IN BRIEF

Surfing the Zeitgeist by Gilbert Adair, Faber pounds 9.99.

In the Preface to this collection of journalism, Gilbert Adair makes champions hacks as "the guardians of the living culture". This is presented as a wake-up call for reviewers who, unlike Adair himself of course, "churn out, week after week, month after month, the kind of article which could have been written ... 30, 50 or 100 years ago".

Unsurprisingly, it is the "screen", and particularly the Net, which Adair him most. He has no time for those who are "temperamentally incapable of abandoning the securities of certain ancient cultural harmonies which they alone will continue to deny have been forfeited forever". Newspapers, magazines and books will soon, he believes, be replaced by electronic data, and he draws a parallel between this and the 15th-century invention of the moveable printing press. This naive perspective is horribly elitist: in Adair's vision of the future only those with access to computers would be able to read - despite globalisation, this would exclude more than three-quarters of the world's population. It also ignores the fundamental relationship between mobility, relaxation and reading.

Some of the essays are well written, inventively structured and mildly amusing, but the tone is infuriatingly insiderish, with endless references to "an acquaintance of mine, the theatre critic of a national newspaper", and so on. Adair's self-congratulatory side finds its most consistently annoying expression in the love of all things French (especially films and authors nobody in England knows about). He explains in a footnote that a quote from Barthes' Mythologies is taken from "the English translation, ever so slightly amended, of Annette Lavers". What this means, translated, is "I read and write French superbly!"

Many commentaries now seem run-of-the-mill. Of the video footage of James Bulger and his kidnappers, Adair writes "there can be no doubt, no question, that it ... constituted a very special kind of torment for the rest of us, that our despair was intensified by the fact we were able to watch the crime being committed and unable to do anything about it". Indeed. Other essays just don't work. One that fails convincingly to link being anti- smoking to being anti-pop music ends with the feeble joke that on every record "there should be printed this warning from the Surgeon-General: Pop Music Can Seriously Damage Your Health". Elsewhere Adair claims that "the beauty of literary style is to the act of reading what the beauty of a face is to the act of making love ... as one proceeds in either situation, one's attention is liable to be more and more urgently solicited elsewhere". John R Bradley

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power