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Jezza (London)

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Zeitoun
Zeitoun
by Dave Eggers
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The shock doctrine in action, 11 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Zeitoun (Paperback)
Very understated book about the impact of Hurricane Katrina on one Syrian-American man and his family, and touching on the Muslim-American relations, the nature of human kindness, and the implementation of what Naomi Klein called 'The Shock Doctrine' in the aftermath of the disaster.

It has a flat tone, which is somehow more effect than pages of outrage, and as we must expect from Americans, the book has an inappropriately upbeat ending. But it is a very compelling and thought-provoking read, and a nice antidote to all the negative stuff about Muslims.


23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism
23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism
by Ha-Joon Chang
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Actually, they did tell me all of this when I did A level economics in the 1970s, 3 Aug. 2013
...which is no reflection on Chang, just on how far mainstream economics has become dominated by ideology and equations. There is nothing in here which would be a surprise to any economist (or politician) from outside the Anglosphere. Neo-classical economics doesn't describe the real world very well and is a poor basis for economic policy or business strategy. Pretty much everyone seriously interested in economics knows this except the kleptocracy in whose interest the UK and USA are both run, and their lackeys who help them do the actual running. Come to think of it, they probably know this too, but it serves them well to keep the rest of us doped up on free-market fairy tales.

This is nicely written - very clear, ordinary language, not an equation or a diagram in sight. It's not by any means anti-capitalist. HJC says 'capitalist is the worst system apart from all the others', and he clearly means it. This view is not really examined, and there is no real consideration of any of the alternatives, apart from the way that the USSR tried to do socialism. There isn't even a proper evaluation of that.

Still, it does at least point out that there are other ways of doing capitalism, and that there is some theoretical justification for this within economics as well as from ethics and politics. Perhaps some New Labour policy wonks will read on the flight over for their next fact-finding trip to America, and perhaps something will seep in and remain next time they have to write a briefing paper. Perhaps.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 8, 2015 10:42 PM BST


The Prague Cemetery
The Prague Cemetery
by Umberto Eco
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Over-written and over-long, 7 July 2013
This review is from: The Prague Cemetery (Paperback)
A good idea (an autobiography of the forger who created The Protocols of the Elders of Zion) not very well done. I liked the way he develops the character, I liked the use of multiple narrators, but somehow the whole thing just dragged. There was just too much of it. Norman Cohn's "Warrant for Genocide", a non-fiction book on the origins of the Protocols actually covers much of the same ground and is not nearly so long. Too many loving descriptions of meals, and some of the 'non-protocols' plot is complicated without being interesting. Perhaps the great man needs an editor.


The Poisonwood Bible
The Poisonwood Bible
by Barbara Kingsolver
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Great writing, smart intelligent perspective on Americans abroad, 7 July 2013
This review is from: The Poisonwood Bible (Paperback)
I really loved this book - pretty much the first of BK's novels that I've read (I did one of her non-fictions once). The characters are wonderful, and the way she has brought them all to life through multiple first person narratives is very clever. Her politics are impeccable, too - not always the case with American writers, even liberal ones. I look forward to reading her other books.


The Riddle of the Sands
The Riddle of the Sands
by Erskine Childers
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An invasion scare story, without the invasion or the scare, 22 Jun. 2013
Sorry to only give this two stars, but it was so boring that I had to force myself to finish it. It only really picks up any pace in the last ten pages or so, and then the plot and the development seems full of holes. How the two main characters are supposed to have worked out the evil German plan to invade England from the tiny fragments of evidence that they garner remains a mystery to me, even after finishing the book. And who is/was Dollman/X? Or the very senior German military figure who's face is instantly recognisable to 'Carruthers'? The Kaiser himself? If not, who else was so recognisable?

And the invasion plot itself seems to me to be ludicrous. In the real war that followed the Germans did nothing at all like this. Did they actually have plans to invade England, rather than/as well as invading France and Russia? I don't think so.

Most of the text is detail about yachting in inshore waters. I can't imagine anyone who isn't intimately familiar with that understanding half of what is going on; and surely if you really like yachting you want to be doing it, not reading a novel about it.

Of course it has a retro feel about it, and the politics and social mores are from another era; but I can read John Buchan, even though his philosophy stinks, because he is a good writer. Maybe Erskine Childers wrote something else that was goo.

A shame, because Childers himself is such an interesting character - an Empire jingo that became a radical Irish nationalist and was executed as a traitor. I think I should read a biography instead.


Kicking the Property Ladder: Why buying a house makes less sense than renting - and how to invest the money you save in shares, gold, stamps and more
Kicking the Property Ladder: Why buying a house makes less sense than renting - and how to invest the money you save in shares, gold, stamps and more
Price: £2.88

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pointless waste of money, 3 Jun. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Even at this cheap price, this book is a rip-off. I know there are other kinds of investment; how about a proper comparison between property and other assets? Or a proper financial analysis of the costs and benefits of renting vs. owning? None of that here.

Only giving it one star because you can't give it none.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 7, 2013 9:04 PM BST


Thank You For Your Sperm
Thank You For Your Sperm
by Marcus Speh
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.82

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like delving into a strange treasure trove, 3 Jun. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Absolutely wonderful collection of little fictive jewels. Like haiku, but prose. Some of the stories are Chekhovian in the way they evoke and capture a moment; others are almost like thought experiments in their odd juxtaposition of images and thoughts -- a bit like Dadaist word salad, but not at all contrived. Looking forward to more from Speh!


Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World (Center Point Platinum Nonfiction)
Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World (Center Point Platinum Nonfiction)
by Michael Lewis
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Not as fabulous as The Big Short, but still very good, 30 May 2013
I loved The Big Short, and I liked this a lot. Lewis has the knack of bringing complicated financial stuff to life, and making it comprehensible, through a combination of anecdote and analogy. He's really great at this. Unlike the other books, though, he's on political territory here, and I suspect his instincts are not so sound. He's also writing about people other than Americans, and I suspect he is not immune from the kinds of prejudices about other nations that make for easy shorthand. He knows this, and he makes it apparent that he knows, but even so there is a bad taste in the mouth. Are all Greeks really lazy and venal? Are all Germans really obsessed with s***, and does this explain what happened with their financial system?

I think he's particularly unfair to the Germans, as indeed so many others are. Once you get passed all the s*** stuff, what the Germans really stand accused of is believing the ratings agencies. If they shouldn't have, then surely the offence is with them rather than with Germany's modest, local banking system.

And it's funny the way that the final chapter, about America, has to end on a note of optimism, even though just a few pages earlier he was lambasting the 'something will turn up' attitude that allowed so many people to indulge in so much stupidity. I don't think Americans are aware of just how ingrained this need to find a bright note to end on is part of their national character. Optimism is nice, but stupid faith that something will turn up is actually dis-empowering and in itself leads to more bad decisions.

Still a very good read though.


Drugs 2.0: The Web Revolution That's Changing How the World Gets High
Drugs 2.0: The Web Revolution That's Changing How the World Gets High
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Really thoughtful and informative book about recreational drugs, 23 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Full of lots of new information and powerful insights. Worth reading for the chapter on the Dark Web alone, which introduces the reader to the subject of Tor, encryption, and virtual currencies.

Not given over to unthinking liberalism on drugs either - the author makes it clear that 'research chemicals' can be really, really dangerous, and the fact that it is almost impossible to control the supply does not automatically prove that legalization is the only option.

Can't help thinking (a) that it's mad to have driven our kids from herbal substances on which it is hard to overdose towards synthetic ones the effects and correct dosage of which are poorly understood and (b) that part of the solution must surely be for the pharmaceutical industry to pull its finger out and develop a proper recreational drug program.


The Book Of Revelation
The Book Of Revelation
by Rupert Thomson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strangely un-erotic book, 20 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Book Of Revelation (Paperback)
What an odd book! The first half reads like someone's sexual fantasy, only with any sense of desire or erotic dimension stripped out. It follows some classic tropes of S&M fiction (abduction, forced piercing and tattoos, strap-on rape) but with an overwhelming feeling of flatness - as if the first-person narrator somehow feels that his fate was both inevitable and deserved.

The tone and the plot change halfway through, with the narrator trying to find out what happened to him and why, over a period of years, inexplicably without telling any of his friends or associates.

I was intrigued throughout, though I can't say I actually enjoyed this book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 25, 2015 10:19 AM GMT


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