books

This week, by law, I have to deride Russell Brand as a self-obsessed, annoying idiot.

No article or comment on Twitter can legally be written now unless it does this, so by the weekend the Sunday magazine recipes will go, “Goose and marmalade paella, serves six ― unless one of the six is Russell Brand in which case he can make his own dinner as he’s such a rebel I suppose he doesn’t agree with ovens”.

The Making of English Social Democracy
By Peter Cockcroft.
Australian Ebook Publisher
Kindle edition
236 pages, $1.05

It may seem a strange ask to encourage socialists to examine the politics of late Victorian Britain when there is so much else to be done. But Peter Cockcroft makes a significant case that understanding this aspect of the past can help us to make some sense of where we are now.

Marx on Gender & the Family: A Critical Study
By Heather A. Brown
Haymarket, 2013

US socialist Heather Brown has performed a great service in this short, yet detailed survey of all of Karl Marx’s writings on women and gender ― including some that have never been published in any language.

Brown shows how Marx did not just analyse economics and history, he interrogated all forms of literature (even police files) to tease out the threads of social oppression.

When Google Met WikiLeaks
By Julian Assange
Published August 22, 2014
200 pages, paperback, $16
OR Books
www.orbooks.com

When Google CEO Eric Schmidt turned up to meet WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, he brought several people with him who were connected to the US government.

"The delegation was one part Google, three parts US foreign-policy establishment," Assange writes in his latest book, When Google Met WikiLeaks. "But I was still none the wiser."

The Dealer Is The Devil
Adrian Newstead
Brandl & Schlesinger
Published February 2014
480 pages, $49.95
www.book.cooeeart.com.au

Adrian Newstead was one of the first people to study climate change in Australia.

"I went to a place called the Barren Grounds, which were down the New South Wales south coast down near Kangaroo Valley," the 66-year-old tells Green Left Weekly.

China’s Second Continent: How a million migrants are building a new Empire in Africa
Howard W French
Knopf
Published May 20, 2014
304 pages
www.howardwfrench.com

In his 2009 film Rethink Afghanistan, director Robert Greenwald suggested that the US should not try to control the world through military means, but by building schools and hospitals in the countries it wishes to invade.

Journalist Howard French's book China's Second Continent shows how such a model can work in practice.

Flashboys
By Michael Lewis
W. W. Norton, 2014
288 pp, $39.99

Michael Lewis's Flashboys has had a dramatic welcome in the United States. It swept to the top of the best seller list and was only knocked from its perch by Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century.

It is revealing of the contemporary US mindset that Flashboys, which turns the machinations of Wall Street into a classic US-style morality play, should alternate with Piketty’s history of capitalist inequality.

In reality, Lewis has not produced new information.

Despite Israel’s relentless aerial bombardments, shelling and ground attacks since July 7, Palestinian writers in Gaza have responded to the latest onslaught by doing what they know — writing.
Ra Page, director of Manchester-based Comma Press, which recently published a collection of short stories from writers in Gaza, says “all of the Book of Gaza contributors are writing away like crazy, whilst they have power”.

Was I a Stranger in My Homeland?
By Malavi Sivakanesan
Xlibris, 2013

Malavi Sivakanesan was eight years old in 2003 when her father, a Tamil dentist living in exile in Norway, went back to his homeland in Sri Lanka to set up a mobile dental clinic.

He not only carried out dental work himself, but also trained local people to continue after he left.

At the time, there was a ceasefire between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Les Miserables
Now playing in Melbourne
www.lesmis.com.au

Les Miserables tells two stories: one of personal love, the other of revolutionary passion. It is no surprise that most Western adaptations of Victor Hugo's novel have, when deciding what to cut and what to leave in, favoured the clasped hands of romance over the clenched fist of insurrection.

The story we all know -- the one that is left after adaptation pares away everything else -- is that of Jean Valjean, the ex-convict who redeems himself through acts of charity.

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