Who Is Don Draper?

September 7, 2010

“Let me tell you something. Nowadays, everybody’s gotta go to shrinks, and counselors, and go on “Sally Jessie Raphael” and talk about their problems. What happened to Gary Cooper? The strong, silent type. That was an American. He wasn’t in touch with his feelings. He just did what he had to do. See, what they didn’t know was once they got Gary Cooper in touch with his feelings that they wouldn’t be able to shut him up! And then it’s dysfunction this, and dysfunction that, and dysfunction ma fangul!”

–Tony Soprano, “Pilot”

There’s a stronger affinity, I think, between Mad Men and The Sopranos than Matthew Weiner and David Chase’s influence on him.  Especially if you go back to the first season of Mad Men, something stands out about Don Draper—he’s a man making himself up, a Man With No Name (sorta, if you will), stumbling into Manhattan from no-one-knows-where.  He’s the hero of some classic western flick, dropped onto Madison Avenue.  He’s the Gary Cooper strong silent type Tony’s talking about above, the real-life version of the movie hero Tony grins at from behind a bowl of ice cream.

Of course, what becomes clear as Mad Men progresses is that Don’s mysterious outsider, strong-silent-type status is just as much of an act as Tony’s “sad clown” shtick.  He’s truly broken inside: by his moment in time, by the fact that the society he’s modeling himself for/after no longer exists (and maybe never did), by his complicated past and his (lack of) relations with his biological family.  This is also Betty’s problem—notice her reaction to the knowledge he’s not who she thinks.  And, more importantly for the purposes of this post, it’s Tony’s problem.  There are hints in both shows that this long-for society never did exist—how well do Roger Sterling, Bert Cooper, and the Lucky Strike heir mesh with Don’s idea of what a “man” should be?  Christopher stabs at Tony with the statement that “Dickie Moltisanti, my father, your hero, was really just another junkie.”—but Don and Tony have trouble accepting that.  (Tony, as time progresses, seems to forget about the meaning of the figures he’s referencing in his complaints, and increasingly fails to live up to his own standards.)

While Tony responds to modernity by increasingly acting as an agent of, if you’ll pardon the expression, the devil (more to come on this later), Don behaves like any red-blooded American western movie hero and turns to the bottle.  Although a real American would stop drinking that damn Canadian stuff, but I’ll let it slide for now.  If you watch Don’s drinking and Roger’s, there’s a difference: Don drinks to escape (the only other way he can do it is to go to California; this is cheaper, and easier, and more destructive), while Roger drinks because he loves to drink.  It’s his hobby, more or less—yes, a bad one, especially for a man who’s had two major heart attacks, yet it somehow seems less psychologically destructive than Don’s utter lack of pleasure from his drunkenness.  (Yes, he was amused by Lane getting drunk with him—but that was Lane, not the scotch, making him smile.)  Don’s drinking now has caused him to lose the memory of at least one full day of his life—it might as well never have existed, as far as his memory is concerned.

So he drinks for a temporary reprieve from being Don Draper (he gave his name as Dick Whitman to the waitress he can’t remember picking up), but also because Don is trying to adhere to some old honor(ish) system that is clearly having trouble withstanding the late 1950s/early 1960s; that can’t stand up without the support of people who believe in it—but which he can’t stand up.  Unlike Tony Soprano, Don Draper is not a sociopath.  Hence the show’s transformation into the Long Slow Trainwreck of Don Draper’s Life.

Meanwhile, if Tony Soprano were able to watch Mad Men, all of this leads me to think that he would love it, too; that he would see Don as some sort of desperate hold out sacrificing himself for the cause of the Strong Silent Type.  And maybe that is who Don Draper is—a man who, having molded himself and found that the mold has been discarded by society, is struggling to maintain himself just for the sake of all he sacrificed to get there.  But if their roles were reversed, and Don could watch Tony talk about the strong silent type and lament the good ol’ days of honor while slowly abandoning more and more of that model—he’d probably be unconditionally disgusted.

And could the Don Draper who once called a drunken Roger Sterling in blackface a disgrace see the vindictive drunk he will become in several years time, one imagines that he, too, would be condemned.  Tony Soprano never sees that he has slipped completely away from the standards he claims to revere; Don’s chances for some degree of redemption rest, it would appear, on whether he has the same failing.  (Perhaps that moment of physical—of human—contact with Peggy at the end of Sunday’s episode bodes well for him.  Or not: just ask the girl who began the season as his secretary.)


Quick note: I’m out of town, and Rosh Hashana begins tomorrow and leads directly into Shabbat, so it might be next week before I get another chance to post.  If that’s the case: L’shana tovah and happy football season.


I know he’s probably sick of everyone talking about him by now, but E.D. Kain’s recent talk about abandoning the conservative label began to remind me about a similar moment his colleague William had a few years ago (not leading, in the end, to a permanent abandoning of the word), which sent me looking through a bunch of old posts to see my responses to him, and to see what my own struggles with labels looked like then.  What William wrote then, I think, deserves being quoted again:

Conservatism, broadly construed, is dedicated to a certain kind of story about our political life, just as the liberalism is dedicated to its own story. To say “I am a conservative” or “I am a liberal” is to endorse a story. And the mainstream of the conservative movement, right now, is advancing a certain interpretation of that story.

So what do you do when the genre turns ugly? You don’t stay silent; you tell a better story. You take the various codes and tropes, and you learn how to make them compelling again.

You reclaim the word by reclaiming the genre.

Changing it through telling stories, through reclaiming the genre, makes it (to my ear) sound easier than it probably is.  But I don’t mind that.  It’s reassuring—it doesn’t seem impossible.

The story that needs to be rebutted is that which has come out of the weird afterlife of Buckley’s invocation to “Stand athwart history, yelling, ‘Stop!’”  While from a certain perspective it’s admirable just as was Hektor’s defense of Troy despite knowing it would inevitably fall.  Society changes; someone has to caution—someone has to lay the gadfly.  But this requires one to accept that yelling, “Stop!” is an act doomed to failure.  History will not stop because it cannot stop.

Without that realization, when the image lapses into dogma, the problem arises, as I’ve said before:

Standing athwart history means standing outside of history.  Any successful politics cannot must stand and act within history; within history is where we live.  Any successful — or even unsuccessful — conservatism must as well: isn’t it conservatism which eschews the messianic impulse toward perfection, toward removing humanity from the realm of history ourselves?  (Again, Buckley: “Don’t immanitize the eschaton.”)  And, living and acting within history, for conservatism to be successful, it must be more than yelling, “Stop!” or “No!” (though sometimes it may be justified and called for).

The story that needs to be told now, after all, is one that has already been told.  In that regard, I suppose, we’re fortunate.  It’s the story of Jack Burden’s hard-won wisdom in the beautiful closing paragraph of All the King’s Men:

We shall come back, no doubt, to walk down the Row and watch young people on the tennis courts by the clump of mimosas and walk down the beach by the bay, where the diving floats lift gently in the sun, and on out to the pine grove, where the needles thick on the ground will deaden the footfall so that we shall move among the trees as soundlessly as smoke.  But that will be a long time from now, and soon now we shall go out of the house and go into the convulsion of the world, out of history into history and the awful responsibility of Time.

I was at work on a post inspired by the discussion at the League of Glenn Greenwald’s post on the Obama administration and the assassination of American citizens, but I’m not going to be able to add anything other than the obvious; and my Akhilles analogies in an attempt to rebut Adam Kirsch on the Classics aren’t quite working out — yet.

And then I realized, that in my year-long blog detox which limited my regular online reading to the Daily Dish and only a few other sources, I had heard nothing of this until today.  So I checked, and Sullivan has just a single post about the Awlaki situation — and that was a commentless quotation of Spencer Ackerman.

Now, I really doubt that Sullivan’s going to stumble onto anything I say here (though it did happen once before! Hey — a boy can dream, can’t he?), but this is bothersome, given his stridency in hammering home the Bush administration’s record on torture and civil liberties.  Which is to say, I trust him to call out Obama on the same types of issues — and (in a post shortly after the election which I can’t find but recall clearly), he essentially promised to.  And I can’t be the only one whose sense of the day’s news is shaped in large part by the Dish.

I worry, in short, that the issue didn’t simply slip under the rug (because how could it?) and that it’s being ignored, for one reason or another.  So, from my little barstool in the far outskirts of the interwebs, I’m going to call him out on it and hope that he will, in the future, be just as vigilant now as he was when Bush was sitting at the big desk.

Every year, there’s at least one obligatory article at Northwestern profiling Roger Carlson and Bookman’s Alley.  But this article goes beyond that and profiles Evanston’s very-much-dying used/independent bookstore scene, and it’s an excellent piece for anyone interested in reading about books, bookstores, and the changing ways we buy and sell them.  (Or if you’re just feeling nostalgic.)

This, for instance, is one store that I’ll regret never having known (and that lonely sign for it was already vaguely unsettling before I knew what, exactly, it was the ghost of):

‘According to Howard Cohen, owner of Howard’s Books, Great Expectations was “the best philosophy bookstore in the United States for many years.” Whereas Barnes & Noble might carry three or four books by Dutch philosopher Benedict de Spinoza, Great Expectations would fill three or four shelves.

Once a Northwestern undergraduate and now a history professor here, Jeff Rice was the last owner of the store. He paints a romantic picture of it, a place where professors would meet, famous writers would come and go (Saul Bellow got kicked out of the store “for being an asshole”) and people would get into political arguments and shouting matches while a Cubs game played in the background.’

My eternal problem with buying books online is that you can’t really browse — at least not the same way you can in an actual book store.  And what makes an independent or used book store so much better for browsing than a chain store is the sheer variety and eclecticism of the collections: they keep the authors who don’t sign large advances alive.  (Not to mention that they’re about the only places you can find decent poetry/philosophy sections, though some chain stores do better than others on this front, normally — in my experience — depending on how close to a college they are.)

Consider: Andrew Sullivan recounts discovering Michael Oakeshott accidentally while browsing in a used book store; Paul Breslin, an English professor here who is a leading scholar on Nobel laureate Derek Walcott, discovered Walcott in a used book store in New York because there were palm trees on the cover and opened it to find poems that left him, he says, stunned; Ezra Pound was in a bookshop on the Paris strand when he stumbled onto an old edition of the Latin translation of the Odyssey that he then translated and adapted into the first of his Cantos — and, in a great “What If?” for lovers of the Modernists — he was forced to choose between it and a translation of the Iliad because he could only afford to buy one.

Though none of my used book experiences have been quite so momentous, I came across Saul Bellow’s Herzog — which is among the best postwar American novels I have read — before having read a word of his; the story is the same with Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism — both not at all what I was looking for.  And most of my books related in any way to Classical authors — in original or in translation — have come from only slightly more deliberate browsing sessions.

I guess what I’m saying is, if we didn’t have these eclectic little shops to wander in, the accidents of history (or at least of recent thought) would be that much more homogenous, and that much the worse for it.

I tried writing this last night, but it wasn’t clicking.  Not only am I incapable of writing two non-obits/non-elegies back-to-back, but what’s to be said in memorium has been said better than I could hope to.

I always viewed Conor’s essay, “Electric Kool-Aid Conservatism,” as something of a manifesto for the site.  The fate of Culture11 in particular notwithstanding, the piece remains true.  What conservatism needs now is more journalists, broadly defined, not activists.  I say “broadly defined” because I want to include the full breadth of form that could be included in this very apt definition of his (emphasis mine):

“Unless colleges and journalism schools start assigning Burke, Hayek, Friedman, and quite a few others, the answer depends upon whether the right is willing to invest in talented young people who understand conservatism and libertarianism, but whose foremost loyalty is to investigating their world and conveying whatever they find.

Perhaps it’s arrogant for a would-be writer to go about proclaiming that what we need now are “writers” — but that word alone kind of misses the point.  If a general conservatism is more right than wrong, then the recording and transmission of what we see in the world around us should prove that point.  Showing, not bloviating, is the way forward.  And — lest we forget that the title was composed of words (well, a word and a number) — it establishes culture.  The “culture wars” are the wrong wars in our society because they are a fight between “cultures” rather than a fight to retain and further establish the beautiful one we have, and the tradition underlying it.

That essay, and a week-long spate of pure energy crackling out of PoMoCo last fall, pushed me into getting started with this writerly experiment you’re reading (a form I never imagined using and at a time I would have never imagined beginning), and, like many others, gave me my first opportunity to see my writing published.  I’ll always be grateful for that, even if I wish I were more satisfied with the piece.

This post of Conor’s (“Is Western culture really in ruin? […] To say that we are in the ruin of Western culture implies an age in which things were better. Does that age exist?”) is well worth reading – as are the comments. I’m certainly not exempted from this habit of playing chicken-little; it’s been more or less constant to bemoan the decline of Western culture since its inception (date it when you will).

But I’m not sure that it always matters whether that foreboding of doom is accurate. My copy of Love in the Ruins isn’t on-hand for reference, but I remember beginning to wonder as I read it whether that corner of Louisiana existed in “dread latter days” of existence anywhere outside of Tom More’s mind. The scenario of psyche-altering doom he sees everywhere is so bizarre that it seems reasonable for no one to believe him, especially given his penchant for Early Times and technical status as an escaped ward of a mental institution. And from More’s perspective, the dangers he sees would prevent those affected from knowing what had happened. It’s never fully clarified, and his severe allergic reaction to multiple gin fizzes during the “present” of the novel doesn’t help matters.

Still, it doesn’t seem to matter whether More was seeing reality or imagining doom. What he learns from the experience of that half-week enables him to live more easily in the world – he’s not without discomfort in it, but he’s more alive than when things began. Maybe taking the idea of Percy’s “aestheticized religious mode” of bourbon-drinking works as an example: by the novel’s end, More isn’t drinking out of habit, physiological necessity, or to blot out the unpleasantries of modernity, but for the specific purpose of enhancing the religious experience of a Sunday afternoon.

* * *

John gives an important addendum to the whole discussion of “Is the West in decline?” when he writes:

“[N]or is it helpful to refuse to acknowledge the ways in which the genuine gains that humankind has made have involved some significant losses, too.”

If we start reframing a lot of our discussion of “decline” (which can’t be going on all the time, obviously) in terms of “loss” just what it is that we’re missing – and how to repair this, if we can – becomes a little more clear.

Facts Are Stubborn Things

December 30, 2008

George Packer, in his introduction to Facing Unpleasant Facts, a collection of Orwell’s narrative essays, says of “Shooting an Elephant” (pp. xxi-xxii):

“Here’s a troubling thought: There’s no way of knowing whether the events in the essay ever happened. […] Does it matter? Would the essay be any less powerful if Orwell never actually shot an elephant?”

So far, so good. A potential problem well worth addressing – and almost certainly so, in light of Orwell’s own concerns of the relationship of language, truth, politics, and power. But then his way of approaching this question gets weird:

“If you’re a literary sophisticate, the correct answer is obvious: of course not. All we have are Orwell’s words; they are what they are regardless of his life story, and only a naïve reader demands that they reflect factual truth. If anything, an invented incident would show that Orwell’s imaginative writing is underrated.”

He begins the next paragraph by stating that in his opinion “the naïve reaction is the right one,” making nearly moot my furious margin scribblings just above it. Nearly, because he’s not setting up a straw man from which to pivot toward Orwell’s “fear that facts could materialize or appear on demand.” Note that language: Sophisticate. Obvious. Naïve.

I take exception to this because I don’t consider myself “a naïve reader” and the rather obvious answer I saw was: Of course it does! How could it not? But while I’m more or less in agreement that it makes very little difference whether Woolf really saw a moth dying on her windowsill before composing “The Death of a Moth,” the two shouldn’t be compared. Woolf’s essay is a meditation – which Packer freely admits – and Orwell’s is a narrative. It would be frustrating if the images (moths, people on trains, flowers, etc.) which Woolf uses as something akin to living prompts for many of her essays were never truly encountered, and yes, I’d be offended that she was lying, but it wouldn’t affect the essence of her essays because they are just that: prompts. The truth she seeks to reveal and examine in the “The Death of a Moth” is in the death of a moth, and death itself, rather than the death of the particular moth. The truth she exposes would be created rather than revealed only if moths did not die.

“Shooting an Elephant” is a narrative, and it approaches truth through that narrative – which is to say, through the sequence of events and the author’s reflection on them, not through a meditation upon a single image. The shooting of an elephant is not a prompt; it is the essay. Unlike Woolf’s essay, if it did not happen, or did happen but substantially differently, the truth Orwell seeks to reveal dissipates. It, as in all narrative essays, is contingent upon the truth of the narrative. (The meditative essay, too, must be truthful; but since the image of the dying moth was the prompt and the image, certainly, is true, the honesty of having literally seen one matters less than the honesty of the meditations – that, I’d say, is on what the essay’s truth depends.)

The relationship between author and reader is dependant upon trust. There are, admittedly, different types of trust: we do not expect the same thing from the author of non-fiction as we do from the author of fiction. How else could those conceits of unreliable narration, postmodernism, “meta,” (all of the twentieth century, really, and much of what came before) have any meaning if we trusted the author of fiction on the same terms as an author of non-fiction. But this works because fiction approaches truth differently than non-fiction; in many cases, I’d go so far as to say, it aims to reveal a different type of truth. Part of the truth Faulkner seeks to reveal in The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, and Absalom, Absalom! is that which is revealed when narrators contradict one another and the stories told are, though about the same event, not the same. Non-fiction, on the other hand is precisely that: grounded in the true, in facts.

Which is all to say that the meaning would be irreparably altered if the narrative of any narrative essay turns out to be fabricated. Orwell chose the form of non-fiction, not fiction, to reveal and examine the truth he wants to get at in “Shooting an Elephant.” There are types and aspects of truth that can be examined through non-fiction but not fiction, or examined better (and vice-versa). To lie for the sake of revealing truth is to fabricate that truth, to create it out of thin air.

I fail to see the naivete in this, or the so-called “sophistication” in claiming that the meaningfulness of truth is the exception rather than the rule. The purpose of a piece of writing is not merely to be beautiful, though there is truth in beauty. Prettiness is not greatness; and writing should move us – that is, teach us something, point us toward something, do its damnedest to reveal some truth (or some aspect of truth) to us. Sometimes this will be beautiful, something this will be didactic, sometimes both at once. Maybe I’m demanding too much of writing, but I want it to place some demand on me. I want it to have been worth my time to read something.

There is nothing avant-garde about lying – and if there is and I’m wrong, then I want nothing to do with it. But that’ll be the least of culture’s worries. If we divorce truth from beauty, we’re engaging in a sophomorically lazy reading of Keats’ dictum, forgetting that beauty alone does not make something truth: we must have truth to have beauty.

I started off in a good mood this morning because the Journal had this very entertaining and interesting piece on The Man Who Would Be Dauphin.  Oh, those silly Europeans — those silly, silly French!  Then they had to go opining about torture (or, in their terminology, “torture” — note deliberate use of scare-quotes throughout the article: oh yes, to call torture torture is to engage in dishonest — “dishonest” — “postmodern”/”relativist” shenanigans).

It’s mostly the usual case (Thesis: “It wasn’t torture, but even if it was, why complain?  It worked!”), but with a few exceptions.  For example, it’s ostensibly targeted at the Levin-McCain torture report, only you wouldn’t know until the penultimate paragraph that McCain had anything to do with it, and then you’d have no idea that he was recently welcome enough in the Republican Party to be its presidential nominee a few months ago.

Reading it, I’m inclined to agree with what John and Willhad to say about objecting to torture on purely pragmatic grounds — the editorial’s author is trying to shift the debate there.  It seems obvious that he senses the ground is more even if the moral debate is set aside.  And it is.  The most compelling case is not, “Torture does not work,” (then some question like, “What if we make it work?” and you’re convincing nobody) but, “Torture is a moral wrong,” or, “Torture is antithetical to democracy.”

Ignoring the moral level of the debate allows the author to utter this bit of pontificating in what appears to be good faith: “Why John McCain endorsed this Levin gambit is the kind of mystery that has defined, and damaged, his career.”

The answer, quite simply, is he was tortured.  But if you subscribe to the beliefs of the editorial, you couldn’t say so — acts committed against some of our prisoners that are the same or comparable to some of what McCain endured in Vietnam aren’t merely not torture; they are “light years away from actual torture.”


“Bush officials like John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Jim Haynes . . . acted in good faith to keep the country safe within the confines of the law.”

Who wants to bet that McCain’s North Vietnamese “interrogators” were also acting within the law of the land; or that any torture committed by any nation is defended as being within the law?  I’d suppose that, in totalitarian/dictatorial regimes, it always is.  So if you’re going to make this case in defense of those who gave the legal authorization of torture within the United States, you need to make it for the bad guys.

By this logic, McCain’s “interrogators” and those who authorized/ordered their techniques were also acting in good faith to keep their country safe within the confines of the law.

And this is why those scare quotes with their implication that I’m the one redefining language and standards irritate me so much.  The moral relativists and twisters of language here are those who would hold America to a lower standard than that to which we hold our enemies — than the one to which we hold those who, judging purely by their behavior, are worse than us.  You can’t have it both ways.


One thing that more reasonably deserves debate is the matter of torture prosecutions.  It was, like the Levin-McCain report, what the editorial claimed to concern, but it made no effort to really engage the matter.  That would be far more interesting, and far more important, if it were to be done honestly and rigorously — and doesn’t require that the Journal concede such crimes were committed.  But maybe they don’t have as much patience as I do for debates conducted entirely in hypotheticals.

Words Matter

December 9, 2008

I see that Erin, over at Crunchy Con, has found the same news item about dictionaries as I did.  She, like Roger Kimball, is primarily concerned about the implications for the de-Christianization of England (and Europe).  But there’s something more going on with that damn dictionary– and, from my head-over-heels in love with the English language perspective, something more sinister.  She writes:

“Deciding to drop a word that has already fallen out of use, become obsolete, from a dictionary is not a political act, but removing words still in everyday use just because you’ve decided they ought not be important in the vocabulary of a modern child most decidedly is.”

I think I got at this a little while ago, in a different context, here.  We need words not only for communication, but for comprehension.  It’s a point Peter Lawler makes several times in Postmodernism Rightly Understood (and at least one of which I would quote if it weren’t for the exceptional unhelpfulness of its index).  When discussing Walker Percy, the problem of modernity is in part viewed as an inability to communicate, both to ourselves and others, in meaningful terms.  That is, we’re losing a grip on language.

Whether or not that’s been the case for as long as Percy (and Lawler?) seem to perceive, the connection between language and reality — and the problems a disconnect entails — are there.  Kimball, in passing, notes that many of the words removed describe the natural world.  It’s the type of thing Wendell Berry could have a field day with, writing one of those earnest and heartful essays that leave my head ringing with a Kentucky accent for hours.  But it’s the type of thing to make me less optimistic: any linguistic disconnect  between humanity and the world in which we live foretells a furthering of the present disconnect, not a repairing.  If we don’t know how to talk about the world, how the hell are we supposed to appreciate it — to love it for what it is, our home, where we are from — let alone repair what needs to be repaired.  Let alone teach our children to appreciate it so they don’t make our same mistakes.

As for the matter of England, Europe, The West, and Christianity — I suppose it concerns me in a primarily historical way.  To paraphrase Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent” is an historical treatise, not merely an aesthetic one, and when he writes, “No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead,” he’s speaking to the matter at hand quite well.  The present does not exist devoid of the past; the exist in relation to one another, they give meaning to one another.  A truly self-constructed nation, or person, is one living without comprehension of its/his past.  One can live without it, and I suppose a nation can exist without it, but they do so without any meaning.

One paper on Athenian beggars and Aristophanes left to do, and then I can go relax for a few weeks and get back to consuming food groups that provide what a doctor might term “proper nutrition.”  But back in the real world of blogging, it seems that the end of the election has allowed Roger Kimball to shift his focus from paranoid complaints and observations about Barack Obama (my ability to read these went right up there with Andrew’s craziest Trig-blogging) to what he does best — observations about the impending doom of Western Civilization.  After a bit of playing something resembling Chicken Little, he lights on the unfortunate decline of Oxford Univerity’s children’s dictionary:

Words taken out:

Carol, cracker, holly, ivy, mistletoe

Dwarf, elf, goblin

Abbey, aisle, altar, bishop, chapel, christen, disciple, minister, monastery, monk, nun, nunnery, parish, pew, psalm, pulpit, saint, sin, devil, vicar

Coronation, duchess, duke, emperor, empire, monarch, decade

adder, ass, beaver, boar, budgerigar, bullock, cheetah, colt, corgi, cygnet, doe, drake, ferret, gerbil, goldfish, guinea pig, hamster, heron, herring, kingfisher, lark, leopard, lobster, magpie, minnow, mussel, newt, otter, ox, oyster, panther, pelican, piglet, plaice, poodle, porcupine, porpoise, raven, spaniel, starling, stoat, stork, terrapin, thrush, weasel, wren.

Acorn, allotment, almond, apricot, ash, bacon, beech, beetroot, blackberry, blacksmith, bloom, bluebell, bramble, bran, bray, bridle, brook, buttercup, canary, canter, carnation, catkin, cauliflower, chestnut, clover, conker, county, cowslip, crocus, dandelion, diesel, fern, fungus, gooseberry, gorse, hazel, hazelnut, heather, holly, horse chestnut, ivy, lavender, leek, liquorice, manger, marzipan, melon, minnow, mint, nectar, nectarine, oats, pansy, parsnip, pasture, poppy, porridge, poultry, primrose, prune, radish, rhubarb, sheaf, spinach, sycamore, tulip, turnip, vine, violet, walnut, willow

Words put in:

Blog, broadband, MP3 player, voicemail, attachment, database, export, chatroom, bullet point, cut and paste, analogue

Celebrity, tolerant, vandalism, negotiate, interdependent, creep, citizenship, childhood, conflict, common sense, debate, EU, drought, brainy, boisterous, cautionary tale, bilingual, bungee jumping, committee, compulsory, cope, democratic, allergic, biodegradable, emotion, dyslexic, donate, endangered, Euro

Apparatus, food chain, incisor, square number, trapezium, alliteration, colloquial, idiom, curriculum, classify, chronological, block graph”

Really, now?  “Cut-and-paste” is not self-explanatory enough — and we have to cut “decade”  (or some such other word) for it?

One thing possibly worth noting: “words taken out” seems to be greater than “words put in” (though I didn’t actually count).  At which point, one wonders why Oxford University feels that children need to have access to fewer words, as well as — shall we say — a less thoughtful compendium of them.  In fact, it’s that which seems most bothersome: are the cuts for the sake of a budget?  That, while sad, would at least seem vaguely reasonable (at least from their point of view).  As for the alternative…