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Frankly, life is too short to spend time reading the pompous witterings of David Tang.

I came across this negative comment over my crunchy nuts in the morning. I tried to ignore it, telling myself that it was insignificant. But by lunchtime, I was still needled by it and only found slight comfort in other instances of wounded egos. Needless to say, the most famous revenge against a critic came from the absurd German composer Max Reger, who had been plastered by one Rudolf Louis after the premiere of his new sinfonietta. Reger sent Louis the immortal words: “I am sitting in the smallest room in my house. I have got your review in front of me. Very soon it will be behind me.”

It had always intrigued me what Louis had actually said, but I’ve never managed to find the whole review — not even Google can oblige. The best excerpt I could find was: “ . . . its tonal language essentially depends on conjuring up the illusion of significance by a thousand contrapuntal tricks . . . [with] the unpleasant sensation that someone, placing faith in the psychological phenomenon of suggestive power, is taking us for fools.”

I am amazed that Reger took such offence to such a limp critique of his works. He had much harsher critics. Paul Rosenfeld’s assessment of Reger was miles more damning and personal: “This Reger is . . . a sort of musical Cyclops, a strong, ugly creature bulging with knotty and unshapely muscles, an ogre of composition . . . [He] is like a swollen, myopic beetle with thick lips and sullen expression crouching on an organ bench.”

Anyway, I must confess I find Reger’s music a minefield of turgidity. If I had been reviewing his music, I would have said that it all tends to sound the same whether one plays it forwards or backwards, precisely like his own name: the palindromic Reger.

It is funny how some artists are extra sensitive about critical assessments of their works. The brilliant Alain de Botton, a paradigm of a charming gentleman without an amoeba of malice, once lobbed a broadside to a reviewer: “I will hate you till the day I die and wish you nothing but ill will in every career move you make. I will be watching with interest and schadenfreude.” Oh well, as Fleetwood Mac once sang.

“Past is prologue” is not on the US national archives. Three quotes are, but it is not one of them. It is the name of one of two statues in front of the building.

Your pedantry is half correct. I have looked up your links and indeed, the inscription is made on one of the two statues in front of the building: the one of the female. But it is not her name. She is called Hope. The other statue, a male version, is called Past. And since being pedantic is our subject, the inscription on Hope is “What is past is prologue”, whereas Shakespeare’s original quote is “What’s past is prologue”, with an apostrophe.

I have been flying for longer than I care to remember and as soon as the plane takes off I press the recline button and settle into a more comfortable angle. However, more than one impertinent passenger has had the temerity to point out that I should not recline the seat until after the seatbelt sign has been switched off. I’ve always told myself that they are wrong and the sign is to let people know they can start walking about the plane. So I thought this was a question that must be put to the oracle, though such incidents may not concern those who fly first class!

Of course I fly economy (Dear Reader, in the interest of accuracy I would like to point out that this absurd claim is based on there being but one class on Tang’s borrowed private jet — Ed) and know exactly your inclination. Allow me to let you in on a procedure I have found mostly successful. The secret is to perform the reclining with a series of imperceptible moves. For preparation, you must tense up your entire torso so that when you depress the reclining button, you only edge backwards to the tiniest degree before releasing the button. Repeat these small movements up to a dozen times, performing them with total stealth. It is vital to start this creep as soon as the plane accelerates on take-off, so that when the aircraft starts to incline the passenger behind will least, or not at all, notice the back of your seat reclining. By the time the plane reaches cruising altitude, your position will be a fait accompli.

Please post comments and questions at the end of this article, or email david.tang@ft.com

Letters in response to this column:

Sir David’s column is a must-read / From Steve Lemon

Sir David is an ornament, long may he continue / From Daniel D Polsby

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