The night before I left for NYC my iPod died. It’s four years old so I suppose I should be grateful it lasted this long. It went to consumer appliance heaven with a horrible grinding and whining noise, finished off by the sort of goose-sucked-into-jet-turbine howl-and-crunch that you’d think would require an actual goose. Standing in the kitchen at 2 a.m. it was quite frightening…
Anyway, a return flight on a 25 year-old, filled-to-capacity Air India 747 (me: ‘what’s the capacity of this plane?’. Stewardess: ‘411’. Me: ‘how many on board today?’ Stewardess: ‘412 [giggles]’) with nothing to listen to (except the fascinating but inaudible Indian music coming though those crappy plastic tube headphones) left me with plenty of time to read.
So I read: the mighty Paul Johnson on the wickedness of the Darwinian fundamentalists in The Spectator. Simon Hoggart on Paxman vs. Blair in The Guardian (incidentally, Hoggart has Blair winning this particular punch-up, unlike some other outlets). Michela Wrong on The Pope (“He did more to spread Aids in Africa than prostitution and the trucking industry combined”) in the New Statesman.
From the same issue of The Spectator – and this time FREE – Germaine Greer’s entertaining invocation of Shakespeare as inventor of our shared fantasy of Englishness and Daniel Hannan’s provocative but authoritative analysis of French reasons to vote ‘no’ to the Euro constitution. Fred Vogelstein’s detailed analysis of Google vs. Gates from Fortune. Philip Roth’s unpublished interviews with Saul Bellow from the late nineties (this is what you buy The New Yorker for. Dazzling and inspiring). The Economist’s really quite persuasive special report on flat tax (plus the in-flight magazine, the menu, the emergency card and the Daily Mail – but I’ll keep those to myself).