Books

Denied the Pleasure of Life

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Review of 'Dreaming and Scheming', Hanif Kureishi, Faber and Faber £8.99

This collection by Hanif Kureishi is divided into two parts--'Politics' and 'Culture and Films'. The latter section records how Kureishi's films--'My Beautiful Laundrette', 'Sammy and Rosie Get Laid', 'My Son The Fanatic' and 'Intimacy'--got to the silver screen. Kureishi says that he wrote 'My Son The Fanatic' as a response to the 'fatwa' on Salman Rushdie after the publication of 'The Satanic Verses'. Most of the protests against it took place in the northern towns now stalked by the BNP.

Just Like My Dreams They Fade and Die

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Review of 'The Boom and the Bubble', Robert Brenner, Verso £15.00

Amid the dismal picture global capitalism has presented since its supposed 'triumph' in 1989, there has been one apparent success story--the United States. The boom of the second half of the 1990s was hailed as the emergence of a 'New Economy' powered by information technology that was no longer subject to the normal ups and downs of the capitalist cycle.

Twilight of the Gods

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Review of 'Berlin: The Downfall', Antony Beevor, Penguin £25.00

Antony Beevor's new book, 'Berlin', is a follow up to his bestseller 'Stalingrad'. The book outlines the last apocalyptic months of Hitler's Reich. Germany was all but destroyed under the weight of the Red Army's attack on Berlin. Stalin threw over 2.5 million men, 41,000 guns and more than 6,000 tanks into the campaign to seize the German capital.

Marx Goes to the Market

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Review of 'Marx's Revenge', Meghnad Desai, Verso £19

This book is a testimony to the intellectual capitulation of a section of the left to neoliberalism. Meghnad (now Lord) Desai was once sympathetic to Marxism. Now he is an admirer of globalisation. This book is a sustained defence of capitalism against the global anti-capitalist movement.

The Lowest Climb the Highest Peaks

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Review of 'Tigers of the Snow', Jonathan Neale, Little, Brown £18.99

In the 1960s a generation of hippies rejected the emptiness of bourgeois Western values, and headed for Nepal, the home to the Sherpas farmers who migrated from Tibet to the Himalayan pastures below Mount Everest 500 years ago. They were Buddhists and were despised by most of the Hindu Nepalese elite. The British thought them more timid and subservient than the warlike Tibetans, and they became the 'natural' choice as porters for the gentlemen climbers in the heyday of capitalism--the late 19th century onwards.

Torn Between Love and War

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Review of 'At Swim, Two Boys', Jamie O'Neill, Scribner £19.99

This story interweaves the innocence and romance of two boys falling in love with a sharp narrative on the political climate and events leading to the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland. The main characters' fathers, Mr Mack and Mr Doyle, joined the British army and served together. They are both Catholics and are now back in Ireland and living in a small coastal town near Dublin where their lives diverge. Mr Mack, a small corner shop owner, sees himself on the up moving into respectable society. He sees his old friend Mr Doyle as a drunk letting his family fall into poverty.

Poor State of Affairs

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Review of 'Rethinking Welfare', Iain Ferguson, Michael Lavalette and Gerry Mooney, Sage £16.99

When Tony Blair got into Downing Street, he threatened to 'think the unthinkable' about welfare. For Blair, this phrase was a code for launching an assault on the fundamentals of the welfare state itself through tuition fees for students, NHS privatisation, cutting single mums' benefits and a host of other attacks.

The Common Cause

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Review of 'The Wearing of the Green', Michael Herbert, IBRG £11.95

Over the last two centuries Irish people living in Britain have contributed to many campaigns and protest movements. But those few historians who have told their story, have most often written out this fighting past. Mike Herbert's history is the first full length account to give this radical history due weight.

Herbert does not just tell the story of the Manchester Irish, but locates their narrative within the linked stories of the movements for Irish independence, and of British working class history.

Toxic Shock

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Review of 'Five Past Midnight in Bhopal', Dominique Lapierre, Simon and Schuster £17.99

The tragedy of a toxic leak from Carbide's pesticide factory in Bhopal, India resulted in the worst industrial disaster in history, causing over 30,000 deaths and 50,000 injuries, and is felt almost 20 years after 'the event'. It was a request for help setting up a clinic that prompted Dominique Lapienne to spend three years searching for the truth behind the leak.

Riding the Crest of a Wave

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Review of 'The Scar', China Miéville, Macmillan £17.99

Fantasy is one of the most popular forms of fiction today. A visit to any bookshop will reveal row after row of fantasy novels, mostly adventure stories but with a growing comedy section as well (mostly written by Terry Pratchett). The great bulk of these novels are set in some sort of romanticised feudal society where good is battling against evil, the lower classes know their place and magic works. There are elves, dwarves, trolls, dragons, princes and princesses, wizards and, inevitably, those most maligned of fictional creatures, orcs, the despised proletariat of conservative fantasy.

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