Category Archives: pedantry

Comrade Madam’s commanding heights

Looking down upon the masses Looking down upon the masses from a plateau of literary, political and humanitarian achievement

Nadine Gordimer’s voice, writes Dalrymple, had a timbre that

would have penetrated the best artillery-proof armour plating.

On one occasion at a conference in Bamako that Dalrymple attended, he noticed that Gordimer

condescendingly addressed a Ghanaian lady as ‘my sister Susan’.

‘Actually, my name’s Gloria,’ said her sister Susan.

But the great writer ignored this manifestation of pedantry and continued with what she was saying.


exactly corresponded to the characterisation of her by the satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys as ‘Comrade Madam’: the lifetime habit of command combined with a theoretical and dogmatic egalitarianism.

The tedious New York Times

Pedantic layout

Pedantic layout: Dalrymple likens the front page of the Times to a particularly verbose Victorian tombstone

One does not, writes Dalrymple, look to the New York Times

for elegance of writing, perhaps not even for mere accuracy, though its layout looks as if it was designed by a professor of Aramaic philology at the University of Göttingen in about 1880. Pedantic layout, loose (though dull) writing: that more or less summarises the Times.

Loose Times writer: Jayson Blair

Loose and dull Times writer: Jayson Blair

Dull Times writer: Michael Kimmelman

Loose, dull and pusillanimous Times writer: Michael Kimmelman

Loose, dull and drug-addled Times writer: David Carr

Loose, dull, pusillanimous and drug-addled Times writer: David Carr

Promethean bargain

A look at the Patricia Highsmith short story The Snail-Watcher.

I shall not here dilate on the psychology of pedantry…