Party politics can make a fool of the wisest man. Witness Gulliver, Book Three, where Swift's animus against the Hanoverian court and its patronage of the Royal Society leads him into an attack on Science as such. There are good jokes- some Pythonesque, some gross- and rather too many that are only explicable through footnotes. The imaginative writer- who struggles through in Liliput and is dominant in Brobdignag- has gone to sleep again- and the satirist is back in charge- firing off his one-liners. Book III is a collection of bits and pieces- a sweeping up of crumbs. The visit to the magician-king of Glubbdubdrib- who raises the eminent dead for Gulliver's edification- is a really lazy piece of writing, which sets out to prove, by mere assertion, that the past was noble and the present is mean. You bring the likes of Alexander and Homer onstage and you don't get them to do or say anything? What a wasted opportunity! Events are barely dramatised, people barely characterised and even the very famous passage about the immortal Struldbruggs is much more tell than show- the brief riff of a stand-up comedian. "Old people,eh? What are they like? And as for those bloody Dutch..."
There was a little gap in the rain, rain, rain and we picked it out and went to Liverpool. Ruth came with us. I'm a Mancunian- and Manchester and Liverpool are like rival Italian Renaissance city states- so we don't go there often, but really we should. Liverpool is stunning. At least the waterfront is. We went to the Albert Dock- which in autumnal sunshine is like something out of a painting by Caneletto- and popped in and out of shops and a Tate exhibition entitled The Twentieth Century: how it looked and how it felt. Tate London has recognised Liverpool's year as European City of Culture by lending its regional branch a number of world-class works, including Degas' Little Dancer and Picasso's Weeping Woman- along with things more properly described as interesting by minor artists like Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. The nearer we get to modern times the bleaker it gets. I love Sarah Lucas's brutal, anti-erotic assemblage of light bulbs and old tat- while Mona Hatoum's sleekly perverted everyday objects- the divan bed in steel, the wheelchair with knives for handles and the baby's cot with cheese-wire in place of a mattress- are crueler than anything the classic old-time surrealists ever came up with. Outside the weather stayed gusty and fine. We had a nice lunch at a creperie, then drove north, stopping off briefly at the dock where the QEII is berthed, and on to Crosby to have another look at Anthony Gormley's wonderful metal men.