Pedro and Ricky Come Again by Jonathan Meades review – dandyish Hulk rampage

From Duchamp to Orwell, fascism to Brexit … this collection of journalism and speeches showcases one of the world’s best haters, who has never composed a dull paragraph

Jonathan Meades is a sceptic. Not in the debased sense of someone who gullibly parrots the claims of shills and the deluded that global warming is a hoax, or that masks don’t mitigate the spread of respiratory viruses. Nor in the idly egotistical sense Meades himself identifies as “the English bents towards spiritual sloth and intellectual incuriosity, what we dignify as scepticism”. But in the fiery and ancient sense of scepticism: he is not just a man of little faith but an enemy of belief itself: a jeerer at creeds, a sneerer at doctrines of all flavours, metaphysical and otherwise.

He has too much sly wit, of course, to identify himself as such: “While it would be beguiling to appoint oneself part of that knowing cadre which lacks conviction,” he admits in the preface to this new collection of journalism and speeches, “I lack the conviction to do so.” He does not, like some celebrity pontificators, award himself a gold star for his ability to identify junk. He is too busy enjoying himself blowing raspberries. Meades sees faith everywhere, and loudly despises it everywhere. Not just in the screeds of terrorists or Catholics, about which he is entertaining enough (in one piece, he refers lightly to “the Church’s strong suit, paedophilia”), but also in politics.

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