A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Today on Vulpes Libris, we have a special podcast by Extremely Eminent (and Personable) Historian T.V. Donne, who kindly agreed to speak to us even though he thinks this is radio and therefore beneath him. For those who are simply too overcome at the thought of hearing the great man to cope with the spoken word, scroll down for the transcript. I apologise for the slight sound quality issue: we had a little problem with the killer app.[audio http://staff.bath.ac.uk/ensmjc/radio.wav]
Good day. My name is Professor T.V. Donne and you probably know me from, well, everywhere; but most recently my groundbreaking documentary series Behemoth: How the First World is Soaring, Propelled Ever Upwards by the Invisible Fist of the Market.
Now, you might reasonably ask yourself why, having reached the Olympic heights of television fame, I would be here messing about with such a limited and frankly backwards medium as radio. You see, I bumped into an old colleague in the street just after the first episode of Behemoth was aired and he said, my God, Donne, you just have the answer to everything, don’t you? And I thought to myself, do you know, I believe I do. And who needs my wisdom more than the poor, benighted souls who either don’t own a television or, for some perverse reason, prefer not to use it? Besides, I would be very remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that, for the more romantic and susceptible members of my audience, my particular brand of male pulchritude might be so dazzling as to tragically obscure the argument at hand. With all this in mind, I decided to put myself at the disposal of the humble listening public in order to answer any questions that may arise in their barren little lives.
You can’t see me, but you should know that I am looking very serious right now.
My first question is from Leo Smith of Humberside, who asks: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
Ah. Counter-history. Excellent.
Now, in considering a question like this, we have to take into account a number of variables. Does the woodchuck operate in the context of modern liberal capitalism or another, inferior mode of production? Is this a hard-working Western woodchuck with a good Protestant work ethic—although unburdened, I would hope, by actual theology—or does he have the misfortune to be born into another, less ideal cultural context? He could even be female. The possibilities are endless.
For the purposes of our analysis, let’s posit a male woodchuck from an industrialised economy somewhere in the Western world. Assuming a steadily growing wood supply—and, despite what certain people on the Left may say, there is no reason to assume otherwise—he could theoretically chuck an infinite amount of wood. Now, the alarmists among us might claim that the woodchuck’s output would necessarily be subject to factors beyond his control: ill-health, for example, or advancing age. Outright pessimists might even expect him to die, possibly from overwork. However, I have never seen a dead woodchuck and I say that, until we do, we can safely continue to trust in the inexhaustible productive energy of the glorious Western woodchuck.
I hope that puts your mind at ease, Leo Smith of Humberside.
Dr. Kate Macdonald of Brussels asks: Why do television historians, by which I mean you, seem to wear the same outfit over and over again? Is it a question of continuity, or just a lack of imagination?
Kate, Kate, Kate. I am flattered that you pay so much attention to my wardrobe. However, the answer to your question is very simple. It is, as you say, primarily about continuity. While my television appearances may seem to flow effortlessly, there is in fact a considerable amount of shooting and re-shooting and editing involved. Not even I am perfect, Kate. And it would look pretty bloody silly if I ran boyishly up the steps of Chichen Itza wearing an immaculate white shirt and sauntered back down again attired in a soft, flattering dove grey. For that reason, when filming, I tend to favour well-cut chinos and a selection of identical shirts.
Besides, I look fantastic in chinos. Have you seen my arse?
Next up, a methodological question from Perdita in Glenrothes, who wants to know why I talk about the West so much.
Well, Perdita—and it’s important you know that I am stroking a wayward lock of hair off my forehead as I say this—there are many very sound reasons for concentrating my work on the only part of the world that actually matters. But one doesn’t have to be serious all the time, so I will admit that I also like saying the word Western. Wes-tern. Wessssterrrrrrn. Try it yourself sometime.
And, on that note, that’s all we have time for today. I hope that my dazzling erudition has shed a little light in your particular intellectual darkness. This is Professor T.V. Donne, wishing you a very pleasant day.
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