Notting Hill Essays

I am surprised and delighted to learn that I have been longlisted for the Notting Hill Essay Prize. The longlisted essay is my long piece on Russell Brand.

The shortlist is out in a few weeks. Wish me luck!

Also: my review of some great new US fiction, Atticus Lish’s Preparation for the Next Life, now available at Shiny.

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5 Responses to “Notting Hill Essays”

  1. Paul Murdoch Says:

    That’s very good.

    I sort of ignored Brand but I read the NS essay at the time and was just appalled. It’s odd, though; when I got to this..

    “Now there is an opportunity for the left to return to its vital, virile, vigorous origins. A movement for the people, by the people, in the service of the land.”

    …I stopped. It was the inclusion of ‘left’ which just seemed to jar and, given the right / fascist leaning tendencies of revivalist movements, patently ahistorical. When I read it, it evoked images of Rolf Gardiner and the Kibbo Kift. Brand is that lame. Mind, I’m sure he’d prefer the D’Annunzio comparison; he’d be thinking he cut a similar dash.
    That said, I can’t even bring myself to talk about Brand. There are some people about whom I can only restrict myself to: “no, he’s a prick.” Corbyn’s the same. My kids like him and ask me what I think.
    “Dickhead.”…that’s about it, really.
    If I was pushed…
    Elder statesman of corduroy Islington liberalism with a penchant for violent fascists.
    What else can you say….other than “dickhead’?

    • maxdunbar Says:

      To be honest I think better of Brand than I did when I wrote the piece – he gave his book profits to Focus E15 – and I respect him for that. Still he’s so irritating. The NS essay was the only article I’ve genuinely struggled to get through. And there’s his attitude towards women, the fact he threatened to sue a journalist…

      I was wondering what you thought about JezWeCan. And I agree. I think many of his domestic policies are good and I like the way his campaign’s taken off but I can’t get past his attitude to ISIS, Putin, Venezuela, etc – and I can’t get past that. As you say, what else can you say?

      • Paul Murdoch Says:

        Well, yeah, he’s one of those liberals who seem to get off on a frisson of ‘evil’. I remember Hitchens had a good take on this sort of thing. I’m no fan of Labour but, to be frank, what they had to do immediately after the election was to make sure they didn’t rip themselves in two. Instead they seem determined to do just that. Maybe it was inevitable. Either way, without an electable Leader, Labour are settling for pressure group status. With Corbyn as leader they’re a pressure group with a more credible mandate and constituency but no moral authority.
        Plus I think he’d be a disastrous leader, probably even if he’s leader of a smaller but potentially more united party following any tantrums and flouncings.. Given his own record he can’t expect any sort of party discipline and trying to impose any will open him up to justifiable charges of hypocrisy since his entire time in Parliament has been a sort of 32 year honeymoon where every vote of has been a matter for his own ‘delicate’ conscience. I don’t see how he can deny others this luxury without looking ridiculous.

        The one ray of sunshine for me is the Tory party. The situation looks ideal for them as Labour splits and they can look forward to a decade of domination. This is exactly the sort of situation, however, where the Tories will self destruct. Shorn of an effective opposition and the requirement for party unity, they’ll fracture too. Europe or devolution or immigration or something will create a wedge.

        Not that I really care. I suppose there’s a danger UKIP may benefit but they’re going nowhere.

      • maxdunbar Says:

        I quite agree mate, it is the old old story of so called progressives who cheerlead for every dictator, authoritarian and fanatic going as long as they are ‘anti Western’. I don’t even pretend to understand it now

        I think what happened in the leadership election was that the candidates were viewed as too samey and because of this and probably internal politics Corbyn was roped in, so that they could have a ‘broad debate’… and then Corbyn took off and the PLP were like ‘Oh hang on, we don’t want that kind of debate’ but it was too late. I think it’s amazing, I didn’t see Corbomania coming at all, but then again I didn’t expect a Tory majority either. I think you are probably right, should he become leader there will be a breakaway Continuity Blairite party, maybe merging with the Lib Dems, and it will be the 1980s again!

        Part of me thinks that Corbyn could sneak in with some kind of left/UKIP voter coalition lashed together at the last moment. God knows what will happen if this guy gets his hands on the nuclear codes.

  2. Paul Murdoch Says:

    I’m actually cool with an anti-Western narrative in many many cases but it’s the fact that it’s so often bound up with various strains of violent fascism; and that these are the cases which attract the most determined ardour. Also, to be fair, a big part of the rest my beef with Corbynmania is basically semantic. He’s not ‘hard left’. The hard left are either solid or they split…often, and destructively…but everyone stays pure.

    Corbyn, for all his headwear and facial hair Scarborough Fair is an idealist, a liberal, Orwell’s ‘intelligent schoolboy’ who never wised up. Every vote’s a free vote and fair play to the guy; it’s gone well for him but you don’t move from there to leader. He’s never been staunch and he’s never walked. He’s not hard left. I’ve been hard left and it’s one or the other. No room for butterflies with sociopathic pen friends.

    I’m clearly going to end up the boring whiney old twat in the bar bothering people with 30 year old arguments, then ranting in Boots or Costa when I’m barred, then the street, then in my room in the care home, then just in my head…but I’m holiday and off my head to some extent and it seems to matter. As meanings drift someone’s got to try to put the brake on, no? Or what was holding them in the first place?

    I’ve just noticed Matthew Paris fears the Tories may self destruct faced with the open goal of a fissioned Labour and, objectively, he’s one of the worst pundits going when it comes to the day after tomorrow and thereafter. I actually like some of stuff but only when hindsight’s involved. None the less, and I’m not suggesting a metaphysical twist, the tendency of parties in democracies to whack it into row 25 when faced with an unopposed tap-in almost looks like a natural self-correcting mechanism.

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