The new found power of the web has been demonstrated vividly by the response to calls to secretly move copies of Tony Blair’s memoirs to the fantasy shelf. News reports tell that all over the country would-be buyers are searching through the autobiographical sections in vain. But in reality Mr Blair is not alone, every so-called plain-speaking memoir is inevitably selective with the truth. After all, only Mother Theresa would contemplate going to the trouble to prepare a book only to provide self-condemnation.
Of course some efforts are more obviously a fake than others. We really didn’t need a host of people named by Blair to testify that his account is somewhat slanted. But for him the book represents an attempt to protect his reputation, no matter how many eggs people in Ireland throw. In most instances the publication is simply a last chance to make a pile of money before the final curtain falls. I am not suggesting that every author lies but rather that the sins of omission outweigh those of commission.
Today we have yet another memoir to pore over thanks to the lucrative practice of selling serialisation to a newspaper, in this case The Sunday Telegraph. The former head of the Army, Sir Richard Dannatt, has seemingly accused both Blair and Brown of letting down the forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Amongst his many claims is one concerning accessibility to Prime Ministers although he does mention various ‘breakfast meetings’ with Brown. More specifically, he claims that Brown, as Chancellor, was guilty of malign intervention by refusing to fund what his own government had agreed. For his part the then prime Minister, Tony Blair, lacked the moral courage to impose his will on the Chancellor. I have no doubt that that is the truth as Sir Richard sees it, but is it what really happened?
Nowhere in the account are to be found suggestions that the heads of the Army took a hard stand on behalf of their cause, nowhere is there the suggestion that maybe the administration was other than perfect or that supply requirements were inadequately forecast. Perhaps they were, perhaps not, but a book headlined ‘we were partly to blame’ would hardly be a best seller would it?
Having said all that, I have considerable sympathy foranyone attempting to prove a point via the written word. Many years ago I was engaged in a dissertation on which rested my hope of a good degree. I was attempting to prove that Kier Hardy was not in fact, as many claim, the founder of the Labour Party. I had access to comprehensive archives covering the Labour Representation Committee of 1900 to 1906 and found thousands of original documents which supported my argument. However from time to time I found pieces that cast reasonable doubt and the temptation to forget that I had ever discovered them was almost overwhelming. Only my self understanding saved me for I knew that my delight in bragging would be wounded beyond repair if I omitted anything relevant. Translate that example into a memoir and it is easy to believe that selective memory kicks in.
Perhaps a better example is the History of World War 2 which won Winston Churchill worldwide acclaim and a Nobel Peace Prize into the bargain. It is only in recent times that I have researched the role of the resistance movement across Europe and what I have found tells me that even great men are guilty of passing over issues that show them in less favourable lights than they would wish. Winston mentions the movement only once in his six volumes of detailed hist0ry yet records show that he was constantly preoccupied with creating a huge organisation whose role it was to covertly arm and incite ’underground ‘ resistance right across occupied Europe. He was constantly at odds with his military commanders in believing that herein lay the route to rapid victory.
In truth, with the possible exception of Tito’s ventures, no reistance movement achieved anything that influenced the eventual victory. In fact every instance of sabotage or killing of German troops led to horrendous reprisals leading to deaths far outnumbering anything achieved. Churchill was constantly warned that armed insurrection against overwhelming odds could achieve nothing and would waste precious arms and ammunition, but to the end he lived out his fantasy. Perhaps understandably what he didn’t do when he came to write was to so much as mention it!
There is little one can say about memoirs published by sports stars or celebrities which are invariably written by a ‘ghost’ writer. I remember Steve Harmison commenting that he hadn’t read his when challenged on a point of detail. And in almost every book one reads it is quickly apparent that this is not a warts-and-all account of life at the top but an attempt to tell the fans what they want to hear and, maybe, to have a pop at this enemy or that into the bargain. The latter is usually embellished by the ghost to provide the ‘buy me and be amazed’ factor.
None of this is hardly a revelation. The most read book in history, The Holy Bible, has provided scope for thousands of scholars for hundreds of years. Most conclude that the events described did take place but equally most claim that there are omissions, events not covered. And of course there would be, for the gospel writers, like every other, were bent on proving their point.
So all those people with nothing better to do than snuffle around Waterstones with concealed copies of Mr Blair’s fantasy should perhaps linger longer and transport all the other supposedly authoritative tomes which masquerade as the truth but specialise solely in either the prosecutiuon or defence case. Come to think of it, perhaps the book retailers should delete the term autobiographical from its shelf-headings and stock the whole lot in fiction.
For that is what they are. I have promised my fellow ferreters that if I ever come across a memoir or autobiography that clearly tells both sides of every instance I will eat it. I don’t anticipate indigestion any time soon!
CRICKET IS HEADING FOR WIPE-OUT UNLESS ..!
Today’s News of the World is not good reading for cricket lovers. Only the alleged misdemeanours of Wayne Rooney keeps it from the front page headlines but there is a special supplement headed ‘The Fix’ superimosed over a picture of burning stumps.
The inside story of the Lords no-balls scandal is included and appears to provide absolute proof of appalling corruption. Even more worrying are the pages packed with further revelations which suggest that match-fixing and cheating are rife and worldwide. It really is hard to imagine how cricket is going to recover from this unless the International Cricket Council takes draconian action. If ncessary it must expel entire countries from the game. An amputated limb is better than death!
I’m about to watch the first Twenty20 match between England and Pakistan and have reached the mental state where almost anything that happens will appear suspect. It is a total and absolute disgrace!
PLEASE MOTIVATE ME TO GO ON !!!!!
I (and the ferreters) have now written over 140 articles on this site and the number of ‘hits’ is very gratifying. However the number of comments is very low and it sometimes feels as is there is no one out there, Signing in is easy and your identity is not revealed if you use a pen-name. Do please leave a comment, however brief.
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. William Brown 2. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which Apollo mission was cut short by an explosion in an oxygen tank? 2. The U.S.S Nimitz was commissioned in 1975. As what sort of ship?