Summer books and summer heat

January 21, 2019 at 2:21 am | Posted in capitalism, Common Good, Democracy, libraries, social capital | Leave a comment
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The cover of ‘Mistakes Were Made, But Not by Me!’

After finishing the rewrites of my novel just before Christmas it’s been an orgy of reading. Among recent books that have impressed me are Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean; Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson; and D.B.C. Pierre’s Release the Bats. There’s also beautiful, strong writing in another of Elizabeth Harrower’s trenchant, insightful and bleak novels about relationships, In Certain Circles. But I’ll focus on the three non-fiction books here.

Democracy in Chains

Democracy in Chains: The deep history of the radical right’s stealth plan for America (Viking, 2018) tells the story behind the subversion of democracy in the United States, a story of dark money and radical right-wing politics, and how ‘liberty’ came to mean liberty for the rich few to concentrate vast wealth and deny basic fairness and rights to the majority. And it all started with racism, back in the 1950s. I can’t hope to summarise it adequately in such a short space but it’s a mesmerising book, understated in tone and jaw-dropping in its implications.

Continue Reading Summer books and summer heat…

Lamplight on the darkened path

May 7, 2017 at 4:04 am | Posted in capitalism, creativity, Democracy, Living creatively, media negativity, public squalour | Leave a comment
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A Bigger Prize and The Short Goodbye

In Sickness, in Health and in Jail by Mel Jacobs

‘The world breaks everyone, and afterwards some are stronger in the broken places.’ Hemingway said that, and Mel Jacobs quotes him in the front of her poignant memoir, In Sickness, in Health and in Jail (Allen & Unwin, 2016). The author describes the shock, social stigma and logistical nightmares involved when her husband went to jail for two years after breaching the rules concerning his online hunting weapons business.

It was being uncharacteristically slack with a couple of technicalities (which were, granted, against the law, but seemed so minor in the scheme of things) that landed a decent, normally highly moral, small business guy in jail. A pity that the justice system doesn’t use such finely honed powers of legal scrutiny on anyone in finance or banking, I thought, since at the same time I was reading Elisabeth Wynhausen’s riveting The Short Goodbye (Melbourne University Press, 2011) about the global financial crisis.

Almost no one in finance or banking – no matter how illegal, unethical or immoral, no matter how many millions of lives they’ve ruined – will have to endure the appalling conditions of Australian prisons described in Jacobs’ book, and it’s exactly the same in the UK and Europe and the US. As Wynhausen states:

‘Even as unemployment around the globe soared, the financial institutions responsible sped from the wreckage they had left in their wake, to grab whatever they could get their hands on. After nine big Wall Street banks … were bailed out with US$175 billion from American taxpayers under the program President Bush signed into being, though President Obama would cop the flak for it, they handed out nearly US$33 billion in bonuses. (p. 189)

Continue Reading Lamplight on the darkened path…

Brave books about love

October 20, 2016 at 7:01 pm | Posted in Australian memoir, Australian novels, Democracy, English journalism, Father/son memoirs, Writing | Leave a comment
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unexpectedelementsI’m back after an orgy of reading. I was still putting piles of library books in the basket of my Trek bicycle and racing home to devour them when I suddenly got another writing job. Before that, one of the many authors I read was the person everyone’s talking about: Liane Moriaty and her recent Truly, Madly, Guilty.

I was a bit annoyed at that title, derived as it is from a favourite Anthony Minghella film, Truly Madly, Deeply (1991; you can watch it on You Tube though of course you’ll get more out of it on a big screen). It’s a film I loved and which could be categorised as Blithe Spirit meets Night of the Living Dead, in other words, a bereavement film told in a truly original voice. Continue Reading Brave books about love…

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