RERN A R D Levin, that supremely literate and sublime hatchet-man of Fleet Street, has written his first book (The Pendulum Years: Britain and the Sixties. Jonathan Cape. 50s).
No doubt some critics will have been awaiting it with relish, ready to pounce and extract revenge on the author, who has never been slow or afraid to savage and deride those in public life whom he suspects of political and artistic turpitude or chicanery. Those critics will by now be very disappointed men for Mr Levin has written a sizzler of a book that should be read by anyone whose political, social, or artistic arms do not actually brush the ground as they walk.
It is, as anyone who is familiar with the Levin way of looking at things. a subjective study of a decade: controversial, impudent, biased, instructive, sensitive. brash in places. but always written with a feeling for, and love of. the English language. Inevitably it will be compared with Malcolm Muggeridge's book "The Thirties". Muggeridge's work was a shorter, more biting and epigrammatic study of a period —a classic of its type; Levin's account of the Sixties is longer and more diffuse but it can stand next to the Muggeridge version of the Thirties without shame or apology.
Ironically Levin takes an almighty and to me unfair swipe at Muggeridge. but no doubt Malcolm will enjoy and savour it all, safe in the knowledge that when it comes to a demolition job he still has no equals in the business. though Levin runs him close.
Levin is good and wellinformed on the Church and theological battles of the Sixties and he has great and glorious fun with Macmillan and Wilson. proving once again how much we lost when he left political reporting to cast a beady eye on the theatre and later to confine himself to daily punditry in the Daily Mail.
Yet the finest part of the book is undoubtedly that on the Profumo affair, when all the splendid squalor of British hypocrisy was on display. Here is writing, interpretation. and charity at its best. And Levin reveals that the "Queen being wiser than many of her subjects" wrote to Mr Profumo to thank him for the work he had performed as a.Minister "and to express her sorrow at the embarrasing way in which his career had ended." Some members of the Tory and Labour parties might, even now; learn something from this royal behaviour.
ON the face of it the sur name "Barber" seems pretty ordinary and. like the Chancellor him elf. pee ty uninspired—or it was until the punning sub-editors of Fleet Street and beyond last week suddenly discovered its possibilities. Every pun in Joe Miller's gag book was resurrected as the headline writers gave a weary public their short back-and-sides view of the mini-budget.
There was no respite. It was the "Demon Barber" at work. It was "Tory Barberism" at its most naked. It was "Barber trimmine the economy." It was "a close shave" for the Welfare State. It was etc.. etc. It was. in short, a display of journalism so banal and so boring that I almost prayed for the return of the unctuous Jenkins to the Treasury. Apart from Jenkins' Ear the possibilities of punning with the prosaic name of Jenkins arc decidedly circumscribed.
• I have, of course, a slight vested interest in this business. If I ever go into the Commons my only hope of ministerial rank will be to become Minister of the Arts. And just think what the headline writer would do with a surname like mine in that context.
I AM pleased to learn that the Amplclorth Journal, which all...a;:s carries articles and reviry.vs of wide and general interest, is about to spread its holy %sings. There will now be two editions of the thrice-yearly magazine. The full edition will contain the usual notes on the College and the Amplcforth Society at the back of the Journal while the shorter cd ition will be published without them and at a reduced price.
At a time when religious magazines are going through hard times this is a bold and interesting experiment that deserves success. The shorter edition of the Journal will be the trail-blazer, appealing to those who have no Ampleforth connections and who would find the school notes etc., of little interest. Old boys, on the other hand, will still be catered for by the lare-..-!r edition. I have always thought that many people wrongly regarded the Journal as a glorified school magazine and were put off reading it.
The new shorter edition will eradicate any danger of this and should lead to a deservedly wider sale.
A LONG, long time ago I played cricket for a naval XI in Suva and have never forgotten the thrashing that the Fijian side handed out to us. The thrilling and opportunist rugby that the Fijian XV is now demonstrating in Britain therefore comes as no surprise to me as the Fijians have a natural, and uninhibited flair for ball games.
These rugby virtuosos are so different in both their colour and approach to the game from a British side that I found it gratuitous to say the least when, in the game on Saturday against the London Counties, a BBC commentator informed me that the Fijians "are playing in white." Rather like saying that Cassius Clay was wearing blue trunks when he fought Henry Cooper.
wORRIED voice on the telephone this week: "Can you please tell me if Guy Fawkes was one of the Forty Martyrs?"