Books

Profits on the Line

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Review of 'Down the Tube', Christian Wolmar, Aurum £9.99

Christian Wolmar is a bit of a Kiley fan--not the former soap actress turned pop star, but the former CIA agent turned transport supremo. There is a touch of Kileymania on the soft left, with the 'Guardian''s Polly Toynbee and London School of Economics 'expert' Tony Travers among the fans. Wolmar quotes Labour MP Karen Buck describing Kiley as 'a wow'. These Kiley fans share both a realisation that the London Undergound PPP is a disaster for the tube, and a real hostility to tube workers. Wolmar describes a tube strike over safety as 'opportunist'.

Bright Lights, Big Cities

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Review of 'Dead Cities', Mike Davis, New Press, £16.95

Mike Davis brings to each subject a completely idiosyncratic vision, with a huge passion to tell stories, explain and reveal. Dead Cities is a brilliant kaleidoscope of essays. Each section revolves around a different theme, together revealing the power and arrogance of political leaders in cahoots with corporate capital. In the preface, 'Flames of New York', he cites Ernst Bloch's comparison of pre-bourgeois towns with modern cities. It is the Americanised, 'big city' ideology that believes all problems can be technologically solved.

A Balance Sheet That Doesn't Add Up

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Review of 'Revolution in the Air', Max Elbaum, Verso £20

By the end of 1970, in the wake of Nixon's invasion of Cambodia and the resulting explosion of anti-war activism across US campuses, the 'New York Times' reported a survey stating that 3 million college students thought a revolution was necessary in the United States. Out of this radical milieu a smaller but nonetheless significant layer of activists set out to actively build new revolutionary organisations.

The Bishops and the Brickies

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Review of 'The Communist Party of Great Britain since 1920', James Eaden and David Renton, Palgrave £40

Why should we be interested in the history of a party which dissolved itself 11 years ago, shrouded among accusations of reformism, spying for the USSR and trousering the infamous 'Moscow Gold'? The most obvious reason is that the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) certainly 'punched far above its weight'.

Hawks and Doves Unite

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Review of 'Israel/Palestine', Tanya Reinhart, Seven Stories £7.99

Tanya Reinhart is a linguistics scholar who turned to political writing after the deception of the Palestinian people over the so called peace negotiations of Oslo. Reinhart has been a consistent political activist. She has produced a concise but detailed and accessible analysis of the machinations of the Israeli state. This book debunks myth after myth concerning the Camp David negotiations with a series of illuminating quotes from Israeli military and government officials shedding further light on Israel's true intentions.

Resistance Was Not Futile

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Review of 'The Irish War of Independence', Michael Hopkinson, Gill and Macmillan £24.99

The 1980s and 1990s were dominated by attempts by various academics to undermine any notion of popular mobilisation against the ruling order. Nowhere did that reach such a pitch as in Ireland. Many books and newspaper columns tried to denigrate the war fought for Ireland's independence from Britain between 1919 and 1921.

Mississippi Murder

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Review of 'The Little Friend', Donna Tart, Bloomsbury £16.99

From the gripping opening page of Donna Tartt's new novel, you know you are on unfamiliar ground. The book is set in the American Deep South--home to poisonous snakes and redneck preachers, a place of sweltering heat and exotic plants.

The book begins with the shocking murder of a much loved nine year old boy, Robin. The story then jumps forwards a few years and describes the impact of the murder on Robin's relatives--his eccentric aunts, his devastated mum Charlotte and his sisters Harriet and Allison.

Through the Maze

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Review of 'Carrying the Elephant', Michael Rosen, Penguin £7.99

We spent the afternoon in the park. He ran around like a loon playing French cricket with the girls and ate too many peanuts. In the evening we had cold meat and salad, and then went to bed. A couple of hours later he called out my name and I knew he was dying. Then the doctors said he was dying. Then they operated and he didn't wake up. Two days later I came home and saw his plate where he had left it. On it were two curled slices of salami he'd rejected. That was when the grief hit.

When Disaster Strikes

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Review of 'The Spirit of Terrorism', Jean Baudrillard, Verso £8; 'Ground Zero', Paul Virilio, Verso £8 and 'Welcome to the Desert of the Real!', Slavoj Zizek, Verso £8

The attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001 were, among other things, a cultural event. The destruction of the twin towers in particular was intended to have a symbolic effect. As Jean Baudrillard puts it, the towers 'have disappeared. But they have left us the symbol of their disappearance, their disappearance as symbol. They, which were the symbol of omnipotence, have become, by their absence, the symbol of the possible disappearance of that omnipotence--which is perhaps an even more potent symbol.'

The Way We Think Now

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Review of 'British Social Attitudes', National Centre for Social Research, Sage £37.50

There are always nuggets of fascinating information in the annual British Social Attitudes surveys. What is interesting about this year's is the themes that develop through some of the studies. One is the growing liberalism expressed by the findings on race, sexuality and drugs. The other is the gap found between some of New Labour's flagship policies and popular opinion.

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