In the know

Insider or outsider? From Robert Verkaik’s new book, “Posh Boys: How the English Public Schools Run Britain”:

“Did you go to school?”

The question asked of suspected Old Etonians by Old Etonians.

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Mayfly season

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Royal wedding

Windsor, Saturday.

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Richard Pipes RIP

He wasn’t anywhere near as well known in this country as Orlando Figes, but he should have been. I suppose you could describe him as an intellectual who was wary of a certain kind of intellectual. As he puts it in “The Russian Revolution”:

Although the intelligentsia likes to see itself as selflessly dedicated to the public good, and hence a moral force rather than a social group, the fact of its members sharing common values and goals inevitably means that they also share common interests – interests which may well clash with their professed ideals. The intelligentsia has difficulty admitting this. Its profound aversion for sociological self-analysis – in such contrast to its penchant for analyzing all other social groups and classes, especially its main obstacle to power, the “bourgeoisie” – has resulted in a striking paucity of works on the subject. The sparse literature on the intelligentsia as a social and historic phenomenon is entirely disproportionate to that group’s importance.

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How did “My Dad Wrote A Porno” become an all-conquering global phenomenon? Search me. My review of the Festival Hall version of the erotica-gone-bad podcast:

It is a long time since I have seen an audience in quite such an excited pre-show mood, and during the performance the atmosphere bordered on hysterical. Never mind that the trio aren’t, to a neutral’s eye, particularly quick on their feet; Morton and Cooper are TV industry “creatives” (their word) and Levine is a broadcaster who can do a decent Jennifer Saunders deadpan. Yet perhaps their not being polished performers is what appeals to fans. In one mildly amusing sequence a couple of female volunteers acted out one of Rocky’s typically convoluted clinches to the sound of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On. Later, Levine used a chart or two to test the audience’s knowledge of female anatomy. The whole evening hovered around the level of a tipsy dinner party in NW3 or a post-pub quiz on Channel 5. For the first time in my life, I found myself thinking that maybe there is something to be said for Alan Carr.

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Tom Wolfe RIP

The cover of New York magazine containing that celebrated Radical Chic essay. This superb Michael Lewis profile in Vanity Fair digs through Wolfe’s private archives and explains how he managed to get an invitation to Leonard Bernstein’s Black Panther fundraiser. A great read.

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Ladysmith Black Mambazo seem to be stuck in a rut. From my review of their Bath Festival concert:

There’s no question that Ladysmith Black Mambazo are a force for good; they are, after all, the singers who provided the soundtrack for the birth of Nelson Mandela’s rainbow nation. But Mandela is no longer with us, and the group’s founder, Joseph Shabalala, has retired, although several of his sons help to carry on his legacy. There were still flashes of inspiration in this concert – over the years LBM have crafted an absolutely distinctive a cappella sound, masculine yet surprisingly tender. At its best, the music growls and rumbles like a distant train rolling across the veld.

Still, if anyone thought their much-praised participation in the contemporary dance production, Inala, four years ago might have prompted a rethink about presentation, they would have been disappointed. There’s something to be said for a homespun approach that eschews slickness and lorryloads of lights left over from the Eurovision Song Contest, but the ponderous pacing, the hokey comedy routines and the repetitive displays of high kicking soon grew wearying.

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The beautiful game

Sunday afternoon at Bath Cricket Club.

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Some book blurbs aren’t particularly helpful. “The Slaves of Soliutude” is a wonderful novel about life on the home front in WW2, but is “funny” the first word that comes to mind? Yes, there’s a dark strand of humour, but it’s a story about a boarding house which becomes a kind of hell for the central character, the unasuming Miss Roach. Maybe the publishers were trying to find a way of making the book’s title a bit more palatable. But in the process they’ve ended up making Patrick Hamilton – one of the most under-rated writers of his time – sound like Tom Sharpe.

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