My “literary spat” with Mark Rowlands in the TLS (as reported in the Evening Standard)


Monday 24 October 2011

It’s wolf v bull as philosophers bare their teeth

Warring in blogland: Mark Rowlands and Alexander Fiske-Harrison

It’s the latest literary spat. Mark Rowlands, a British philosophy professor who spent a decade living with a wolf, gave a savage review to Alexander Fiske-Harrison’s book Into The Arena on the art of the matador in the Times Literary Supplement in September. Now Fiske-Harrison is as wounded as a bull lanced by a picador — and the men are locked in a battle of letters and blog posts against each other. Fiske-Harrison’s complaint is that Rowlands, who concerns himself with animal welfare, would be naturally indisposed to his love of bull-fighting, not to mention that Fiske-Harrison has previously given him a bad review. “Mark Rowlands is a proponent of vegetarianism and once tried to make his pet wolf into one, as described in The Philosopher and the Wolf,” says Fiske-Harrison. Professor Rowlands, who teaches at the University of Miami, had described Fiske-Harrison’s writing as being infected with “vainglory” and “startling arrogance” in his love of bull-fighting.The red rag in this feud was first waved two years when Fiske-Harrison reviewed Mark Rowlands’s wolf book for Prospect magazine. “If you combine misanthropy and lycophilia,” he wrote, “the resulting hybrid, lycanthropy, is indeed interesting but philosophically quite sterile.” Over to Rowlands. “I felt rather guilty that I was dispensing such a negative review,” he tells me. “I did, of course, inform the TLS of the fact that he had previously reviewed a book of mine. I resent the suggestion that my negative review was the result of personal animus … [it] was the result of the book not being very good.” Rowlands has also called Fiske-Harrison “thin-skinned”. The blog argument now runs to several thousands words, with still no victor in sight.

P.S. I suspect that Rowlands’ loathing of the book is more about my having fought a bull – see photo from my book above – than my ‘love’ of watching it. My aficion, or ‘love’, is actually what is in question throughout the book, something every other reviewer noted. As for the idea that a review could wound me – well, that’s just nice journalism I guess. My actual issues with Rowlands are quite clearly pointed out in our exchange in the letters’ page of the TLS here.

Alexander Fiske-Harrison

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EVENING STANDARD: Clive’s 50 Not Out In The City

It makes me particularly proud to see that my father’s 50th anniversary in the City of London is makes headlines courtesy of the City Editor of the capital’s great newspaper.

Evening Standard

CLIVE’S 50 NOT OUT IN THE CITY

Anthony Hilton
26th September 2012
Clive Fiske Harrison, with his then fiancée, now wife, Barbara Gail Horne, at The May Fair Hotel in London during his first year in the City, 1963, after his return from New York

Clive Fiske Harrison, with his then fiancée – now wife – the sculptor Barbara Gail Horne, at The May Fair Hotel in London during his first year in the City, 1963, after his return from New York (Photo: family archive placed in public domain)

Today saw the annual general meeting of Fiske & Co, the stockbroker and investment bank.

It also marks the day 50 years ago when Fiske’s chairman, Clive Fiske Harrison, joined Panmure Gordon, then one of the leading brokers. A fellow junior colleague in Panmure at that time was David Mayhew. He, like Fiske Harrison, has survived the intervening years of change rather better than has Panmure. (Mayhew stood down as chairman of J. P. Morgan Cazenove at the end of last year.)

In those relaxed days, the market opened at 9.30am, the partners drank gin or whisky (starting often not much later) and the office workers beer. Hardly anybody drank wine. This was of course before the 1970s market collapse, 1980s Big Bang and 1990s explosion of regulation.

But some things haven’t changed, Fiske Harrison told his shareholders. When he started in 1962, Greek bonds traded at the equivalent of 30p in the pound!

Well done, Clive! I doubt there are many of the current City take who will match your half century.