what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

"With a little help from my Friends"

Friends of this blog have noticed my silence these past few months….and I’m grateful for signs that readers haven’t completely given up on me…
And it’s not just writing that I’ve found difficult – these past few months I’ve found that books have also become a big turn-off.
Perhaps it was the burst of reading and writing I did in the autumn for the blog series about the State and pubic management literature which finished me off - somehow I can’t take any more the dry, reified technicalities which most non-fiction work offers these days.
That, you may say, surely leaves the way open for novels – a genre I’ve admitted I rarely feel partial to (it’s 8 years since I last tried to give a sense of my favourites in that genre) And indeed I did reread with interest last month Alan Massie’s classic A Question of Loyalties and Bordeaux trilogy as well as some John le Carre novels last week……

It was perhaps a hopeful sign this week that some authors actually started to speak to me again…
-       Yanis Varoufakis’ And the Weak Suffer What They Must? – Europe, Austerity and the threat to global stability was the first voice to try to cajole me out of the lethargy which has been like a funeral pall these past few months. I had started the book last year, rediscovered it in a friend's house in April and found it a gripping read - effectively an update of his "Global Minotaur", I then moved onto the more autobiographical “Adults in the Room – my battle with Europe’s Deep Establishment” (2017) which is a "kiss and tell" about his 6 months' spell as Greek Minister of Finance (the phrase "Glasgow kiss" comes to mind!). The reviews contained in the 2 links give some of the essential background if you’re not already familiar with this controversial writer. I like the historical sweep and biographical tone of his writing but know that many find him a bit...well.... "showy"….I've attached at the bottom a short Varoufakis resource which includes important critiques of this latest book (and also Varoufakis' response to the more significant critiques)  
-       And a book about healthy eating and living which has been lying on my shelves for more than a decade also had the tone and voice I seem to need these days - and led me back to the little library I have of Michael Pollan’s superbly written books eg In Defence of Food and Food Rules – let alone his The Botany of Desire (2001) a foretaste of his latest book - How to Change your Mind – the new science of psychedelics

These days, I need writing which jolts me – not for its own sake but to help first identify minds which look at the world in original ways but which also understand that clear language is an essential tool for such originality…Recently deceased essayist Tom Wolfe was a favourite of mine ever since I first read his Mau Mauing the flak catchers in 1970 but the “creative writing” courses which have contaminated journalism in the past few decades have made me suspicious of even good journalists these days. James Meek remains an exception for his ability to reduce economic complexities to 5 or 10 thousand word essays – ditto Jonathan Meades for his forensic analyses of cultural issues.

Varoufakis and Pollan are, for me, all too rare examples of the sort of writing which is needed if authors are to stand out against the verbiage and noise which assails us everywhere these days………

The title is that of a famous Beatles song whose lyrics can be read here -https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/beatles/withalittlehelpfrommyfriends.html

A Varoufakis Resource

Reviews of "Adults in the Room"
http://www.cadtm.org/Yanis-Varoufakis-s-Account-of-the; an important serial critique of "Adults in the Room" from someone on the Syrizan Left. Its first part contains one of the few exposes of Varoufakis' basic negotiating strategy you will find in the English language
https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/06/yanis-varoufakis-latest-eurogroup-statement-keeps-greece-on-the-austerity-rack.html; an example of some of YV's doodles!

For those who want an independent "take" on the greek economy of the past decade or so, I strongly recommend this blog from a retired German banker whose marriage takes him frequently to Greece,,,,

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