01 February, 2007

Perfidious Albion

Apparently the British government, or "They" as I prefer to call it, has seen fit to announce possible cuts to the funding of the British Library—possibly as much as 7%. I, for one, am relieved to hear of this. After all, the cuts will make it much easier for me to plead an excuse of 'insufficient resources' when my doctoral research turns out dud.

Moreover, I think it will do British culture a world of good, and stuff all those woolly-hearted liberals who bemoan the incalculable loss to our society and heritage. Pontificating academics have been sponging off the taxpayer for far too long now. Maybe they'll go out and get real jobs—become lawyers, advertising executives, that sort of thing. Put that brains to good use, I say. For instance, did you know that 'Writer Stef Penney, who won the Costa first novel prize with The Tenderness of Wolves, set in Canada in 1867, had never been to Canada and did all her research at the [British] Library'? I didn't. It's this sort of armchair travel we'd do well to discourage.

Of course the intelligensia have been up in arms. Yes, I'm talking about people like Melvyn Bragg, and Margaret Drabble, and Andrew Motion, the heroes of the middle brow. Do you know how much free booze that idiot Motion receives every year for his 'contributions' to our nation? All that gratuity to write things like,
In the swirl of its pool
The home-coming salmon
has no intuition
of anything changed
Do you think he needed the resources of the British Library to pen that? Some us might regard it as rather impolite to refer that way to the Queen Mum, God rest her drunken soul. Meanwhile cheeky-faced Michael Palin has opined, 'This is one of the great storehouses of world culture, from what I've heard, and apparently their archive material, both photographic and written, is quite dazzling.' It's obvious he's never even been to the library. In fact he's probably never even been to a library, given the quality of his comedic output. Clearly, what Britain needs now is not a first-class library, but rather a show-stopping Olympic spectacular to make the world pay attention to us again. We used to be a global power, you know.

17 comments:

Pretzel Bender said...

I missed your advertising exec post before...very nice.

This post sounds like it's flirting with political commentary.

Say it ain't so, Conrad!

As for the British Library. I recall not being able to get in back in '94 without a letter of some kind. I don't know how hard it is to use now, but I read some article in the Guardian a while back about how they'd opened it up to the hoi polloi and it's now filled with rowdy school children.

The Library of Congress, although open to all, is out of the way enough (and with compelling enough security) that it's not generally filled with anything other than hapless tourists and more serious scholars.

Of course, the fact that one has to wait in line and actually get a photo id (citizens and foreigners alike) to use the reading room makes things a bit quieter as well.

Of course, a mere photo id requirement is nothing compared to the single minded obstruction of a certain older lady who ran the circulation admission desk at the Regenstein Library (the main library at the University of Chicago). I've seen her complicated games of "simon says" for library entry with unfortunate would-be scholars reduce grown men to tears. She certainly cut library costs by reducing the number of entrants. Perhaps the British Library should stock up on hankies and hire her.

Conrad H. Roth said...

Political commentary? No way!

You can now get into the BL if you ask nicely and have a reason. Would this older lady be the infamous Warner Nero?

Lastly, we don't say "the hoi polloi" round this way. Mind your Greek please, Pretzel.

Proserpine said...

Perhaps "they" should consider an Olympic spectacular that includes the old medal categories of literature, music, architecture, painting, and sculpture. I can see it now . . . all those cultural and economic interests falling into line . . .

Anonymous said...

hello good blog!!!!!!

slskenyon said...

Ah, the British Library. One of those places even some of the American population has heard of. Perhaps it will erode American consciousness of anything outside of the USA if the BL is somewhat lost. Hey, in our case, there isn't much of that to go.

Conrad H. Roth said...

Good point, Proserpine, I hadn't thought of that. Maybe we could lobby the 2012 committee for literary criticism or dialectics as the new trial sport. Better than curling or beach volleyball, at any rate.

And speaking of sports, perhaps Slskenyon might be relieved to recall that the Beckhams are now property of the USA, and will soon be supplanting any fond distant memories of impeccable library stacks.

Raminagrobis said...

You are of course, right. Burn it to the ground, I say; didn't do Alexandria any harm.

I was thinking of writing something about this, but when I read this in the letters page the other day, I realized I simply didn't understand the terms of the debate.

"The library remains one of the primary means of ensuring the UK remains competitive in the global knowledge marketplace."

O tempora! o mores!

Sue said...

It's thanks to the Beckhams that Sheerness library is always full of punters looking for books about them/by him. Very popular here and a great loss to the UK.

Conrad H. Roth said...

I'm glad you linked to this, R. What caught my attention was the headline "Heir of Victor Hugo fails to stop Les Mis II", truly worthy of the Onion.

Language said...

The hoi polloi.

Lethe Primeval said...

Oh, the Brittish have a library?

Anonymous said...

Paraguay and Alhambra aren't - hopefully we both know that - expressions, such as hoi polloi. They both receive articles in their own languages. The comparison is plain sophistry.

Name supplied said...

This is what I do in my local library. Would you not be much happier if this was 7% shorter. I wish I were.

In fact he probably is never even is to the library, is given his humorous product quality. Clearly, any Britain now needs to be does not have a prime library, but is one is broken by the warm applause the performance Olympics spectacular rather to do the world to pay attention again we. We pass often are the global strength, you knew.

Conrad H. Roth said...

"Comments are the life of a blog".

-- Steve Languagehat, somewhere, once.

Anonymous said...

despite being hoi polloi I can read now so i make the most of the british library. Only last thursday I was there reading a book on psychiatric day hospitals from 1948 which would have never survived anywhere else. But the cafe's not cheap! Perhaps they could knock 7% off the prices?

Grand said...

Sounds like some high-up Brit has been listening to advice from the Bushies.

Gawain said...

Well, its nice to be here, at the NPM in Taipei, immersed in the 5000 year old tradition which says that nothing but culture is worth living for; and that am empire without good literature, painting and ceramics isn't worth having. (And that it is better to comment for the 567,985,567th time on Su Shih's Red Cliff than spend 5 mins on some middle-brow drivel). And in a museum whose whole purpose is entirely political: we are the guardians of the classics; ergo, we are the real Chinese government. We never quite developed this enlightened view of ourselves, have we?