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Reeva: A Mother's Story
Reeva: A Mother's Story
by June Steenkamp
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Mother knows best?, 14 Dec 2014
There are at least three books about the trial of Oscar Pistorius. This book, 'Reeva: A mother's Story' by June Steenkamp is one of them. The others include; Mandy Weiner & Barry Bateman, 'Behind the Door', and, 'The Trials of Oscar Pistorius: Chase Your Shadow', by John Carlin.
June Steenkamp's book was written from anger of a victim's mother, but it is not vitriolic, and in the end she says that she has forgiven Oscar Pistorius 'in the Christian sense'. Although she is unhappy with the verdict that Oscar Pistorius was not guilty of murder, she is satisfied with the 5 years imprisonment. She thinks that that is enough. Steenkamp's book has plenty of personal details and stories about Reeva Steenkamp as well as photographs of her when she was young, and when she was in her prime. This book, unlike the other two, is personal and takes the opposite stand so far as the verdict is concerned. The author writes that on the morning after the verdict she found a feather on her dressing table and she thus believes that '[her daughter's] back'.
June Steenkamp’s book reveals the wonderful person that her daughter Reeva was, and the book is filled with personal accounts of Reeva that might not have been relevant at the trial of Oscar Pistorius, but this book is not about the trial. It is about Reeva as remembered by her mother. Many of the snippets are mundane, for example, the fact that ‘in her teenage years, Reeva was friends equally with boys and girls’.
June Steenkamp could not avoid stressing information that appears incriminating. For example, the fact that a firearms trainer testified that Oscar Pistorius knew the laws very well as to when one can draw a gun on an intruder. She expresses her shock that Oscar Pistorius had four handguns and more on order. She disputes Pistorius evidence that Reeva did not scream. June Steenkamp claims that she knows her daughter and that it could not be true that Reeva did not scream. She (June Steenkamp) was aghast by the ‘temporary adjournments the judge allowed for Oscar to recover his composure’ at trial.
June Steenkamp believes that it was Reeva’s bad luck to have met Oscar Pistorius. She (June) believes that sooner or later Oscar Pistorius would have killed someone. She relates the story of Samantha Taylor, another ex-girlfriend of Pistorius, saying that Pistorius had ‘a gun waved in her face a few times’.
Carlin's book is smaller, more concise and in some ways, easier to read. 'Chase Your Shadow' has a more detailed account of the personalities and history of Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp. It also covers the day of the sentencing albeit in a few short pages. The book, however, has no photographs. It is also written in a detached style, without tending to take a view or stand as to whether he believes that Oscar Pistorius was guilty of murder (his main charge) or not. Carlin tells us that Reeva Steenkamp was not from an 'aristocratic' family like Oscar Pistorius, and in fact, comes from a poor white family.
Carlin points out that the evidence and the media stories can lead one to different conclusions. He writes about the tweet by Jenna Edkins (Oscar’s previous girl-friend) the morning after the killing, that she had known him on and off for five years and he (Oscar) had not once lifted his finger at her or made her fear for her life. Carlin, tries to put in bits that shows Oscar in better light than the media did. He might have sensed that there are two ‘two Oscars’ as there are ‘two South Africas’ and concludes by writing that ‘In the silence of his cell he might find the time and mental space to ponder at last, who he was, who he wanted to be and which mask fitted him best’.
'Behind the Door' is the most detailed of the three books, and importantly, have very clear photographs of the Pistorius house and the inside of that house after the killing. These photographs are important because they may influence the reader to some extent because as Carlin writes in his book, 'Most people have made up their minds from the beginning as to why Pistorius did it, and then proceeded to follow the trial having taken one side or the other'. The evidence is very clearly and comprehensively set out by Weiner & Bateman, and the photographs of the scene will help the reader appreciate the event on the night of the killing, Valentine's Day, 14 February 2013. The Weiner & Bateman book has a very clear graphic of the sequence of events a sketch plan of the crime scene.
Weiner & Bateman covers the story and the trial in a detached way, but does not avoid raising questions that were asked and may not have been satisfactorily answered till this day. For example, they write: 'In the lead-up to the trial many people asked Why Oscar would have believed an intruder managed to climb into his bathroom when he had two dogs, and why he never considered the fact that there was no barking indicated that there was no intruder. Oscar's evidence about his dogs thus explained how a stranger would have unhindered access to the property and why they wouldn't react. After the shooting, family friends in Tzaneen adopted the dogs.' Weiner & Bateman were repeating Oscar's evidence that his dogs were too friendly and playful although he bought them for protection - they were pitbulls.

Weiner & Bateman's book, gives only such private accounts of Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp as they could glean from the evidence at trial. There is thus no jazzed up account of their lives - everything was from the official record, but we do not know whether everything has gone into the official record (since many witnesses declined to testify). This book, unfortunately, ended after Judge Masipa delivered her verdict. There is no account of the sentences - 5 years (for the killing) and 3 years suspended sentence (for the arms offence).


Chase Your Shadow: The Trials of Oscar Pistorius
Chase Your Shadow: The Trials of Oscar Pistorius
by John Carlin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes the Shadow wins, 14 Dec 2014
There are at least three books about the trial of Oscar Pistorius. This book, 'The Trials of Oscar Pistorius: Chase Your Shadow', by John Carlin by is one of them. The others include; Mandy Weiner & Barry Bateman, 'Behind the Door', and 'Reeva: A mother's Story' by June Steenkamp.
Carlin's book is smaller, more concise and in some ways, easier to read. 'Chase Your Shadow' has a more detailed account of the personalities and history of Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp. It also covers the day of the sentencing albeit in a few short pages. The book, however, has no photographs. It is also written in a detached style, without tending to take a view or stand as to whether he believes that Oscar Pistorius was guilty of murder (his main charge) or not. Carlin tells us that Reeva Steenkamp was not from an 'aristocratic' family like Oscar Pistorius, and in fact, comes from a poor white family.
Carlin points out that the evidence and the media stories can lead one to different conclusions. He writes about the tweet by Jenna Edkins (Oscar’s previous girl-friend) the morning after the killing, that she had known him on and off for five years and he (Oscar) had not once lifted his finger at her or made her fear for her life. Carlin, tries to put in bits that shows Oscar in better light than the media did. He might have sensed that there are two ‘two Oscars’ as there are ‘two South Africas’ and concludes by writing that ‘In the silence of his cell he might find the time and mental space to ponder at last, who he was, who he wanted to be and which mask fitted him best’.
'Behind the Door' is the most detailed of the three books, and importantly, have very clear photographs of the Pistorius house and the inside of that house after the killing. These photographs are important because they may influence the reader to some extent because as Carlin writes in his book, 'Most people have made up their minds from the beginning as to why Pistorius did it, and then proceeded to follow the trial having taken one side or the other'. The evidence is very clearly and comprehensively set out by Weiner & Bateman, and the photographs of the scene will help the reader appreciate the event on the night of the killing, Valentine's Day, 14 February 2013. The Weiner & Bateman book has a very clear graphic of the sequence of events a sketch plan of the crime scene.
Weiner & Bateman covers the story and the trial in a detached way, but does not avoid raising questions that were asked and may not have been satisfactorily answered till this day. For example, they write: 'In the lead-up to the trial many people asked Why Oscar would have believed an intruder managed to climb into his bathroom when he had two dogs, and why he never considered the fact that there was no barking indicated that there was no intruder. Oscar's evidence about his dogs thus explained how a stranger would have unhindered access to the property and why they wouldn't react. After the shooting, family friends in Tzaneen adopted the dogs.' Weiner & Bateman were repeating Oscar's evidence that his dogs were too friendly and playful although he bought them for protection - they were pitbulls.

Weiner & Bateman's book, gives only such private accounts of Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp as they could glean from the evidence at trial. There is thus no jazzed up account of their lives - everything was from the official record, but we do not know whether everything has gone into the official record (since many witnesses declined to testify). This book, unfortunately, ended after Judge Masipa delivered her verdict. There is no account of the sentences - 5 years (for the killing) and 3 years suspended sentence (for the arms offence).
June Steenkamp's book was written from anger of a victim's mother, but it is not vitriolic, and in the end she says that she has forgiven Oscar Pistorius 'in the Christian sense'. Although she is unhappy with the verdict that Oscar Pistorius was not guilty of murder, she is satisfied with the 5 years imprisonment. She thinks that that is enough. Steenkamp's book has plenty of personal details and stories about Reeva Steenkamp as well as photographs of her when she was young, and when she was in her prime. This book, unlike the other two, is personal and takes the opposite stand so far as the verdict is concerned. The author writes that on the morning after the verdict she found a feather on her dressing table and she thus believes that '[her daughter's] back'.


Behind the Door: The Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp Story
Behind the Door: The Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp Story
by Mandy Wiener
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Verdict or open verdict?, 14 Dec 2014
There are at least three books about the trial of Oscar Pistorius. This book by Mandy Weiner & Barry Bateman, 'Behind the Door' is one of them. The others include 'The Trials of Oscar Pistorius: Chase Your Shadow', by John Carlin; and 'Reeva: A mother's Story' by June Steenkamp.

'Behind the Door' is the most detailed and importantly, have very clear photographs of the Pistorius house and the inside of that house after the killing. These photographs are important because they may influence the reader to some extent because as Carlin writes in his book, 'Most people have made up their minds from the beginning as to why Pistorius did it, and then proceeded to follow the trial having taken one side or the other'. The evidence is very clearly and comprehensively set out by Weiner & Bateman, and the photographs of the scene will help the reader appreciate the event on the night of the killing, Valentine's Day, 14 February 2013. The Weiner & Bateman book has a very clear graphic of the sequence of events a sketch plan of the crime scene.

Weiner & Bateman covers the story and the trial in a detached way, but does not avoid raising questions that were asked and may not have been satisfactorily answered till this day. For example, they write: 'In the lead-up to the trial many people asked Why Oscar would have believed an intruder managed to climb into his bathroom when he had two dogs, and why he never considered the fact that there was no barking indicated that there was no intruder. Oscar's evidence about his dogs thus explained how a stranger would have unhindered access to the property and why they wouldn't react. After the shooting, family friends in Tzaneen adopted the dogs.' Weiner & Bateman were repeating Oscar's evidence that his dogs were too friendly and playful although he bought them for protection - they were pitbulls.

Weiner & Bateman's book, gives only such private accounts of Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp as they could glean from the evidence at trial. There is thus no jazzed up account of their lives - everything was from the official record, but we do not know whether everything has gone into the official record (since many witnesses declined to testify). This book, unfortunately, ended after Judge Masipa delivered her verdict. There is no account of the sentences - 5 years (for the killing) and 3 years suspended sentence (for the arms offence).

Carlin's book is smaller, more concise and in some ways, easier to read. 'Chase Your Shadow' has a more detailed account of the personalities and history of Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp. It also covers the day of the sentencing albeit in a few short pages. The book, however, has no photographs. It is also written in a detached style, without tending to take a view or stand as to whether he believes that Oscar Pistorius was guilty of murder (his main charge) or not. Carlin tells us that Reeva Steenkamp was not from an 'aristocratic' family like Oscar Pistorius, and in fact, comes from a poor white family.

June Steenkamp's book was written from anger of a victim's mother, but it is not vitriolic, and in the end she says that she has forgiven Oscar Pistorius 'in the Christian sense'. Although she is unhappy with the verdict that Oscar Pistorius was not guilty of murder, she is satisfied with the 5 years imprisonment. She thinks that that is enough. Steenkamp's book has plenty of personal details and stories about Reeva Steenkamp as well as photographs of her when she was young, and when she was in her prime. This book, unlike the other two, is personal and takes the opposite stand so far as the verdict is concerned. The author writes that on the morning after the verdict she found a feather on her dressing table and she thus believes that '[her daughter's] back'.


The Governance of China
The Governance of China
by Xi Jinping
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Governing China, leading the world, 10 Dec 2014
This is a rare book containing the thoughts and declarations of the President of the People's Republic of China, Xi Jinping. They were extracted from his speeches and talks and neatly arranged in 79 chapters. In addition, there is a profile of the President attached in the Appendix. There are a total of 45 photographs, mostly in colour and extremely clear because they seem to be mostly official photographs from state functions. The three probable exceptions are the personal photos taken in his youth.

The speeches show Xi to be a practical and sensible man not given to hype and (if one had been following the course of China's internal and foreign affairs) they also reveal his perseverance and resolve. On22 January 2013 he told the Plenary Session of the Party: 'If misconduct is not corrected but allowed to run rampant, it will build an invisible wall between our Party and the people.' He then went on to emphasize that they should not only catch 'flies' but also 'tigers'. His stand against corruption is reflected again in two other speeches, one on 19 April 2013, and the other on 14 January 2014. Since the publication of this book, the largest 'tiger' sitting in the cage is Zhou Yongkang, the former head of China's secret service.

In foreign affairs, Xi is proving to be deft, adept, without arrogance, in his dealings with the leaders of other world powers. On 28 March 2014 when in Berlin in a speech stressing China's love for peace he recited 'The Marshall's Art of War': 'A warlike state, however big it may be, will eventually perish'. It is a statement that might reflect his humble view of China, yet it applies equally to the United States of America.

Economically, he recognizes China's rapid growth and clearly intends to ensure that the large economy is properly managed so that 'the Chinese Dream' will be realized - again, he seems to have America (and the 'American dream') in mind (Speech on 7 April 2013). Yet he has made it plain that China will continue to 'cultivate and disseminate the core socialist values' - 'with traditional Chinese culture as the base'.

By the time this book was on retail bookshelves, the IMF had announced that China had overtaken America as the world's largest economy. That fits. As Xi declared in his April 2013 speech, 'The faster China grows, the more development opportunities it will create for the rest of Asia and the World'. The message is clear. The messenger is the leader.


The Narcissist Next Door: Understanding the Monster in Your Family, in Your Office, in Your Bed - In Your World
The Narcissist Next Door: Understanding the Monster in Your Family, in Your Office, in Your Bed - In Your World
by Jeffrey Kluger
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.51

3.0 out of 5 stars Only me, 6 Dec 2014
In 2013 Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell wrote (`The Narcissism Epidemic') that narcissism has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. They trace the development of this phenomenon and recommend ways to stem it. Jeffrey Kluger, carries on very much in the same vein but this book is a little less in depth than `The Narcissism Epidemic'. His is, nonetheless, an interesting book. He tells us that of all personality disorders, narcissism is 77% hereditary, second only to `rigidity' and perfectionism disorders (both at 78%). The average percentage of hereditability for all personality disorders is 58%.
Narcissism is a fascinating subject of study because we all need self-esteem (or so we are told) but the line between self-esteem and narcissism is not a clear one. Kluger examines many well-known personalities for the narcissism that they display without their even realizing that they are exhibiting this trait. Carly Fiorina, the then CEO of Hewlett-Packard (`HP'), was one example. She blamed everyone but herself for the failed merger between HP's computer division with Compaq. She was so totally unconcerned for HP's employees that when she tried to run for a place in the US Senate, HP employees launched a furious objection to her ambition.
Other notable narcissists include Lance Armstrong, Muhammad Ali, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates are also cited for their display of temper and bullying ways which is a major symptom of narcissism. Kluger reminds us that not every celebrity is a narcissist. His favourite exceptions are Paul McCartney, Tom Hanks, Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith and Kate Winslet.
Narcissism can be a life-long condition, and Kluger warns that `the indignities and infirmities of old age may simply exacerbate it. After a lifetime of grandiose and arrogant behavior, many superannuated narcissists may find that whatever friends they once had have long since drifted away and whatever family members are still around will tolerate them at funerals and Thanksgiving, when they absolutely must, but little more'. This is a chilling thought - unfortunately, narcissists don't recognize themselves except for the great people that they think they are.


The Dark Road
The Dark Road
by Ma Jian
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars The fault is in our stars after all?, 2 Dec 2014
This review is from: The Dark Road (Paperback)
If every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way as Tolstoy tells us, China's one-child policy must have produced millions of variations on the theme of despair and sorrow. This book by Ma Jian is one such tale of sorrow. Another Chinese writer (Mo Yan) wrote 'Frog' in 2009. That book was also based on China's one-child policy. Mo won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2012. The English translation appeared in 2014. Mo cannot have won the Nobel Prize on 'Frog' alone, but he may have inspired Ma to write 'The Dark Road' (published in May 2012) which is also based on the one-child policy. Both stories are excellent but display a contrast in style and form. They also reflect the different intellectual thinking of their authors.

The main protagonist in `The Dark Road' is a young peasant girl named Meili who married Kongzi, a seventy-sixth generation descendant of Confucius, yearning, like most men in China then, for a son to carry on the family name. The problem is that they have a daughter. A sweet and adorable toddler when the story begins. In spite of the one-child policy, Kongzi was determined to have his son. Meili went through two more pregnancies hoping to make her husband's dream come true.

Having a son in rural China is not easy especially when family planning officers constantly sweep through towns and villages. Unwanted and unauthorized pregnancies are aborted by force and the women sterilized. The offending families and their neighbours are fined. This policy has many consequences. Desperate parents like Kongzi will try for an illegal second child, hoping that it will be a boy. If so, the elder girl might be sold. If the second is a girl then she might be drowned or sold. Welfare committees in the villagers take part in such transactions making up to 30,000 yuan profit for each sale. In some cases, the infants will be deliberately crippled so that they can be sent to the streets to beg. Child abduction also becomes rampant.

Meili's life is exquisitely chronicled in that her misfortunes (including a period of detention in a rehabilitation centre - where she made friends with a prostitute, Suya) are interwoven with the selfishness of Konzi, the charm and beauty of Nannan, their daughter, as she grows up. All that only made the tragedy of the story all the more depressing.

`Dark Road' is a relentless indictment of China's one-child policy whereas Mo's `Frog' attempts to see the other side of the policy. Ma, an exiled dissident, may argue that there is no side other than the dark side of that policy. Mo, however, shows that a country that has 900,000,000 people must control its population unless it can feed all of them without depleting the natural resources of the world. The best way to be `green' is not to increase the `carbon footprint'. Population growth is one requisite for economic growth - but that is a capitalist idea. Ironically, China is relaxing its one-child policy now that it is embracing capitalism. Is capitalism the panacea or the ill? Mo seems to think that the system then was right but badly administered by incompetent and corrupt officials, yet he hints that there is hope for the people. Ma is totally pessimistic. His tale suggests that one cannot change fate. Things have a way of turning up in ways beyond one's imagination. If that were the case, perhaps, there might be a glimmer of hope after all - only it's too dark now to see.

I have just a comment or two on the translation. Flora Drew (Ma Jian's translator and partner) did an excellent job for one would otherwise not have enjoyed this book so much. However, Nannan was interpreted to refer to herself in the third person ('Me wants to pee') but in Chinese 'I' and 'me' are represented by the same character. Secondly, Nannan calls Meili 'mummy'. Would it not have been more authentic to use 'mama'?


Frog
Frog
by Mo Yan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living with guilt, 30 Nov 2014
This review is from: Frog (Hardcover)
`Frog' in Chinese is `Wa'. It is also the sound that babies make. Tadpoles look like human sperm. This novel by China's second Nobel Prize winner in literature, Mo Yan, is a story based on China's `one-child' policy. The play on the word 'frog/wa' is an allegory to the effect of that policy on the Chinese people by the narration of one story spun out of it. This is a story about a man nicknamed `Tadpole' who tells his Japanese mentor the story of his life; a life that was intertwined with that of his aunt, Gugu, a midwife in the ranks of the Communist party.

Before Mo Yan, Gao Xingjian (who wrote `Soul Mountain') was the only other Chinese to have won the Nobel Prize for literature (in 2000). The difference between them was that Gao was anti-establishment; Mo Yan does not appear so. The consequence was that when Gao won his prize, the Chinese people were elated but not so the Chinese government. When Mo Yan (a nickname meaning `Don't talk') won his prize in 2012, the Chinese government was elated and proud, but the Chinese population was not. There is a standing quip that China produced two Nobel Prize winners who, together, have succeeded in antagonizing the Chinese nation.

Mo Yan's book is about a midwife (`Gugu') who turned state agent for terminating illegal pregnancies and her guilt-ridden conscience in not saving the life of Renmei, her favourite nephew's wife as she (Gugu) was terminating Renmei's second (and illegal) pregnancy. The plot spins around the confluence of events and persons from Tadpole's childhood. It is an amazing and scintillating plot. However, the strength of this book lies in its substructure: the tension between duty to the state and duty to one's family; the limits of friendship; and the possibility of love under impossible conditions.

Mo Yan is warmly acclaimed by the Chinese government because, unlike dissident writers like Ha Jin, who now lives in America, or Ma Jian who has been banned from entering China, and now lives in London with his translator/partner, and Gao, who has become a French citizen. But, reading deeper, one senses that Mo Yan is a much more subtle and clever writer than his critics assume. It takes guile and craft to be able to draw a reader's attention to the plight of the Chinese rural folks under the Communist regime and still be regarded as pro-establishment by the government.

This book should be read with Ma Jian's `The Dark Road'. Both novels were based on the one-child policy in China, but Ma Jian's book, also beautifully written, is blunt in its condemnation of that policy. Mo Yan's book ended ambiguously, leaving the reader to assume a happy ending. Ma Jian's book is about Meili, a woman who had given birth to a daughter named Nannan and spent the remainder of her life trying to have a son, for the sake of her husband, Kongzi who is a seventy-sixth line descendant of Confucius. The Dark Road, however, is an utterly depressing book from beginning to end although in between, the reader is given to hope that there might be a happy ending.

Mo Yan wrote `Frog' in 2009 and the English translation was published in 2014. Ma Jian wrote his book in 2012, as if to say to Mo Yan that the true cost of the Chinese policy is not known until one reads `The Dark Road'. Mo Yan, however, tried to present a balanced view, one in which the Chinese one-child policy seems decidedly altruistic. Reading his argument, one will be tempted to ask why have the Indian government and every government of populous nations not done the same.


Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China
Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China
by Evan Osnos
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.60

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Coming of age, 23 Nov 2014
Evan Osnos connects the lives of prominent contemporary individuals to present a picture of modern China. He writes about the publisher Hu Shuli and how she balances the demands of strict censorship with the nascent liberalism. He compares the deep dissenting voices of artists like Ai Weiwei and more conservative ones who appreciate the difficulty of managing China today. From the accounts, it is clear that the problem is not about managing the people or the country - the Chinese have done that for thousands of years - whether they have been successful or not has never bothered the government of the day. The problem today is about managing change. The China of the Cold War and the China today are vastly different.

Many think that China is a country of many laws but no Rule of Law. Understanding China today from Osnos' account of life there, one wonders if there is any Western intellectual who can first explain what the Rule of Law means and then to show how it can be imposed in China flawlessly. China seems to have left Communism as it was practised in the fifties and sixties, and now has significant expressions of capitalism. It might end up more democratic than America one day, but such a change requires time in a country like China. It is thus important that the change is well managed. This book gives the reader glimpses of the tremendous challenge that will be for those ruling China.


A Crazy Job: Leading Publishers in Conversation with Juan Cruz Ruiz
A Crazy Job: Leading Publishers in Conversation with Juan Cruz Ruiz
by Juan Cruz Ruiz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £21.16

5.0 out of 5 stars Still crazy after all these years?, 5 Nov 2014
Publishers and editors are the invisible people in the book industry. Most readers do not think about the work of the editor, many do not know much about the publisher, and often the only comment might be, 'I rarely come across this publisher'. In this book, Juan Cruz Luiz introduces us to some of the most fascinating and captivating men and women in the publishing and editorial world.

The range of topics discussed about the book industry is as diverse as the personalities that come through in the conversations. They speak freely and sincerely not only about their suspicion of e-books and Amazon, but also about their confidence in the published book. No matter their age -- Robert Silvers is 84 years old but he speaks with the enthusiasm of a much younger man.

Through these conversations, one readily discerns the common bond of good editors and publishers. They are fiercely independent, fearless in the face of public opinion, thus, necessarily stubborn; but they get by with a sense of humour and a sense of destiny. The conversations in this book are with old school editors and publishers. These are people who have shown a marvellous intuition as to what is fine writing. They have the learning and wisdom to introduce good authors to their readers. In short, they are not publishers of books the public likes to read -- they bring to the public what the public should read.

There are two other gems about this book. First, there is a list of the ten favourite books from each of the publishers' personal library. Secondly, the book is of an extremely good quality with a lovely and mesmerizing hard cover. The names of the people on that cover are the names of the voices within.


Life After Faith: The Case for Secular Humanism (Terry Lectures) (The Terry Lectures)
Life After Faith: The Case for Secular Humanism (Terry Lectures) (The Terry Lectures)
by Philip Kitcher
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.77

5.0 out of 5 stars More to life, 5 Nov 2014
There are several perspectives in the study of religious beliefs. One is to examine why we should believe in gods, or a God. Another is to examine why we should not believe. In this book, Columbia University's John Dewey Professor of Philosophy examines what religious people think they will lose if they were to exchange faith for secularism. The two main issues are: first, the claim that we would lose our values, our sense of morals - the `without God anything is permissible' argument; second, that without God our lives would be meaningless.

There is a reason for this approach. Kitcher is promoting the case for secular humanism which he says begins with doubt. But one must move on from there so that it can be properly understood and lived as a rewarding way of life. Religions are founded on doctrinal statements that are accepted by the devout, and if we take those doctrines away, we find a void that may have to be filled. Secular humanism does that, and Kitcher provides a clearly written and well-reasoned case for this. Every page of this 159-page book is illuminating.

Kitcher deals with the religious preoccupation with the transcendent life and makes an irrefutable argument against that belief. However, he knows that for the believers, no amount of rational argument would persuade them to abandon the idea that after this finite life, there is a better, infinite one. His gently leads the reader to look at the end of this finite life from different perspectives and thus allay fears of death and what comes thereafter. Does it bother us what had been going on 100 years before we were born? Probably not. Many of us do not even know our great-grandparents to have any special bond with them. Would the affairs of the world 100 years after we die bother us? Again probably not. Kitcher rightly points out that what bothers us about death is that we leave behind friends and family, and projects we want to complete. It bothers us that we cannot meet our tennis friends for the weekly hit, or the coffee after that. It bothers us that we would leave behind an unfinished book. `Absence from the period just after my death is poignant because so much of the stuff of my life will be continued in it. Whenever I die, people about whom I care most deeply will live on, and I should like to be there, sustaining them and being sustained by them.' But once we come to terms with that, we can come to terms with this finite life. Kitcher points the way to looking `forward to a future, to a world without you...where you will no longer be part of the show.'

Kitcher shows not only that there is a firm, rational way to morality and ethics through the path of secular humanism, he also shows the contradictions and inconsistencies of establishing ethical beliefs from a religious base. Naturally, everyone who believes in God believes his God is the true God and that God wants us to live life according to his doctrines. The trouble is that that God cannot make himself universally clear and consistent.

It is with the issue of the meaning of life that Kitcher is at his best. He weaves that subject seamlessly into the issue of our finite life, our living ethically without God, and shows what we need to do when our lives go awry - we `should be committed to salvage, not salvation'. He shows us that, ironically, it is the immortal life that is meaningless. It reminds us of what Seneca once said, `In hope of tomorrow, we forfeit today.'

Kitcher's book is best read with Samuel Scheffler's `Death & the Afterlife', 2014 Oxford University Press.


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