Richard Ingrams: Today's oracle is tomorrow's forgotten writer


Related Topics

The late J G Farrell has been awarded the Booker Prize for his novel Troubles. It's actually the Booker Prize of 1970, a year the Booker was not awarded.

Somebody had the bright idea of going back and filling the gaps. But when the shortlist was announced recently it didn't look quite right. That was because all the names on it, including not only Farrell but also Patrick White and Muriel Spark, were well-known and highly regarded authors whose books are still in demand.

But were you to look back over the lists of previous Booker contenders you would find a great many names (perhaps the majority) which are nowadays pretty well forgotten.

There is nothing especially new about this. Long ago Dr Johnson observed that "nothing is more common than to find men whose works are now totally neglected, mentioned with praise by their contemporaries as the oracles of their age".

Last year the Booker Prize winner was Hilary Mantel's novel Wolf Hall. It is a long book based on the life of Henry VIII's sinister henchman Thomas Cromwell. Several people I know bought that book on the strength of the Booker publicity but I have yet to meet anyone who has managed to finish it. Yet Mantel is currently hailed by the judges and the critics as the oracle of her age.

Youth and looks define the new politics

Just looking at the prospectus of the Proms anyone of my age will be aware of a sea change that has taken place. In days gone by, the soloists would have consisted of middle-aged or old men. Today almost all of them are glamorous young women.

Apart from the glamour factor, much the same is true of modern politics. Think of men like Wilson or Callaghan and then look at the main contenders for the Labour leadership – the Milibands, Ed Balls, Andy Burnham. They all look much the same – fresh faced, eager, smiling young men just like Clegg and Cameron. Asked to nominate my own preferred choice for the Labour leadership, I think I would nominate Alistair Darling. From what I have read and heard of him he seems decent, sensible, remarkably (for a politician) honest and a man who performed extremely well as Chancellor of the Exchequer at a very difficult time. Not only that, Darling stood up to Gordon Brown when he seemed determined to give his job to the greatly inferior Balls.

Darling, however, has now retired to the backbenches. Even if he wanted to lead the Labour Party he knows that he wouldn't stand the faintest chance of being elected.

It is not just a question of age (Darling is 56); he doesn't look right and nowadays you need not only to be young but to look good on telly as well. This is the nature of the new politics and it is much more damaging than the voting system.

Not everyone wants us to host the World Cup

Lord Triesman, who has been forced to resign as chairman of the FA following some indiscreet remarks he made to a woman he had befriended, deserves a certain amount of sympathy. All the same he has only himself to blame for taking the FA job in the first place – an office which his previous experience at the Institute of Psychiatry or in the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills would have been of little assistance to him. It is said that by his controversial remarks alleging widespread corruption in foreign football, Triesman has damaged Britain's chances of hosting the World Cup in 2018.

For the football-loving fraternity that may be considered an unforgivable offence for which no penalty could be too severe. But for many people, myself included, Triesman could be rated a bit of a national hero if, albeit inadvertently, he has made it less likely that this country would in 2018 be invaded by hordes of football fans from all over the world with the accompanying excesses of drinking, hooliganism, raucous singing – all the unpleasantness that goes with the "beautiful game", not to mention the sheer boredom of it all.

Besides which it is quite possible that everything Triesman said about corruption in world football is perfectly true. Are we then supposed to keep quiet about that in case they all decided to go elsewhere?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Supply teachers needed in Wigan!

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Due to the...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...

Grad / Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultant - Oil & Gas

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000. : SThree: Recruitment is a sales role...

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Retail store Joy has sparked a social media backlash with its response to a customer who said one of its cards is offensive to people with bipolar  

Hey Joy, mocking people with bipolar isn't funny — it's offensive

Ellabell Risbridger

Ed Miliband is so scared of becoming Tony Blair he has forgotten how to communicate

Lance Price
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments