Being sent free books is one of the few perks of authorship. An anonymous parcel arrives. I expect some worthy tome. To my astonishment I have been sent a new addition to that sinister genre “mummy porn”.
I have come late to this scene. For months I have avoided Waterstones because even books with no connection have crow-barred Fifty Shades puns to promote them. It has always seemed to me to be a foundation of civilised society that sadomasochistic porn should be hard to stumble upon if you are not actively seeking it.
Since I have been sent this example, I flick through it. While being, I hope, some way from prudish, I realise that I have greatly underestimated its awfulness. One scene has a woman asking to be—and then being—hit around the face by her male friend.
I’d like to think I’m past the stage where such things could influence me, but I dread to think what a more impressionable mind might make of this apparent desire of women to be smacked around. Most men find women enough of a mystery already. The whole genre has clearly been dreamt up by people intent on provoking a conclusive breakdown between the sexes. I suspect that it is being pushed at Waterstones by those same anarchist staff who try to make us “impulse buy” the work of Noam Chomsky at their tills.
James Bond is not good at his job. The realisation dawns a few days after I go to see Skyfall. Though Mr Bond goes to elaborate lengths to save the life of “M”, his boss—by taking her to his childhood home in Scotland and then going through a Home Alone-style finale-his efforts are less than wholly successful. Had he driven her around a corner in London and put a blanket over her head she would probably have been fine.
There is something rather soothing about the realisation of Bond’s failure. I vaguely distrust the cult of Bond. Its success has the aura of a panacea, fed to the British to console themselves during their decline. We may not have much of a Navy left, but we still have Bond. Having dinner in a London restaurant recently I overheard a tableful of young people talking about how much better our security services are than those of all our allies—particularly America. Now that Bond has been responsible for letting the bad guys get at his boss, perhaps they will take a more sober look.
My friend Ruth Dudley Edwards has written a devastating satire on the contemporary art scene, Killing the Emperors (Allison & Busby, £19.99). A couple of days after finishing her novel I find myself at a dinner sitting beside Grayson Perry and recommending it to him. Because he won the Turner Prize some years back I had always assumed that neither he nor his work had any merit. How wrong I was. He turns out to be witty, intelligent and delightful company. He is also a very conservative gentleman, albeit one in a dress. We should not hold his Turner Prize against him.
The most teeth-gnashingly idiotic floor-covering in the world is the rug on the floor of the Oval Office. It reads: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” If I were President Obama I would wipe my feet on the idea. He, however, seems—in spite of much evidence—to have fully absorbed the philosophy of his carpet. The President seems sublimely unbothered that the axis of the world is turning towards the Muslim Brotherhood. If your carpet keeps telling you that these things have a habit of working themselves out then I suppose it is easier to remain unbothered by this fascist movement becoming mainstream. All part of the arc. But how long does the President think his arc might take to finish?
A tip for Standpoint readers to gauge whether they are drinking too much over the New Year. In conversation with a friend we work out that a sure way to tell is to see how many books you have brought to bed. If you wake to find a single volume by your bedside then you clearly had a restrained evening. If the pile includes anyone’s complete works the evidence points to an ambitiously boozy end to the evening: the flesh weak, but the spirits strong. My friend tells me that after a recent evening’s drinking he found himself going to bed with the complete works of George Bernard Shaw. We agree this is the surest sign of overdoing things.