Today, we see an example of invented inverted educational snobbery – someone well-educated feigning a man-of-the-people disdain for learning. Michael Gove, shadow schools secretary and product of a public school and then Oxford, is fiercely intelligent and impressively well-read. In today’s Times, he has this to say:
Das Kapital is one of those works, like J.M. Keynes's General Theory, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the Lisbon treaty, Ulysses and Moby Dick that manage to be hugely influential without it being possible to find anyone who has actually read them.
It’s definitely possible that Gove hasn’t read any of these, but he will certainly have many friends and colleagues who have. Good for them. But please, don’t try to hide it. Invented inverted snobbery is not just nasty and denigrating of literacy; it’s also dishonest.
Why can’t we have politicians who’ll unashamedly champion a love of great yet perhaps less ‘accessible’ books? People like this:
If a week goes by without me spending some time in a bookshop I grow grumpy and agitated, like a cow that hasn’t been milked. I will purposely plot travel routes to allow time to visit towns that boast superb secondhand bookshops… I will truncate lunches and arrive late at parties to allow time for visits to bookshops that happen to be in the area in which I’m being entertained. …
I suppose I’d say that my trips to bookshops were the male equivalent of going for a treatment — half an hour spent rifling through the Everyman Classics inducing in me the same state of blissful relaxation as a session with a skilled reflexologist evokes in my wife. …
Given the scale, and intensity, of my addiction (I am to the classics what Pete Doherty was to Class As)… For me, the loss of an independent bookshop is like the loss of a single Spartan to Leonidas at Thermopylae — it’s not as though we have so many that we can afford to shrug off a single casualty.
Bravo, that man.
(Chris, though, takes Gove at his word, seeing this as evidence that “the Tory chuntering class is as stupid and ill-read as its Hampstead lefty counterpart”, and he defends Marx’s writing.)