For various personal and professional reasons, I was in a melancholic and elegaic mood as the clock struck midnight. But this perked me up no end - Julie Burchill's review of The [Un]documented Mark Steyn in the New Year issue of The Spectator. It has an arresting headline:
Mark Steyn: A Hairy, Successful Version Of Myself
Not sure whether that's true. Julie is more successful. Also, I always shave my legs before settling down to read The Spectator. At any rate, Miss Burchill enjoyed the book, and was genially tolerant of the bits she disagrees with:
Steyn's tone is so light and breezy that you are lulled into a chummy sense of accord — only to have him turn on a sixpence.
It's as though one minute you're nattering over the garden fence to a neighbour, dishing the dirt on the weirdo down the road, and the next minute he's waving a gun at you; Steyn approves of firearms, and is a fount of information on the benefits of the right to bear them. He fawns over the British monarchy a bit too effusively for my liking — but maybe it is something to do with being Canadian.
Just to be clear, fawning-wise, I like the non-British monarchy. That's to say, I think a mostly absentee monarch, such as we have in Canada and Oz, is one of the most civilized forms of government ever devised - if, that is, it was "devised" at all. The other thing I like about a monarchy is that in a democratic age it attracts a lot of jeers and hooting, not all of it as skillful as Julie's but healthy nonetheless - at least when compared to a republic in which a free people apparently think it normal for the citizen-executive to demand a couple move their entire wedding somewhere else on less than 24 hours' notice because he wants to play golf.
Incidentally, the Burchill queenophobia makes an appearance on page 279 of my book in a section on declining social mobility:
Midway through a Julie Burchill column in The Guardian bemoaning the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, I was startled to learn the following: Although fewer than ten percent of British children attend private schools, their alumni make up over 60 per cent of the acts on the UK pop charts. Twenty years ago, it was one per cent.
I'm with her on that malign trend. And anyway, what's a disagreement or three?
Steyn's writing is so rompily gorgeous that you can forgive him a bit of chest-beating and rifle-riffing. 'If you can remember the Sixties, you weren't there; if you can remember the Seventies, chances are you aren't here.' 'The photographs of Studio 54's celebrity couples are like a computer breakdown at a dating agency — William Burroughs and Madonna; Regine and Salvador Dalí; Margaret Trudeau on the floor with marijuana-importer Tom Sullivan...'
Some of the more surreal sketches are a bit trying (in both senses of the word)...
Funny she should mention that. Twenty or so years ago, Julie started her own publication, The Modern Review, to which she was kind enough to invite me to contribute. And, while riffling through the archive for the book, I came across an essay from the MR - on telly porn - that I had fond memories of and thought would be great to include. Alas, it read back to me as hideously labored and contrived. Where was the Julie Burchill so alert to pieces that are "a bit trying" back when I needed her?
Heigh-ho. I'll take "rompily gorgeous", or even rompily hairy:
For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, Mark Steyn is sort of a hairy, successful version of me— a civilised, larky type of chap who was just tootling along minding his own biz and scribbling about his favourite show-tunes when — crash, bang, wallop! — he found himself on the frontline of commentating on the clash of civilisations.
Just so. Miss Burchill's musical tastes are butcher than mine, and I wonder how those members of Britain's aristorockracy feel about her in her present incarnation as Fleet Street's lone Zionist - a tough gig in an age when HarperCollins' Scottish map-making subsidiary wipes Israel off the face of the earth to avoid offending its Arab customers.
~By the way, I like to think the book is not without its appeal to Americans, too. Here's Brian S Wise in the heart of the heartland:
"The Undocumented Mark Steyn" is really good.
~On a somewhat gloomier New Year note, Dr Judith Curry makes a very safe prediction:
In terms of global temperature, I expect the hiatus to continue at last another decade, but won't pretend to predict year to year variations. In terms of U.S. politics, I expect the Republican dominated Senate to hold more congressional hearings related to climate/energy issues. I don't expect much to be accomplished in the Paris UNFCCC meeting. And finally I predict that Michael Mann's lawsuit against NRO/CEI/Steyn won't be resolved in 2015.
That last one you can take to the bank.
~If you're eager to hear more about the book, I'll be talking about The [Un]documented Mark Steyn and other matters with Indigo Books suprema Heather Reisman at the Manulife Centre branch in Toronto on January 28th. Full details here.
The [Un]documented Mark Steyn is available at Indigo-Chapters north of the border, and down south you can find it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and even Costco. And, wherever you are, you can be reading it within seconds - via Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iBooks. Or alternatively, if Santa didn't come through for you, treat yourself to a personally autographed copy direct from the SteynOnline bookstore.