France represents everything I detest most in life. Your country's only useful products are porn films."Short", Julian Barnes wrote in 1994, "has a history of graceless behaviour". That was twenty years ago: he has had twenty more years of graceless behaviour since, the most recent manifestation of which I'm aware being his latest column in New in Chess, in which he proves that he can be as just as boorish about the Scottish nation in 2014 as he was about the French in 1983.
- Nigel Short*, 1983
The content is not more original than the title*.
The content, it has to be said, does not add up to very much, which is a shame since the style adds up to even less. I appreciate such judgements are a matter of taste, but Nigel's taste is too much for the pompous and constipated, of which the following is a particularly bad example.
Nigel ought to acquaint himself with Orwell's advice on writing plain English. My personal advice would be for Nigel not to write at all.
That would spare us further pieces like his latest, which has no real content beyond a series of gibes and clichés: Nigel getting his cheque for providing us with a kilts-and-haggis view of Scotland, as if his knowledge and understanding of the country had been formed by reading Hot-Shot Hamish in the Seventies and had neither improved nor been updated since.
Here, for instance, is Nigel applying the full force of his intellect to the question of what constitutes Scottish national identity.
is identity conferred by some occult practice, like wearing a kilt or blowing the bagpipes?Hilarious. And Nigel goes on to describe Scotland as
the land of lochswhich provokes the thought that just because it's alliterative doesn't make it stylish, but is surely preferable to characterising the country as a
demure, wee lassieand its point of view as
tartan grievances.Kilts. Bagpipes. Lochs. Wee lassies. Tartan. The really impressive thing is to actually get paid for stuff like this, isn't it? At least he spared us the Loch Ness Monster and deep-fried Mars bars.
But there is more belittling to be done, as those tartan grievances are
Scotland was, presumably, correctly deemed not to be a nation.Whether this is more boring than it is boorish, or the other way round, is again, a matter of taste. What it is not, is worth the time it takes to read.
As if tired of belittling Scotland, Nigel takes a detour late in the piece to belittle a Scot as well.
Talking of Dr Rowson, my fellow three-time British Champion suffered an acute case of separatist twitterhoea in the run-up to the referendum.Now three things here. The first is that Dr Rowson strikes me as a man who rarely writes without having thought about it first, whereas Nigel strikes me as a man who rarely stops to think before he writes.
The second is that if the referendum debate had been conducted in the same terms as Nigel's discussion of it, Dr Rowson would probably have got the result he was looking for.
But the third is - look, this is rubbish, isn't it? What is the purpose of New In Chess running pieces like this? What do we learn from them, other than that New in Chess has no editorial standards and that Nigel Short has spent the last thirty-one years failing to grow up?
It's rubbish. It's an insult not just to the people and nation it's intended to insult, but to the people who have paid to read it. It's not enlightening. It's not entertaining. It's not insightful. It's not original. It's just rubbish.
Just because you've played a match for the world championship doesn't mean we benefit from reading whatever rubbish you care to come out with - and if New In Chess did possess any standards they would tell their writers so, or send them on their way. Because just because you've played for the world championship doesn't mean it's all right to be a jerk.
[*EDIT 10 November: Nigel claims not to have said this. See comments.]
[See point four for instance]
[Nigel Short index]