Letter: Your publication has become unironic

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As I sprawl, languid, listless, on my spattered Persian carpet, pâté jars, empty, in heaps about me, and another bottle of Armagnac drained, I sometimes wonder where it all went wrong. The candle flickers, moths whir; and slowly, through the torpor, it comes back to me.

Yes, I was like you, once. I sat in C3, and I sniggered through meetings. I knew the face of Our faceless Correspondent, and picture copyright laws held no secrets for me. I, in fact, was a Berkeley Square. My future was bright, and my destiny in ink.

But those days are gone, truly so. And I can have nothing but congratulations for my successors, those slick, shining professionals of the pen. Berkeley Squares, it would seem, has reached new heights. When, after all, did we interview MPs, academics, leaders in so many fields? When did we have a seat at party conferences, and when did our stories attract more than twenty readers? You have made the site what, perhaps, it always wanted to be: a news blog, a studied, serious news blog, and I applaud you.

And yet… and yet, I cannot help but shed a tear for the Berkeley Squares that was. I miss those days when articles about trousers and oranges rubbed shoulders with political bulletins. I miss the sweet Schadenfreude of a Wearmouth’s Things I Don’t Understand, the thrill of Our Correspondent’s three-sentence articles, the power of pieces that had no point whatsoever.

Berkeley Squares, you see, wasn’t to be taken seriously. I shan’t labour a crude point, but you know as well as I what “BS” stands for, and it’s not merely business studies. And that, in a sense, was the point. I should never, of course, downplay the hard and admirable work of its founder, of its technicians, and indeed of its writers, but still: I felt the very soul of Berkeley Squares was subversion. Ambition, it seems, and an impressive thirst for success, have replaced the light spirit of former days, the self-deprecation, even self-ridicule.

We, I suppose, wrote for connoisseurs, and found the only connoisseurs were ourselves. Our stunted readership was a badge of pride, our publication almost a subculture. And so, well done – your success is remarkable and well-deserved. But still, I feel like the last old boozer in the refurbished gastropub, and you the Howard Blandy to my Krusty Krab.

I don’t want to complain, and after all, I have no right: you are more diligent, more accomplished and more sensible than ever I was. I simply wish to lament, to mourn those days when we asked mayors about fruit and the theatre, when our foe was marketing’s censor, when our business, in short, was the breaking, not the making of news. Things change, and what was ours is ours no more. But I shall say this much: I simply fear that your very name, Berkeley Squares, alongside the rest of the publication, has become unironic.

Maximilian Yuen
Oxford


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