Peter Conrad gave John Sutherland’s book a critical flogging ten years ago. Now Sutherland takes joy from a bad London Review of Books review of Conrad’s latest.
Conrad’s [take-down of Sutherland] was, of course, exactly the kind of review one would enjoy reading over an idle Sunday breakfast, were some other poor sod at the receiving end. Nothing like the smell of hot blood on the page of one’s morning newspaper to whet the appetite. But not when it’s one’s own bodily fluid staining the newsprint.
By happy coincidence, my enemy has himself just recently brought out a biography of Orson Welles. Even happier, Conrad’s book has been minced, pounded and sliced into kebab in the latest London Review of Books. It’s an immensely long piece by David Bromwich (God bless him. Is there a Nobel prize for reviewing?). The reviewer’s scathing comments are music to my ears, and balm to my wounds: “a maddening book to read … All, here, is gimcrack-gimmickry … grinding whimsy”. I particularly like that last phrase. I can see it, in neon red, on the back of the paperback reprint: ” ‘Grinding whimsy’, LRB”.