so after a truly lousy week at work—so lousy that i grimly made myself finish the england revision because i needed something, anything to feel good about—i found myself watching an episode of parkinson from the 70s; i think the mister had been searching for kenneth williams. so the guests were williams, maggie smith (and what a lovely relationship they had, i never knew), and john betjeman.
they were talking about critics, about the role of the critic, and williams was saying passionately that the purpose of criticism is to impart love of the art (with his usual acid wit he called theater critics eunuchs in a harem), and smith was gently arguing against generalizations . . . and then betjeman said that he never read his critics, because if they wrote something bad about him he believed it was true, and if they wrote something good he assumed it was flattery; he had never felt he was any good at all.
this from a poet laureate.
much of my life has been coming to terms with the fact that i am thin-skinned, despite everything.
i had the dubious pleasure of being taught by betjeman’s son, once, who treated us teenagers as if we were a class at oxford, lecturing straight through and giving us no time to express any confusion. betjeman the younger was a huge figure—large, full-bodied, booming voice; he gave off this aura of enormous ego, as if he was merely slumming it until everyone finally realized how brilliant he was and accordingly showered him with money and praise.
as if the son got the ego and the intimidating presence his father lacked . . . ?
it was an unusually good chat for parkinson, including ideas of work, of the value of work; of unions and strikes; and finishing with a lovely reading by williams and smith (in part 2). worth watching.