Magazine article The Spectator

Life and Letters

Magazine article The Spectator

Life and Letters

Article excerpt

Hooray for the new, caring, healing Conservative party. Hooray for the spirit of inclusiveness. Hooray for clear blue water and hooray for the big blue tent. At last the time for healing has come. It is in such a spirit, at least, that I turn to the index - which, as everyone knows, is the only part of books by politicians anyone ever reads with interest - of John Redwood's Singing the Blues: The Once and Future Conservatives (reviewed page 77). 'Major, John,' begins a hefty section, 'characteristic equivocation of, 118; and difficulties with election promises, 120; discourages sensible debate in Cabinet, 131; and Europe, 22, 152, 283, 285, 295; and ERM, 98, 110-111, 124, 286; foolish decisions of, 133; lets down people, 138; makes claims in memoirs, 125; makes right decision to resign, 140-141... takes wrong course of action over Maastricht, 127.' Oh dear, oh dear. Honi soit qui mal y pense, pointy ears. When we turn to the index of Mr Major's autobiography, what do we find? 'Redwood, John: Citizen's Charter, 258; assumed to be disloyal, 343...'

Ever since, earlier this year, it emerged that an American publishing house had dropped plans to republish an undistinguished lesbian bodice-ripper called Sisters, set in the Wild West, the book has become incredibly hot property. Why? Because it is by Lynne Cheney, the vice-presidential Missus. Copies are hens'-teeth-rare, and are changing hands for several thousand pounds a time. But no one wants it for Lynne's luminous prose. They want it for the naughty bits. And, happily, some public-spirited folks have posted them on the Internet at http://www.whitehouse.org/administration/ sisters.asp. It looks a bit like the official White House site, but I daresay it isn't, so rush before it gets shut down. A taster: 'She went on up the stairs to her room and took off her dripping clothes. Connie came in as she started undressing. "Go away, Connie, leave me alone." She took off her dress, her petticoat, her corset, her stockings. Even her lacy undershift and drawers were wet, clinging to her body before she stripped them off ...' Nurse!

Look out, chum! The latest number of P N Review brings mention of a seismic event in the literary world. It deserves a wider public. The great Harold Pinter has been awarded the biennial Wilfred Owen Prize for his war poems. Remember those? Memorable lines included, 'Your eyes have gone out and your nose/ Sniffs only the pong of the dead', and 'There's no escape/ The big pricks are out ...' The prize's previous winner was Seamus Heaney, who never managed anything like that. The chairman of the Wilfred Owen Association, Michael Grayer, commended Mr Pinter's poems as 'hard-hitting and uncompromising, written with lucidity, clarity and economy'. PN Review, while approving the prize, reminds us rather tartly of C. H. Sisson's response to Owen's declaration, 'My subject is war and the pity of war. The poetry is in the pity.' If there is poetry, Sisson said, it should be in the poetry. Anyway, the ceremony in Shrewsbury next spring, at which Mr Pinter will be presented with a special sculpture of as yet unspecified dimensions, should be a hoot.

The big man is dead. Jacques Derrida has disappeared into the final lacuna. He has suffered a carrying-away. …

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