Boyd Tonkin: Fogeydom creeps up on us all sooner or later

Click to follow

Fogeydom creeps up on us all sooner or later. But, as consumer frenzy and celebrity mania have eaten up more and more of life, distaste or despair at the crasser forms of modernity have been liberated from limits of class, politics, age - even sartorial style. Today's new-model fogey may wear leather as often as tweed, and swing to the left more than the right. After all, in the early 21st century, to champion "conservative" politics means to bow down before every stupid and destructive novelty peddled by the overlords of global capital. You think I'm annoyed? Well, I have just heard how "thrilled" Rupert Murdoch's HarperCollins will be to publish (at vast cost) the memoirs of Jade Goody from Big Brother - and thus not to publish lots of proper books instead.

"Disgusted" now lives in Brighton or Chorlton or Brixton rather than in Tunbridge Wells. A glorious line of non-Conservative conservators stands stalwart behind this trend, from William Morris through George Orwell to Alan Bennett. Yet the cultural profile of the New Fogey has managed to wrong-foot many publishers. The startling success of a few volumes of jeremiads, notably by Lynne Truss (see page 23), has spawned a rather lacklustre flock of wannabes. I suspect that many of these arias of outrage have misread their audience. They often seem aimed at the dwindling ranks of Old Fogeys, while New Fogeys enjoy the real boom. A brisk brush with some revamped Mary Poppins will hardly get the juices of such radical whingers flowing. They crave a bit more barricade-storming attitude.

Steve Lowe and Alan McArthur have scored a bull on this target with a sulphurous stocking-filler entitled Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Shit? (TimeWarner, £9.99). Unfortunately, their A-Z "encyclopedia of modern life" plays the enemy's game with its potty-mouthed taste for expletives. In an age when high-street leviathans think it's "cool" to call their brands things like "FCUK", casual obscenity has become a cynical marketing tool. The bilious duo should know that, given that one of their own pet hates is "faux swearing".

Otherwise, this Swiftian gathering of the witless, pointless, ruthless and charmless picks its victims pretty sharply, from the obvious (Ikea, Tesco, KFC, Robbie Williams, Donald Rumsfeld, 4x4s, the Daily Mail) and the specialist (the "Intel Inside" tune, Amanda Platell, Crabtree & Evelyn, "city breaks" - especially to Bruges) to the fearlessly generic ("the Rich") and plain weird: "overpriced toast". The air of red-top radicalism can lead to some crashing of gears, as the writers try to sound like Richard Littlejohn or Jeremy Clarkson while cursing "homophobic Christians", "global-warming sceptics" or... Jeremy Clarkson. You can't take the style without the stance, I fear.

Still, if you can forgive the background hum of redundant rude words, Is It Just Me... has much to offer today's New Fogey. A few entries show genuine satirical class - such as the blistering attack on "Nu-Snobbery" that aims its vitriol not at "chavs" but at the bourgeois beasts obsessed with them. Above all, Law and McArthur have that rarest of things in the stocking-filler market: a mission. They pin the rap for the physical and spiritual dreck around us on overmighty money and the media that worship it. To use the sort of language this pair understand, you may cheer up the grumpy older person in your life no end with this not-so-little Book of Crap Capitalism.

Comments