Category: Good causes


THE OVERSTORY by Richard Powers (W.W. Norton, 2018)

This great society is going to smash;
They cannot fool us with how fast they go,
How much they cost each other and the gods.
A culture is no better than its woods.

W.H. Auden – Bucolics Part II – Woods (1953)

51-zvpnlixl._sy291_bo1204203200_ql40_The pitch for this remarkable novel, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction,  is that it follows the converging stories of nine people who are transformed by the emergence of tree consciousness.

In the first section called ‘Roots’ there are separate back stories, more like fables, which introduce the reader to these diverse characters. The following three sections – Trunk, Crown & Seeds – show how these lives interconnect.

Significantly, none of them start out as political activists but each, for different reasons, feel moved to act out of a sense of moral outrage over the way our eco-systems have been, and are still being, destroyed for the sake of economic gain.

The book has 9 humans and over 300 named trees; the latter are in many ways the real protagonists. Powers wants us to appreciate the interdependence between humanity and the inanimate world. In an interview at Shakespeare & Company bookshop in Paris, he poses the question: “What if the living world sets patterns that we have to accommodate?” Continue reading

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WIDOWS directed by Steve McQueen (UK,USA 2018)

widows_282018_movie_poster29There are many reasons why the best TV series are more rewarding and creative than most current movies and Steve McQueen’s latest feature film illustrates why.

There’s something deeply unsatisfying and frustrating about seeing a complex, multi-layered plot condensed into just over two hours. A story divided into one hour episodes can take its time building nuanced characters and the twists, when they come, they don’t feel forced or rushed.

‘Widows’ is based on Lynda La Plante’s ITV series broadcast in the UK in the early 1980s. La Plante had previously written the peerless ‘Prime Suspect’ starring Helen Mirren which proved that ball-breaking women make compelling protagonists. Continue reading

doughnut book.jpgIn this important book, English economist Kate Raworth sets out an optimistic, many would say idealistic, vision of a new global economy that creates a thriving balance thanks to its distributive and regenerative design.

She is searching for the “sweet spot for humanity” arguing convincingly that the time is ripe for a radical rethink of the profit-driven model that runs, and ruins, too many lives stating that “now is a great moment for unlearning and relearning the fundamentals of economics”.

Given the way the world is rapidly spiraling out of control, it is sadly a case of now or never: “Ours is the first generation to properly understand the damage we have been doing to our planetary household, and probably the last generation with the chance to do something transformative about it”. Continue reading

CAROL directed by Todd Haynes (USA, 2015)

carol_film_posterI borrowed this film from my local lending library in Cesena, Italy. This excellent ‘mediateca’,  somewhat anachronistically, continues to maintain a healthy stock of old and new DVDs.

In a card inside the case of more recent acquisitions you are invited to write what you think of the movie: “Lascia un commento, potresti convincere qulache indeciso” (Leave a comment – it may convince others who are undecided).

For Carol, there is just one review which (translated from Italian) states that it is “the story of an upper class woman who destroys the life of her husband and, not content with this, also ruins the life of a poor young working woman. All this in the name of a presumed sexual liberation. A film of homosexual propaganda”.

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The offending review of ‘Carol’.

This blinkered and spiteful reading of Todd Haynes’ elegant and intelligent movie illustrates that, despite some encouraging advances in LGBT rights, this is no time for complacency. Continue reading

EX LIBRIS: THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY a film by Frederick Wiseman (USA, 2017)ex_libris_e28093_the_new_york_public_library

Zadie Smith expressed it well when in ‘North-west London Blues, when she wrote that: “Well-run libraries are filled with people because what a good library offers cannot be easily found elsewhere: an indoor public space in which you do not have to buy something to stay”.

Appropriately enough, this essay was published in the New York Review of Books for what applies to the London suburbs applies equally to the bustling metropolis of NYC.

This is more than clear from Frederick Wiseman’s painstakingly epic documentary film which presents many of the Big Apple’s library branches and buildings as beacons of anti-capitalist hope. Although not overtly political, it’s hard to miss the fact that these resources represent the polar opposite of everything Trump and his minions stand for. Continue reading

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