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Pickle Me This

March 11, 2010


I haven’t seen An Education yet, but I read the book a few months ago. Which is really a different thing entirely– the movie is much fictionalized and based on just a chapter of Lynn Barber’s book, but the people in the movie are really beautiful and the book is absolutely fascinating, so I think all is as it should be. In particular, I’d recommend the book for its history of journalism– Barber got her start writing for Penthouse, then The Sunday Express, and has ended up quite renowned for her interviews in The Observer in particular. And yes, previous to that had had an affair with a conman (the movie using this as a springboard), which made for a good chapter, but the rest of the book is as worth reading.

But the book is also worthwhile for its history of a time, which I’m thinking about now that I’m all wrapped in Jenny Diski’s The Sixties (which is so good, by the way). How the two books are fine companions, two stories about the same thing as told by observers standing on different parts of the very same street.

I’m reading the Diski book having just finished reading The Uses and Abuses of History by Margaret MacMillan, who probably wouldn’t love The Sixties, because although she acknowledges that, “it is instructive, informative, and indeed fun to study such subjects…, we ought not to forget the aspect of history which the great nineteenth-century German historian Leopold von Ranke summed up as “what really happened.”” And I presume she means what really happened in addition to the fact that Jenny Diski had sex a lot.

In fact, there aren’t a lot of connections between MacMillan’s book and Diski’s, and they are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Though Diski is neither using nor abusing history, which MacMillan would probably find heartening, and also that Diski has never used The Munich Agreement to justify invasion of a foreign nation. Further, Diski has learned from the past, though perhaps too much, “What the young don’t get is that they are young; the old are right, young is a phase that the old go through. It’s just as well, I suppose, that the young don’t see it that clearly. Best to leave the disappointment for later.”

The point of all this being that these three books are banging around in my head at the moment, because two of them relate and because I just happened to read the other two one after the other. Though all three of them are written with such fierce, formidable intelligence. So that if you really must read something that isn’t a novel, you’d be all right checking out any of these.

2 thoughts on “Bunk”

  1. Nathalie Foy says:

    I love, love, love your blog. This world is new to me, and you are one of the highlights of my morning open the computer ritual. (Or now that the boys are asleep computer ritual….)

  2. Kerry says:

    Oh, wow. Now I love, love, love you…

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