Tuesday 31 March 2020

What I've Been Reading Recently

Three months since the last one of these. Can you Adam and Eve it? Me neither, so here's what I've got through since the beginning if this here year.

Royals by Emma Forrest
Cibola Burn by James SA Corey
Stolen by Grace Blakeley
The Atrocity Exhibition by JG Ballard
Radical Thought in Italy edited by Poalo Virno and Michael Hardt
The Only Story by Julian Barnes
Fully Automated Luxury Communism by Aaron Bastani
The Free Economy and the Strong State by Andrew Gamble
The Age of Capital by Eric Hobsbawm
Lie With Me by Philippe Besson
Corbynism from Below edited by Mark Perryman
Consent by Leo Benedictis
The Card by Arnold Bennett
Capitalism Divided? by Geoffrey Ingham
Other People's Politics by JA Smith
The History Man by Malcolm Bradbury
The Street by Bernadine Bishop
HHhH by Laurent Benet
Politics and the Pound by Philip Stephens
Tracer by Rob Bufford
A History of Conservative Politics, 1900-1996 by John Charmley
Legion by William Peter Blatty
Let Us Face the Future Again by Wes Streeting
The Strange Death of Tory England by Geoffrey Wheatcroft
Brief Lives by Anita Brookner

Eagle-eyed viewers will note this is the second time Geoffrey Wheatcroft's waspish account of the declining fortunes of the Tories (prior to 2005) has appeared on this list. Book writing duties necessitated a reread, which you could hardly describe as a chore - it comes highly recommended, even if the author spends the entire book mourning the passing of the old, patrician governing class. The other book of note is Geoffrey Ingham's polemic against the fractions of capital argument you often find in Marxist accounts of British capitalism (guilty as charged). Instead he makes the case that this underestimates and misrecognises the role of the City both in terms of why it is prioritised by the British state, how it has configured the class structure, and why industry has always been a subordinate sector. Certainly much pause for thought here which has led me to reevaluate and rethink the Tory party's relationship to and with capital.

On the novels front Malcolm Bradbury's 1975 classic of a swinging, saucy, and utterly unscrupulous sociologist was good fun - though obviously a million miles away from the bureaucracy-bound, emotional labouring and homeworking exponents of the discipline in 2020. Arnold Bennett's The Card is considered one of the better novels from Stoke's best-known contributor to literary fiction. I suppose it is mildly entertaining, but the capers involved are pretty twee. And lastly, shout out to Anita Brookner's Brief Lives. This is an intense character study of an old woman brooding on her failed friendships and relationships, and is shot through with regret for a life that has passed her by. If you need a dose of well written and compelling misery, this is the book for you.

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1 comment:

Ken Burnett said...

Your account of The History Man echoes the pretty funny TV ve rsion. Where both are misleading is that for the first part of the book, at least as far as I recall, he works ferociously hard in his miserable rented accommodation. His more entertaining antics rests on this enormous energy.
At the time, I have up trying to explain to people that actua!ly, university sociology departments were not actually like that, and would claim,
"Yes, it's really accurate. You should go."