The LRB is political because everything is political

I’ve tried to think of ways of explaining why the LRB is such a fantastic publication, and why everyone who counts themselves a reasonable, informed human being ought to subscribe to it (much as they should also pay at least some attention to Private Eye), and promise never, ever to read such smugly Radio-4 quasi-debating publications as the Guardian ever again. After a few false starts I realise that it’s best to let the LRB speak for itself:

One positive side of water privatisation is that it has shown a surprising degree of international generosity on the part of the English public. Popular fury at the impositions of Brussels may be mainstream, but it isn’t reflected in the calmness with which English water customers hand billions of pounds over to their monopoly water providers each year, only to see them transmit large chunks of it overseas. Anglian Water, for instance, is owned by a company called Osprey, much of which, in turn, belongs to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. It’s impressive how little troubled the captive customers of Anglian are that whenever they turn on the tap they are, in a small way, helping t0 ‘sustain the future pensions of 17 million Canadians’, as the CPPIB puts it.

The altruism of Yorkshire Water’s customers is similarly humbling. Their willingness to support the balance sheets of HSBC, Citigroup, the Prudential and the private equity arm of the government of Singapore, who now own their water, shouldn’t go unrecognised. And what to say of Wessex Water, recently acquired by YTL Power of Kuala Lumpur – its proud philosophy ‘World Class Products at Third World Prices’? Who says the west of England doesn’t have an international outlook?

That’s lovely, isn’t it? Like standing by as one of your wittier, nastier, more well-read friends punches a member of the Countryside Alliance in the head.

The good news is that almost every article is of that standard: dense, verbose, factual, informative, and intelligent; the bad news is that two dozen pages of that sort of thing takes some reading, in the same way as not being physically lazy and unhealthy takes some walking, and in a fug it’s too dark to read. But while, yes, they write about Iraq or Palestine, or about climate change or political corruption, more than other newspapers do, it’s important to remember that someone has to redress that unjust, churnalised balance. Even better when it’s done by someone worth reading.

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4 Responses to The LRB is political because everything is political

  1. hatmandu says:

    Hm. That’s certainly a good piece. As you probably know I find the LRB miserably turgid myself (and I’m clearly not alone), but I’m more and more of a lightweight these days I fear. You’re right that it’s good to have someone standing against churnalism, anyway.

    Perhaps we could meet each other half way at The New Yorker?!

  2. sbalb says:

    The LRB is bound to look turgid, when everything else is so flaccid.

    The New Yorker is an interesting case, though: it’s neither turgid nor flaccid, but more entirely weightless. It has this sharp, dazzling, floating prose that melts away as you’re busy considering it. It’s a bit like those pieces of minty paper that people who care more about bad breath than mouth cancer put on their tongue and let dissolve.

    Don’t get me wrong: I like mint; I just don’t like a residue.

  3. looby says:

    Hurrah, yes, I’m an LRB groupie. It took a gift subscription to lure me away from the TLS but now I’ve dropped the latter – there is only so much time in the week.

    I read the article you mentioned with great interest, as I do almost everything. The summary of the recent history of Cyprus stands out as well, but the examples pile up.

    And of course, the brilliant personal ads.

  4. hatmandu says:

    sbalb: I think you may have been looking at the cartoons!

    Well, actually you do have a point on the melting, but I guess I’m always more won over by debonair than worthy.

    Alas, it’s the smug small ads that put me off most: arch bluestocking writes ad in braille. read me etc etc. I assume the whole page is written by Craig Brown.

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