Sunday, 28 March 2010
Prince Philip Speaks: the title of a book of his selected speeches from the 1950s that I stumbled across in a second-hand bookshop this weekend. The blurb, of course, declared him to be one of the finest speech-writers of the century. This is part of the joy and poignancy of second-hand bookshops: the topsyturvydom of reputations and rankings. Charles Morgan, Richard Aldington, Storm Jameson, Angus Wilson, William Cooper: where are they now? Some of them, doubtless, in the print-on-demand Faber Finds list, surrendering to its ‘unfortunately hideous’ (quote from Asylum: absolutely right) design. Second-hand bookshops do have this graveyard aspect, prompting a wondering about the reputations of many current writers grandiloquently acclaimed.
Philip, of course, is still alive and reasonably well, though any new book of his utterances is likely to be collection of his off-the-cuff remarks rather than his speeches. ‘If you stay here much longer you’ll all be slitty-eyed,’ he told British students in Beijing in 1986. He breathes life into the tradition of royal visits. And this, from 1981: ‘Everybody was saying we must have more leisure. Now they are complaining they are unemployed.’
Any writer feeling insecure about their current reputation, or considering grounding it in a regular salary, might consider this current job ad in the Guardian, also spotted this weekend: Mid-weight writer. Nobel winners (heavy) and chick-lit authors (light) need not apply. ‘You will need to have experience of writing for corporate clients, project managing your own work and dealing with clients face to face . . . This role is best suited to an enthusiastic, energised self starter with plenty of common sense and a forward thinking approach to problem solving. A passion for writing is essential.’