Category Archives: tributes to Norm

BEN STANLEY: Bowling, Norm

Ben Stanley

[originally posted on TwitLonger]

Normfest. A fine idea. Where entry is free, all the bands play country and western, and the fields are full of cricketers toiling and spinning.

I came to normblog late, having noticed that many of the people I most enjoyed following on Twitter had one thing in common: the constant references they made to a chap they referred to simply as ‘Norm’. “I wonder what Norm will make of this?” “Well, obviously, Norm puts it best….” “As usual, Norm is right on the money with this one”. This respect might have been mistaken for excessive deference, but then you clicked on the link and found a few paragraphs of concise and elegant prose that—agree or disagree—couldn’t have been more reasoned or reasonable. I realised that everyone I followed wanted to know what Norm thought, not because of intellectual laziness, but out of intellectual curiosity. Norm quite literally made sense. He set out a clear position on almost everything that crossed his intellectual horizon, and where he could not, he admitted to uncertainty. How rare that quality is in an era of instant and disposable opinions.

Norm was passionate and principled, frank and fair, wise and civil: the very model of a public intellectual. As others have said, he did not use his intellect or position to bully or to insult, but to reason, encourage and educate. Others have posted much about his wisdom and erudition; I would like to emphasise his great decency. Twitter often lends itself to unpleasantness, particularly on the part of those clever and witty enough to compress something savage and wounding into 140 characters. With his command of language and swiftness of mind, I’ve no doubt Norm could have done that had he so chosen, but the point is that he chose not to. There is a big hole in Twitter now, and it is up to us to fill it with reason, goodwill and civility. I will try to follow his example as best I can.

One of my last exchanges with Norm was over a silly hashtag game a few weeks ago, called something like #AddAWordRuinAMovie. (Amid the praise for his blogging, Norm’s prowess at hashtag games has not received quite the attention it deserves.) I retweeted his contribution “Bowling, Shane”, which aptly combined two enduring passions of his: Western films and the great Australian cricket teams of—to his mild vexation this summer–the past. Sidelined yet again by cricket, we got to talking about how a biopic of 90s Australian wicketkeeper Ian Healy would actually be a significant contribution to the canon of great sporting films. Well, in the canon of great blogs, normblog occupies even more hallowed a place.

Bowling, Norm.

ANDREW WEST: Hat-tip, Norm

Andrew West…

…blogs at wongaBlog

I just searched my inbox for emails from Norm. There are more than I expected. I mean, I remembered that he’d profiled me for his blog, despite my being a little blogger with no real readership or reason to attract his attention. That was a lovely thing to do, and made me feel part of something. So there are a few emails about that. But I’d forgotten his competitions and lists. Who are your favourite poets? Musicals? Actors? For each of these there’s my submission and a thank you in reply.

But not just a thank you—there’s always some little comment or aside. Just enough to make me feel like a person, and not another entrant, of which there must have been dozens. And there’s his ‘short short story’ competition, where he published my entry. I was so proud of that. And there’s the time I asked for gift advice for a mutual friend. The reply was quick, eloquent, and apologetically unhelpful.

I only had the briefest of interactions with him. but he was nice to me. He made my life a fraction better, just because he could. That’s gentlemanly. Hat-tip, Norm.


Tom Deveson

So many people have said it and will say it: Norm made me try to think better and more honestly. I’ve been wondering why I always felt he was rather older than me, although he was born only five years earlier. I realised just now, it’s because he was wise. Gifts like his are rare and precious.

His private kindnesses don’t need to be shared in public, but it’s right and true to say that he was a lovely man as well as a clever man and an upright man. I’m grateful that he invited me onto normblog to write about a book I love and a Test match I remember. His generosity overflowed into so many areas.

As I thought about Norm, two earlier writers came into my mind.

One is Dr Johnson talking to Boswell:

“My dear friend, clear your mind of cant…You may talk in this manner; it is a mode of talking in Society: but don’t think foolishly.”

The other is George Orwell writing about Dickens:

“He is laughing, with a touch of anger in his laughter, but no triumph, no malignity. It is the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry—in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.”

An eighteenth-century Tory, a nineteenth-century liberal, a twentieth-century socialist—we remember them because of their humanity, because of their integrity and because they wrote so well. Now Norm has joined them.

DAVID R. ADLER: Fiercely intelligent and principled

David R. Adler

[David’s normblog Profile]

There is one less champion of democratic thought in the world today. Norman Geras has passed. A friend and role model, Norm visited NYC in May 2012 and I had the great pleasure of spending an afternoon with him. We visited the 9/11 Memorial together, a powerful experience for us both. We shared a snack across from Zuccotti Park, boarded an insanely crowded uptown train and soon parted ways, for the last time. (I’m linking to his post about the Memorial visit.) Norm graciously featured me twice on his widely read Normblog, and those opportunities meant the world to me. He was wry (in that British way), decent, fiercely intelligent and principled, an unshakable ally and a passionate fan of jazz. I can’t yet bear the thought of his loss and I’ll be posting links [on his Facebook page — Ed.] to more tributes in the days to come.