RW Johnson is an exasperating writer. Sooner or later he makes such outrageous statements that one feels open-mindedness is wasted on him. Only for a moment, though, because one is invariably persuaded to continue with what can be absorbing journalism offering scatterings of penetrating insights.

At least in his new book he keeps to safely dead metaphors when referring to wild African animals; I spotted an elephant and a crocodile, but mercifully he stayed away from the baboons. Nothing overtly racist this time. Forty professors won’t be writing to distance themselves from him...

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