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What are we reading? September 12, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

As Summer draws to an end any thoughts on books we are reading or have read over the last month or so? I’ve been reading Bombs, Bullets and the Border ~ Policing Ireland’s Frontier: Irish Security Policy, 1969–1978 by Patrick Mulroe and very very interesting it is too. I’ve a few thoughts on what it discusses which I’ll write up later in the month.


1. gendjinn - September 12, 2017

No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes by Anand Gopal will absolutely break your heart and closes with: “The United States is now losing a war to a group that has already surrendered. That is not easy to do.”

The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century by Walter Scheidel. Should have had a subtitle: We are totes fooked!


2. Michael Carley - September 12, 2017

Just finished Marshall Berman’s All That Is Solid Melts Into Air (great, worth rereading); now reading the second of Elena Ferrante’s Naples novels.


jc - September 12, 2017

Angela Nagle’s “Kill all Normies” is fascinating on repulsive aspects of online culture. Helena Sheehan’s “The Rise and Fall of Syriza” is interesting (especially comparisons to Ireland), but more self-regarding memoir than political analysis. Sally Rooney’s “Conversations with Friends” is a very entertaining novel of manners, including some excruciatingly accurate political chatter among right-on Dublin bourgeois. Extra points for including a random swipe at the Irish Labour Party.


alanmyler - September 12, 2017

I really liked the Syriza Wave, it’s very personal and the deep sense of disappointment with the betrayal of trust and hope comes across very strongly. It’s also worth reading Kevin Ovendens book on Syriza if you haven’t already.

Myself, over the summer I read some fiction which is unusual enough for me. 1984 which I thought was just as good as when I first read it as a teenager many decades ago. East of Eden which I struggled with but eventually finished. Not great, or not my cup of more likely. The Master and Margarita which I really just didn’t get. Subsequently I’ve been told it’s hilarious but the jokes just got lost in translation. So after that I went back to non fiction and read Vincent Cronin’s two part history of the Italian Renaissance (actually I haven’t finished the one on Florence yet). It’s not a period I knew much about before now so it’s been very educational getting an understanding of the transition out of feudalism etc. He’s not a Marxist but the books do take a somewhat materialist approach. One other really good book read earlier in the summer was Red Love which is a multi generational history of family life in the DDR.

Not sure what’s up next. Auto biographies of Willy Brandt and Helmet Schmidt perhaps, from the Oxfam bookshop on Parliament St.


WorldbyStorm - September 13, 2017

They’re two very interesting characters Brandt and Schmidt. Those Oxfam bookshops are great.


alanmyler - September 13, 2017

Yeah, I’d never realised Oxfam had a bookshop, or are there others too?

Those autobiographies should keep me going to Christmas I’d say!


3. Aengus Millen - September 12, 2017

I finished up NK Jemisin’s broken earth series and that was good (she has the hugo’s to back it up). I’ve been reading Doroth Dunnett’s Lymond Series off and on as well.

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4. Dr. X - September 12, 2017

Don’t bother with Jonathan Lethem’s Dissident Gardens. Published a few years back, it purports to be a multi-generational saga of the New York radical left. In reality it is a collection of snide incompetences, written by a novelist who thinks he can safely sneer at his characters, who are mostly better people than he is.

The chapter concerning the county Antrim ballad singer who marries the daughter of Jewish CP stalwart Rose Zimmer is especially irritating. He cannot have bothered his hole to do even the most basic research: “Tommy Gogan”, for example, is not a name I would associate with the northern Protestant community, from which this character is supposed to hail. Nor have Northern Protestants ever, to my knowledge, applied the n-word to members of the Catholic community.

As for the German Jewish intellectual who flees Hitler to New York only to return to the GDR and become an apologist for the Luftwaffe (in the GDR, if you can believe that!), the least said the better.

Nor are these the only horrors perpetrated by this “Lethem” person.


5. fergal - September 12, 2017

Ernie O Malley’s account of the Tan war- On another man’s wound- stunning
Italo Calvino- If on a winter’s night a traveller’- quirky but enjoyable
Stefan Zweig- The Chessplayer- short but excellent
Arundhati Roy-The Ministry of Utmost Happiness- cracking read


6. Jim Monaghan - September 12, 2017

Leaving Berlin (2014) by https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Kanon From the bestselling author of Istanbul Passage—called a “fast-moving thinking man’s thriller” by The Wall Street Journal—comes a sweeping, atmospheric novel of postwar East Berlin, a city caught between political idealism and the harsh realities of Soviet occupation.
Very good. Review here https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/29/books/review/joseph-kanons-leaving-berlin.html
It gets the paranoia very well. And it compares the mirror images of McCarthyite paranoia with the Stalinist one.


7. roddy - September 12, 2017

Read O’Malleys “on another man’s wound” decades ago but found it hard going.Similarly Barry’s “guerilla days in Ireland” is a hard slog due to far too much detail.Read Dan Breen’s “my fight for Irish freedom” when I was aged ten and many times since.Its still the best of the Tan war books.


8. Dr. X - September 12, 2017

You want a good novel, by the way? Try one of Paul Beatty’s comic-but-deadly-serious novels of the contemporary African-American experience, such as The White Boy Shuffle, or Slumberland.

The man is a real literary genius, one of those people who took a long hard look at the English language and thought to themselves “right, let’s see how fast and far this thing can go”.


9. Starkadder - September 12, 2017

My mother used to have a copy of MFFIF when she was young and she regularly read the book. But she gave her copy to a cousin and never saw it again.

The British Library are re-publishing classic UK mystery novels in attractive editions. Two titles of particular interest to left-wing readers would two titles by noted British socialist writers:

“Death of an Airman” by Christopher St. John Sprigg AKA
Christopher Caudwell

“Verdict of Twelve” by Raymond Postgate



10. Polly. - September 12, 2017

Michela Wrong ‘Borderlines’, fiction about presenting an African country’s border dispute in the Hague. A ripping yarn so far.


Dr. X - September 13, 2017

She defriended me on Facebook after I criticised her remarks about Corbyn. . . but her non-fiction books on Eritrea and DRC were excellent, so her novel might be good too. . .


11. Polly. - September 12, 2017

Dr X I agree with you about ‘Dissident Gardens’ but, re Paul Beatty, was not as wildly impressed by ‘The Sellout’ as everyone told me to be. Good, original … not as life-changing as promised. Are his others different and better?


Dr. X - September 13, 2017

I still haven’t read the Sellout . . . but I have read Slumberland and that’s very good.


12. Dr. Nightdub - September 12, 2017

Over the summer, I read Michael McLaverty’s “Call My Brother Back”, probably the only work of fiction set during Pogrom-era Belfast. Much of it is incredibly lyrical, I could imagine Van Morrison reading and re-reading it a lot prior to writing “Coney Island.”

Currently reading McLaverty’s other novel “Lost Fields”, which is set in 1930s Belfast. It’s up there with the best of Hans Fallada in terms of capturing the gritty atmosphere of the time it portrays – definitely a book that demands a black-and-white photo for the cover, not colour.

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13. EWI - September 13, 2017

‘Forth the Banners’ – William O’Brien’s autobiography.

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14. Gerryboy - September 13, 2017

I borrowed Lee Dunne’s autobiography No Time for Innocence, from the library, beginning with unpleasant family life in Mountpleasant Mansions (flats, thankfully demolished) at Ranelagh. I’m continuing to read on to find out how he was able eventually to overcome the cultural problems of being born into a poverty trap and emerge as a talented writer of fiction and nonfiction.

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15. yourcousin - September 14, 2017

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
Five Days at Memorial, very interesting book on post Katrina at a N.O. Hospital.
Last Old Place: A Search Through Portugal, the author wrote one of my favorite books on pheasant hunting.
A Trip to Echo Springs: On Writers and Drinking.


16. sonofstan - October 22, 2017

Uneasy Sunday moring reading: just finishing Unthought by N.Katherine Hayles. It’s not as synthetically brilliant as her ‘How We Became Posthuman’ but full of nuggets nonetheless. Her basic thesis is about distributed cognition – the idea that conscious thought has never been more than epiphenomenal on a whole range of first embodied and then technological -in the widest – sense structures. The bit that really had my naturally dystopian imagination all fired up was when she writes about High Frequency Trading and how the market has effectively become something beyond human understanding to the point where the only way the NYSE can stop a flash crash is to turn it off and then on again. The creation of value trains that have lost all connection either with value as we understand according to labour theory or any other ‘human’ economic index, and the sheer speed of transactions that means a 5 second crash can take 4 months to unravel is eye-opening. It’s one of those ‘it’s a lot worse than you think’ moments.

The two insights, probably familiar to the more science-y amongst you, that caught my attention were, firstly, the correction to the view that evolution favours the fittest: it doesn’t, it favours the entity best adapted to local conditions at the time – which may become redundant quite soon, but in the meantime, the mutation best adapted to the long term has been squeezed out. Secondly, the thought that consciousness may, in the end, turn out to be a cul de sac: we imagine that AI will come into its own when it becomes conscious, but, in fact, consciousness is way too slow for the sort of systems we design machines for, and, as long as they can ‘deep learn’ there is no value to them developing self- conscoiusness.

The conclusion from this with regard to HFTs is that the interests of human flourishing in the long-term are compromised by the short-termism of the market instruments, but the logic of their ontology makes it impossible for them to take a long-view. That’s depressing, but more depressing is that there is no incentive for their supposed human masters to take a long view either, and even if they could, someone else would exploit the gap between what could and should be done in the interests of profit. Hayles herself seems to think, cotrary to evidence, that an ethical market might be constructed on the ruins of the current state of affairs: hard, with the evidence she presents, to agree.

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