Bait and Switch: The Futile Pursuit of the Corporate Dream

4 Dec. 2011

Barbara Ehrenreich’s dark and unquestionably depressing book exposes us to a world in which the human soul is repressed to a level that the great twentieth century monocrats could only have dreamed of. The irony is that she (and the book) suffer from the very fealty to a lief lord that the unfortunates with whom she mixes are also subject. For them it is utter subservience to the corporates, for her it is her publisher.

What is quite clear is that Ms Ehrenreich pitched one book but discovered another. Sadly, whether she was indeed pressured by her publisher or whether she just didn’t see the elephant in the room, the book she has produced is an odd hybrid of the original idea and the potentially much more interesting one that emerges. Continue reading “Bait and Switch: The Futile Pursuit of the Corporate Dream”

Why Is Sex Fun?: The Evolution Of Human Sexuality

by Jared Diamond

30 Aug. 2007

From it’s purile title to its rambling, boring arguments and hopeless lack of any kind of conclusion this book is a real shocker. If you can get past the title – which I imagine was just a cynical prank by the publishers – the questions raised in the opening chapter are indeed fascinating (what a pity they had to be posed by his dog). Why exactly, in evolutionery terms, has human sexuality evolved as it has? Unfortunately having read the book – or at least as much of it as I could possibly stand – I still don’t know or at least am none the wiser from some of the conclusions I could have drawn anyway from a rudimentary knowledge of evolution. Continue reading “Why Is Sex Fun?: The Evolution Of Human Sexuality”

The Rings Of Saturn

8 Nov. 2011

WG Sebald’s Rings of Saturn has a distinct whiff of the Emperors New Clothes. The eminent and seemingly irreproachable laureate at the height of his powers? This curious (curiously boring) travelogue, part Cobett’s Cottage Economy, part Bill Bryson’s Small Island (stripped of the humour) and part appalling self-indulgence just doesn’t convince. The ‘economical’ prose for which he receives so much praise, is simply lightweight prose. If you’re looking for truly impressive economy of style see almost anything by Orwell and, especially in this context ‘Wigan Pier’.

The trouble is, it seems to me, that Sebald embarked on this work not really convinced of what he was trying to achieve. That it is a self-indulgent piece is beyond dispute and not necessarily wrong for being so. The trouble is that what he indulges in sparks little interest and this where I fear that the Emperor’s New Clothes rises to meet us most forcefully. His cast of characters (Flaubert, Conrad and Swinburne inter alia) immediately gives the content an air of erudition. Sprinkle liberally with obscure references to long dead English eccentrics, recluse academics and disposed aristocracy and the formula is complete. The sages nod knowingly hardly daring to gainsay the great writer and thinker – those characters in the book we know are unquestionably noble; thus, by their juxtaposition, the ones we don’t must be. Really? One is left with the strong impression that here was an author under pressure to produce 60,000 words for his publisher and has served up what looks like a fine meal but is completely bereft of seasoning and thus flavour. Continue reading “The Rings Of Saturn”