendously excited by Lloyd Evans giving Things Can Only Get Bitter a very thorough kicking. I can't really do his piece justice here, but these are some of the highlights:

'It’s a pity he can’t write terribly well, although it helps to explain the book’s extreme brevity.'

'Turner, a lifelong gloom addict, approaches even the most innocent and joyful developments in a mood of sulky intellectualism.'

'[The publishers] asked a lazy editor to commission a lazy author to propose a lazy idea and turn it into a lazy book.'

'The flimsiest and most banal 72-page tome in history.'

That's terrific stuff. If I'm reading this correctly, he doesn't like the essay very much.

I regret to say that, not being a regular reader of The Spectator, I'm unfamiliar with Lloyd Evans's work. I only knew him previously from Just Boris, Sonia Purnell's excellent biography of Boris Johnson, as an investigative journalist conducting 'an inquiry into Swedish lavatorial habits'.

But he's clearly a man of some taste and discernment, and I thank him for his kind words.


Tyrone Jenkins said...

The Lloyd Evans Spectator review is bile; the negative comment about the brevity of your essay clearly shows that he has not read your excellent surveys of the 70s and 80s or has any knowledge of the forthcoming book about the nineties. The suggestion of miserabilism in your use of cultural sources to convey the character of the period is made all the more absurd by his suggestion that you miss an important fact about the period; that it was "immense fun". This is akin to suggesting that Britain in 1966 was marked by an endless frenzy of swinging! As a Spectator reviewer his failure to appreciate the importance of cultural artifacts in any understanding of a period is no doubt influenced by an assumption of quasi-Marxism in those who use this approach. You can't win em' all!

Tyrone Jenkins said...

The 2 deleted comments in the above post were from myself. I had posted them beneath the wrong article!

Alwyn W. Turner said...

Thanks, Tyrone. Maybe the term e-book confuses reviewers, because there was the same problem with John Harris in the Guardian: a complaint that it didn't go into enough detail.

Well, of course not. It's a bloody essay. Or a pamphlet. Or something like that. If it was a full-length book, it'd cost more than a couple of quid.

The other problem with Lloyd Evans's review is that he seems to assume I agree with everybody I quote. Which obviously I don't.

Still, as you say, you can't win them all. Mostly I've had positive feedback. And I am amused by Evans's accusation of 'wrist-slitting pessimism'.