'To regard the human condition without excessive hope, but not to dispair of it, remains the sceptic's warily optimistic recipe. As someone once said, 'The man who has all the answers has not heard all the questions.' To be confident that one has more questions than answers is not the least of the benefits of doubt'. Frederic Raphael In Frederic Raphael's essays we meet familiar faces, known names, but the way he reintroduces them to us, with a ruthless clarity which seeks to conceal nothing, make us revalue them. Doubt is what keeps us from the tyranny of bien pensant sentimentalism, from accepting the nostrums of a journalised and televisualised culture. The first man we meet in The Benefit of Doubt is a tutelary spirit of Raphael's world, Primo Levi, a champion in the unequal fight between civilization and barbarism in which every thinking person is to some extent engaged. Other essays pursue Aristotle, Surrealism, Gore Vidal, cultural criticism, Heidegger, biography, the emperor Hadrian, translation, Arthur Koestler, the Jews, David Storey, the Greeks, Schnitzler, Tom Cruise, Disney and Kubrick amongst other subjects. On the Greeks...The Greeks had a long reputation for truning spitefully on those whom they earlier blessed with fame.
Even Themistocles (a dodgy character before he became the hero of Salamis) ended his life working as a civil servant for the Persians whom he had defeated. Few good deeds went unpunished in a society riven by envy, toadyism, malice and libellous recklessness on the part, for durable example, of Aristophanes, who mocked and vilified the democracy which gave him, and others, the freedom to do so.' from Ancient and Modern On Gore Vidal...Gore Vidal's life illustrates that, in order for a writer to be famous, it is not enough to make friends who will speak well, and audibly, about him. He also needs reliable enemies with whom he can pick regular, newsworthy fights.' from A Career and Its Moves On movies and modern life ...The movie camera has had an incomparably more thorough, perhaps even more narcissistic, effect on human behaviour. Who drives home after a thriller without glancing in the mirror for the guys in the grey sedan? Lovers learned to kiss longer, once they saw how the stars did it. Now sex is a spectator sport which - who knows? - may soon have a World Cup. When footballers roll in agony, French commentators call it cinema.
Sincerity, honesty, wisdom are what look sincrere, honest, wise. The Buddha got it right: appearances are reality, at twenty-four frames a second. from Why Write Movies