The New Book of Snobs by DJ Taylor

Bee Wilson in The Guardian:

ScreenHunter_2338 Oct. 30 17.44I’m afraid we’ve become terrible salt snobs,” joked the late food writer Alan Davidson when he and his wife Jane had me round for lunch one day in the early 2000s. On the table were a panoply of special salts, from pink Himalayan to damp, grey fleur de sel from France. Announcing himself as a salt snob was a form of gentle self-mockery, something Alan was good at. He knew how absurd it was to have all these salts, when he could have made do with a cheap tub of Saxa. But it was also a modest kind of boastfulness. Alan wanted me to notice how superior his salt collection was, which I duly did.

The concept of snobbery is deeply complex, as the literary critic and biographer DJ Taylor cleverly explores in his “definitive guide” to snobs. Snobbery is a form of social superiority, but it can also be a moral failing. Snobs may laud it over others, but we, in turn, despise and punish them for it. Taylor starts his book withthe “Plebgate” affair of 2012, in which the government chief whip Andrew Mitchell was forced to resign his official post, and later pay substantial damages, after it emerged that he had rebuked a police officer who asked him not to cycle through the gates of 10 Downing Street with the words: “Best you learn your fucking place … You’re fucking plebs.” As Taylor notes, Mitchell’s sin was not to swear, but his use of the word “plebs”, which, in ancient Rome, simply meant the common people.

More here.

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