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4.0 out of 5 stars Elegant, thought-provoking, and slightly short-changing, 9 Mar 2006
A new book by Jonathan Raban always excites. In this one, he tries his hand at something different - a set of essays on post 9/11 America and the so-called ‘War on Terror’. Engagingly, Raban describes himself as ‘an idiot’ in the ancient Greek sense of a ‘private person’, offering his thoughts ‘as an irregular personal diary of the period from September 11 to the beginning of George W. Bush’s second term’. The irregular personal diary is a literary form at which he’s always excelled, and there’s much to relish in these pages. Even so, the book doesn’t work quite as well as some of his previous offerings. A less charitable take on it might be that he’s cobbled together a bunch of his recent essays, most of which have already been published elsewhere, and some of which have rather little bearing on his larger theme. Political journalism dates more quickly than literature. Raban’s bravura reportage of racial politics in 'Old Glory' is still worth reading twenty-five plus years after the event, whereas the inordinate attention he pays here to Howard Dean’s failed candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination already looks out of place. Nevertheless, continuing the process he began with 'Old Glory', Raban seamlessly stitches together a host of themes bearing on contemporary times to produce another elegant rumination on the enigma that is America. For the most part, his ‘idiocy’ is refreshing fare, and a sight less idiotic than most journalistic commentary on Iraq and the ‘War on Terror’. There’s not much that’s vastly original in these pages, but in his discussion of fundamentalisms - American and Islamic - Raban showcases his unparalleled ability to articulate an incisive intellectual position from the morass, using his erudition to clarify rather than to obscure. And he’s lost none of his prodigious skills as a prose stylist. 'My Holy War' doesn’t touch the heights of his great travel narratives, but it sits worthily alongside them on the shelf.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Writer's writer?, 1 May 2011
Simon Barrett "Il penseroso" (london, england) - See all my reviews
Raban caught 50s England forever* in 20 unforgettable pages for The New Review in 1977 (Living on Capital, reprinted in For Love and Money); he draws on the same territory (at least in the title piece) to illuminate his troubled adopted country. Yes, there is a certain overlap in his articles; but he is always worth reading.

*Philip Oakes did something similar, but it took him 3 volumes!
Oh, OK - his trilogy begins in the 30s. Evidently time to reread..
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My Holy War: Dispatches from the Home Front
My Holy War: Dispatches from the Home Front by Jonathan Raban (Paperback - 5 Jan 2012)
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