David Thompson


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September 15, 2012


carbon based lifeform

"The Guardian –giving a platform to hypocrites since 1821."


Guardian commenters are giving this the drubbing it richly deserves, so there's little to add. I especially like this from one davidwferguson: "If your idea of 'democracy' is 'a system where me and my condescending arsehole chums get to dictate to other people what kind of coffee they're going to be allowed to drink', then I hope you never develop any kind of inclination towards fascism."

Sanity Inspector

There's nothing wrong with corporations patronizing the arts. Who under 50 nowadays remembers, or would even believe, that there used to be such a thing as the CBS Symphony Orchestra?


The ostentatious disdain for corporations, and for commerce in general, is absurd. It calls to mind scenes of aristocrats looking down on tradesmen. Yet it’s an attitude that’s remarkably prevalent. See, for example, this.

Stephen Fox

Super. Tragically, our Joan's realisation that her award was fatally tarnished by its association with evil capitalism came after she had spent the money. She could borrow the money to pay it back of course, and would be no worse off than before, with the added bonus (moral, not fat cat) of being doubly pure/poor as the driven...


Literature is supposed to be independent…It’s supposed to be a statement of an individual view of the world, not a corporate tactic

Er, how does commercial sponsorship make her book any less 'individual'? Didn't the wad of cash they gave her make her independent?



“Er, how does commercial sponsorship make her book any less ‘individual’? Didn’t the wad of cash they gave her make her independent?”

You’re being much too logical about this. We’ll get nowhere like that. We’re supposed to imagine that Whitbread’s sack of cash has somehow contaminated her, morally, retrospectively, and the stain just won’t wash off. That the same sack of cash gave her both the independence to write another book and a measure of celebrity is something we’re supposed to overlook. Just as we’re supposed to overlook the fact that those evil corporations generate an awful lot of the wealth that ultimately makes possible literary prizes, literary careers and whiny Guardian articles.


I assume she returned all the prize money, right?



Her use of the word independent is one I'm come across from my fellow arty types before.

They mean independent "of everything". The idea being that working joe six pack (who is too stupid to do things like think or create art or have any taste of his own), has money taken from his wage packet and given to artists. These are special people like Joan. They posess all the insights and refinement that Joe lacks.

In return for his money, Joan will explore boundaries (do things all her friends like) and if Joe is foolish enough to protest about any of this he can be silenced with an accusation of stupidity or fascism.

I have had conversations with my fellow authors and illustrators, otherwise intelligent people, who earnestly believe they should receive a living wage from the government and have all their projects published and distributed to shops.

Furor Teutonicus

XX They’re selling coffee, remember. Which people choose to buy, having walked in voluntarily. So far as I’m aware, Costa doesn’t employ press gangs of burly men to prowl the streets in search of coffee-drinking prey, while armed with clubs, tasers and heavy nets. XX

Hold on. She is from the "anti smoking-nazi" school (Read "Guardian"). She thinks JUST that will happen to non smokers if pubs are allowed to choose between being a smoking pub and a non smoking Hel hole, so yes. She probably DOES think that about cheap and nasty coffee joints.



“…my fellow authors and illustrators, otherwise intelligent people, who earnestly believe they should receive a living wage from the government…”

Again, it’s a surprisingly common attitude. I suppose it’s inevitable to some extent, given how artists and authors have to be a little – how shall I put this – confident of their own insight and sociological worth. All right, egotistical. I mean, it would be hard to get anything painted or written or whatever if one didn’t have a sense that the end result might be worth the effort and worth sharing with the public.

Yes, just like snarky bloggers, I know, I know. But unlike quite a few artists and authors, I’ve never imagined my banging-on should be funded coercively via taxes. Donations, on the other hand, are always welcome. You don’t want me to spend hours reading the Guardian without a glass of something to take away the pain?


"who earnestly believe they should receive a living wage from the government"

I agree. However, I get to choose the government for them.

I pick Democratic Republic of the Congo.


And where does the government get that money? By taxing those evil corporations. But I guess laundering it through the government somehow removes the taint.

And, as to independence, all you have to do is look at Michelangelo and others in the Renaissance. Clearly they are widely regarded as some of the best artists in history but they were totally dependent on someone paying them to do what they did. They had sponsors they had to answer to. If it's good enough for Michelangelo it's probably good enough for Joan.


Puh-lease...I worked for a company that bought some of the ugliest crap art I've ever seen. One sculpture called Tantric Gurl still gives me the creeps 5 years later. The art had nothing to do with furthering the profit margins, it just sat around collecting dust or giving the security guards (the poor bastards) something other than a blank wall to stare at. It was done simply to ingratiate themselves with the "community" and "give back". And now we're to believe that corporations are evil for supporting the artistic commmunity.

Did she write the book with the intention of winning the prize? If so, the fault is hers for "going commercial". If she wrote it for her own personal, artistic satisfaction and it just happened to win a prize, she's sucked money from the dirty capitalists and should feel all the better for it. From her supposed sensibilities at least.

John A

It was OK to accept the prize [money] from a brewer/distributor of alcohol, but now the company is purveying coffee it must (in future) be abjured? Curious...


The comments in The Guardian overwhelmingly disagree with Brady. Given the anti-capitalist bias of your typical Guardian reader, this must be a shock to her.

My guess is that, while they may be left wing, these commenters do like their coffee shops.


You do have to wonder how someone can attend a prize ceremony held in a large corporate brewery and happily accept prize money from the large corporate brewer after which the prize is named… and, years later, somehow be astonished that she has accepted (gasp) corporate money and that her corporate benefactor might actually dare to benefit, however slightly, from their generosity. It doesn’t bode well for the insight of her novels.

But there are some Guardian readers who share Ms Brady’s sentiments. One sympathetic reader insists, rather dramatically, “The only chance to save literature… [is] to make it purely community supported and throw out companies. Capitalism is killing humanity.” Another adds, “Big brands such as Costa should have no place in the UK’s rich literary heritage – nor on our high streets.” They care so very much, you see, and so they must be in control.

    "The shortlist was awarded at the Whitbread brewery – which meant I could hardly avoid knowing it had something to do with beer – but how was I to know that Whitbread saw the whole excitement as just an advertising gimmick?"

Brady is an older woman with the intelligence to write an award-winning novel. How could she write something so staggeringly dumb? She thought businesses sponsor awards out of pure altruism, did she?


Railing against how corporate money compromises a writer's independence in an article which begins with a tale of how a corporation's prize money gave you independence from all your debt kinda makes you look stupid.

Keeping both Whitbread's prize and their money while spewing sanctimonious bluster about how such things are harmful to literature makes you look like a hypocrite.

Telling everyone it took you several years to work out that Whitbread sponsor the Whitbread Prize, even though you are a writer who once won the thing makes me suspect that you don't write detective novels.


Even if the award ceremony had been held in a swanky hotel... C'mon, Whitbread had been in business as a brewer since 1742. The always reliable Wikipedia tells us that by 1971 they were the third-largest brewer in the UK. Does an intelligent woman really want to make the claim that until attending the ceremony in a brewery, she was unaware of the business Whitbread was in? Pull the other one, Joan!


Whitbread recipients should forgive themselves for being a little flexible.

It's not like the luvvies and finger-waggers of the left would tolerate prize money deriving from the invention of dynamite. Especially if the anti-capitalist peacenik who did the inventing also reshaped an iron and steel enterprise as a major cannon manufacturer. Nope, no way they'd take that kind of prize money.


I suppose it’s inevitable to some extent, given how artists and authors have to be a little – how shall I put this – confident of their own insight and sociological worth. All right, egotistical. I mean, it would be hard to get anything painted or written or whatever if one didn’t have a sense that the end result might be worth the effort and worth sharing with the public.

This is true to an extent. Although if you have any integrity you spend a lot of time measuring your work up against all the wonderful things that have already been done and concluding that, at best, you're squandering good art materials. My conclusion of late is that making art requires intelligent humility, but pursuing an art career requires, ahem, confidence. Alright, hubris. Fine, megalomania. (David receives my occasional newsletter that keeps subscribers apprised of my career developments. As I put those together, much consideration goes into the question, "How do I make this sound like I'm not a self-absorbed twit? All businesses are obliged to market their wares, but if you do this for your own art and don't feel a little slimy about it, you're probably not a good person.)

I have witnessed art people declaring that government funding of the arts falls naturally from the general welfare clause in the preamble of our country's Constitution, and that government should fund art as a public good. I reply that you have to be quite the special little snowflake to think that the necessity of your art is mandated by our founding documents and is akin to, say, potable water, thereby obliging your fellow citizens to pay for it on pain of imprisonment.



“My conclusion of late is that making art requires intelligent humility, but pursuing an art career requires, ahem, confidence. Alright, hubris.”

And on reflection, “confidence” – as in arrogance and narcissism – can have its uses. As the Other Half reminded me, a key part of being a good pop performer is the conviction that you belong on stage with a microphone, crap lyrics and a silly haircut. You do need to believe that the crowd should be very excited to see you, and will be. Cockiness is often a big part of what the punters are paying for. It’s part of the transaction. I mean, would people want to watch a band whose lead singer looks embarrassed?


The Smiths

Sam L.

One question: Was she so outraged as to return the money?

John West

Joan, here's how it works. Your works were recognized by a corporate entity who wishes to 'put something back' by supporting literature. The book buying public already voted with their wallets leaving you with debt that you couldn't pay with your failed commercial efforts. Yes, selling literature is part of capitalism. Hypocrite!


Was she so outraged as to return the money?

She decided to be outraged after spending the money and enjoying the fame. Funny that.


She's fooled us all. She's just doing this to give Whitbread more publicity now, to thank them once again for their generosity.


The lady could always get her point across by writing a novel about this, about how evil corporations crushes the life from ordinary people by giving them large amounts of money and makes them weep with pity as they pay off their debts.

I, for one, would rush out and buy another book. Just to avoid reading hers.

Joseph Shmeau

If Whitbread/Costa are this bad, then what baout Starbucks? They must be Hitler reincarnated.


Did she give away her work for free? It's easy with Amazon self publish.

Otherwise I figure she's a in a PR exercise in order to keep sales from gullible leftist buyers.


So this is basically a "selling out to The Man" rant, only with the added twist of "The Man *tricked* me into selling out!"

David Gillies

The "corporate juggernauts mowing down local communities" line is so stale and counter to reality that one wonders whether the author's books can possibly have any literary merit. It's a puerile and reductive way of looking at commerce. Since the overwhelming majority of people involved in the modern 'arts' scene have never been in business at any executive level, they have no real idea of how wealth is generated and how businesses are founded and grown. The same sort of criticism can be levelled at most politicians, especially those on the Left (Barack Obama is a particularly egregious example). It's very hard running a business. Perhaps this explains some of the animosity: the bien-pensant know in their heart of hearts they're not up to the job of being productive in their own right, and loathe the wealth producers for it.


"Powerful, ubiquitous international brands that are convenient and familiar but dull as hell",

I don't think I've ever heard a more concise, apt description of leftwing politics.

Allen Esterson

Joan Brady writes: "I lived in Totnes for 30 years, and Totnes outdid itself. Three quarters of its population protested against Costa."

I thought that sounded a bit unlikely, and checked her link. The sentence in question reads:

"Meanwhile, a petition against the arrival of any big coffee business was in circulation, and quickly amassed 5,749 signatures – 75% of which, say the anti-Costa camp, came from people from Totnes, or its surrounding areas."

The population of Totnes is around 23,000:


David Gillies,

“It’s a puerile and reductive way of looking at commerce.”

Absolutely, and it has some unpleasant implications. But it’s exactly the kind of opinion that certain people feel they ought to have, and ought to be seen having, if they want to be thought of as right-thinking. Which is to say, left-thinking. If you look at Ms Brady’s article as a social positioning exercise – a way of letting others know how egalitarian and therefore superior she is – it makes a kind of sense. Though it’s not exactly convincing.


So, it took her years to work out the award was based on profits from selling beer (errghh!) despite the award taking place at a fucking brewery? I think she's lying. She knew all the time, but her 'ethical' social circle has badgered her to the point where she has had to construct an alternative 'narrative', that of the duped artist, in order to cope.

Had the prize been awarded by a posh French vintner, would she be so 'outraged'?


I wonder how seriously Joan takes the concept of 'tainted' money?

It would only be reasonable to vet the people who are actually buying her novel in the shops. What if a 1% banker, or right-wing Tory boy bought it? How could Joan accept money from an arms dealer with a taste for her literature. Would she accept the £8.99 of a racist? Or a Homophobe? What about a slum landlord or an Oligarch?


And in return for their chunk of cash Whitbread hoped for some… publicity. The fiends. Brewery chains, it seems, don’t in fact exist solely for the benefit of Guardian-reading novelists.

Heh. I can't decide if she's really that stupid or just pretending to be dense. Why else did she think a large corporate brewery was giving her £30,000?



“I can’t decide if she’s really that stupid or just pretending to be dense. Why else did she think a large corporate brewery was giving her £30,000?”

I see no reason to assume she’s being remotely honest. It stinks of bad faith, as so much does in the Guardian. One commenter, davidwferguson, offers the following breakdown of Ms Brady’s article:

1. Starts by boasting about a prize she won.
2. Takes time out for a snobbish and utterly irrelevant swipe at some fellow winner whose use of the prize money didn’t meet her own high standards of sophistication.
3. Lamely explains that (at the age of 54) she didn’t realise that the large corporate brewer who had invited her to one of their large corporate breweries to give her a large sum of corporate prize money might be hoping to derive some brand advantage from the event.
4. Denounces such evil corporatism in ringing tones, while making it apparent that it has never once crossed her mind to hand back the tainted money.
5. Goes off on an inarticulate rant about a chain of British coffee shops.
6. In the course of which she makes it apparent that her idea of ‘democracy’ is a system where she and her pals get to dictate to other people how their lives are run, down to the type of coffee they are allowed to drink.
7. Finishes with a squalid attempt to peddle her new book.

Apparently we’re supposed to believe that being given £30,000 – no strings attached – somehow robs her of independence. Rather than, say, allowing her to spend a year writing another book without worrying about bills. She wants us to believe that a minority of campaigners reflect all local opinion but she doesn’t want that premise to be tested in the marketplace. She seems to think big is bad and smaller is better - except of course in her own affairs, i.e., publishers and retailers, whose reach and resources she continues to enjoy. She appears to regard the Man Booker Prize as morally superior to large corporate funding but, as the name suggests, the Man Booker gets its prize money from Man, a hedge fund management company valued at around £1.3 billion. Likewise, prize money given by corporations voluntarily is, according to her, somehow dirty and corrupting, while prize money taken forcibly from the taxpayer is somehow clean and virtuous. The moral calculus is baffling. But if you think of it as a social positioning exercise, an attempt to feign virtue among credulous lefties, it does follow a pattern we’ve seen before.


BTW, she has a history of fighting against Evil Multinational Corporate Giants®.

She fought this evil, small, handmade shoe company.


According to Costa's own website "...Over 200 of our UK coffee shops are operated by individual franchise partners..." so it is not entirely clear whether the Totnes coffee shop can accurately be described as corporate, it is just as likely to be a franchise operation owned by a small businessman/woman.

She probably wouldn't understand the difference and, even if she could, would despise their lack of 'individuality'. Personally I find the reliable blandness of my favoured coffee outlet comforting.




Her statement about 3/4 of the population of Totnes protesting is just outrageous, simply ludicrous.


I remember entering a local, independent coffee shop in this town at 4.45pm on a Saturday, with the shop closing at 5.30. I ordered an espresso and what appeared to be the proprietor blandly informed me that they had finished serving coffee for the day. Hmm, OK. They had a Starbucks literally next door, who hadn't decided to shut shop 45 minutes early.

He'll probably blame Thatcher when his business goes tits up.


I hope she duly emailed Whitbread her outrage on her Apple iPad........

I also hope the BT/Vodaphone network transmitted it speedily.....

Rich Rostrom

Sanity Inspector: Who under 50 nowadays remembers, or would even believe, that there used to be such a thing as the CBS Symphony Orchestra?

The CBS Orchestra is Paul Schaffer's house band on the David Letterman show.

The NBC Symphony Orchestra was the fabulous ensemble led by Arturo Toscanini for seventeen years.

Horace Dunn

There was also a CBS (or Columbia Broadcasting Symphony) Orchestra, associated with Columbia Records (and the Columbia Symphony Orchestra). It was overseen largely by Bernard Herrmann who conducted it as a kind of "house orchestra" on radio broadcasts, but it also made some records under the batons of Fritz Reiner, Leopold Stokowski and others.

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