One Hundred Things Norman Geras and I Corresponded About Over the Last Decade

Country music (including but not limited to Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Allison Krauss, and its relationship to suicide) -- Marxism -- The war in Iraq -- The case the British government made for the war in Iraq -- Media coverage of the war in Iraq -- Differences between British and American media coverage of the war in Iraq -- Dead socialists (including the question of whether or not Paul Sweezy was in fact dead: he wasn’t when we began corresponding on the question, but later he was) -- Favourite novels -- University admissions -- Boycotts of Israelis -- Blog technology issues -- The paradox of democracy -- Paul “The Thinker” Richards -- Defamation law -- French headscarves laws -- International rugby partisanship -- New Zealand and whether it is a dull country -- Amnesty International -- Italian anti-war demonstrations -- Christopher Hitchens -- The precise distance from Boulder, CO to Birmingham, AL -- My Normblog Profile -- The number of Red Sox supporters who have Normblog profiles -- Where the Wild Things Are -- Bob Dylan -- Favourite films -- A Mighty Wind -- Nashville -- Joan Baez -- George W. Bush -- The Hutton Inquiry -- Lucio Colletti -- Why the film Life is Beautiful is so terrible -- The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -- Mobile telephones -- Cricket -- The various ways in which my students used to pronounce the name “Geras” -- Rock stars -- Exam marking -- Arnold Lobel and his Mouse Tales -- The Butler report -- The Campo de' Fiori in Rome -- Shakespeare plays -- Obnoxious right-wing writers (including Mark Steyn and Andrew Bolt) -- American airport security checks -- Terrorist threats -- Socialist Register -- The 2004 US Presidential election -- Baseball -- Visiting Oxford -- Thomas Hobbes -- Roman libraries -- Classical composers (especially Schubert) -- Jokes about rational choice theorists -- The Tour de France -- Etienne Balibar -- Favourite actors -- The excellence of kittens (and, more generally, cats) -- American street names -- Wendy Cope -- Footnotes in Capital -- Umpiring -- Passport applications -- Margaret Thatcher’s resignation -- Margaret Thatcher's poetry --  Jews for Justice for Palestinians -- Chavez and anti-Semitism -- Academic plagiarism -- David Aaronovitch as marathon runner -- x-RCP front organisations -- Robert Wokler -- Academic jobs -- Musicals -- Australia -- The rubbish-collection regime in Oxford -- Tony Judt -- Whether or not the Euston Manifesto was part of a “common, hysterical defense of the Anglo-Dutch financial system, and their permanent right to loot the economies of the world” -- American practices of memorialization on campus -- Flooding in Oxford -- The Beatles -- Jerry Cohen’s valedictory lecture -- The New Left Review -- Loyalty oaths -- A Dance to the Music of Time -- Merton College, Oxford -- Visiting Manchester -- Critical opinions about America -- Puzzles involving marbles -- Traffic robots -- The Beach Boys -- Tony Blair’s relationship with God -- Bernard-Henri Levy looking funny in photographs -- Authorisations to use military force -- John Stuart Mill on international intervention -- The Eurovision Song Contest  -- Adam Smith -- Nick Cohen's views about torture -- Alfred Hitchcock films -- The thorny question of whether seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong was on drugs -- The problems of travelling between Oxford and Cambridge. Biggest regret? In July 2004, Norm wrote, "Might you have an interest in watching a Test or some part of one with me?", and I never took him up on the suggestion. His final words of the correspondence, from the start of this month: "My own care from the NHS has been exemplary."


  1. I once e-mailed him about the origin of Aaron Sorkin’s “walk and talk” technique (A Few Good Men, apparently) after he had blogged about it. He was kind enough to send me – nobody special – a reply and a follow up e-mail when he blogged about it again, including my story of how it came about. That he took the time to do this meant a lot to me, and I was saddened to hear the news this morning.

    Quote | Posted 18 October, 2013, 4:50 pm

  2. He may have linked to my blog once or twice – I certainly linked to his – but beyond that I never had any contact with Norm (impossible to refer to him any other way. His argumentative style annoyed me enormously, so much so that I generally avoided even reading his blog. I don’t think I ever agreed with him about anything; I disagreed with him (remotely) just the other week. But it never occurred to me that the conversation wouldn’t go on.

    I’m shocked by the news – not having known about the illness – and terribly saddened. He leaves a very big hole.

    Quote | Posted 18 October, 2013, 5:13 pm

  3. Now posted at normfest:

    Quote | Posted 18 October, 2013, 7:33 pm

  4. I remember some email exchanges with him, fairly early on in the days of Normblog, when I was still finding it hard to believe that the writer I had admired in his New Left Review essays was being forced, by the logic of his position, into a defence of George W. Bush. He was polite enough, though he typed his last email to me in capital letters only. I understood that he was busy, and was amazed that such a prolific writer and reader would have time for such correspondences.

    I believe the principled humanism that served him well in some of the NLR debates – against deathly Althusserian-inflected Marxism – turned into a weakness in his post-2001 writing. For example, in attacking the Guardianistas, he lumped them all into one. Seamus Milne, Madelaine Bunting, Jonathan Steele, even Timothy Garton Ash – or Robert Fisk on The Independent. I don’t remember him considering the reports of Patrick Cockburn (too tough for him?). Geras made large mistakes in dismissing the real foreign correspondents like this. A journalist such as Steele, knowing Iraq from weeks spent living there and talking with people on the ground, can make a homebound-writer like Geras look just irrelevant. In those contexts, all Geras was left with was his logico-moral philosophy and no clue about what happens in the real world.

    Quote | Posted 22 October, 2013, 1:27 pm

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