Category: politics


goodreads 2018.jpgSince 2014, I have set and maintained a relatively modest reading target on ‘Goodreads‘ of 50 titles a year. I find this website invaluable at the end of year when it comes to reviewing the books I’ve read.

Being gifted, and being thoroughly absorbed by, Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘The Buried Giant’ led me to a reappraisal of the Nobel Prize Winner. Up until then, I’d read only ‘Remains Of The Day’ and hadn’t been particularly drawn to his other novels. The slow, deliberate pace and absence of colloquial language put me off but now this actually drew me in. Perhaps it’s an age thing. Ishiguro skillfully takes the reader deep into the mind and, above all, the memories of his characters. The only novel of his I haven’t read is ‘The Unconsoled’. Aside from the uncharacteristically messy ‘When We Were Orphans’, I rated all of his works very highly.

Getting fixated on this male author sabotaged my resolve to read more female writers this year. By the end of the year only 20 of the 50 were by women. Of these, my two favorite novels, one old and one new, were Sarah Waters’ quietly subversive ‘Fingersmith’ and Gail Honeyman’s funny/sad study of loneliness : ‘Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine’. Continue reading

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bollocksThis is not a political blog but I can’t let the year pass without posting at least one piece about Brexit.

This is a topic that has been discussed and debated to death but still nobody seems clear what the actual consequences will be.

My perspective is as an ex-pat living in Italy who, like many others living abroad, found the result of the vote for the UK to exit the EU both shocking and bewildering.

All of my friends in England voted to remain but one from Northern Ireland close the leave path. This was, for me, an unfathomable decision because she had always struck me as rational woman whose radical left-wing views seemed entirely at odds with self-righteous rightists in the leave camp. What follows is adapted from a reply to a letter she wrote explaining her choice.

Firstly, I’d like to say that I didn’t think I was being so blunt about your decision to vote remain in the referendum. Perhaps my shock/surprise came over stronger than I intended but I didn’t set out to offend and I apologize if this is the way it came over. I certainly didn’t want to suggest you were blindly following leaders. I’ve known you long enough to know, and admire, your free-spirited independence.

I think fear of mass immigration was made into a big issue (playing upon inherent racism) but I recognize that this was not the only factor and was clearly was not what swung the vote in your case.

I agree with you that frustration and powerlessness led to people flexing the limited political muscle they had. This is the nature of most referendums and you now see it happening in general elections too.

People are no longer dependent solely on state propaganda or the mainstream media for information. The distrust towards the so-called experts and out of touch politicians is now at a feverish level and anyone with an internet connection now has a voice. However, even in this climate, lies written on buses and cynical poster campaigns still contribute to influencing public opinion. Continue reading

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

BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley (1931)

huxleyIn his foreword, Aldous Huxley wrote that “A book about the future can interest us only of its proficies look as though they might conceivably come true”. Unfortunately for us, his nightmarish visions are increasingly coming to seem all too accurate.

Almost half a century before the birth of the world’s first ‘test tube’ baby, Huxley imagined how “newly unbottled babes” might be used to “improve on nature” by replacing the need for parents and what he provocatively defined as the “appalling dangers of family life”. In the ‘new world’ human genes are manipulated to produce docile and efficient workers and consumers.

The promise of sexual freedom and the encouragement of promiscuity serves as a compensation for the absence of political or economic liberty. Dumb movies known as ‘feelies’ have an additional sedating function while a legal drug called ‘soma’ is taken to avert any lingering gloomy thoughts. Continue reading

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