Saturday, December 20, 2008

They Cause No Trouble

P.D. James, in addition to being one of the finest writers of detective fiction, is a rare bird indeed: a mystery writer whose politics are far from progressive.

At the age of 88, Baroness James is still at the peak of her form. I’m in the middle of reading her latest novel, The Private Patient, which is a vintage English country-house murder mystery.

But it’s not undisturbed by the crisis of post-modernity, as evidenced by this passage from pages 29-30. The author is referring to a group of wedding-guests in their sixties and seventies:
- - - - - - - - -
They could, she thought, have looked much the same in the 1930s and ’40s. She was discomforted by a new and unwelcome emotion compounded of pity and anger. She thought, I don’t belong here, I’m not happy with them, nor they with me. Their embarrassed mutual politeness can’t bridge the gap between us. But this is where I came from, these are my people, the upper working class merging into the middle class, that amorphous, unregarded group who fought the country’s wars, paid their taxes, clung to what remained of their traditions. They had lived to see their simple patriotism derided, their morality despised, their savings devalued. They caused no trouble. Millions of pounds of public money wasn’t regularly siphoned into their neighbourhoods in the hope of bribing, cajoling or coercing them into civic virtue. If they protested that their cities had become alien, their children taught in overcrowded schools where 90 per cent of the children spoke no English, they were lectured about the cardinal sin of racism by those more expensively and comfortably circumstanced. Unprotected by accountants, they were the milch-cows of the rapacious Revenue. No lucrative industry of social concern and psychological analysis had grown up to analyse and condone their inadequacies on the grounds of deprivation or poverty.

As usual, P.D. James is recommended reading.


Francis W. Porretto said...

The novel is, indeed, one of Baroness James's best -- and not merely because of insights such as the one you quoted.

I recall some years ago that Roy Marsden, the fine actor who was once the regular depictor of Adam Dalgliesh in video productions of those novels, commented somewhat abashedly on the distance he, and other actors in the production of A Taste For Death, stood from Baroness James's political and social views, and how powerfully, if unwillingly, swayed toward them he felt. It was a glimpse into something one is seldom allowed to see: the way in which a wordsmith of great talent can cause persons otherwise inclined to feel the force of her convictions -- and to recognize that in deriding them, they've committed a great injustice.

Given that insight, it's no surprise that the most effective polemicists of the two centuries past have been writers of fiction.

Profitsbeard said...

In plain "milch-cow" English: suckers.

What ever happened to the contrarian English spirit of opposing being treated as passive fools by arrogant and pompous asses of "leaders"?

They seem to have bent over so far backwards~ in fear of being thought of as "racist"~ that they have ceded their brains and green and pleasant land to the machiavellian p.c. police and their suicidally-anarchistic allies.

Piggy Infidel said...


I would suggest it it not really down to not wanting to be thought of as racist, at least not anymore. Laws are now in place to ensure that you are arrested, prosecuted and put in prison for daring to express this traditional contrarian spirit, as you put it. The possibility of being tut-tutted at by your work colleagues or neighbours has long since been overshadowed by far more serious consequences.

Light on the horizon : the BNP last week took over 40 percent of the vote (local election) in a hitherto rock-solid Labour stronghold. They had never had a candidate in that area before, and missed out on winning by just a handful of votes. Unprecendented stuff. Will we avoid Mr el Ingles' discontinuity? Probably not, but far better we get to that point sooner rather than later when numbers are no longer on our side.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I have bought The Private Patient as a present for a relative.