Conrad Black Book Club: A Matter of Principle, Chapter 8 (wherein nothing happens)
While reading this useless chapter, we started to wonder whether Conrad Black was being paid by the word. Or maybe he’s being paid by the letter since he’s such a supercilious blowhard—and nothing happens.
First, Black tries to get Hollinger back through an appeal to the OSC. (He also suffers through meetings with Catalyst chief Newton Glassman and his brigade of “podgy” women. Stay classy, Conrad.) When his appeal fails—and he once again defaults to being the real-life equivalent of the Brain from Pinky and the Brain—he realizes that he is “completely finished as an important businessman.” We realized that about five chapters and nine years ago.
The rest of the chapter is more of the same: name-dropping and shaming the media. He recalls the regal honour of attending Donald and Melania Trump’s 2005 wedding (once again: classy), where Donald, Bill Clinton and Rudy Giuliani all sing “Go Go Go Conrad” and urge him to stand his ground.
Later, the media clue into the fact that the Canada Revenue Agency has a lien on his Palm Beach house (Black insists that he arranged it voluntarily) and start teasing him for being poor. Our favourite: when the Guardian tells Barbara Amiel that she can save money on pantyhose by using a Sharpie to draw vertical lines up the backs of her legs. Come on, that’s funny. Eventually, it’s the London house that ends up going—and good riddance since, according to Barbara, it’s way too big for their humble livelihood.
In the words of the Lord:
• On re-enacting Bleak House at Christmas: “Barbara and I even managed modest gifts, accepted almost furtively by her, lest the boot in her sky notice we were having a good moment—something we had judged inappropriate in the hair-shirted, Dickensian bleakness of December 2003.”
• On Barbara’s spiritual side: “Though Barbara fights it, she is privately a person of faith who in bleak hours falls back on cantorial music and ritual, usually alone in a room out of sight.”
• On Barbara’s lyrical repertoire: “Barbara began humming “Little Things Mean a Lot,” which was part of her vast repertoire of Hit Parade songs from the 1950s.”
• On Richard Breeden not being up on his political manifestos: “It shortly became obvious that Breeden had made a classic mistake, one that Machiavelli in particular, had warned against: excessive reliance on mercenaries.”