SEARCH:  
Twitter Facebook RSS Feed
No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Saturday 3rd March 2007

The Royal Nonesuch by Glasgow Phillips


Blackcat, New York, pp.374, .00

About a quarter of the way through this book I was surprised to discover that, back in 1996, Glasgow Phillips co-founded a naming firm called Quiddity. The idea was to profit from the dot com boom by persuading Internet entrepreneurs to hire him and his partner to name their new ventures. "We at Quiddity think of ourselves as genetic engineers of language," went the sales pitch, "and a soundly engineered name is the foundation of effective marketing." Philips is the first to admit that there was a large dose of hucksterism in all this, but, even so, how did he manage to come up with such a poor title for his memoir? The Royal Nonesuch conveys almost nothing about its contents--except, perhaps, that Phillips has a whimsical, offbeat sense of humour that not all of his readers will share.

Fortunately, a book can no more be judged by its name than it can by its cover--which, in this case, carries an effusive blurb from Dave Eggers. In fact, The Royal Nonesuch is a fairly lively example of what is rapidly emerging as a mini-genre: the New Media memoir. The first instance that I know of was Burn Rate, Michael Wolff's hilarious account of his own misbegotten Internet venture, and while this book isn't quite in that league it manages to hold your interest nonetheless because Phillips is such a self-confessed loser. Most New Media memoirs are about failure--if their authors had become rich they wouldn't be writing books--but The Royal Nonesuch stands out because Phillips achieved so little. For him, a first round of financing was a distant dream, never mind the IPO. This book chronicles the Internet gold rush from the point of view of a virtual pack pony.

A graduate of the Stanford Creative Writing Program, Philips published his first novel aged 24 and then moved to Los Angeles where, along with his best friend, he launched a New Media venture in 1998 called CRAP. (Would you hire this man to name your company?) CRAP stood for Certified Renegade American Product and its primary activity consisted of organising an alternative film festival each year at Sundance. Actually, that's not strictly true. Organising a handful of parties in Utah may have been the pinnacle of CRAP's achievements, but the bulk of Phillips's time was taken up with writing business plans and meeting with potential investors. His aim was to raise enough money to cover CRAP's overhead so he could get down to the real business of writing even longer business plans and meeting with even bigger investors. Needless to say, almost no one was crazy enough to give Phillips any money and CRAP went down the toilet in 2001.

One of the few people to cut Phillips a check was Matt Stone of South Park fame who invested $25,000 in a low-budget film that was designed to cash in on the success of The Blair Witch Project. In what must qualify as the sickest New Media venture ever conceived, Phillips' planned to make a fake snuff movie in which he pretended to murder his girlfriend and then broadcast it over the Internet, presenting it as a live event. Phillips's hope was that the ensuing media brouhaha would propel the film to the top of the video charts. Incredibly, Phillips made the film, enlisting the help of a Hollywood special effects company, but he wisely decided not to release it after an Internet porn baron described it as a "monstrosity".

Another madcap scheme involved making a late night talk show for Comedy Central hosted by a character named Tommy the Woodsman. Phillips managed to string the cable channel along, in spite of the fact that his star was a mentally unstable homeless man who's party trick consisted of taking all his clothes off and running around on all fours in the hope of persuading people that he'd over-dosed on LSD. (At other times, he simply overdosed on LSD.) Even after the Woodsman had made two suicide attempts and was incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital, Phillips refused to give up on this project. (In a blog post on Feb. 22, Mr. Phillips announced that the Woodsman had died.)

The fact that the author stood by the Woodsman, going so far as to take him home for Christmas in 2000, points to the character flaw that prevented him from making a fortune on the web--namely, he's far too nice a guy. Time and again, Phillips would collapse with laughter during some pitch meeting, unable to keep a straight face as he outlined his pie-in-the-sky revenue projections. His Internet start-up was essentially just a device to enable him and his partners to pay the wages of a string of bizarre characters whom no one else would employ--and he didn't have the heart to pretend it was anything else. (Which may explain why he called it CRAP.)

In the end, it is this fundamental decency which makes The Royal Nonesuch such an enjoyable book. Glasgow Phillips is no genius--and he's certainly not someone you'd ever want to go into business with--but he's a very likable fellow, and you'll end up rooting for him even though you know his harebrained ideas will come to nothing.

[ FIXED LINK ] Bookmark and Share





Twitter RT @afneil: Well I’ve never seen a penny of this. And until I do I’ll just keep holding of the feet of Remainers and Leavers to the fire. h…  (28 minutes ago)

BEST OF THE WEB

The Warlock Hunt by Claire Berlinski - the-american-interest.com
Is classical liberalism conservative? by Yarom Hazony - jerusalemletters.com
The Implosion of Western Liberalism by Patrick Lee Miller - quillette.com
The Eton of the East End - Daily Mail
The reactionary temptation by Andrew Sullivan - nymag.com
The book that scandalised New York intellectuals by Louis Menand - newyorker.com
To understand Britain today, look to the 17th Century by Adrian Wooldridge - economist.com
The crisis in France by Christopher Caldwell - city-journal.org
A Visit to Michaela School by Patrick Alexander - prospectmagazine.co.uk
Why parenting may not matter by Brian Boutwell - quillette.com
Trump Establishment's Cultural Significance Explained by Michael Wolff - newsweek.com
Branching histories of the 2016 referendum by Dominic Cummings - dominiccummings.wordpress.com
Putin's Real Long Game by Molly K McKew - politico.com
The Flight 93 Election by Publius Decius Mus - claremont.org
How the education gap is tearing politics apart by David Runciman - theguardian.com
What's wrong with identity politics by Graeme Archer - conservativehome.com
Grammars and the grain of truth by Jonathan Porter
Anti-Brexit: Britain's new class war by John O'Sullivan - nationalreview.com
The English Revolt by Robert Tombs - newstatesman.com
Democracies end when they are too democratic by Andrew Sullivan - nymag.com
Human beings really are making progress by Steven Pinker - edge.org
What ISIS really wants by Graeme Wood - theatlantic.com
A society ripe for Submission by Douglas Murray - quadrant.org.au
Beware the soft Stalinists of the campus by David Aaronovitch - thetimes.co.uk
Why I'm a Conservative Teacher by Jonathan Porter - conservativeteachers.com
Corbyn's Inconvenient Truth – He wanted the IRA to win - youtu.be
Corbyn's first seven days - theguardian.com
Corbin's cabinet chaos by Darren McCaffrey - news.sky.com
Why I've become Tory scum by Tony Parsons - gq-magazine.co.uk
Inside Westminster's free school - telegraph.co.uk
Jeremy Corbyn's politics are a fantasy – just like Alice in Wonderland by Tony Blair - theguardian.com
Robert Conquest obit - telegraph.co.uk
Jeremy Corbyn is not an anti-Semite – it's so much worse than that - news.stv.tv
In defence of free schools by Toby Young - standpointmag.co.uk
 

BLOGROLL

Andrew Lilico
Andrew Neil
Andrew Sullivan
Arts and Letters Daily
Bagehot's Notebook
BBC News
BBC Sport
Benedict Brogan
Brendan O'Neill
Bruce Anderson
Coffee House
Conservative Home
Damian McBride
Damian Thompson
Dan Hodges
Daniel Hannon
Ed West
Frank Furedi
Guido Fawkes
Harry Phibbs
Iain Dale
Iain Martin
James Delingpole
James Wolcott
Joe Murphy
John Rentoul
Labour List
Mark Steyn
Matt Drudge
Mehdi Hasan
Melanie Phillips
Michael Wolff
Nick Cohen
Nick Robinson
Nikki Finke
Normblog
Paul Waugh
Peter Hitchens
Political Betting
Right Minds
Rob Long
Rod Liddle
Slate
Sophy Ridge
Stephen Pollard
The Arts Desk
The Corner
The Daily Beast
The First Post
The Omnivore
The Onion
Tim Shipman
Tim Stanley
Tom Shone
 

COLUMNISTS

AA Gill
Aidan Hartley
Allison Pearson
Allister Heath
AO Scott
Boris Johnson
Charles Moore
Cosmo Landesman
Daniel Finkelstein
David Brooks
Fraser Nelson
George Monbiot
Giles Coren
Henry Winter
James Delingpole
Jan Moir
Janan Ganesh
Jeremy Clarkson
Jeremy Warner
Jim White
Jonathan Freedland
Lloyd Evans
Manohla Dargis
Martin Samuel
Mary Ann Sieghart
Matthew d'Ancona
Matthew Norman
Maureen Dowd
Michiko Kakutani
Owen Jones
Patrick O'Flynn
Paul Krugman
Peter Bradshaw
Peter Oborne
Philip Collins
Polly Toynbee
Quentin Letts
Rachel Johnson
Rod Liddle
Roy Greenslade
Tim Montgomerie
Trevor Kavanagh
 
UK Book Cover

  • Buy the book on Amazon.co.uk

  • Buy the book on Amazon.com


  • UK Book Cover

  • Buy the book on Amazon.co.uk

  • Buy the book on Amazon.com


  • Audio Book Cover

  • Buy the audio book from
    Whole Story Audio
  • DVD Cover

  • Buy the DVD from Amazon.co.uk

  • Buy the DVD from Amazon.com


  • IMdb Page on the film