Reviews

Text Messages

Issue section: 
Author: 

Review of 'Shakespeare is Hard, but So is Life', Fintan O'Toole, Granta £6.99

Shakespeare, we're told, is uniquely great--every school student aged 11 to 16 has to study his works. Yet the dominant ideas about Shakespeare--which Irish drama critic Fintan O'Toole confronts in this cheery polemic--make the plays seem boring and incomprehensible.

Up, Down and Out

Issue section: 

Review of 'Milosevic: A Biography', Adam LeBor, Bloomsbury £20

The Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle once commented that a well written life was as rare as a well spent one. Adam LeBor's biography of Slobodan Milosevic is that common thing--an inferior book about an infamous life.

In the Imagination

Issue section: 
Author: 

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

Issue section: 
Author: 

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

Issue section: 
Issue: 
Author: 

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

Issue section: 
Issue: 
Author: 

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

Issue section: 
Issue: 
Author: 

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

Issue section: 
Issue: 
Author: 

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.

Pages