When the first selection of Bernard Levin's journalism, Taking Sides, appeared in 1979, Christopher Brooker was prompted to exclaim: 'Levin has become the nearest thing to a national institution'. Like Taking Sides this second selection spans the past decade and contains a provocative range of topics and opinions. All of the pieces have appeared in The Times, Sunday Times or Observer and together the two volumes represent a mere two per cent of Levin's total output. It is a marvellous compendium of the momentous and the odd. Levin, the vigilant enemy of prejudice and oppression, is as ready to take up the cause of a Perthshire handyman dismissed for homosexuality as to mourn the young woman shot dead on the East German border while trying to escape to the West. Levin, imparter of arcane news about bumblebees, has much to say of his distaste for dogs, of cruelty to prawns and the proper way to infuriate your cat. As a dairy expert, he explains why cheese-making raises mankind above the beasts and what would have happened to butter if Mr. Levin himself had purchased Harrods. As explorer of mysteries, Levin addresses the blinding light thrown by Blake's illustrations son his poetry, the 27-year seduction of carton heroine 'Jane' in the Daily Mirror and the clandestine impulse of book-sniffing. As theatre goer he warmly applauds David Edgar's adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby and thinks a good deal less of Harold Pinter than most people do.
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