30 Years of "Private Eye" Cartoons Paperback – 22 Oct 1992
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One notable point was that the new satirists were not particularly leftish in their politics. Peter Cook and William Rushton are dead by now, but Christopher Booker went on to help establish the Festival of Light, a muscular-Christian orgy of family values, and David Frost, now Sir David, is a stately pillar of the broadcasting establishment. Richard Ingrams, founding editor of The Oldie Magazine, has retained something of the oldie spirit but all from a rather erratic and personal standpoint - and Private Eye goes marching on. It's not what it started as. Something like its original spirit can be seen today in the film, apparently controversial in America but not in England, Fahrenheit 9/11. It has settled into a steady format these days, with some brilliant cartoons and photo-montages, particularly on the front cover. This cover is the magazine's main link with its past and is always of a topical nature, but most of the cartoons inside are of a perfectly standard kind that you might find in regular newspapers. There are excellent book and media reviews, there is a very difficult crossword of a slightly adult and naughty type, there is still a prime ministerial spoof sometimes purportedly written by spouses (Mrs Wilson, Mr Thatcher) and sometimes by the incumbent himself as with John Major or the current pm as the with-it guitar-playing vicar of St Albion's writing in his parish magazine and usually with a contribution from the Rev Dubya of the Church of Latter-day Morons. However the focus has changed from satire to whistle-blowing. It is very good whistle-blowing and very necessary I should say, anonymous in the main but written by mainstream journalists who can't publish certain stories in their regular outlets. What I wonder is - who are its reading-public these days?
I suspect it's mainly a loyalty readership - 60'sish people in both senses of the term like myself. It certainly used to be available in America and I suppose it still is, but I think its base is subscribers rather than casual purchasers. The focus is mainly on Britain, but not exclusively. My guess would be that a high percentage of its American readers are Rhodes scholars and anglophiles of various kinds, but there is always a very interesting and hard-hitting 'Letter from...' some part of the globe, always written in the same style. I get my subscription to it as a Christmas present each year, and I shall be interested to see which of us succumbs first - the donor, the magazine, or myself. Long may all of us live, and long may Private Eye outlast us. The genie is out of the bottle and I hope not all the Queen's horses nor all the President's men can put it together again, to mix my literary allusions.
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