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Published 13/03/2011

Poets are the "unacknowledged legislators of the world", according to Shelley, showing that mixture of insight and egomania that was characteristic of the Romantics.

If one can extend the phrase to include writers in general, there is almost a sense of a shadow government or, more pertinently, shadow opposition which writers represent.

Take, for instance, the recent hoo-hah over Ian McEwan's visit to Israel to accept the Jerusalem prize. A propaganda battle ensued between those who felt that going there was tantamount to condoning Israeli policies and McEwan who felt that going and delivering what was described as an "eloquent attack" would be more effective. This he duly did.

The rights and wrongs of the situation are perhaps less important than that the opinions and actions of a mere writer should be of such consequence.

As for Ian McEwan, I suspect the storyteller in him could hardly resist being at the centre of his own drama. A most Irish characteristic, if I may say so.

n Having been graced this week by a Royal visit from yer man and his soon-to-be missus, one can only look on in wonder at the damage that has already been done to forestry in trying to cash in on book form.

The Royal biography industry has been given a boost of course by the success of the King's Speech, which at least had the virtue of coming at the Firm from an abstruse angle and with a genuine story to tell. Really all one can do is look on in wonder.

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