Saturday, June 9, 2012

'It's All News To Me' by Jeremy Vine

I once heard that champion table tennis players in China spend their first few years learning the discipline of all the moves and only when they have truly mastered this is the humble ping pong ball added into the mix to bring the game alive. This is a little how it feels reading Jeremy Vine's wonderful new book It's All News to Me. The first half describes his time watching the master editors and broadcasters at work and his own learning of the moves. Now don't get me wrong, this first half is a page turner which had me both laughing out loud and also agog at the picture painted of New Labour and its spin machine in Westminster. But you always got the feeling that this particular political correspondent who, despite being thrilled at the ride he had been launched upon, was still questioning whether there wasn't something more out there. All the seeds are sown during that time. The editor on the local newspaper in Coventry who taught him that you always go and listen when someone comes knocking at your door. The teacher who told him that it's not the kings and queens that matter but the poets. Then the towering figure of John Sargeant who commented that the early Jeremy Vine's scripts were so good you wondered if the story even matters. In all of this, there's an uneasiness as to what's going on with the political system and also the way that news is both defined and reported. The turning point comes, as it did for Marlow in Joseph Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness', in Africa. It is there that the humble little ping pong ball which is life itself is thrown into the mix. Life in all its tragic richness in a continent plagued by wars, disease, crime and injustice. As if, before that he really had just been shadow-boxing. Faced with this, he is reminded of Auden and the importance of words and you get the feeling that the only way of even getting near to describing the full extent of the horror is through poetry. Poetry and returning to his roots and painting a picture of the story from the authentic words of the people on the ground. Those who are suffering or dispossessed rather than the power-brokers and spinners which had so defined his work until that point. From this combination of poetry and people came the gentle, humourous and sharp-witted voice that we recognise today. A voice which resonates most clearly when it is reporting on those grieving for fallen soldiers than the daily ins and outs of the Westminster bubble. It's a voice that comes through loud and clear in this wonderful book which is brilliantly written, fascinating and hilariously funny as well as full of the poetry which is life itself.

No comments: