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

Notebook

Share
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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The final instalment of our WW1 series

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Simon Usborne: The more you watch pro cycling, the more you understand its social complexity

Simon Usborne
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice