Jacobson on Grass

by Chris Bertram on September 12, 2006

In a “recent comments thread”:https://crookedtimber.org/2006/08/23/the-wealth-and-poverty-of-nations/ , I got into trouble for asserting that Christopher Hitchens had clearly never read Günter Grass’s ” _Crabwalk_ “:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0156029707/junius-20 since, in the course of “a polemic”:http://www.slate.com/id/2148094/nav/tap1/ that was nasty even by his standards, he described the book thus:

bq. suddenly there is Grass, publishing a large and cumbersome account of the sinking of a German civilian vessel in the Baltic in 1945 ….

By contrast, Dan Jacobson gives “an accurate and balanced account”:http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2006/09/writers_choice__1.html of the book (warning: plot spoilers), coupled with some reflections on Grass’s recent disclosures about his SS membership as part of the “Writer’s Choice” series at Geras’s site. (I wrote about _Crabwalk_ in “a post last year”:https://crookedtimber.org/2005/02/27/crabwalk/ , before the recent revelations.)

Update: Ian Buruma, in the New Yorker, has “an interesting piece”:http://www.newyorker.com/critics/atlarge/articles/060918crat_atlarge on l’affaire Grass.

That letter

by Chris Bertram on September 12, 2006

The open letter on childhood written by a bunch of academics, authors, celebrities and others (including Harry’s dad) seems to me causing a bit of a stir. Why did they send it to the Telegraph I wonder, rather than the Times (the traditional place) or the Guardian (read by more people who work with children, I imagine). Perhaps they think that Cameron’s Tories are going to win the next UK election and that they might make more impact on policy via the Telegraph. Anyway, it is hard not so sympathize with their sentiments even if the list of issues is an odd assortment:

  • Children’s brains can’t adjust to rapid social change.
  • Junk food is bad for their development.
  • Sitting in front of video screens all day is really bad for kids: they need to go out and play.
  • Children need to have adults who pay attention to them, talk to them etc.
  • School starts too young, is too competitive and there’s far too much testing.
  • Children are pressured to dress like small adults — surely they mean that girls are dressed in an excessively sexualized way at an unsuitably young age — and are being exposed to quasi (and not so quasi) porno images via the internet.
  • Well what do you expect? If you make a lot of noise about having to have a competitive and flexible labour force — as NuLab have — then mum and dad are going to be working all hours to pay the mortgage, and when they are at home are going to slump in front of the TV after they’ve heated the ready-meals in the microwave. It wasn’t alway like this, of course. Look at _Astérix chez les Bretons_ (1965) and you’ll see the Brits being ridiculed by the _French_ for their relaxed pace of life, for taking time off for tea, and for keeping the weekend sacred. I guess we had time for children then too.