Reviews

The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness

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With wry wit, vivid observational clarity and self-depreciating put downs, Caveney tells of the loves and let downs, the highs and the hangovers of growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He tells of the enthusiasms his teenage self-discovered: The Fall, Satre, Marx, The Pretenders, Shelley, socialism, Tom Robinson, Paul Foot, The Feelies, Tony Cliff, Orange Juice, Oscar Wilde, Patti Smith and many more surprisingly familiar cultural and political landmarks are enjoyed as he seeks to create an identity.

The Caseroom

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Saltire Society first Book of the Year for 2017 has nominated this book for it’s prize. The Caseroom opens in 1891 with 13 year-old Iza Ross starting work at Ballantyne’s Pauls print works in Edinburgh, quickly moving on to 1894 at which point Iza is fully trained as a typesetter or compositor. We learn quickly women doing this work have a different experience to men. “It’s women’s work too” Iza explains, adding, “But lads serve a seven-year apprenticeship; we spend just three years learning.”

The Corbyn Comic Book

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This collection of comic-strips on the subject of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn comes out of an open call for submissions to writers and artists by the publisher, Self Made Hero, which had the deadline of 12 July this year. It features contributions from professional cartoonists like Steve Bell and Steven Appleby and Martin Rowson from The Guardian. Most of the contributions come from more unknown artists.

The Fearless Benjamin Lay

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The just man who is resolute/ Will not be turned from his purpose/ Either by the rage of the crowd or/ By an imperious tyrant. Roberts Vaux, an early biographer of Benjamin Lay, quoted these lines by Rome’s lyric poet of antiquity, Horace, to describe the fortitude and courage Lay showed throughout his remarkable life in the face of the ill will and taunts expressed towards him by those who benefitted from the vile transatlantic slave trade. And where not better to start a review of this simply very good book?

Memphis 68

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From resistance to the American war in Vietnam to the instantly recognisable image of Tommy Smith and John Carlos holding high their clenched fists on the Olympic podium, 1968 was a year of uprisings and resistance.

But it was also a year of tragedy, of the assassination of Martin Luther King in Memphis, and the fall out from the death of Stax star Otis Redding at the end of 1967. Stuart Cosgrove’s Memphis 68 is the second in a trilogy looking at soul music in one of the most inspiring decades of US history and a bittersweet tribute to the city.

Protest: Stories of Resistance

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The question on the book’s jacket, “Whatever happened to British protest?” is silly, particularly given the 20 marvellous incidents it records. But don’t let that put you off a really good anthology about protest movements in the UK. Starting with the Peasants Revolt of 1381 and finishing with the anti-Iraq War demonstration of February 2003, a series of writers provide real colour to each protest or movement with often moving short stories.

Fractured Continent

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This book examines the present state of Europe and its relationship with America at what the author sees as a crucial time for the world. His perception is that with the EU in possible danger of breaking up and Trump’s America retreating into “America First” isolationism threatening to tear up trade agreements and military treaties, the world is at a point where decisions will lead to either peace or calamity in the next century.

The Violence of Austerity

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This is a collection of 24 short articles covering different, but interlinked, aspects of austerity. Perhaps the book’s most important contribution is to describe recent and current government policies as violent. As the articles show, in rich detail, this is metaphorically and literally true. Ken Loach referred to the “conscious cruelty” of the Tories. Cooper and Whyte show it goes beyond that. And then came Grenfell.

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