Thursday, 5 June 2008

Some things don’t change

In the past few weeks, the papers have been full of Cherie Blair, Lord Levy and John Prescott washing their tawdry linen in public – sorry, promoting their heavyweight political memoirs. As books go, they’re all something of a disappointment. One thinks of previous political memoirs – Denis Healey, Tony Benn, Barbara Castle – and how well-written, revelatory and ick-free the genre used to be. As a way of raking in the cash, though, they continue an extremely time-worn tradition. I’ve just finished Richard Aldous’s The Lion and the Unicorn, a fascinating dual biography of Gladstone and Disraeli (I know that sounds like the worst kind of wanky Summer Reading pull-outs in the Observer, but bear with me) and when Disraeli leaves office for the last time, he is offered the then megabucks sum of £10,000 to write a novel. Considering how this was more than the heavyweight novelists were on at the time (Dickens and George Eliot were the biggest earners on £9000 a book), and you can see that in 150 years, very little has changed.

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