Conrad Black Book Club: A Matter of Principle, Chapter 11 (wherein Black compares himself to Job)
After what seems like a million pages (it’s actually 310), Conrad Black has finally been indicted. Boosted by testimony from David Radler (whom Black calls “the nasty gnome from Chicago”), the U.S. government is seeking a 95-year prison sentence. Plot-wise, we expected things to pick up around now—but instead Black just returns to his favourite topics: being poor, being persecuted by the media, and being friends with Elton John.
Believe it or not, Conrad is even more impoverished in this chapter than he was in the last. Liens are being taken out on all his homes (weren’t those sold already?), and the ever-noble Barbara goes behind Conrad’s back to sell her jewellery to “various oily gem dealers.” Black seems to be going slightly mad: at one point he even sets up a cardboard shelter in his garden room for lost ladybugs.
Seriously, Black’s basically a member of the 99 per cent now. Yet he’s still grateful the Man hasn’t taken everything away from him: at least he still has that sprawling, ostentatious Bridle Path mansion.
Also, did you know he’s friends with famous people? This time, he gives up trying to be casual about it, rattling off an actual list of celebrity friends. No surprise, it’s a collection of daffy eccentrics, including Dame Edna, Anna Wintour, Rush Limbaugh, Joan Collins, Ann Coulter and, of course, Sir Elton and David Furnish. (We’d totally go to that dinner party.)
Meanwhile, Black’s civil trial continues with a couple of small victories: the tax evasion charges and non-competition payment allegations are thrown out. Of course, prosecutor Eric Sussman then sticks him with the new charge of laundering money from Hollinger Inc. to finance Hollinger International. Zzzzzzzzz.
Oh, and somehow amid all the trials and hobnobbing and entomology, Black finds the time to write a 400,000-word biography of Richard Nixon.
In the words of the Lord:
• On his suffering: “On Christmas day, I read the book of Job. I discovered that while Job had endured more severe oppression than I had, he had been much less patient.”
• On Richard Nixon: “I’m not a bit like Richard Nixon, though in most respects he was an admirable person with whom comparisons would be flattering.”
• On being the most overachieving client Eddie Greenspan ever had: “I wrote a 72-page dissection of the contradictory remarks and testimony of Breeden, Thompson, Kravis, Burt, Heath and Kissinger, as well as an outline of a response to all the counts.”
• On the depths of evil: “The posturing of seedy journalists, suddenly made over as Victorian dowagers, bandying about censorious descriptions of totally innocent people, was especially odious. Being removed from Christmas card lists was particularly irritating.”