I intimated not so long ago that I was stumbling toward a more general theory of what it is that’s wrong with Decent Dave and Nasty Nick. This, from the New Statesman, has proved to be the tipping point for me to publish it. It’s pretty unobjectionable in itself; dull as ditchwater obviously but if you subscribe to the Staggers you get what you deserve in my book. But the key excerpt is this; after 1200 words on the subject of why big book chains are bad, there’s a sudden volte face
Listening to Pack’s incandescent critics, I couldn’t help feeling sympathy for him. Anyone who has heard the herd of editors, publishers, authors and critics mooing their political and cultural cliches at a London literary party and not felt the urge to reach for a baseball bat is less than human.
Always with the parties, isn’t it? I have to say, if I was in the same social circle as Nick Cohen and David Aaronovitch I would sort of quietly stop inviting them. They eat like horses, they complain about the food, they slag you off in the newspapers the day after you invite them round for dinner and now it appears that Nick at least is on the edge of murderous violence. Fuck that for a game of soldiers (for what it’s worth, the only time I have felt the urge to reach for a baseball bat in a social situation was at a Scouse wedding and then it was more for simple self-protection than rage at the industry structure of the book distribution trade).
But anyway, the point is, Nick and Dave have been going on about dinner parties for the last year. Coincidentally, at the same time, Aaronovitch has taken up a fad diet and Cohen has “become a father late in life”. I would hazard a guess that at about the same time they started banging on about the dinner parties of Hampstead and Islington, they stopped actually going to them.
There’s a lot going on here. Becoming a father does odd things to you, psychologically; it really is not just women whose hormones go up the wall at the sight of a new baby that’s their own. Come round my house for bruschetta one day and I’ll show you the massive collection of Israeli Army self-defence books that I bought when my son was three months old; never cracked the spine on a single one of them and have no real idea why I own them, but something about the idea that it’s a threatening world out there and a man has to defend his family must have been speaking to me. God knows what I’d have been like if there had been a war on.
Also, your social circle changes. Everyone who’s got young kids will remember that period of blind rage at all your friends that you go through at about nine months of age when you realise that all those good mates who swore that they’d be round all the time, see the babby grow, we’ll babysit for you no problem, just fucking haven’t because dammit they can’t realise that little Junior is the most important thing in the world and they ought to be rearranging their lives round him in the same way that you did. You grow out of it but you go through it, and it’s unusual to say the least to not lose a few mates along the way.
As well as shrinking, your social circle becomes a lot more, well, circular. You end up talking to a lot of the same people over and over again, about the same subjects, over and over again. You tend to lose your sense of proportion.
This works better as a theory of Cohen than of Aaronovitch, whose children are somewhat older. But I think it has good explanatory power; the aggression, the rage at former comrades, the curious obsession with grammar schools.
Friday forecast time coming up this afternoon.