on 24 May 2010
I have read only one previous book by the author, so, unlike some other reviewers, was not disappointed that this collection of diary entries is said to be an edited version of what has been previously released. I judged it as it stands, on its own meritsas a read.
Morgan is now a British and American TV star, judging the sort of talent shows like America's Got Talent and The X Factor of which I only heard of fairly recently (and I do not believe Gordon Brown who is said, in this book, to watch one of these. Rubbish, surely (gulp!...he was the Prime Minister for God's sake!...and he watches that c**p?).
Morgan does not mince words yet I have not read that any oof those mentionned in the book have sued, despite the partly libellous content. There again, some of what he says about people would be regarded legally as not libellous because "mere vulgar insult". Most of those whom he castigates are those whom I myself dislike (albeit at a distance, having not met or even seen close-up most of them): Jeremy Clarkson; Kate Moss; Cherie Blair ("grasping, rude, Scouse banshee"); George Osborne (ex-cocaine abuser, he pretty much said directly in a previous diary); David Cameron (ditto re. the cocaine abuse; also thought to be "out of his depth" and who "does not understand the economic problems" etc) and who is plainly thought unfit for office --I agree!-- even as compared with that facile little bully, Osborne; Cameron also called a "smooth-faced, affable, Old Etonian snake-oil salesman"). If only people had listened! Having said that, Morgan seems enamoured of Gordon Brown and, by implication, The Party Formerly Known As Labour, which makes me question Morgan's political, as distinct from journalistic, nose.
Morgan, despite coming from modest origins and with a brother who is a serving officer in the Army, lives in the glitzy world of the mass media, politics and "celebrity", to whom a salary of, say, £200,000 or so is "peanuts", as the precious dead sheep Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow implies to Morgan at a bar, talking about Boris Johnson. In fact Morgan seems to spend a lot of time in bars, often meeting the same people, or so it seems: BBC newsreader bimbos ("thanks for thhe half million pound salaries, licence-payers!"), newspaper people, TV people. Morgan has "front" such as rarely seen (especially in a person of British origins) and has little inhibition in asking awkward and sometimes plain rude questions. He is pretty tough, I would say.
There are more serious aspects to the book and there is a quite long interview with Donald Trump, whom Morgan admires and who is now world-famous, though when I went first as an adult to the USA in 1989, few in the UK had even heard of him (I hadn't... which was a source of amazement to my American contacts). For me he is a big, egotistical, grasping New York property owner rat, though the interview in this book does show his great shrewdness to advantage.
My view of Morgan himself is that he seems to be very shrewd himself, intelligent, not quite as shallow as he likes to show as an outer persona (despite his worship of sports events like cricket and football matches, to me incomprehensible though very contemporary Brit). His political judgment as to the then not-far-off General Election was skwed by his close personal/journalistic knowledge of Brown and Cameron. He could not see that in the modest swathes of Southern and other England, a lot of people would vote Conservative just because of silly things like thinking their house might go up in value with a Cameron win, or because the Daily Mail tells them regularly that everyone on disability, or in the North or Scotland and unemployed, is a "scrounger" taking "handouts" from their tax pounds. The fact that the gulf between rich and poor has widened since 1997 makes a mockery of what is, really, a pluto-democratic system in which "all three" main parties take part (and, as now, form and re-form, to carry out policies decided secretly elsewhere.
In other words, Morgan ois a shrewd judge of character but a poor judge of what is happening in a lot of the real world beyond his media folk and chattering class bubble. I do not begrudge him his Maserati (vulgar? Moi?) but I do feel that he is isolated from reality a bit, frankly. The same happened to him in the USA, where his overall views of Americans are recast time and again in these diaries as he encounters paradoxical new facts about different types of American. The same happened to me when I started to live and work there. In America's house there are many mansions.
I was disappointed that, toward the end of the book, Morgan comes to the view, surely one of the most tired cliches out, about how people admire a Maserati owner in the USa, whereas in the UK it will probably acquire envy scratches. To call that simply a cliche is kind. It is almost the king of cliches; which is why I was even more disappointed when the BBC Radio correspondent, on leaving the USA after two years en poste just a couple of years ago, used it. Was that his real view, after two years in the USA?! Sack him!
Morgan does seem to be very beguiled by Barack Obama, which I never was (and not by any means only because he is partly non-ethnic-European), but certainly I agree with Morgan's trenchant views about the (to me, half-crazy) Sara Palin. Scary, even when herself unwittingly exposing, as Morgan says, her ignorance of everything that is not in Alaska. I cannot agree with Morgan who thinks that America's future can still be rosy, at least in the short-to-medium term.
Overall, I enjoyed a lot of the book, though I have to admit that I had to look up on the Internet who actually were a lot of the "celebrities" who play such a large part in it.