Category Archives: dullness

How to beat insomnia on those long flights

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In the pages of the Financial Times, writes Dalrymple,

one seeks in vain an item of interest, let alone of illumination.

Dalrymple sometimes attempts to read the FT

to help me get to sleep when it is handed out free on planes.

He very occasionally buys it and walks through

Outstanding vulgarity

Outstanding vulgarity

my small town in England with it under my arm in order to give the appearance to my fellow townsmen of material substance.

The FT

is earnest rather than serious. The only frivolity it permits itself is its glossy supplement, How to Spend It (a title of outstanding vulgarity), which consists mainly of advising financiers on how to dispose of their surplus millions—that is to say their misappropriations of shareholders’ funds—on expensive trifles.

An MBA’s idea of intellectual seriousness

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 09.19.55Dalrymple writes that there are two ways

for prose to impress more than it should: by incomprehensibility and by portentousness.

In another post, we looked at how Dalrymple views incomprehensibility as exemplified by the contents of an academic criminological journal. In this post it is the turn of portentousness, a good specimen of which is the British, or mid-Atlantic, Economist news-magazine. The Economist, Dalrymple explains, is

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 09.52.49dull and self-congratulatory,

characterising itself as of

the extreme centre.

Its reports at the front of the magazine do not always coincide with the economic data at the back, and its prognostications are belied by events, yet it manages to convey the impression that the disparities, insofar as it acknowledges them, are

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 09.51.56the fault of the events rather than of the Economist,

and that the world has a duty to be as the Economist says it is and will be. The articles are written anonymously, which is

intended to create the illusion that the magazine speaks from nothing so vulgar as a perspective, but from some Olympian height from which only the whole truth can be descried. It is the saving grace of every such magazine that no one remembers what he read in it the week before. Only by the amnesia of its readers can it retain its reputation.

Dalrymple finds the Economist‘s style dull, and asks how it is that

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 09.38.08correspondents from Lima to Limassol, from Cairo to Kathmandu, write in the same fashion, as if everything that happens everywhere is fundamentally the same.

The Economist, writes Dalrymple, is about as amusing as a speech by David Cameron. Its prose

is the equivalent of Ikea furniture, prefabricated according to a manual of style; it tries to combine accessibility with judiciousness and arrives only at portentousness.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 09.41.59Dalrymple wonders who reads the Economist, and what for.

I suppose there is a type of functionary who does not want to be caught out in ignorance of the latest developments in Phnom Penh, or the supposed reasons for the latest uprising in Ouagadougou. The Economist is intellectual seriousness for middle management and MBAs. To be seen with it is a sign of belonging to, and of identifying with, a certain caste.

But at least the Economist

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 09.59.15is comprehensible—even, in its way, lucid. Publications for academic intellectuals are far worse.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 10.01.39

They got that right

They got that right

How the New York Times combines frivolity with the utmost dullness and earnestness

But do not expect the truth

Expect the world: in other words, expect telescopic philanthropy but do not expect good writing or reliable, truthful reporting

Do not expect elegance from the New York Times, writes Dalrymple. Moreover, its front page

resembles a particularly verbose Victorian tombstone.

Dalrymple cites some ‘sloppy and inelegant’ drivel emitted by one of the Times‘s representatively mediocre writers. Dalrymple makes us look at it in order to highlight the absence of genuine style and wit — and the looseness of language and thought — in that hubristic journal.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 08.11.07But I say to Dalrymple that at least the drivel was all apparently the writer’s own, and in this respect the Times has advanced. For this is far from always being so, as the case of one of its celebrated reporters most embarrassingly demonstrated. We can never be sure that the reports, quotes, ‘news’ relayed by the Times are not fabrications.

Insipidity’s monument

'Nothing for [the British prime minister] Cameron is a ­matter of principle, only of advantage, and short-term advantage at that, his sole discernible goal being that of maintaining himself in power'

‘Nothing for Cameron is a matter of principle, only of advantage, and short-term advantage at that, his sole discernible goal being that of maintaining himself in power’

Why, exactly, is David Cameron such a bore? The answer, writes Dalrymple, is that the British prime minister

calculates the effect of whatever he says upon the polls.

He is

a man as it were without qualities, good or bad, unless to be monumentally dull and boring is itself a bad quality.