The Silver Eel

"A gape-jawed serpentine shape of pale metal crested with soot hung high for a sign."

Friday, May 05, 2006


Because you really do learn something new every day. Oh. That Iain McCalman. Also general editor of the Oxford Companion to the Romantic Age. Clearly a total stranger to academic rigour.

In my defence, it's perfectly possible for people who have had a good track record of publication to balls it up suddenly. Clive Ponting, post-Whitehall, post-Belgrano affair, went on to write a number of highly-praised books on history and politics. I confess to having read none of them, apart from his latest, called Gunpowder. Actually I only read about a third of it, because I was beginning to feel embarrassed on Ponting's behalf. Shoddy, repetitive writing; so little information it's like watching the news on TV; and the illustrations can only be described as laughable. I mean it. Go into a bookshop, find a copy and take a look for yourself. Just for God's sake don't buy it. Buy and read Jack Kelly's Gunpowder instead, which despite some rather rough-hewn sentences and occasional loss of focus, is packed with stuff you didn't know and dashes along con brio (sorry about the link to Amazon, but Atlantic Books' website is under construction).


Watched the news on TV tonight. It's clear now from his reshuffle - as if it wasn't after his "God will be my judge" number - that Blair has lost the plot, along with much else. The longer he stays, the more he puts at risk all the good that Labour has done, and their chances of winning the next General Election. Not that this appears to matter to him. Would he rather - as some have been suggesting in the papers - that Cameron won, not Brown? If that happens, it will be very interesting to see what happens to the SNP vote, particularly if Alex Salmond is back as leader in fact and not just name.


At 10 May 2006 at 14:18 , Blogger Yvonne said...

So you've gone off Iain McCalman then? ;-)

At 12 May 2006 at 20:52 , Blogger The Silver Eel said...

No no, not at all, the book's very entertaining! It's just that I wasn't sure how solid it was, being without footnotes and all.

On the reliability of footnotes, and the way they can be used to hide weaknesses as much as display strengths, see Roger Macdonald's comment at the end of The Man in the Iron Mask (Constable and Robinson), another popular history book on an equally - or even more - mythologised and befogged subject, also very well written, and out in paperback in July.


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