Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Email to a pal re England: An Elegy by Roger Scruton

I wasn't being facetious when I said sub's disease. I think it is an occupational hazard. It's hard to say whether I really disagree with you because I read the book more than five years ago, though I have looked at bits since. Parts of it are a hard read but as I say my guess is that he wanted to lay out concrete arguments alongside metaphysical ones if you know what I mean. He knew he would be slagged because you simply cannot write a book like that with upsetting the usual suspects. I found the Guardian's review of it online. It was, naturally, an exercise in juvenile carping. Its central charge was the book contained nothing about, yes, black or brown people's 'experience of England'. The reviewer had quite forgotten Scruton's stated aim, which was not a work of s*ciol*gy but an elegy, with all the faults and strengths of an elegy.
To turn the book into a magazine feature would risk losing some detail in the concision and would simply shorten it, something I reckon Scruton is constitutionally against because he is an academic and they adore length. But more importantly it would turn the book into mere journalism, which is ephemeral. A book is a lasting statement, or so you would like to think.
I had a small correspondence with him after I read the book but when he discovered I was a journalist that was the end. He hates journalists. He says a lot of questionable things in the book and if I remember rightly tries to mount a defence of social snobbery among other silly right-wing windmill tilts. But where I agree with him and evidently some on the nominal left/liberal side - Lord £Bragg£ for one - do is that the character of the country is changing into something inane, vicious and tasteless and that socialism (his father was a socialist of the respectable 1945 variety) has as much of a hand in the change as the hated Thatcher, someone who Scruton describes as 'an awful woman'. He also eats liver and bacon, likes horses, drinks a lot and (I was pleased to discover) has similar aesthetic tastes to me, excepting Wagner on my side and rock and roll on his. He unapologetically decries modern design, modern architecture, animal rights fanatics, political correctness, Islamism, dumbing down and television and does so with arguments that stand up. This makes him an admirable figure in my view.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Demolished House at Night in N6 5/3/11, chalk on jet black canford paper