The overall trouble with the tone of this text is that it reads in many places as if someone had sent Oscar Wilde to investigatethe meat-packing industry in Chicago. De Botton often sounds as if he is poking at the idea of “work” with a gentlemanly stick, or peering at it under a bell jar; a curiosity of interest mostly to others, not a source of ambition or dread or survival - or money. In short, this book examining “work” sounds often as if it has been written by someone who never had a job that was not voluntary, or at least pleasant. Proof? After examining scores of tasks, trades and professions, the man does not make a single mention of an annual salary number.
The time when young vertebrates first began to develop within their mothers’ bodies has now been pushed much further back in geological time, thanks to two remarkable discoveries involving fish.
Now made available to English readers in a translation by Charlotte Mandell, The Kindly Ones will surely cause jaws here to drop with a different kind of amazement. For Jonathan Littell’s 984-page book is so bloatedly inept that its reverential reception across the Channel seems barely comprehensible.
I write as the holder of an MBA from Harvard Business School – once regarded as a golden ticket to riches, but these days more like scarlet letters of shame. We MBAs are haunted by the thought that the tag really stands for Mediocre But Arrogant, Mighty Big Attitude, Me Before Anyone and Management By Accident. For today’s purposes, perhaps it should be Masters of the Business Apocalypse.
A dose of modesty among MBAs and business schools is long overdue. But it’s not going to come from Harvard. Light, told his audience in October: “The need for leadership in the world today is at least as great as it has ever been. The need for what we do is at least as great as it has ever been.”
A bold claim to which many might say: please, spare us.
Science has killed religion, there’s no hope for the future with seven billion of us on the planet, and the only thing you can do is to laugh in the face of it all.
Ordinary, upright citizens are now spied on, stopped and searched, arrested at gunpoint, DNA-swabbed and criminalised, for no good reason other than that some officer of the state has the power to do it, and is incentivised to do it.
The ink was hardly dry on the Terrorism Act 2000 before it was used to arrest Dundonian Sally Cameron, 34. Her crime wasn’t some conspiracy to blow up Dundee; it was daring to walk along a cycle path. Two squad cars roared up on her and she was carted off to the cells.
Then octogenarian Walter Wolfgang, who had escaped the Nazis and become a Labour activist in Britain, was arrested under the same law for merely heckling Jack Straw at a Labour party conference. That’s the Jack Straw who wrote last week that his party had extended freedoms, not curtailed them.
Really? The Terrorism Act allowed the government to designate areas where the police could stop and search suspects at will. Fine, you might think, if they see people acting suspiciously outside nuclear power stations. But no. Ministers instantly declared the whole of London a stop-and-search area. Now thousands of law-abiding folk are stopped and questioned each year – even a cricketer who was asked to explain why he was carrying a bat, and an 11-year-old girl, stopped and told to empty her pockets.
Another octogenarian, John Catt, was picked up by the cameras that monitor every car going through the City. He was on police files because they’d nabbed him once before – outside the same Labour conference – for wearing a T-shirt saying George W Bush and Tony Blair were war criminals. Could be offensive, they said.
Intriguing, The Times broke the (non-?)story of Prince donating his impressive library a couple of weeks ago:
“Basically, my collection is about sex, drugs, Beat [poets], hippies, punks – and great reads,” said Prince, who keeps his most valuable manuscripts, letters and autographed literary memorabilia in a fireproof, waterproof, room-size vault near his studio in northern New York state.
Not content with run-of-the-mill first editions, Prince, 59, has spent the past 25 years seeking out the rarest – and often most expensive – examples of some of the best-known books, magazines and other publishing ephemera of the past century.
To literary jewels such as a signed first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses and Vladimir Nabokov’s personal, annotated copy of Lolita, he has added a letter written by Sylvia Plath the day before the American poet killed herself; the original manuscript of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, complete with a letter from an editor suggesting Puzo change its original title, The Mafia; and the legendary, unpublishable, handwritten Cock Book, a one-off portfolio of erotica produced by one of Andy Warhol’s acolytes and depicting the genitalia of various celebrities of the 1970s and 1980s.