Saturday, December 5, 2015


According to Murakami a good writer should " observe,observe, observe and only then judge.".Murakami never writes short stories whilst writing a Novel and never writes Novels whilst writing short stories.

This collection of short stories are garnered over a period of some decades , not in chronological or even thematic order , this gives the stories a feel of sleeping thoughts that barely crystallise before the reader is jolted awake , having them to fill in the gaps and lace together his own threads about where the stories come and go , if at all.

A lot of the stories will appear to be familiar as they were incorporated into his Novels , especially Norwegian Wood , showing that though the writing process for Novels and Short Stories is apart they are not exclusive but mutually compatible and can easily cross over to both formats to great effect , hence making some sense of the title.

This review from the Guardian captures the tone of the stories.

"In many of these stories, narrative tension is prolonged by a refusal to explain; Murakami's ghost stories and murder mysteries remain ghostly and mysterious. Has the serial adulterer been cursed, or does his nausea have nothing at all to do with his predilection for deceptive seduction? Murakami never says, and the result, as in so much of his work, is profoundly memorable."

The girl in the video review gives a fair account of the stories and their appeal.

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Just in case you have not come across it yet check out Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut ,you will really enjoy.But be sure to skip the prologue as it is the ultimate spoiler that takes the surprise element away.

If the purpose of a really good book to make you laugh and challenge the status quo,this Book is the one that does it Big Time.It brilliantly instills truths in your head in such a way they will lodge in your psyche and refuse to budge no matter what one tries until you acknowledge them (with a view to acceptance) OR , compels you to provide your own antidote with a counter that stands up to long term scrutiny.And youll gain a new appreciation for Chinese Temple Bells.

The Book can be regarded as a final testimony ( or last chapter as Kurt calls it) to the Work and Ideas of Vonnegut.

In this talk Vonnegut explores some of the themes of the Book and the life of a Writer with some great insights for the Internet age and observations that reading a book is THE Western method of Eastern type meditation.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Published at around the time Chavez was winning a series of Democratic Elections in Venezuela , in the name of the Bolivarian Revolution. 
The Books timely appearance with the modern Bolivarian revolution playing out makes for a captivating metaphor for the choices of Hugo Chavez to quit having established the foundations of getting rid of the Monrovian Doctrine that blighted the continent in the 20th and early 21st Centuries or to keep continuing , albeit with plebiscites , to perpetually amend the constitution to perpetually continue the terms an incumbent can continue in the top office.
This Book details a semi-fictional account of Simon Bolivars last journey , a tale of waning physical and political power at a time when Chavez himself had a crossroads to navigate , to bow from power and leave a solid legacy for the development of the current Bolivarian Movement or to hold on to power personally and create a situation when one mans ego makes a whole movement whimper and peter out having lost its roots and goals and , ultimately, direction.
The book contains great insights to many of Bolivars liberation struggle observations that are universal in space and time like on page 122 we find "Europeans believe only what Europe invents id good for the entire universe , and everything else is detestable." A Euro-centric trait that even amongst the European Left today makes them judge ( or more accurately mis-judge) the sentiments and aspirations of freedom and liberation struggles in non-European societies.And more importantly , on page 221 ,an observance that should be a remedial motto for the elites and leaderships of nations that do win the struggle against decolonisation in the new world order "I despise debt more than i do the Spanish"

The video below has an interview with Isabel Allende on the inspiration of Marquez for South American Culture and Politics.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


This vignette of the lives and trails of an American Factory Community was published as WW2 was drawing to a close.It was based on Monterry Califrornia , a place very familiar to Steinbeck.

It features very ordinary characters at a time when America was approaching an age when things for small community America would never be the same again.This very intelligent review by Thom Hartmann paints an interesting scene of the subtly changing political landscape as these people got on with the hard day-to-day business of coping in an inceasingly harsh environment.

"On the other hand, one could argue that the book is entirely political - today - because it shows us a slice of America before the Great Corporate Homogenizers got ahold of us.

Before we walled ourselves into our highly-mortgaged houses to stare for hours, alone, at our TVs, eating the mental gruel of multinational corporations who profit from wars.

Before our highest ideal - our "American Dream" - was to build up a small business so we could sell it off to Disney, as did the woman Bush congratulated in his State of the Union speech, but when the real American Dream was grounded in community, safety, friendship, and a healthy acceptance of eccentricity."
The review in the video below gives an ample example of the appeal of this novel for the new reader.

Monday, November 16, 2015


Maybe funny when written in the early 1930s , a bit like watching Monty Python nowadays , its humour has not aged well.It deserves due credit for satirising and mocking the classic , almost critically untouchable , Novels on the 19th century but it is itself a parody of what constituted top-down humour of the wit of old high class educated self-declared arbiters of taste patronising the lower orders to what values to aspire.

It is a fitting endnote that two sequels to the Novel were both flops , which probably ties in with the readers of the 40s and 50s already out-growing the age of having culture , especially humour , being spoon fed from top-down by the class system and instead embracing the humour of the grassroots  developing their own thoughts, ideas, opinions and ultimately cultural and political agendas as this review from the Guardian Paper tentatively alludes.

It is best to end with a review from someone who likes the Book , though even he admits it has aged somewhat.

Friday, November 13, 2015


This was the last of his novels , published just before he was awarded the Nobel Prize.
A tale of what he regarded as a morale decline the American Culture , though it has to be said that it was also a landmark to his own moral decline that led the man who wrote Grapes of Wrath in the late 30s to an outspoken supporter of the Vietnam War and critic of the Anti-War Artists and Writers in the mid to late 60s.

The plot is nuanced , so that much sympathy can be directed towards the main character that will do a ghastly deed against his person and soul for a trifling advantage.On page 90 we get some hometown advice about dealing with difficult situations that linger in the mind " ...cant push it out of mind...instead , remember it from start to finish whenever it comes and then youll slowly forget bits of it over time" and on page 93 we find the protagonist trying to justify to himself but realising " one wants advice-only corroboration."

And having sold out he tries to return to normal , having failed to satisfactorily convince himself on page 164 "...People buy from People they know.Its called goodwill and it works." , In the end the End does justify the means of this depraved morality the lead falls into on page 187 "...Success and Strength are above morality , above criticism."

The video below has a panel discussing the themes of the Book:

Monday, September 21, 2015


This meaningful satire was written in the late 90s , an excellent primer to the lessons of the questions Vonnegut posed in the previous decades.

This review gives a synopsis of the novella. 
In God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian, Vonnegut skips back and forth between life and the Afterlife as if the difference between them were rather slight. In thirty odd "interviews," Vonnegut trips down "the blue tunnel to the pearly gates" in the guise of a roving reporter for public radio, conducting interviews: with Salvatore Biagini, a retired construction worker who died of a heart attack while rescuing his schnauzer from a pit bull, with John Brown, still smoldering 140 years after his death by hanging, with William Shakespeare, who rubs Vonnegut the wrong way, and with socialist and labor leader Eugene Victor Debs, one of Vonnegut's personal heroes. What began as a series of ninety-second radio interludes for WNYC, New York City's public radio station, evolved into this provocative collection of musings about who and what we live for, and how much it all matters in the end. From the original portrait by his friend Jules Feiffer that graces the cover, to a final entry from Kilgore Trout, God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian remains a joy. - See more at:
In God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian, Vonnegut skips back and forth between life and the Afterlife as if the difference between them were rather slight. In thirty odd "interviews," Vonnegut trips down "the blue tunnel to the pearly gates" in the guise of a roving reporter for public radio, conducting interviews: with Salvatore Biagini, a retired construction worker who died of a heart attack while rescuing his schnauzer from a pit bull, with John Brown, still smoldering 140 years after his death by hanging, with William Shakespeare, who rubs Vonnegut the wrong way, and with socialist and labor leader Eugene Victor Debs, one of Vonnegut's personal heroes. What began as a series of ninety-second radio interludes for WNYC, New York City's public radio station, evolved into this provocative collection of musings about who and what we live for, and how much it all matters in the end. From the original portrait by his friend Jules Feiffer that graces the cover, to a final entry from Kilgore Trout, God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian remains a joy. - See more at:

In God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian, Vonnegut skips back and forth between life and the Afterlife as if the difference between them were rather slight. In thirty odd "interviews," Vonnegut trips down "the blue tunnel to the pearly gates" in the guise of a roving reporter for public radio, conducting interviews: with Salvatore Biagini, a retired construction worker who died of a heart attack while rescuing his schnauzer from a pit bull, with John Brown, still smoldering 140 years after his death by hanging, with William Shakespeare, who rubs Vonnegut the wrong way, and with socialist and labor leader Eugene Victor Debs, one of Vonnegut's personal heroes. What began as a series of ninety-second radio interludes for WNYC, New York City's public radio station, evolved into this provocative collection of musings about who and what we live for, and how much it all matters in the end. From the original portrait by his friend Jules Feiffer that graces the cover, to a final entry from Kilgore Trout, God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian remains a joy. - See more at:
In God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian, Vonnegut skips back and forth between life and the Afterlife as if the difference between them were rather slight. In thirty odd "interviews," Vonnegut trips down "the blue tunnel to the pearly gates" in the guise of a roving reporter for public radio, conducting interviews: with Salvatore Biagini, a retired construction worker who died of a heart attack while rescuing his schnauzer from a pit bull, with John Brown, still smoldering 140 years after his death by hanging, with William Shakespeare, who rubs Vonnegut the wrong way, and with socialist and labor leader Eugene Victor Debs, one of Vonnegut's personal heroes. What began as a series of ninety-second radio interludes for WNYC, New York City's public radio station, evolved into this provocative collection of musings about who and what we live for, and how much it all matters in the end. From the original portrait by his friend Jules Feiffer that graces the cover, to a final entry from Kilgore Trout, God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian remains a joy. - See more at:
This interview from the period just before the Iraq War gives a detailed insight on the concepts and thoughts of Vonnegut on the lessons of the past and the challenges of the present.

Friday, September 18, 2015


The appeal of this Novel is the grand concept of bringing to the outside World the Holy Russian tradition of the Holy Fool that can , if only Russia itself believes in them rather than being embroiled in wasteful Francophile dreams , can bring to the forefront the Slavic Nation and Spiritual vision that can redeem not only Russia , but the World.Nothing less than a Slavic solution for a Slavic problem.

Alas the execution , through a mixture of financial constraints at the time in Dostoyevskys life and the flaw of any concept that brings a Manifest Destiny in a Nation becoming a self-appointed Spiritual Guardian of the Races , does not , and could never , match the vision.Technically , Dostoyevsky would work on a single draft whilst his previous only copy would be getting printed by the publishers , thus giving him no working copy of the previous installment so that he could get all the threads of the story together in a coherent order.The supreme biographer of Dostoyevsky , Joseph Franks calls it right when he states the book is "perhaps the most original of Dostoevsky's great novels, and certainly the most artistically uneven of them all,".That statement very much comes across as you admire the incredible undertaking whilst also regret the forced , awkward rush of something that deserves the artist getting the space needed to proclaim such a monument to the world.
Many portions he dictated as he walked around the Room , not knowing himself the direction the work would take , and if he did decide to change tact he had no way of recalling the already printed previous draft from the publishers if he , as he done many times with other Novels , wanted to change direction with the plot or characters.

This excellent review by AS Byatt gives a very good account of the strains and stresses Dostoyevsky was under as well as the concept behind the Book and why , despite its execution , it is regarded as a masterpiece of sheer effort of an artist trying to speak The Spirit to the Masses.

"I think The Idiot to be a masterpiece - flawed, occasionally tedious or overwrought, like many masterpieces - but a fact of world literature just as important as the densely dramatic Brothers Karamazov or the brilliantly subtle and terrifying Devils . In those two novels, as in the simpler Crime and Punishment , Dostoevsky had plots and political and religious ideas working together. In The Idiot he is straining to grasp a story and a character converting themselves from Gothic to Saint's Life on the run. What makes the greatness is double -the character of the prince, and a powerful series of confrontations with death. The true subject of The Idiot is the imminence and immanence of death. The image of these things is Holbein's portrait of Christ taken down from the cross, a copy of which hangs in Rogozhin's house, and which was seen by both Dostoevsky and Prince Myshkin in Basle. It represents, we are told, a dead man who is totally flesh without life, damaged and destroyed, with no hint of a possible future resurrection. The form of the novel is shaped by the inexorable outbreak of Dostoevsky's deepest preoccupations. It is the quality of Dostoevsky's doubt and fear that is the intense religious emotion in this novel - to which Lawrence was no doubt reacting."

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Born at a time when Japan had undergone a humiliating aftermath after WW2 the Japanese most famous writer was a Nationalist who looked to the Imperial Age , Murakami turned his back on that and studied European literature and revelled in music thus taking a path into a World in which Memory , Dreams , Magical Realism and Reality which makes a theme that has universal appeal across all cultures and languages.
"Memory is a funny thing" could almost be a motto for what Murakamis work is all about.Norwegian Wood became and still is one of his biggest successes.

It is fitting a Book written about his student day memories should be reviewed by a student

This Guardian piece gives more depth to the theme of the Book. 

" Haruki Murakami's novels have gained immense popularity because they guide readers through some of life's darkest and most dangerous territory – the cold, dark winter woods of death and grief and abuse – and do so with wisdom and warmth."
The video below is a look into the social and emotional journey of Murakami and his larege following of readers.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


"When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."is a quote by Jonathan Swift which inspired by title of this posthumous tale , a debut book that has since become a popular novel in the Catch-22 type mould.
As a posthumous released work it has much merit going for it potential wise but it has a very much  proto-type project feel about it.

This review by jacr100 is a very apt summation of the readers experience.
"If anyone is confused by that title, I’d better explain: I’ve been pondering why the majority of previous reviewers have either loved or hated this book. I think one reason is that you have to really engage with the character of Ignatius J. Reilly in order to expose the funny side of the novel. Admittedly his lofty sense of self-importance and heedless misanthropy won’t make this easy, not forgetting his predilection for hot dogs, burping, etc; but if you bear with him, the scorn he pours forth on virtually everyone he comes into contact with does start to make you chuckle, particularly since his anachronistic language and imaginative insults sound positively alien amidst the casual slang of his New Orleans acquaintances.
There are some genuinely funny moments, and the storyline is structured along the lines of classical farce drama, with the unfortunate Ignatius spiralling downwards into an ever more precarious position, both socially and financially. Not that he cares, mind you – he has only entered the world of work temporarily and under coercive pressure from his mother, biding his time until his great social commentary modelled on the philosophy of Boethius propels him to prominence. I agree with one other reviewer that it is this latter project that makes the book a little turgid at times, when Ignatius casts down pages of vitriolic invective in his diary. These sections aren’t boring, but neither are they that funny, and the reader might be forgiven for skipping them to get back to Ignatius loudly criticising the latest film, or condescendingly mocking whomever he encounters that day.
Anyone who is looking for a deep social satire, portrait of New Orleans, or critical insight into the reality of the American Dream probably won’t be too enamoured with this book, since it achieves these very subtly, against a backdrop of farce and characters who in many cases are exaggerated or one-dimensional. But if you approach this book not expecting – or even wanting – to discover the psychologies or ‘truths’ of human existence, and instead begin with an open mind just large to accommodate a near-obese, pompous buffoon with aims to change the society he despises for its ignorance and avarice, you might be in for a pleasant surprise."
The profile of the Book increased when it and the writer received a Pulitzer prize , as this reviewer in the video suggests sometimes prize giving bodies "some of these prize-giving bodies try to prove how much smarter they are than you and I".

But last word should go to someone who was profoundly affected by the Book and not the cynics.

"'A Confederacy of Dunces' is a story of loneliness amid crowds, a comedy that hurts. At the centre is an anti-hero named Ignatius J Reilly. If Don Quixote had been thrust into the underbelly of modern New Orleans, this is exactly who he would have become. Hypochodriac, melancholic, a walking catastrophe, an unlikely philosopher in a world where few have patience for abstractions. With his clumsy ways, tweed trousers and inexcusable bluntness, he doesn't fit in, entering social contexts with his lumbering, elephantine fashion. The reader cannot decide whether to pity or admire him, but loves him all the same. As Walter Percy said, he is "in violent revolt against the entire modern age.""

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Looking back in China , a little like in Spain under Franco or South America under the military dictators , is not merely an innocent reflection on times past , it has to be a journey in which the reality of the past has to be a shadowworld , a universe peopled by spectral beings in a ghostly world where memories merge into unreal metaphorical paintings on a canvas magic-reality masquerading as myth over experience.

It is this necessary approach even for a Chinese writer living outside his homeland ,just as Spanish and Latin American writers living outwith the past , cannot directly pass comment on the previous which makes some criticism of the Book being a fragmented jumble of memory that never crystallises into a coherent narrative a little unfair.

In saying all this the Book does not really have a "soul" of its own that captures the reader with a vision for a better alternative , more it comes across as a sad lament of a man who himself has lost touch with his inner soul.

This review by NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF for the New York Times gives a fair assessment of the Novel

"Back to the question, though, of what ''Soul Mountain'' is about: every reader might answer the question differently, but to me at least it was ultimately less a travelogue than a searching account of an individual's ramblings to himself as he bounced between the oppression of the group and the oppression of loneliness. Escape from the collective is a particularly resonant theme for Chinese intellectuals like Gao, for status and power have always been conferred on Chinese scholars by the state -- typically a repressive one.
The Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976 reminded intellectuals, if they needed any such reminder, that the group could turn on them suddenly and ferociously. In those years, teachers and officials would abruptly find themselves paraded in front of a mob and forced to bend down, arms twisted painfully behind their backs, as their colleagues, friends, children and even spouses stepped up to denounce them as spies, counterrevolutionaries or ''stinking'' reactionaries. Those struggle sessions subsided after 1976 but left many people with an enduring fear of political campaigns and mob rule. Perhaps it is not surprising that Gao is drawn to Taoist recluses in the mountains"

Sunday, September 6, 2015


Written at a time when the Shia resistance was consolidating the political landscape and already making Iraq a major Iranian sphere of influence came the military resistance led by Muqtada Al-Sadr which set US forces into a retreat , thus making US planners realise the Military domination of Iraq was already in an unstoppable countdown.

The reason of success for the Shia was that they formed an alternative Government first and then the object of the Political and military resistance was to defeat the Occupation and put the Alternative Government in place.

Patrick Coburn was the first writer of a Book about the young leader Muqtada , this makes it a bit of a , albeit an informed one , rushed job on a fast moving and evolving scene. This review by James Denselow points out some of the weaker construction of the Book.
 "Patrick Cockburn's friend and colleague Robert Fisk once wrote that he saw journalism as `writing the first draft of history'. On the sleeve of Cockburn's latest book on Iraq it states that `this is the first book about Muqtada al-Sadr, the most important political figure in post-occupation Iraq'. The question that arises is did Cockburn have enough material to write a biography of al-Sadr? Or did the gap in knowledge and frenzy in politics surrounding the Iraqi cleric prompt the publishers into pushing Cockburn into writing a first draft instead?

Reading the book one discovers that it is indeed the later. But Cockburn knows Iraq well enough to write a decent background account of the rise of Shia in Iraq that will appeal to those who are unsatisfied with the US official rendering of Muqtada as little more than a renegade. It reads as a coherent narrative heavily laced with journalistic anecdotal evidence to provide a very readable background to one of the `new Iraq's' new politician's.

The difficulty is access to Muqtada himself. Cockburn's experience in the first chapter, where he just manages to avoid death at the hands of the Sadrists, highlights the danger in getting close to him. So despite reading an entire book nominally about him, the reader is still left wondering who the man behind the evolving myth actually is.

Cockburn covers a lot of ground very quickly in the book. He starts with a twelve page introduction to `the Shi'a of Iraq' and races on through the Iran-Iraq War, the subsequent Shia uprising and the various trials and tribulations of Muqtada's family as they walk the deadly tightrope of the Saddam era. The cornerstone of Cockburn's book is to connect the history of the Shia with its relevance today - which is an implicit critique of those who would enter Iraq from an ahistorical perspective. At one point he explains how post-invasion the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani banned chess. Why? because `Yazid was playing chess in his palace in Damascus when the head of Imam Hussein was brought to him' (p.26).

The key focus is on the rise of Muqtada. Cockburn explains his emergence as the response to a vacuum created by an ill-conceived and unimaginative US invasion. The collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime and the inability of the US to replace it allowed the Shia clergy and its mosques, repressed for so long under Saddam, to spring up and take control of vast swathes of local politics. It was the failures of the invasion plan, combined with earlier failures in the West's policy towards Iraq, that set the scene for an environment into which Muqtada would emerge. Cockburn cites the mass impoverishment of Iraqis as an essential precondition for the `swift rise of Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr in the early 1990s and his son Muqtada after 2003' (p.107).

Cockburn's short chapters covering lengthy historical events argue that Muqtada was a natural and predictable consequence of the fall of Iraq. The US occupation of Iraq and the initial top-down `Coalition Provisional Authority' (CPA) run by Paul Bremer, could never accept this existence of a contesting authority figure. That Sadr's support was based on a grassroots legitimacy born from the split blood of his own family clashed with CPA's bunkered Green Zone mentality that somehow Washington staffers could build the new Iraq as they liked.

Cockburn is correct when he points out that "the Shia were not, after all, trying to break up Iraq, but get their fair share of power within it" (p.82). Ironically, considering that America considered Iraq's sovereign unity a matter of critical importance, the CPA supported the Iranian backed SCIRI and exiled based Dawa party over a homegrown Sadrist alliance. Muqtada even harnessed what was left of battered Iraqi nationalism and in 2005 offered support to the besieged insurgents in Fallujah.

There is little doubt about the importance of Muqtada al Sadr in the deeply fragmented political landscape of modern Iraq. Cockburn's work is a testimony to this importance, yet you feel that much more will and can be written on one of Iraq's most elusive figures."
Like a revolution in Iran , we find that the Al-Sadr senior leaders under Saddam the " Shia now possessed a clergy and religious organisation that was separate from the State.Potentially it could provide an alternative leadership for the Shia. The death of Al-Sadr Senior meant that the younger Al-Sadr could take this "organisation" in a society that had " no central government in many centuries...explains the strength of non-state agencies."

We also find that the massacre of the communists when Saddam came to power was also accompanied to the slaughter of shias in government and civil service positions whilst the nationalisation of the Baathist regime took business away from shias and into mainly sunni led government.

In this interview Patrick Coburn gives more insight into Muqtada and Iraqi affairs before the pullout.

This article from Counterpunch sees Coburn giving his assessement on the retirement from politics by Al-Sadr in 2014

Saturday, September 5, 2015


Rupert Thomson claims in an Interview when he looks back at his body of work he cant even remember writing some of his Books , which tallies with my recollection of reading this Book , i know i did but i cant remember doing so or even recall any meaningful part of it.
I wonder if this is a reflection of the type of Books he writes or if he has sublimely taken the reader into the mind of a Character himself that cannot remember his life and experiences.
In this context this review by Ryan Chapman in Goodreads may be worth a mention in full , though it has to be said to be it is a minority opinion.

"I'd heard such good things about Rupert Thompson. I might try another book down the road, but this one was uniquely terrible, I couldn't even finish it. From the unoriginal, solipsistic narrator to the meandering pace and dearth of any suspense or momentum, I couldn't help but think of the author sitting down every day and arbitrarily picking something new for his protagonist to do. ("Today I'll have him order a pastry!" ... "Today he should meet yet another person who's unexplainably friendly to him even though he's a dick toward everyone!")

If anything, this reminded me of Haruki Murakami, where the entire world happens to the male protagonist, in which he expends minimal effort to woo women, make friends, and embroil himself in vague mysteries. I can only take so many books with bored, listless middle-class guys (who somehow don't need to work a day job) narrating to the reader their peregrinations around the city.

I'm sure the myriad strands of the plot come together, but the central conceit is so weak I couldn't bring myself to care. Also, there are dozens of gaps in logic regarding when Blom can or cannot see (the rules Thompson creates for this only seem to apply when he doesn't feel like describing anything visual). An apt title for the book, indeed."
In this interview Rupert describes a later Book and some of his processes.Including a very profound definition that Novels can teach compassion by making one life on another person or society.

Friday, September 4, 2015


One of the best pieces of sports reportage stems from an original and established genre of deep penetrating psychological workings devised by a generation of writers of which Mailer was a major founding contributor.

"D’Amato the boxing trainer and Doctorow the novelist share the same conception of professionalism, and both believe Mailer meets it. D’Amato, who describes Mailer as “someone who was curious not only about boxing but also about people’s minds,”"
In the Book Mailer becomes an almost spectral presence in a tight scene that comes close to a prose fly on the wall type treatise on the moods , feelings and sensory biography of the participants.

As the reviews point out this style can be seen as the Author giving himself the centre stage as much as the participants , but they miss the point that in order to "be with them" he has to adopt the persona of being and moved with them in very close physical and emotional ways.

The video below gives a brief reading from the Book by Alec Baldwin

Monday, August 31, 2015


Written just after the dramatics of the Cuban Missile Crisis this cynical yet homely satire investigates the absurdity of the ideologies of the scientific age which could yield to a mass wipeout now that Vonneguts world had acquired the technology to do just that.

Vonneguts style is to write as he would speak to his hometown audience which gives it a humourous immediacy.

This review gives a good overview of some of the themes of the Novel which are still appealing to the youth which was born many decades after the Book came out

But last word goes to Kurt Vonnegut himself giving the background of the Novel and what the times meant to his generation in which Technology and Concepts , as well as Human Leader had the ability to be Tyrants of the age.As he says at the 3min20secs mark "I was a great believer in Truth , scientific Truth , until Turth was dropped on Hiroshima."

Saturday, August 29, 2015


This work was published in 1949 and has a place in the positioning of Womans Issues on Womans terms from that time on.For that it deserves its status as a landmark Book that put Half of Humanity on the map of Social and Political Welfare.

You can get a brief overview of the structure of the Work in this link.

Some of the Scholarship is impressive in a way that makes one admire someone who has managed to produce a corpus almost single-handedly thus inspiring a whole generation of academic researchers to put meat and bones on a vast conception.

The high praise though has to be counter-balanced by quite fundamental flaws in structure and conclusions which , if this work was a building , would not get the necessary safety certificates to make it a viable place for habitation.

The first is in the cultural and colonial assumptions which make this work a very Euro-Centric vision with the implied theme that only Europe or the West has the answers and progress is to be judged in how Europeanised ( the more palatable euphemism being "Westernised") Non-European Societies can become.The very few Examples from Africa/Islamic World , mostly French Occupied Algeria are given a very negative , almost dismissive , short-shrift.Mostly her objections to Polygamy which she implies is very Common though it is quite rare in the Algerian/Muslim World.An odd objection to dismiss a whole religion and continent considering she was also involved in a "Morganistic" relationship at the time sharing the affections of Sartre with up to four Woman simultaneously.She also seems to have an almost pathologically negative attitude to the concept of Family on the sole evidence that she did not always get along with her Mother.Then there is the dearth of any examples from South America , Asia or even Slavic case studies which hardly make the Work conducive to establishing an Universal as opposed to a Highly Western European template for Womanhood.

Another major anomaly is her citing of quotes from Fiction Novels ( again mostly Western European ones) with the same weighting as one would give scientifically based academic peer reviewed case study analysis.A flaw that is entirely understandable as it is her Work that made this kind of detailed study of the field of gender issues whilst she could not turn to input that was not there before.Despite this valid consideration her methodology has to be seen as critically flawed in every sense of the word.

Her work has inspired many students and academics to delve into the issue of feminism and gender as this article by one of  the brightest , if one can comprehend what she is saying , is Judith Butler.

In the video below we have a lecture which clarifies , or not , the themes of the Book.

Ultimately Beauvoir asks the question of not what does it mean to be a Woman , but what does it mean to be a Western European Woman , which means the answer will only be as good as the question , which in this case cannot lead to a Universal Answer but only a template which will not be applicable to Non-European Cultures and Values , if  , indeed, the answer even matches the Questions to Europeans in todays Social and Employment Corporate marketplace.

Saturday, August 15, 2015


Written before apartheid was finally defeated in the late 80s/early 90s about an incredible individual who had won the Nobel Prize for Peace when it was still a credible trophy for genuine strugglers for peace and reconciliation, this book has a tense element of whether apartheid will ever be overcome in the lifetimes of Tutu and the Author herself.

This review captures the tensions of not knowing at the time quite well

"Du Boulay shares in the biography that Tutu proclaims with great faith that apartheid cannot stand forever, that God is on the side of justice and will prevail. However, Tutu must certainly have wondered at the time if such change would come in his lifetime."
The comment in the Amazon entry for the Book by Ellie Gunderson is well worth reading.

 What I enjoyed most about Shirley DuBoulay's biography of Desmond Tutu was its faithfulness to Tutu's true personality and character, both the positive and the negative characteristics. For example, DuBoulay is willing to admit that Tutu's calling to the priesthood was not especially strong at first; however, by the time he began life as a priest, everyone saw that he had a unique ability to connect to all different types of people. More than most, he was able to place himself in another person's shoes, and constantly tended to his parishioners' every need. DuBoulay also admitted that Tutu was irresponsible with money, and was overly sensitive in that he allowed his feelings to be hurt easily.

On page 102 Tutu convincingly state " Justice is the only basis of true order" based on the spirit , on page 114 of "UBUNTU - the African quality of being a person that is deeper than being a mere Human , but a Spiritual Being also."

In the lecture below Tutu Reconciling Love and how this process was applied to the aftermath of uniting South Africa after the fall of apartheid , he also gives a deeper explanation of Ubuntu from the 24min 40 secs mark.

Friday, August 14, 2015


This is the best introduction and east access primer to the context and conduct , as well as historical perspective , of the Spanish Civil War.A concise yet detailed study within a very readable and manageable book of less than four hundred pages.Especially valuable is the essay bibliography to the many thousands of sources , archives , commentaries and books on the war throughout the decades to the present allowing the reader to choose which parts of the conflict they wish to investigate in a deeper way.An outstanding work by the best academic authorities on the War and its aftermath.

As a historian Preston readily admits he is partial on the side of the victims and oppressed against the powerful and the architects of terror.A viewpoint and stance that gives his work more urgency and credibility than would someone trying for a balance that can ultimately get so out of hand that the historian gives the same voice to both , in the case of the Holocaust, to the victims as well as the lighters of the ovens which can lead to a gross distortion of history and its lessons for our and future times.

On page 25 describes some of the errors of the democratically elected Socialist Government is dealing with the earlier tensions prior to the war "Moreover, the PSOE was hobbled by its reliance on a rigid "Dogmatic" and simplistic faith in French marxism , and on page 47 "The Government did not react strongly enough to a spate of Church burning"

This was due to in large measure of the Government not being able to muster enough resources to counter the anarchistic actions of anarchists , actions that put up the back of the traditional forces and reduced the credibility of the Government to control the law and order situation and command its mandate to govern for all of Spanish Society.This meant that , by page 57 we have "Southern Owners had declared War on the republican government by refusing to plant crops .....with land reform in the air the landowners did not feel disposed to invest in their land ", hence blocking land reform on the pretext of defending Church and "traditional" country values from the attacks of Communists.This in turn led to , on page 59 "Republican imprudence meant the catholic practice was attacked rather than block politics doctrine , thereby alienating many ordinary catholics with a republican disposition."

On page 244 we find "The Communist Party was pushed from relative obscurity to the arbiter of Republican Politics due to Soviet aid passing through its channel". In the perverted sectarian politics of the hard left the Communists and Anarchists spent more resources and treasure trying to liquidate each other than trying to preserve the integrity of the Socialist war effort.This was mainly because Stalin was playing a delicate game of trying to appease the Western Powers , placating the Fascists and using exporting his anti-Trotsky campaign beyond Soviet borders knowing full well that the Soviet Union would not be ready to fight a war with any of these powers for a few years yet.

Preston rightly identifies the War as the first battles of the 2nd WW , where fascism tested the will of the International Community and its commitment to democracy and found the confidence , as in many cases support , to continue the aggression into the International Theatre in the 40s.

The Spanish People should have received the support of the International Order , instead they were the victims of a bloody Fascist filling in a sandwich between capitalism and communism.

Monday, June 8, 2015


Picasso made over 28,000 pieces of art in his time ranging from the most famous wall length paintings to minute working of sculpture and serenely simple manipulation of everyday objects.

This easy to access primer is an excellent way to introduce the artist and the work to young and old alike , with a simple format of pictures and apt and illuminating descriptions.

The example below is a favourite "icon" showing how he was a master of the simple as well as the grand.

Sunday, June 7, 2015


On the Amazon reviews page this Book attracts either 5 Stars or 1 Star , nothing inbetween suggesting the ones with the 1 star review have what Truthseeker points out "Yet again a reviewer ignores the evidence in order to smear what I presume are ideological opponents. Sigh. As to negativity - is what the authors say untrue? No evidence of that from your review.".

The video below gives an indication of the findings of the authors into this exposure of a very murky world that seems to have one thing in common - the undermining of democracy both at home and abroad

The ethos of the relationship is described on page 344-45 " some countries want to get things done which a gentleman would not touch , they turn to the one who gives services , who is prepared to serve his master and dance for him ; he is not only willing to fulfill any of the wishes , but also enjoys the fact and is proud of it....he makes an ideology of his servitude and calls it "realpolitik"".

This review from Simon Wood in Goodreads is worth quoting in full.


Andrew and Leslie Cockburns 1991 book on Israels relations with the C.I.A is still a valuable book with regard to the reality of the Israeli States involvement in the world at large.

It details a diverse range of issues from the arms deals to Iran which continued seamlessly from the Shah to the Ayatolah, Israeli involvement with the right wing dictatorships of Central America, its collaboration with apartheid era South Africa on weapons programmes (nuclear and conventional), its kidnapping and murder operations overseas aswell as spying and industrial espionage in the United States.

Even for the most hardened cynic of Israeli actions (based on a study of reality not prejudice) will be astonished at the sheer opportunism and sickening character of Israeli actions including arms sales and training to Columbian drug cartels. The nature of the Israeli Arms industry is curtly summed up in the statement of an industry executive bemoaning the "threat of peace" and the end of the murderous wars of Central America.

Other issues involve the Israelis contempt for the sovereignty of other nations - witness the ham fisted murder of a Norwegian waiter of Morrocan origins in front of his pregnant girlfriend and the abduction of the courageous Israeli whistle blower Vanunu from Italy.

There is no limit to the opportunism of the Israeli establishment, "Is it good for Israelis?" seems to be the only measure - morals, ethics are just not in the picture. Even their closest allies in the U.S. are treated with contempt from time to time for instance the Israelis had intelligence relating to the truck bombing of U.S. personnel in Lebanon in 1983 but didnt pass it on.

One looks forward to the day the Israelis are put in their place, ie. within the 1967 borders; perhaps then reparations can be made (and paid) to the victims of their vicious and violent actions.

This book should be essential to anyone interested in the real facts about Israels foreign and covert policies, it is well sourced and includes interesting interviews with many of the figures involved, though perhaps not the best read if you are not familiar with modern Middle Eastern history and Israeli relations with the U.S"

Saturday, June 6, 2015


Bob Woodward come to prominence during the Watergate period as a champion journalist in the famous dictum of Amira Hass of " identifying and challenging the centres of power".
Rather sadly this Book tracks the demise of the Woodward of the 70s to the modern style dupe of the "embedded journalist" syndrome that has made them ciphers to the narrative of power conditioning public opinion to the agenda of the power blocks in the decision process of superpower interests.

In this Book we have the selling of journalists demanding accountability for the price of "inside" access , a transaction that only benefits the power-interests and not the side of checks and balance of accountability to the informed electorate.

A chilling example of this turnaround of the transaction of the Woodward challenging Nixon Administration to being an embedded cipher for the Bush Administration is when he asks Rumsfeld if he should rewind the tape recorder to erase a comment that may be deemed inappropriate.

What we get is an interesting "live" dialogue of court interests and intrigues which registers high in dramatic interests and entertainment but little in  impartial judgement and challenge of decision making circumventing public checks and balances which is fundamental to the American system of government decision-making.We are rewarded by a Fly-On-The -Wall Documentary story without the "Wall" itself being the main centre of the inner essence of the story.

The video below has a long interview with Woodward about the Bush process of decision making.

An interesting factor is the exposure of the "Pentagon" wing with the Office of the Vice-President which become an inner sanctum that made and ran policy that should , if everything is running properly , be run by the State Department and the President.In this respect it is highly revealing how little informed and briefed Colin Powell is , sometimes much less than Woodward himself , in matters when his input as Secretary Of State and onetime top Soldier of the US would have been vital as well as constitutional in getting the balance of a military and civilian approach to the challenge of 9/11.

This video below gives an example of just how much from the heady heights of Watergate his journalistic standards have been warped , in which he fails to detect any "lie" despite admitting to being 15 months in the company of the Bush and the drive to War on Iraq.

Thursday, June 4, 2015


In this second volume on the Life and Works of Matisse , Spurling covers the years after 1908 covering the First World War  , the bizarre relationship with the owner and commissioner of many of his works Barnes , the spin partnership between Gertrude Stein and Picasso which sought to undermine Matisse at the expense of their legacy as well as the illness that prevented Matisse from painting for many years , instead giving him the a second talent with Art with Paper cut-outs.

 Mr.Barnes was an eccentric who only allowed a few people per annum to see the collection , and never critics or photographers which meant those works of Matisse where lost to the public attention for several decades , recently the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia has opened the Collection to the Public , containing the largest collection of Renoir , Matisse and Picasso works under one roof.

On page 219 we find Matisse relating his Artistic essence " you must create , between yourselves and your object , a stronger and stronger bond...always remembering this truth , that the design is not to be found in the model but in ourselves.This sort of operation cannot be forced , because it requires on our part ( as well as intelligence) something that comes from the depths of our soul : emotion".

The video below is a short documentary which examines Matisse birthplace , inspirations and legacy to modern thinking.