31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on 24 September 2003
In a world where the laundered corporate media presents the viewing public with fiction as if it were 'news' fact, Robert Newman's third book 'The Fountain at the Centre of the World' highlights the facts and realities of life in the globalised 21st century through a fictitious narrative.
'The Fountain at the Centre of the World' focuses on the way that international institutions influence the lives of people around the globe through neoliberal policies favouring large multinational companies hell-bent on privatising every resource on the planet for private profit over the rights and lives of people and planet. Evan Hatch is a PR executive who'se expertise is that of spinning news to favour his Trans-national corporate clients. As he is gearing up for the WTO meeting in Seattle 1999 he finds himself unwell with a parasitical disease picked up as a child in Mexico and is in need of his estranged brother's help. Cue Chano Salgado, Evan's brother who lives in Tonalagapan, Mexico. Chano's life has been one of constant fighting for his rights in his town and a country whose rights are being eroded through the international policies supported through the PR of Evan Hatch. Chano blows up a privatized water pipeline that is taking the local town's water supply and then goes on the run just as his long lost son Daniel comes to Mexico to find his long lost father ...
The book weaves its way around the globe through geographical interconnections and processes culminating at the WTO demonstrations in Seattle. The book deftly illustrates the complex and intricate way that lives on the planet are interwoven and illuminates the awsome power of people and individuals to reclaim themselves and their communities from the lies of the global media loudspeakers. It is also informative about people and places and contemporary life experiences (with a lovely recipe of organo-ingredients). It is a thoroughly researched and very positive book; it makes you think and feel,is uplifting and inspiring . The writing is tight, powerful, amusing; the author talented and insightful. Get reading, get happy and get active ...
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 15 January 2007
I first looked at this with trepidation thinking that it was probably a bit too high brow for my liking. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the readability, it has a good timbre and flows really melodiously (the beautiful bit of pathos about the marmoset comes across as pure Newman)
very enjoyable and highly thought provoking, yes it probably is a bit far fetched in places, but this just adds to the book, and makes it more accessible to rookie anti-capitalist environmentalists like myself. I would lend my copy to everyone I know, but alas it's been signed by the author so is a bit too precious to let it out of my hands. Beg, borrow or steal a copy!
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 30 October 2004
This is a fantastic novel from the comedian Rob Newman, it is much more mature than his previous books, with much more depth to it. Try it if you liked No Logo or anything of that genre, or if you have any interest in Mexico or world politics. Try it also if you just enjoy quality fiction with well written characters and a great plot. David Baddiel could never write like this!
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 3 May 2004
When I read this book I felt like I was reading a science fiction novel set in some terrible future world. Except of course this is, in fact, set in the near past with a set of fictional characters experiencing real, or likely, events.
Especially good for anyone who's struggled with non-fiction on both sides of the corporatisation debate, the story manages to explore many of the issues and demonstrates how they can relate directly to our world. Whilst, as you might expect, this feels in places to be a little contrived, it's still informative and thought-provoking without being too preachy or pessimistic.
I'm going to be lending this one to various friends for quite some time.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 November 2007
A novel that feels like it's set in the world we actually inhabit. Full of the shifty dislocations and distortions of a world in which capital can cross all borders but people can't. There are a few complaints, mostly stylistic: dizzying switches of tense and time, and what the hell is wrong with speech marks, man? Granted, the plot is gripping enough for these to become minor quibbles, and the stylistic idiosyncrasies are actually pulled off well enough that I stopped noticing after a while, but still - it's not easy on the eye. And there are moments when political points are made too laboriously at the expense of flow, but this is more than forgivable considering Newman's not-insignificant feat of narrative engineering that weaves together the lives of characters dispersed around the globe with the powerful motif of the human consequences of corporate globalisation, yet remains intimate and sensitive. Is the plot contrived? Sure, very, but not so far as to be impossible. Think 'Babel' - an appropriate analogy since the short cut-scene nature of the writing felt closer to watching a film than any novel I can call to mind. Heartily recommended.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The first big surprise is the quality of Newman's stiletto-sharp prose. Then there's the dazzling range of settings and issues woven into the narrative, bespeaking an immense amount of diligent research. It's terrific, timely and very smart. More people should read it!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 26 September 2006
Excellent book! Newman has written an engrossing and intelligent novel following Chano Salgado, his son Daniel and his brother Evan Hatch, as they meet each other after years apart. Chano has spent his life in Mexico at the sharp end (the painfully exploited end) of global capitalism, while Evan, adopted from Mexico by an English couple as a baby, has forged a career in PR at the other end of the scale, working for multi-nationals, helping them to bulldoze their way through countries and governments. Newman eloquently describes the way that the corporate bourgeoisie dominate and manipulate anybody & anything that they can potentially squeeze a profit from.
Chano's teenage son Daniel, fostered in Costa Rica, sets out to find his family roots and his journey takes him halfway round the world, wherein Newman is able to examine the plight of immigrants to the UK, and then onwards to Seattle to the 1999 protests against the WTO.
The scope of this novel is huge, but Newman carries it off admirably. I was already aware of many of the issues he highlights here, but his writing brings the human element to life
on 1 April 2009
Want to hear about what it's like inside a global protest? Want a great story about families? Wasn't as funny as I expected given the author's pedigree, but a fascinating and enjoyable book. Definitely for those who prefer his recent, more political performances.
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 7 February 2004
The basic plot: Chano is looking for his 14 year old soon who, as a baby, was adopted out of Mexico when Chano was (wrongfully) taken to jail. Evan, Chano's brother by birth, but who was adopted by well-to-do English parents, needs to find Chano for a life-saving blood transfusion. Chano is an anti-globalization activist, Evan is the person that creates the pro-globalization spin (that is then reproduced as "news") whereby you merely "slowly notice your opinions changing."
What the book is really about: how the two sides of the globalization debate think, and how they act based on their beliefs. The book portrays the futility (and, in a way, stagnation) of anti-globalization groups' actions. At the same time it convincingly delves into the mindset and tactics of those who really control the world--the environment-polluting, sweat-shop-owning multinational corporations, who all have developing country governments on their knees.
While I can't say that the portrayals changed my own thinking on globalization (I'm somewhere in the middle), I don't think I will ever be able to read anything about any globalization issue without wondering who really wrote it and what their agenda was. In short, the book has made me extremely skeptical about everything! This alone makes the book worthwhile.
I liked this book. And I would recommend it. But the last section, set in the "Battle of Seattle" was drawn out and I found myself yawning often. And most of what happens to Daniel, Chano's son, is totally far-fetched and unrealistic.
Nevertheless, the merits of the book far outweigh these minor quibbles.
For another review see the Sunday New York Times book review of February 2, 2004. This was where I first learned of the book.
I also recommend the book, The Globalization of Finance: A User's Guide. It's non-fiction, but very readable. Even if you think you know it all already!
6 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 10 September 2009
The author may have been a good comedian but he ain't no writer - tedious,cliched characters,plodding,didactic and almost a physical effort to read it despite the plot actually being in theory an interesting one.I am as left-wing as the next person but this just lays on the political philosophy with a shovel,he should have just written a political pamphlet about global capitalism.None of my book club liked it,in fact i think i was the only one to finish it.Can't believe the positive reviews,what are they on?You have been warned!