I am very sad to announce that Norm died in Addenbrooke's hospital in Cambridge in the early hours of this morning. Writing this blog, and communicating with all his readers, has brought him an enormous amount of pleasure in the last ten years. I know that since writing here about his illness earlier in the year he received a lot of support from many of you, and that has meant a great deal to him, and to us, his family. The blog and all its archives will remain online.
While I'm sure these lists are meant to be helpful, guiding us towards books we might want to try, they can also be a bit oppressive, don't you find? I mean, they tempt you to start counting, to see how well you fare as a literary fishbo. And it can be a little depressing. 'Oh no, I've only read a quarter of these!' Or it might be better than a quarter - a third maybe or just over half - but anyway if you're me (which is true for at least one case) there are always a whole lot of books I haven't read. I start muttering that someone is trying to make me feel bad.
All of which is by way of introducing another such list of books that I recently fell upon and that has an interesting feature I want you to consider. What this feature is I'll leave till you've glanced at the list itself. It's '100 works of fiction you might enjoy' and is as follows.
Jane Austen, Emma
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
Sebastian Barry, A Long Long Way
Saul Bellow, Mr Sammler's Planet
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
André Brink, A Chain of Voices
Anne Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace
Charles Dickens, Bleak House
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Fyodor, Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment
Fyodor, Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground
Marina Endicott, Good to a Fault
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Penelope Fitzgerald, The Bookshop
Penelope Fitzgerald, The Gate of Angels
E.M. Forster, Howards End
E.M. Forster, A Room with a View
Margaret Forster, Have the Men Had Enough?
John Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman
Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
Tom Franklin, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections
Helen Garner, The Spare Room
Elizabeth Gaskell, Cousin Phillis
Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford
William Golding, Lord of the Flies
Vasily Grossman, Everything Flows
Patrick Hamilton, The Slaves of Solitude
Knut Hamsun, Hunger
Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure
Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Kent Haruf, Eventide
Kent Haruf, Plainsong
Joseph Heller, Catch-22
Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day
Henry James, Portrait of a Lady
Henry James, The Spoils of Poynton
Elizabeth Jenkins, The Tortoise and the Hare
Franz Kafka, The Castle
Franz Kafka, The Trial
Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses
Cormac McCarthy, The Road
John McGahern, Amongst Women
Belinda McKeon, Solace
David Malouf, The Great World
William Maxwell, They Came Like Swallows
William Maxwell, Time Will Darken It
Herman Melville, Bartleby, the Scrivener
Philipp Meyer, American Rust
Nancy Mitford, The Pursuit of Love
Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart
Iris Murdoch, The Black Prince
Iris Murdoch, The Nice and the Good
Maggie O'Farrell, After You'd Gone
Maggie O'Farrell, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
George Orwell, Animal Farm
George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four
Charles Portis, True Grit
Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time
Barbara Pym, Quartet in Autumn
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead
Marilynne Robinson, Home
Philip Roth, The Human Stain
Philip Roth, The Plot Against America
J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
Edward St Aubyn, Never Mind
José Saramago, Blindness
W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz
Art Spiegelman, Maus
Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge
Theodore Sturgeon, More Than Human
Elizabeth Taylor, Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont
Colm Tóibín, The Master
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
William Trevor, Love and Summer
William Trevor, The Story of Lucy Gault
Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers
Anthony Trollope, The Warden
Dalton Trumbo, Johnny Got His Gun
Anne Tyler, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant
Anne Tyler, A Patchwork Planet
Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Evelyn Waugh, A Handful of Dust
Edith Wharton, The Custom of the Country
Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome
P.G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters
Daniel Woodrell, Winter's Bone
Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
Richard Yates, The Easter Parade
Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road
Émile Zola, Germinal
That's it. Now, in all my experience of such book lists, this one has a unique feature. Which is that I've read all the books on it. Yup, every single one - 100%. That's because I compiled the list from... the books I've read (choosing titles, as well, that I liked enough that I'm happy to recommend them). Why should I let other people make lists to browbeat me with? If I make the list myself, I get to have read everything on it. Enough bullying is what I say. You, too, can make your own list and rebel against the tyranny of the book-dictators. I suggest you do it.
In exactly the same neck of the woods as that last post is a letter from Jenny Tonge in today's Guardian explaining to Jonathan Freedland 'that criticism of Israel and Zionists who support that country is not antisemitism'. No, it isn't - unless it is. When are Tonge and her co-isn'ters going to cotton on to the possibility of this last bit?
If someone criticized Ralph Miliband for having had wrong-headed Marxist ideas, this wouldn't in itself be anti-Semitism either. But if the critic happened to be a believer in the myth of a world Bolshevik-Jewish conspiracy, then it just might be. You'd need to look into the critic's habits of argument to see whether he or she had ever deployed the theme before. Some years ago Tonge (you may or may not happen to remember) delivered herself of the following gem at the the Lib-Dem conference in Brighton:
The Pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the Western World, its financial grips. I think they've probably got a certain grip on our party.
Her current protestations about 'look[ing] for antisemitism where none exists' appear in a different light coming from a person ready to deploy that particular 'traditional' theme. (Thanks: E.)
I'd sort of lost sight of this one: the controversy over the name of the Washington Redskins. But it's still going strong. It seems that those defending the team's hanging on to that name are appealing to the alleged fact that 'only one in 10 Native Americans were offended' by it, as well as to the more general consideration of 'history and legacy and tradition'. Tradition it certainly is but it's the wrong tradition.
The Washington Wetbacks? The Houston Hymies? The Chicago Chinks? Or perhaps the New York Niggers?
Or, if one wants to make the link, those 'Yids' of White Hart Lane. It is constantly surprising how stuck people can be over the view that racist prejudice is simply a matter of what one intends; and how stubbornly they resist the obvious truth that words and symbols carry meanings associated with their history and which cannot simply be disowned by declarations of good will.
Shutting down the government of one's own country isn't such a great idea, even when the shutdown is partial. A column in the Washington post says that the impact of it is likely to be small so far as damage to the economy is concerned. But damage to the economy isn't everything. Consider the effect of the shutdown on Michelle Langbehn. She's in the middle of treatment for cancer and is waiting to learn if she can take part in a clinical trial:
When I contacted him [the clinical research coordinator] on September 30, he had told me all my records had been sent in, and they had started evaluation, that they needed to do their own re-diagnosis. They had started, and then on Tuesday, everything came to a halt... If I had a message, it would be that lives are at stake.
You'd expect some serious consequences from a shutdown of government-supported functions.
On a related matter there's also this, which I don't understand at all - a column by Sean Wilentz, professor of history at Princeton, who argues that the Republicans in Congress would be acting unconstitutionally in precipitating a default on the US public debt. How can that be so and Obama not be threatening to use it to resolve the current standoff if he has to? Somebody else might be able to explain it to me.
Here's a 15-year-old student in Sydney, Zeke Coady, justifying his choice in studying Latin. He says it's fun. He finds Latin interesting in itself, and in how it has contributed to the language (English) we speak today, and in its relationship to Italian. He's not especially bothered about its effect on his career prospects.
I think it's important to know things just for the point of knowing them, not because I'll need them to make money... I chose Latin, because I think it's enjoyable just to learn for the sake of learning.
If a bit more of Zeke's approach to life were to find its way into the councils of those responsible for running and funding education, that would be no bad thing. It's a sad comment on the state of the world, in fact, that anyone with anything to do with education should need tutoring in this way of thinking.
No one can doubt her courage, nor the inhumanity of her obscurantist tormentors. Yet it would be too easy to blame the Taliban for the lack of female education in Pakistan.
Instead, Malala is only the most vivid symbol of a deep-rooted problem that existed long before the birth of the Taliban - and affects areas of Pakistan which its gunmen have never reached. In the process, the lives of millions of boys are blighted, just as surely as girls.
The problem can be simply stated. Pakistan has neglected to build a public education system worthy of the name. No single leader or political movement can be singled out for blame: this is a calamitous national failure built up over generations.
Today, only 67 per cent of Pakistani girls and 81 per cent of boys go to primary school, according to the United Nations. That may not sound disastrous, until you remember that neighbouring India achieves close to 100 per cent for both genders, and even Uganda and Zambia manage more than 90 per cent.
When it comes to secondary education, the situation is far worse, with Pakistan's enrolment rate plummeting to 38 per cent for boys - and only 29 per cent for girls. Again, the poorest countries in Africa do significantly better, typically achieving around 50 per cent.
Then consider the fact that Pakistan's population exceeds 180 million, of whom almost half are children under the age of 18. If a big majority have no chance to go to secondary school – and a significant minority cannot even gain a primary education – then tens of millions of children are missing out.
In the years during which I taught a course on the Holocaust at Manchester, one of the topics I covered concerned gender aspects of that historical experience. We looked at women as victims and the ways in which their sufferings were similar to those of men and the ways in which they were different; at specific aspects to do with sexuality, pregnancy and the care of children; at the role of women in the resistance to Nazi brutality; and, inevitably also, at women as bystanders to and perpetrators of genocide. At the time I didn't know of any systematic study on women as perpetrators, but what was scattered across the Holocaust literature was pretty much the same range of behaviour as was to be found for men - from extreme cruelty, through 'run-of-the-mill' harshness, to the occasional example of a more humane woman camp guard who would try to mitigate the treatment being meted out as a matter of routine. In general the judgement of historians and other observers was that the behaviour of women perpetrators matched in cruelty that of male guards.
This may come as a surprise to some, but to me it never was. Women are people and while there are undoubtedly gender differences relevant to the role they can come to play in brutal episodes, as members of our species enough women will share those attributes of human nature that undermine, corrupt and provoke individuals to behave shockingly for there to be an adequate complement of them filling whatever spaces for brutality happen to be available at any given time.
A new book by Wendy Lower - Hitler's Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields - is reviewed here. It should throw some light on this unhappy topic.
Distilling many years of research into the Holocaust, Lower focuses her account on the experiences of a dozen or so subjects... ranging from provincial schoolteachers and Red Cross nurses to army secretaries and SS officers' molls. Despite coming from all regions of Germany and all walks of life, what they had in common was that they ended up in the Nazi-occupied east, where they became witnesses, accessories or even perpetrators in the Holocaust.
Lower is scrupulously fair to her subjects, providing a potted biography of each, explaining their social and political background and examining the various motives – ambition, love, a lust for adventure – that propelled them to the "killing fields". This objectivity is admirable, particularly as most of the women swiftly conformed to Nazi norms of behaviour, at least in turning a blind eye to the suffering around them. One woman, a Red Cross nurse, organised "shopping trips" to hunt for bargains in the local Jewish ghetto, while another, a secretary, calmly typed up lists of Jews to be "liquidated", then witnessed their subsequent deportation.
Most shocking of all are the accounts of the women who killed. One of Lower's subjects, a secretary-turned-SS-mistress, had the "nasty habit", as one eyewitness put it, of killing Jewish children in the ghetto, whom she would lure with the promise of sweets before shooting them in the mouth with a pistol. Lower presents another chilling example: that of an SS officer's wife in occupied Poland who discovered a group of six Jewish children who had escaped from a death-camp transport. A mother, she took them home, fed and cared for them, then led them out into the forest and shot each one in the back of the head.
Despite these horrors, Lower's book resists the temptation to wallow in emotive rhetoric; nor is it drily academic. She writes engagingly, wears her considerable erudition lightly and has opted to stick with a broad narrative account, comparing and contrasting but never allowing her analysis to outweigh the fundamental humanity of the stories. The book's power lies in its restraint.
Neither can Hitler's Furies be imagined as some sort of Woman's Hour rereading of the Holocaust. There is no special pleading for the subjects and the gender studies aspect of the book is kept well within bounds. Indeed, in analysing the women's progress from nurses and secretaries to accomplices and perpetrators, Lower is at times eager to emphasise that the forces that drove and shaped them were in some ways the same forces experienced by Germany's men - the seductive appeal of Nazism, the heady lawlessness of the occupied eastern territories and the "new morality" of the SS.
It's worth remembering here that many of those women who committed crimes could not resort to the time-worn excuse that they were "following orders". They were not. They were merely reacting and adapting to their surroundings.
'We' here being Adèle and her old buddies from college days, gathered for their reunion after half a century. Half a century! It can't be; as the woman said, 'I was at Woodstock, for Christ's sake! I peed in a field!'
Anyway, read about Adèle's reunion; it's headed by a terrific poem, written by Wendy Cope about the same occasion. Scroll down for the St Hilda's college gates, through which I have passed many a time and oft on my way to visit or fetch out my then newly beloved.
Back in the spring I started a series featuring movies that include the hymn 'Shall We Gather At The River'. You've probably forgotten it. Big mistake. I haven't. However, it has been a while since the last instalment. So I'll get things going again with these instances of the hymn, including soundtrack appearances, from John Ford's Tobacco Road. You'll find it at 14 minutes in, just after 29 minutes in, just after 1 hour 13 minutes in, and just before 1 hour 20 minutes in.
I ought to do an index for the series. I will do one.
Can one be a critic of parliamentary democracy as it presently exists in capitalist countries and still be accurately characterized as a democratic socialist? The question has arisen in recent discussion of how to describe Ralph Miliband's politics, and I will contend here that the answer to that question is yes. Ralph didn't think that the Labour Party was, or was ever likely to become, an adequate vehicle of socialist change, but the path towards socialism he envisaged didn't renounce either the political importance or the moral legitimacy of parliament as a democratic institution. I have as good a reason as anyone to remember this, because in 1989 The Socialist Register, co-edited by Ralph, carried an essay of mine in the final section of which I rejected the standard dichotomy in strategic debates on the left between pure parliamentarism and pure insurrectionism. I rejected it on grounds both of strategic realism and of what could be justified morally. And in the chapter of his final book - Socialism for a Sceptical Age - where he discussed 'Mechanisms of Democracy', Ralph began by quoting a passage from this essay in outlining his own considered views on the political processes of socialist change as he envisaged these. The passage he quoted was this:
... the insistence, under the rubric of 'smashing' the state, on a total discontinuity between bourgeois-democratic and projected socialist polities has tended to obscure for too many revolutionary socialists the value of certain norms and institutions which any real socialist democracy would need to incorporate: amongst them, a national representative assembly elected by direct universal suffrage, some separation of powers, the independence of judicial from political processes, the protection of basic individual rights, a constitutionally guaranteed political pluralism.
To remind myself of Ralph's arguments overall, I have gone back to that chapter to see what it contains. It's pretty much as I remember it. There's no talk of either (in the Leninist idiom) 'smashing' or bypassing the parliamentary-democratic state. On the contrary, Ralph writes of 'a radical extension of democracy' and of 'tak[ing] up and greatly strengthen[ing] the democratic forms which are already to be found in capitalist democracy'. He writes of the need for constitutional and legal constraints on all forms of power; of the place of the judiciary and judicial review; of controls on bureaucratic power, including by electing officials; of the devolution of power, and reforming the electoral system to make it more genuinely representative, and trying to strengthen participatory elements in the political process; and of the importance of egalitarian measures and the spread of education in achieving a more democratic society. I can find nothing there that would put in question his credentials as a democratic socialist.
For an attempt to vindicate the essence of the Daily Mail's assault on Ralph Miliband's reputation without being swayed by anything so scrupulous as a concern for basic factual accuracy, you might like to take a look at this piece from Benedict Brogan in the Telegraph. As often with this sort of exercise, how it works is that a simple dichotomous division of the world is made, with dark on one side of it and light on the other and without any shades in between. Thus Miliband's record is integrated into a good guys versus bad guys framework, and he is situated on the wrong side of it; 'he was one of the bad guys'. How so? Because...
Until that point [the fall of the Berlin Wall] the struggle between freedom and communism defined the world my generation grew up in. Our view was shaped by a deadly struggle to see off the threat of red tyranny. It was a world far removed from the more consensual politics we enjoy now. Before 1989 the divide between the good guys and bad guys was clear, because the bad guys were out to do us in.
It isn't that Ralph Miliband hated Britain.
But the key point surely is that Marxism hated - hates - Britain. It hates our institutions, our economic model, our democracy, our independent media and our freedoms.
Miliband was, for Brogan, 'on the wrong side of the only argument that mattered', that between freedom and tyranny.
The small complicating factor in all this is that Ralph was never a Stalinist or an apologist for Stalinism. He was - consistently and unambiguously - a democratic socialist, part of that independent left from which a later post-Stalinist generation learned that socialism must be democratic or it is nothing, forever lost. For Brogan to commend values like democracy, freedom, independent media, and at the same time attempt to trash the record of a writer who was himself attached to those values as a socialist, just because he (Miliband) fell on the wrong side of the line capitalism/socialism, shows what a narrow conception of democracy and freedom is at work in his own (Brogan's) thinking. On one side, in other terms, there are the good guys - and then everyone else is a Stalinist. But Ralph Miliband wasn't, and one of his merits was precisely being able to see that the world is a more complicated place than can be divided as Brogan would prefer. (Thanks: RB.)
That's for those of you who need the introduction. It comes in the shape of a piece carrying links to 13 of Haggard's songs. And, 13 being an arbitrary sort of number to settle on, I thought I'd throw in a 14th. It's one of my own favourites, 'Wake Up'. Just give it a listen, along with some of the others, and you'll see. Or, rather, hear.
I didn't know Ralph Miliband well. To the best of my recollection, I met him in person only twice: once at a conference in Brussels in the 1980s, the second time at a gathering in London to mark the publication of one of the editions of The Socialist Register. The two connections in which I knew him better were as editor of that annual and as the author of the books and essays for which he came to be widely known as a Marxist academic. Ralph solicited some of the essays I wrote for The Socialist Register, one of which in particular was to have a marked influence on how I subsequently came to think about the relationship between Marxism and morality and questions of political ethics more generally, and so I owe him a large debt in that regard. As an editor he was, in my experience, always creative, helpful and straightforward.
However, it was for his work above all that I, like many others, valued Ralph's contribution to the thinking of the left. I didn't agree with him in everything, and indeed in a later piece for the Register, written as a tribute to him, I took issue with some of his ideas about the sources of great cruelty in human affairs. Still, Ralph was one of those writers on the left whose works I always looked forward to reading. He wrote in a clear and compact prose, uncluttered by needless jargon and informed by an evident moral seriousness that wasn't in hock to any narrow orthodoxy. His reputation as a Marxist thinker was earned by the consistent quality of his intellectual output.
From mutual friends who knew the family better than I did I had gathered that Ralph's sons had reasons enough for being proud of their father. But beyond those familial reasons, Ralph's stature in the public domain was also something of which they could be justly proud. No smear campaign against him will be able to erode that.
Back in the day when a ban on smoking in pubs was under discussion, I was opposed to it. If you want to know why I was, you could start here and follow some of the internal links. But at least with that ban, smokers have the option of going somewhere else to do their smoking. Recent reports that a total ban on smoking in prisons is now under consideration - here (£), here, here - mention the rationale behind this as being the fear of legal action from non-smokers who don't want to incur the risks from passive smoking; and they mention concerns over whether a smoking ban would cause disturbances amongst prisoners objecting to it.
Nothing is said, however, about whether prisoners have a right to smoke, at least somewhere in the prison 'domain', which is in effect their home for the time being. Naturally, the health of other prisoners and prison staff needs to be protected; but this shouldn't rule out the possibility of some areas being set aside for smoking. In response to the prospect of a similar ban in New South Wales, Simon Chapman, Professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, makes some essential points:
Ethically, the case for banning smoking in indoor areas of prisons is incontestable. There is no right to harm others by the exercise of one's freedom or preference to smoke, which is why laws ban smoking in all enclosed public spaces, and sardine-like crowded open air spaces like stadiums and some outdoor concert spaces.
[T]he only people being harmed by someone smoking in a wide-open outdoor space are smokers themselves. A prisoner smoking in an outdoor area, well away from windows where smoke might drift indoors, would not be harming others. A small enclosed exercise yard might be a problem , but a prison garden or open air grounds would not.
Prisoners, by definition, have their liberties severely restricted. Some people think it's OK to remove one of prisoners' few remaining freedoms: to smoke outdoors. These people would be horrified if such a policy was extended to their neighbours or friends. But apparently it's OK with prisoners because they don't deserve to be treated like other citizens.
Like the blanket ban on smoking in pubs, it's a straightforward piece of illiberalism and has no justification.
Last night Adèle and I watched Flight. (Spoiler follows.) It starts out with Denzel Washington piloting a passenger plane that hits a storm and then goes into a steep nose dive, and because it's Denzel you know you're going to be OK while simultaneously fearing for your safety. It's like one of those runaway train movies we need more of. But after he turns the plane upside down and flies it like that for a while, Denzel manages to land in a field and all but four of the lives on board are saved. The film then ambles along for the rest of its course before turning into a disquisition on the perils of alcoholism.
It put me in mind of recent reports in the national press about pilot fatigue (£):
More than half of all airline pilots have fallen asleep on the flight deck and one in three has woken to find their co-pilot asleep, according to a survey raising new fears about safety.
Eight out of ten pilots think that their flying abilities have been compromised by lack of sleep in the past six months, the poll showed.
Almost half, 49 per cent, said that tiredness was the biggest threat to airline safety, more than three times more than any other risk.
The poll, commissioned by the British Airline Pilots' Association, was released as it emerged that both pilots on a Virgin Atlantic flight from Orlando to Manchester last month fell asleep at the controls of their Airbus A330.
The CAA [Civil Aviation Authority] report warned of aircrew suffering from symptoms of severe fatigue which one of the pilots ascribed to "longer duty periods with insufficient opportunity to sleep".
What is the point of the elaborate measures designed to foil terrorist plots that are targeted against air traffic if the airlines aren't letting their pilots get enough sleep? The British Airline Pilots Association argue 'that new leeway to land a plane after 22 hours without sleep would mean a level of tiredness that equates to being four times over the legal alcohol limit for flying'. Yikes. Why isn't there more public concern? Why is there calm rather than alarm? I mean, one day the sleeping pilots might not be Denzel Washington.
Howard Jacobson takes a dim view, and rightly so, of the style of apologetics that have been befouling Western liberal media with supposedly more complex perspectives on acts of mass murder than the simple truth that murder is what they are and they're unconditionally wrong. In that context, however, I was slightly disconcerted by the following remark.
For Allah will no more forgive him [the shooter of the innocent] than Jesus will. Marx on the other hand... but then that's why no man of feeling should be a Marxist.
It's not that, being a Marxist myself, I begrudge Howard the judgement that no one of feeling should be a Marxist. He's perfectly entitled to it, given how many Marxists, past and present, have used Marxist categories for precisely the kind of excuse-making on behalf of the killing of the innocent that he laments. For my own part, I happen to think that this isn't the only kind of Marxism possible, since like any other tradition of ideas Marxism is capable of change. There are Marxists who understand the necessity of embodying human rights norms at the heart of any morally acceptable political outlook today and who reject absolutely the violations of civilized constraints in the interests of some highly speculative future good. Still, as I've argued at some length before, there are different meanings of being a Marxist, and Howard won't be short of material in finding ways to justify his own expressed preference.
What surprises me in the above-quoted judgement of his is how lightly, by implication, it lets off other doctrines and their adherents. Allah and Jesus would not forgive. As if that ever stopped anyone from adapting religious belief to suit their murderous or oppressive purposes. Fanatical commitment, or what Howard himself identifies as 'an unswerving conviction of rectitude', finds many different homes.
And as if the purveyors of excuses for modern terrorism were confined to ever-smaller groups of Marxists, rather than coming - as they do - from practically every shade of so-called progressive opinion and beyond: liberals, greens, anarchists, Guardianistas of every stripe, anti-imperialists, anti-Zionists, and plain fools by the cartload.
I don't believe I've ever used the word 'bleg' before but I'm going to use it now. This post is a bleg.
One of the things I've been doing since early this summer - and, I'd better emphasize, only one of the things - has been poring over Ashes Test scorecards. Why, you might wonder, would a person want to do that? But let's keep things simple and just proceed.
I've come across a discrepancy which I'd like to try and resolve. For the third Test between Australia and England in the 1881-82 series, Bill Frindall in The Wisden Book of Test Cricket gives Australia's two innings totals as 260 and 66 for 4. The volume Wisden on the Ashes, edited by Steven Lynch, has instead 262 and 64 for 4.
Ralph Barker and Irving Rosenwater, England V Australia and David Frith, England versus Australia: A Pictorial History... are in line with Frindall on this, giving 260 and 66 for 4. On the other hand, Sydney Smith, History of the Tests, Cricinfo and Wikipedia all favour 262 and 64 for 4.
To cap it all, there are at least three sources that offer a compromise, going for 260 and 64 for 4. These are: B.J. Wakley, Classic Centuries in the Test Matches between England and Australia; William P.H. Sparks, Test Cricket: A Unique Record...; and James Rivers, England versus Australia.
How am I to find out the truth of the matter?
Update on 1 October. Thanks to my friend Harriet Monkhouse and her fellow deputy editor at Wisden, Steven Lynch, I now have what I take to be an authoritative answer on this: Australia's scores in that Test were 262 and 64 for 4. The source is Ray Webster, First-Class Cricket in Australia, Volume 1 1850-51 to 1941-42.