Reviews By Me
How to be an Animal
Melanie Challenger, researcher and environmental philosopher, is the author of On Extinction: How we Became Estranged from Nature. Now she has written a second book on the subject of humankind’s relationship with nature. This book, How to be Animal, is in a way an exploration of what social distancing has meant for the animal kingdom. Psychologically, socially and even biologically we have gradually seen ourselves as more and more separate from other animals: a species apart and deserving of special consideration. There is a whole legacy within us, which is by definition animal. We are, in fact, living ‘inside a paradox’ in the sense that ‘it’s so blindly obvious that we’re animals and yet some part of us doesn’t believe it’. This is because for centuries we have seen ourselves as the chosen ones among the rest of creation. We have anchored these myths into the bedrock of religion right from the start and they are hard to pick apart. How to be Animal probes deep into these questions and gives us the science behind the answers. We need that science if we are to turn the page on our own arrogance and replace it with something more enduring.
A Tall History of Sugar
A Tall History of Sugar transports you to warm, colourful Jamaica, both in content and in style. It’s an antidote to depression, a book to escape with. Replete with lyricism on every page, it tells the story of Moshe Fisher, a boy born neither black nor white but blue. Moshe’s story is narrated by the girl who tries to protect him from the gaze of other people, which, significantly, is also coloured by his skin. This is a subtle book about racism in a post-colonial world, but it is also a beautiful, piercingly imaginative tale about transcendent love. The appearance of Moshe is a brilliant trope; a man with no definable skin colour cannot be a hostage to his history, but still he is.. …’ READ THE FULL.
Tragedy, The Greeks & Us
Tragedy, the Greeks and Us, by Simon Critchley, is a thought provoking, academic book about all that we have taken from Ancient Greek culture concerning our understanding of tragedy, and all that we have either forgotten, or never understood. The quote that appears at the front of the book says it all. We have cultivated ourselves on the foundations of Ancient Greek culture and civilisation, but we are, in the end, fakes unless we dig deeper and really get to grips with the particular lessons we could take away from tragedy, because first and foremost, tragedy is not really about disaster or a fall; it is about fate and what we do with it….. READ THE FULL REVIEW.
What kind of man kills his own family?’
A haunting novel set in the wild Outer Hebrides of Scotland
You can’t really read Our Fathers by Rebecca Wait and come away unscathed. This is one of those understated books that really gets under your skin. At first sight, it looks like a dark book; the cover is spectacular. Forebodingly dark and moody, it conjures up the sentiment of the novel. Being a story about a man who murders his family in cold blood, this is not a bedtime story or a jolly holiday ramble. But it is a book worth reading…How can Tommy, the child who survives, ever find a way of living with the past? That is the question this book asks. The answer is, he can’t, not really. But even as he replays the memory of that dreadful day and the few days that preceded it, the trauma doesn’t let him see it right. There is more than one secret in this tale and memory, so it seems, is quite deceptive. The past is a story we tell ourselves, says the narrator. Sooner or later you have to decide what kind of tale you want to hear, or what version of the story you can live with..
The Goodness Paradox
In the middle of the eighteenth century, a group of ‘wild children’ was discovered roaming the woodlands of Europe (and by wild I mean not Ibiza party wild, which would barely raise an eyebrow, but ‘savagely’ wild in the Tarzan sense). The discovery fuelled a debate already in progress about how people had evolved. At the heart of this debate was the ‘nature/nurture’ question: were we born with certain characteristics, which defined us as a species, or could we be conditioned by environment? The legend of Tarzan was lapped up by Victorians, providing us with one of the best-loved characters of popular fiction and a gut busting calling card. Were we innately wild or tame, savage or civilised, good or evil? READ THE FULL REVIEW.
How Democracy Ends
Democratic politics,’ says Author David Runciman “has become an elaborate show. Mature, Western democracy is over the hill”. Mr Runciman is Professor of Politics at Cambridge and so he must be right. It is in fact hard to read this book without being persuaded that we are on the brink of democratic collapse. How weary a word has democracy actually become, and why is it over the hill?
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