I write short posts. Much goes unsaid. I often write ironically. Some subjects are better approached that way; or it’s just more fun for me to tackle them sideways. What I do say, I say in plain English in the hope that my words at least are clear to everyone who reads them.
Reading Norm today I realise that I wasn’t clear enough in my post yesterday. I wanted to allude to the wrongness of many of Terry Eagleton’s views (and his approaches) and the brokeness of many of his arguments for them, rather than to accuse Norm of being a poor scholar. He isn’t. The suggestion that Norm hadn’t been paying attention was a joke. I sometimes make those here. Even when they are funny, they die when they are explained, but here’s a translation: “Jeez, Norm, you’ve been reading this guy’s stuff for yonks and you still didn’t notice what gibberish he produces?! Mate, tell me you missed it because you were half asleep.”
I’m well aware that—just as he’s listened to plenty of Bob Dylan—Norm has read plenty of Terry Eagleton and read it in detail. My friendly dig wouldn’t have made any sense otherwise. As he knows too well, if I’m really going to give Norm a hard time about something he’s written then I start an argument with him in person, on the phone, or by email. Indeed, I drafted a robust criticism of this post of Norm’s when he wrote it, but decided not to publish it.
As Norm notes by pointing to Oliver Kamm’s post about Eagleton, at least one of Eagleton’s political errors of judgment was not a laughing matter, but the impression I get is that Norm is more forgiving of Eagleton’s errors of reasoning than he should be (and they’re grave ones). This is a credit to Norm’s intellectual generosity and loyalty, but it doesn’t mean he’s right.
Rather than wade through my back issues of the LRB—yes, I used to subscribe, God help me; in fact, I briefly had three subs—and blockquote you all to death to make the more general point, I just threw a paper plane from the back of the lecture theatre. But the witless snobbery and logical incoherence of that review by Eagleton of Dawkins’ The God Delusion is one grubby tip of a moraine of pseudo-intellectualizing. If it were possible for either of the two of us to collect, I’d happily place a bet with Norm on which of the two of them will be considered worth reading in two hundred years’ time.
But durability isn’t the point here; correctness is. Terry Eagleton is frequently, demonstrably wrong. I’m not going to persuade you or Norm to share this belief of mine because no demonstration will appear here. That would be both hard work of a kind that I am no longer paid to do and would require me to re-read other essays by Eagleton. Like that hypothetical bet, it won’t happen; because life, like my blog post, is too short.