Reading on Sunday 29 January

In my time in the civil service I wrote a couple of speeches but I wouldn’t consider myself a professional speechwriter (journeyman is probably most accurate).  I do, however, recognise much of this article on what its like being a government speechwriter.  I would thoroughly endorse the recommendation of Simon Lancaster’s book Speechwriting: the expert guide and would add anything by Sam Leith.

The one thing he doesn’t mention is the experience of writing a speech for a minister only to be told, at the last minute, that a different one is taking their place.  The frantic re-write to get it into the voice of the new speaker is……fun.

I have been saying (since November in case you wondered) that Fascism does not equate to Nazism so it is not true to say that some individual or group isn’t fascistic simply because they don’t look like Nazis.  This article about Umberto Eco’s 14 traits of fascism reinforces this view far more eloquently than I could (I don’t mind saying that – “not as good a writer as Umberto Eco” is a label that contains multitudes!).  I call readers’ attention to “fear of difference”, “appeal to social frustration”, “machismo and weaponry”, and (my personal favourite) “disagreement is treason”.

Having looked at these 14 signs, have a read of David Pratt’s column in today’s Sunday Herald “Emperor Trump’s war on democracy” and see how many you spot.

The importance of non-reading is a curious one for someone like me, who loves books.  And yet, in the context of ever more books emerging it is absolutely vital, as the writer says, to be able to make a reasoned choice as to which books to read and which not to.  I read about 50-odd books a year, which is quite a lot for someone with a full time job, but even that rate can’t keep up with the sheer number of potentially fascinating books published each year.  Decisions must be made!

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