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Littlejohn's House of Fun: Thirteen Years of (Labour) Madness
Littlejohn's House of Fun: Thirteen Years of (Labour) Madness
by Richard Littlejohn
Edition: Hardcover

85 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars House of Fun Indeed!, 3 April 2010
Thank G-d (you have to be careful what you say now that they've banned Christmas, you know!) for men (not 'people, MS Harperson! LOL) like Richard Littlejohn. Looking at Broken Britain with the perspective you can only get from living in a Florida mansion and reheating already-debunked Daily Mail articles, Britain's answer to Anna Politkovskaya fearlessly skewers the 'politically correct' brigade and the obsession with 'elf an' safety' and 'yuman rites' which is sending the country they used to call 'Great' Britain hurtling to 'hell in a handcart'.

This book is sure to strike a cord with anyone whose ever found themselves apopleptic with rage at a story of how people who are slightly different than themselves are not being treated as objects of mockery, and will be particularly enjoyed by indigenous English (NOT 'British'!) Christians who are, as we all know, the REAL victims. But I'm sure it won't prove popular with the lentil-eating, boiler-suit-clad, polar bear-hugging shock troops of ZaNuliabore and their 'loony left' ideology. Good!

The price of this book is already going down on Amazon, and no doubt, like previous entries in the Littlejohn ouevre, it'll soon be available second-hand for as little as a penny, but please - if you care about what is happening to this once green and pleasant land, don't wait for it to drop to the 'boot sale prices' at which Gordon CLOWN (LOL!) sold off the country's gold reserves - buy it NOW and add another couple of notes to the towering pile of cash that fills every room of Littlejohn's manor, surely a fitting reward for a man whose every waking minute is spent fearlessly sitting in a comfy chair and sifting idly through the Daily Mail website in search of THE TRUTH. Could we be looking at 'Sir' Richard Littlejohn in the New Years' Honours' Lists'? If only!
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 14, 2010 9:11 PM GMT

My Sister My Love
My Sister My Love
by Joyce Carol Oates
Edition: Paperback

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This Book Will Not Change Your Life, 30 Nov. 2008
This review is from: My Sister My Love (Paperback)
The easiest way to hook the reader into wanting to read My Sister, My Love would be to describe it as a novel inspired by the murder of the American child-beauty-queen JonBenet Ramsey. Which is true as far as it goes: Oates has changed names to protect the accused, made the victim an ice-dancer rather than a pageant idol (a decision which serves her well, allowing the author of 'On Boxing' to convey the drama of her victim's performances in a sporting context which remains as prurient a milieu as the profoundly unsporting world of the beauty contest), and messed with the timelines a little, so that in this narrative the paedophile who issues a confabulated confession to the child-victim's murder emerges in the immediate aftermath of the event, rather than ten years later: but, in the unforgiving space of the blurb, it seems a superficially acceptable summary.

Except, of course, that it isn't. It's a complete disaster, because it creates the impression that the book will be of interest to a demographic who will probably fail to get beyond the first five pages; and it makes the book sound sleazy and disgusting to those who would actually enjoy it.

The first group are, of course, that subset of the book-buying public that every bookseller regards with at least a little reserve: the habitues of the true crime section, the devotees of the misery memoir. Such individuals, scenting a whiff of puerile blood, will inevitably be drawn to a novel based on the most sensational American murder of the last decade; but they will not stay long, because they, and many of their own sacred cows, are among the targets which come in for a fierce satirical attack. Not least of these revered bovines is the idea of the misery-memoir itself: despite such genre-staples as an unhappy childhood, unloving parents, encounters with paedophiles, drug-addiction, mental illness and the later intervention of an inspiring, religious mentor-figure, Skyler, the novel's titular narrator, remains defiantly miserable throughout, while it is his despised mother who embraces the narrative of suffering, faith and redemption, appearing on tabloid talk shows to hawk 'inspirational' memoirs with titles like 'From Hell to Heaven: 11 Steps for the Faithful' and 'Pray for Mummy: A Mother's Pilgrimage from Grief to Joy'. Betsey Rampike is a woman determined to prove Fitzgerald wrong: her life is all second-act, her fame the unintended consequence of her daughter's murder, a murder which, it's implied, she may well have had a hand in.

While it will frustrate readers drooling to devour accounts of harmed children, one of the joys of this novel for less prurient readers is the way in which Oates skewers the language of a particularly toxic strain of American culture: the language of self-help, and the way in which the facile narratives of this genre have colonised other areas of discourse. Betsey Rampike's 'faith' is not the deep, inner struggle of the true, thinking believer who wrestles with the angel of his dogma, but a self-justifying, self-aggrandising hoodoo which she resorts to when praying that her daughter will win ice-skating competitions and as a way of emerging, unscathed and perversely triumphant, in the aftermath of that same daughter's horrific death; her husband, Bix, speaks to his son in a bizarre argot of business-biog and pop-science cliches, with a few misrendered foreign expressions, picked up in his Cornell days, thrown in; and the Rampike children, like all the other children in Fair Hills, New Jersey, swim around in an alphabet-soup of newly-discovered 'syndromes' and 'disorders', some of which are familiar to this psychology student's eye and some of which, though invented, sound frighteningly close to the kind of thing we may one day see in DSM-V, especially given the ever-closer collusion between psychiatrists, psychologists and the manufacturers of the now-ubiquitous 'meds' that the Fair Hills kids pop and trade like Pokemon cards.

With the exception of the novel's twisted and self-confessedly unreliable protagonist/narrator, almost nobody in this book speaks anything that sounds like truth. Certainly none of the respectable adults do. In place of self-examination, they substitute cliches, ecclesiastical tidbits, misunderstood latin and therapy-talk, all with the aim, not of coming to terms with their predicament, but of 'affirming' themselves and 'moving on.' Someone may have moved their cheese but, by golly, they're going to damn well get back on their horse and ride down the road less travelled until they reach the tipping point that will shift their peaceful, chicken-soup-eating warriors' souls into a purpose-driven life. Drowned out by self-affirmation, reason sleeps, producing monsters.
There really is no better discussion of the replacement of reasoned discourse with self-help boosterism, which is an important issue for those of us who deeply wish for a return to a more serious culture, than 'My Sister, My Love.' I wouldn't go so far as to say that it will change your life: but it will certainly make you think a lot more deeply about the health of the culture we inhabit.

Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century
Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century
by Tony Judt
Edition: Hardcover

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How does he do it?, 16 Nov. 2008
The phrase 'towering intellect' is overused, but when you consider the astonishing range of knowledge that informs Judt's collection of essays, it's a cliche you find yourself falling back on. Judt has an encyclopedic grasp of the history of global politics of the past century, and a cultured sensibility and clear writing style which make him a joy to read. He was one of the first people to realise, and write about, the essential vacuity of Tony Blair ('the gnome in the garden of Britain's heritage'), and he offers similarly impassioned and well-informed insights into the Cuban Missile Crisis, the fall of Communism, and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, as well as providing insightful reviews of the works of Arthur Koestler, Edward Said, and many other major figures. I don't agree with everything he says (he is, for one thing, a little too soft on Koestler's sexual politics, to say the least), but this is still a highly informative and thought-provoking book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 22, 2013 11:05 AM BST

Fire and Knowledge: Fiction and Essays
Fire and Knowledge: Fiction and Essays
by Peter Nadas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.31

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Invaluable Education, 15 Nov. 2008
I read Peter Nadas' book of insightful essays and short fiction during the Russo-Georgian war of this summer. It was instructive, as the media deconstructed the crisis into soundbites and photo opportunities, to read these thoughtful dispatches from Nadas' native Hungary, another post-communist state struggling with the transition to democracy. Nadas is a perceptive analyst on the deep rift which the iron curtain drove between western and eastern european mindsets, but his way with language, and the delicately observed stories which he interleaves with his essays, prevent this being a purely analytical exercise. Two stories, in particular, stand out: 'The Lamb', in which Nadas unearths the banality of Hungarian anti-semitism, and 'The Bible', in which he investigates the way in which, even in a communist society, class divisions are still keenly felt, even if masked by ideology.

As the former Eastern Bloc countries become more and more important to the future of Europe, and the world, it is equally important to understand the way their inhabitants think, and how their view of the world differs from our own. Peter Nadas offers us an invaluable education in the lives of these others.

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