Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Here is Sarfraz Manzoor writing very badly about Philip Roth and Bruce Springsteen. I don't have much time for Manzoor's writing: the main reason for his miniature success appears to be the media class's adoration of their own, and particularly their willingness to venerate cheap wisdom from television men. Manzoor evidently knows this. So, lost for a phrase to characterise Roth's prose, he says it is: what Howard Jacobson has described as "language in the service of intelligence, thought wrought to sense". Never mind that he has probably lifted the quote from here: it's allowed. The more pressing issue is that the statement is absolutely meaningless. Language is by definition at the service of intelligence, thought by definition contains sense. He may as well have said "Roth writes well, innit", because that is all he means. It is exactly the sort of pompous, sententious drivel that a miserable ball-bag like Howard Jacobson is liable to come up with. It is what [fill in suitable name-drop] calls "flyblown horseshit". You can imagine it being said on television by some ponderous fuckwit like Melvyn Bragg. I assume it'll be used in future Guardian reviews when the word count is a bit short. If the reviewing-writing circle-jerk eventually decides that recycling this kind of vapid horseshit makes it look as if (heavens, no) they haven't really thought about what they've written, there is another possibility. Put the following words and phrases into a hat, and draw them out as required next time you have to review a Philip Roth novel: "tough", "sinewy", "muscular", "fibrous", "visceral", "wrought", "deft", "meticulous", "language", "East Coast", "elegant", "raging", "transgressive wit", "Freudian", "pornographic", "scathing", "intelligence", "searing", "scatological", "bardic", "hermetic", "masterly prose stylist", "controlled", "inspired comic flights", "melancholia", "alter-ego", "sentences", "elegaic". You might consider doing the same for every prolific writer of fiction that you might have to 'review'. It is a labour-saving device: you need never read another novel in your life.