Day 77

5.01: If it’s ever crossed your mind that academics might be cowardly, small-minded, tuck-shop-squabbling, shoe-lace-together-tying, underhand, banana-skin-trailing pin heads, look no further than here for justification.

Some historian from Birkbeck has been slagging other historians off anonymously through that high-minded paragon of intellectual cut and thrust, Amazon customer reviewing.

Actually, Orlando Figes – who already sounded like a disease to begin with – is so cowardly, small-minded, tuck-shop-squabbling etc, that he got his wife to do it for him.

And to make matters worse, she was rubbish at it. In her trenchant review of Rachel Polonsky’s book, Molotov’s Magic Lantern, she wrote: “This is the sort of book that makes you wonder why it was ever published.”

Doubtless, she added “piss off you berk, you stink of piss,” but then deleted it, not wanting to compromise her intellectual integrity.

Robert Service, who also suffered at the point of Mrs Figes laser-guided repartee, is hardly better. He reckons: “How to expunge the practice and expose the practitioners of malign electronic denunciation in countries of free expression is, I think, a matter for debate.”

Because, obviously, when he wrote his biographies of Trotsky and Stalin, Professor Service had in mind, as a model reader, the type of moron who thinks that anonymous reviews posted on Amazon represent God’s Honest Truth, and ought to have churches built in their honour complete with alters, knaves and apses and probably clergymen rogering choirboys.

The other thing that I have to say this morning, is that getting up at 5am’s sometimes quite lonely – not least when you spend all night staring alternately¬†at the ceiling and the blinking digits of the radio alarm. But it did make me remember Elizabeth Bishop’s poem about lonliness, Crusoe in England, the beginning of which is tenuously topical:

A new volcano has erupted,
the papers say, and last week I was reading
where some ship saw an island being born:
at first a breath of steam, ten miles away;
and then a black fleck–basalt probably–
rose in the mate’s binoculars
and caught on the horizon like a fly.

6.55: Hmm, stuttering rather today. My plot seems to have taken a rather boring turn after the giddy excitement of last week… but there are things that need explaining all the same. So most of this morning has been spent wielding an imaginary blue pencil and crossing out imaginary things I hadn’t written yet. What a rarified level I’m operating at now: which is to say, “what a paltry amount of writing I’ve actually done this morning.”

~ by David Thorley on April 19, 2010.

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