War for the Playstation generation?

It may seem a little churlish to want to assess Ernst Jünger’s classic First World War memoires ‘Storm of Steel’ nearly a hundred years after the fact but, as this is a book for all time, then it surely deserves continuous review, not least because, as I read it I began to wonder if it could actually be true. The fact Jünger rewrote the book at least four times during his lifetime, the more to suit a contemporary audience, must surely cast doubt on its veracity. But, in fairness, I don’t really doubt his account for no better reason than most of it (and I mean most) can be corroborated from official records and contemporary eye-witnesses. However, as the chapters roll by one has uneasy sense of unlikelihood of it all – Jünger as Captain Hurricane, Flash Thompson, Nick Fury and GI Joe; life imitating art had the art yet been created. Continue reading “War for the Playstation generation?”

Auschwitz. The Nazis & ‘The Final Solution’ by Laurence Rees.

Godwin’s Law states that ‘As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches’. True enough and epithet that neatly encapsulates our endless fascination with the man, Auschwitz, the Final Solution and the Holocaust. Rightly so, each generation needs a book like this for, whilst human nature remains unchanged, keeping the subject at the highest possible profile might just help change human behaviour. Continue reading “Auschwitz. The Nazis & ‘The Final Solution’ by Laurence Rees.”

Darkening the Enlightenment. Pankaj Mishra’s ‘The Age of Anger’

Pankaj Mishra’s excellent ‘state of the nations’ work actually contains nothing particularly new and is so much the better for it. The book publishers’ thirst for tasty new nuggets, hand-wringing confessions or outlandish new theories has the effect of distorting intellectual study as it is bent against the black hole of publisher’s profits. Freed from the hysteria of having to produce something shocking, Mishra is able to draw together the strands of 250 years of philosophical investigation to illuminate our current plight in a coherent, modulated and highly stimulating manner. Continue reading “Darkening the Enlightenment. Pankaj Mishra’s ‘The Age of Anger’”

Against Empathy: The case for Rational Compassion by Paul Bloom

July 20th 2017

Reading other customer reviews on Paul Bloom’s ‘Against Empathy’ broadly I have to agree with the consensus that his central point is both obvious and can be summed up in just a few lines. Indeed, as with books such as Robert I Simon’s ‘Bad Men Do What Good Men Think’, just reading the title could save you the cost of the book. But this is unfair. One of the measures of a good book for me is how much I find myself discussing it with my long-suffering wife over breakfast. By this standard Bloom’s book is a belter. Whilst the central point may be obvious, what others have described as his ‘ramblings’ for me were page after page of stimulating ideas. Granted not always  on message (after all, the message is pretty concise) and, for a UK audience at least, his frequent unguarded ‘attacks’ on academic colleagues making for slightly uncomfortable reading. Nevertheless, there’s a wealth of ideas here and its precisely Bloom’s slightly dogmatic style that gets the debate going. Accepting that this is Bloom’s very personal view is important, getting over this allows you to enjoy a well thought out and well-argued case. If you take nothing else away, it cannot be denied that empathy is no basis for morality. Continue reading “Against Empathy: The case for Rational Compassion by Paul Bloom”

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

30 Jan. 2017

As Donald Trump’s presidency rolls on there will be much vitriol, much emotion and much jumping to ill-informed conclusions. JD Vance is in no way an apologist for Trump – far from it – but reading this book will help you understand where the Trump came from and you’d have to be a lump of rock not to feel some sympathy.

The disenfranchised, disillusioned white American working class that Vance describes are the source of heat that swept Trump to victory. As Vance says, they need a voice but, as he also says that the answer is not in the kind of tub-thumping rhetoric coming out of the current administration. In his words (or actually the quoted words of a rust-belt politician) they need a ‘thumb on the scales’ – that’s a thumb Donald, not a 5lb masonry hammer. And whilst on the matter of the ‘thumb’, a large part of the excellence of this book is its honesty; Vance is at pains to point out that the solution for those suffering from the American Dream turned nightmare lies within themselves. Hand-outs, grants, social programmes and ‘thumbs on the scales’ are all very well, but these alone won’t re-galvanise the ferociously proud and deeply loyal folk of the Appalachians. Just like Vance did, they need to find the drive from somewhere to pick themselves up, dust themselves down and start believing in themselves again – and that surely aint going to be nurtured on a diet of introspective, racist claptrap Donal Trump style.

Continue reading “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis”