Reviews

In the Imagination

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Review of 'Albion', Peter Ackroyd, Chatto and Windus £25

Peter Ackroyd has written a range of great books that explore the relationships between a variety of historical times and places and the imaginations they foster. In his new book he sets out to find a 'native spirit that persists through time and circumstance' by looking for what was modern in Anglo-Saxon and medieval literature.

Minority Report

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Review of 'At what Cost?', Rachel Morris and Luke Clements, The Policy Press £18.99

This study by the Traveller Law Research Unit (TLRU) seeks to fill a gaping hole in governmental auditing of one of Britain's most vulnerable and maltreated minorities--an estimated 200,000-300,000 Gypsies and travelling people. The authors expose the hidden costs of the 1994 legislation which released local authorities from the duty of providing travellers with authorised camp sites. A primary motive for the reforms was financial. Yet no study was ever done into the costs of not providing safe, legal stopping places.

All About Eric: A Cautionary Tale

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Review of 'Interesting Times: A Twentieth Century Life', Eric Hobsbawm, Allen Lane £25

I wrote a letter to the 'Guardian' about six years ago suggesting there might be two Eric Hobsbawms. One ended his book on the 20th century, 'The Age of Extremes', by describing the system as out of control and threatening all of humanity. The other was at that very time praising New Labour's approach to politics.

Sowing the Seeds of Hate

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Review of 'Terrorism and War', Howard Zinn, Seven Stories Press £7.99; 'Bin Laden, Islam and America's New War on Terrorism', As'ad Abukhalil, Seven Stories Press £6.99 and 'Terrorism: Theirs and Ours', Eqbal Ahmad, Seven Stories Press £4.99

These three books may be small in size, but they deal with a big issue and offer big answers. In a series of interviews Howard Zinn offers some illuminating answers to probing questions revolving around 11 September, while As'ad Abukhalil deals predominantly with the rise of Islamophobia since those events. Eqbal Ahmad's book was a talk given at the University of Colorado in October 1998. Ahmad sadly died in May 1999. His talk, however, remains refreshing, and could quite easily be mistaken for having been written after 11 September.

Imagine There's No Europe

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Review of 'The Years of Rice and Salt', Kim Stanley Robinson, Harper Collins £16.99

A community of souls are reincarnated time and time again, experiencing various lives in a kaleidoscope of relationships--as lovers or family, rulers or ruled, oppressor or oppressed. After each lifetime they meet in the bardo, the antechamber to eternity, to have their karma assessed and a judgment made against them which will determine the nature of their next life.

Top of the Crops

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Review of 'Coffee with Pleasure', Laure Waridel, Black Rose Books £10.99

It may only be a small cup of latte in your hand but, together with all the other coffees that are simultaneously knocked back across the world, coffee is one of the three most important commodities in the world. The trade, amounting to over $70 billion annually, sits alongside oil and arms at the peak of the world economy. Yet, as the most recent Oxfam report puts it, the huge profits produced by our infinite taste for coffee go to the four or five giant multinational corporations that control its distribution.

Bankrupted by the World Bank

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Review of 'Zimbabwe's Plunge', Patrick Bond and Masimba Manyanya, Merlin Books £14.95

The economic crisis in Zimbabwe--with unemployment now at over 60 percent, inflation hitting 114 percent and 76 percent of the population below the poverty line--is in urgent need of analysis.

Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980, and inherited debts of nearly $700 million from the white minority regime. The authors of this book argue that Mugabe's Zanu government had the option of repudiating this debt. Had this happened, the government would have had much more flexibility to implement its social policies and address the land question.

The Setback That Lasted Thirty-Five Years

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Review of 'Six Days of War', Michael B Oren, Oxford University Press £25

The Arab governments referred to the Six Day War, with tragicomic understatement, as 'the setback'. In reality the conflict, in June 1967, was a shattering example of Israel's military superiority over its Arab neighbours which left it in illegal occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

The Meat of Capitalism

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Review of 'The Pig and the Skyscraper', Marco d'Eramo, Verso £20

First published (in Italian) in 1999, two years before four hijacked planes shattered American illusions of invulnerability and changed our world, this book explores capitalism in the US--the land where it stands exposed in 'all its naked force'. The author, an Italian journalist and writer, uses Chicago as a prism through which to track, analyse and comment on the history of US capitalism in all its complexity.

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