Book Reviews

Edmund Wilson’s literary essays and reviews from 1920 to 1950: Just in time

By Andras Gyorgy, 30 November 2007

There is fortunate timing to the Library of America’s bringing out in two volumes Edmund Wilson’s Literary Essays and Reviews of the 1920s & 30s and Literary Essays and Reviews of the 1930s & 40s.Their publication may help dispel the mausoleum feel to the comments Wilson receives with every appearance of his own writings or writings about him. He was, many reviewers insist, America’s preeminent “man of letters,” with the word “last” added to drive the final nail in the coffin housing a man of action, as he was in reality for the early, most productive and interesting decades of his life.

Bolsheviks in Power - Professor Alexander Rabinowitch’s important study of the first year of soviet power

By Frederick Choate and David North, 9 November 2007

The following review is also available as a pdf.

World War Z: Monsters of this society’s own making

By Christie Schaefer, 25 October 2007

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, by Max Brooks, Three Rivers Press (CA), $14.95

Recycling Stalinist lies about the Spanish Civil War

By Ann Talbot, 6 October 2007

El Escudo de la Republica by Angel Viñas (Barcelona: Critica, 2007)

After the storm: James Lee Burke answers Katrina’s wrath with his own

By Robert Maxwell, 20 September 2007

James Lee Burke, The Tin Roof Blowdown, Simon & Schuster and Jesus Out to Sea, Simon & Schuster

A fighter for Marxism in America

James P. Cannon and the Origins of the American Revolutionary Left, 1890-1928, by Bryan D. Palmer. University of Illinois Press, 2007, 542 pp.

By Fred Mazelis and Tom Mackaman, 18 September 2007

The publication of a biography of James P. Cannon, one of the leading figures of early American Communism and the founder, in 1928, of the American Trotskyist movement, is a major event.

Germany: “Human Rights in Times of Terror” by Rolf Gössner

By Elisabeth Zimmermann, 20 August 2007

Rolf Gössner, Menschenrechte in Zeiten des Terrors—Kollateralschäden an der “Heimatfront”(Human Rights in Times of Terror—Collateral Damage on the “Home Front”), Konkret Verlag, Hamburg: 2007, 288 pages, €17

Two novels about America’s future: writers need a new perspective

By Sandy English, 1 August 2007

The Road by Cormac McCarthy, New York: Random House, 2006, 287 pp. The Pesthouse by Jim Crace, New York: Doubleday, 2007, 255 pp.

John Henry: From folk legend to Communist superhero

By Jonathan Keane, 15 May 2007

Scott Reynolds Nelson, Steel Drivin’ Man: John Henry: The Untold Story of an American Legend, New York, Oxford University Press 2006, 214 pp.

The Unknown Terrorist: A novel about the “war on terror”

By Gabriela Zabala-Notaras and Ismet Redzovic, 8 May 2007

Richard Flanagan, The Unknown Terrorist, Sydney, Picador 2006, 325 pp.

A lesson from history regarding Mr. Blair

Edward Pearce’s The Great Man, Sir Robert Walpole

By Ann Talbot, 20 March 2007

Edward Pearce The Great Man, Sir Robert Walpole: Scoundrel, Genius and Britain’s First Prime Minister (London: Jonathan Cape, 2007) 352 pp.

Dennett’s dangerous idea

Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, by Daniel Dennett, Viking Adult, 2006, 464 pages, $26

By James Brookfield, 6 November 2006

American philosopher Daniel Dennett’s latest book, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, was attacked from the right last February in the pages of the New York Times Book Review by Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic.

History of an early American uprising

By Jonathan Keane, 5 October 2006

The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged America’s Newfound Sovereignty, by William Hogeland, Scribner, 2006, 302 pages

A timely reminder of America’s Enlightenment origins

By Charles Bogle, 31 August 2006

Washington’s Crossing, by David Hackett Fischer, 543 pages, Oxford University Press, 2004, $17.95

John Updike’s Terrorist

By David Walsh, 25 August 2006

John Updike, Terrorist, New York, Alfred A. Knopf 2006, 310 pp.

William Jennings Bryan and the rise and decline of the Progressive Era

A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan by Michael Kazin

By Shannon Jones, 11 August 2006

A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan by Michael Kazin (Alfred A Knopf, New York, 2006), 400 pages

Propaganda in the guise of a novel

Pretty Birds by Scott Simon, Australia, Hodder 2005, 351pp.

By Gabriela Zabala-Notaras and Ismet Redzovic, 26 June 2006

Scott Simon is an American journalist who has covered 10 wars from El Salvador to Iraq, and hosts US National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition Saturday.” He became a Quaker and a pacifist in the 1960s but, in a similar fashion to a variety of erstwhile liberals, radicals and lefts—such as Susan Sontag, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Jurgen Habermas and others—jumped on the militarist band-wagon during the Balkan conflicts in the early 1990s, after concluding that “all the best people can be killed by all the worst ones.”

Some insights into American life as it is: Doctorow’s Sweet Land Stories

By Sandy English, 9 May 2006

E.L. Doctorow, Sweet Land Stories, New York, Random House 2004, 147 pp.

Letters on “Hegel, Marx, Engels and the Origins of Marxism”

9 May 2006

The following is a selection of letters sent to the World Socialist Web Site on “Hegel, Marx, Engels, and the origins of Marxism”, a review of Tom Rockmore’s book Marx after Marxism: The Philosophy of Karl Marx.

Hegel, Marx, Engels, and the Origins of Marxism

A review of Marx After Marxism: The Philosophy of Karl Marx by Tom Rockmore

By David North, 3 May 2006

The following is second of a two-part series. The first part can be read here.

Hegel, Marx, Engels, and the Origins of Marxism

A review of Marx After Marxism: The Philosophy of Karl Marx by Tom Rockmore

By David North, 2 May 2006

The following is the first of a two-part series. The second part will be posted tomorrow.

Fall, but no decline

The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History

By Ann Talbot, 18 April 2006

Peter Heather, The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History, (London: Macmillan, 2005)

A closer look at Kierkegaard

By Tom Carter, 17 April 2006

Søren Kierkegaard: A Biography, by Joachim Garff, translated by Bruce H. Kirmmse. 867 pages, Princeton University Press, $35

Pioneering modernist exhibition: a cultural turning point for 1930s Australia

Degenerates and Perverts: The 1939 Herald Exhibition of French and British Contemporary Art, by Eileen Chanin and Steven Miller, Miegunyah Press

By John Christian and Richard Phillips, 28 March 2006

Degenerates and Perverts, a richly illustrated 306-page book by Eileen Chanin and Steven Miller, examines the 1939 Herald Exhibition of French and British Contemporary Art and its impact on Australian artistic and social life. Accurate information about the impact of this landmark event in local cultural history is long overdue.

Australia’s secret or not-so-secret past

The Secret River, by Kate Grenville, Text Publishing, 2005

By Mary Beadnell, 7 March 2006

Australian author Kate Grenville’s recently published historical novel, The Secret River, is a serious work and one that reveals some important truths about Australia’s past.

Eclectic and lifeless—My Life as a Fake

By Gabriela Zabala-Notaras, 13 February 2006

My Life as a Fake by Peter Carey, Random House, Australia 2003

An account of the attack on science in the US

By Joe Kay, 9 February 2006

The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney, Basic Books, New York, 2005, 351 pp., US$24.95, CAN$34.95

Born into disadvantage—Australian children face growing inequality

Children of the Lucky Country? How Australian society has turned its back on children and why children matter, by Fiona Stanley, Sue Richardson and Margot Prior, Macmillan, Sydney 2005.

By Erika Zimmer, 30 January 2006

Child health research professor Fiona Stanley, whom the Howard government named Australian of the Year in 2003, has co-authored Children of the Lucky Country? a work that brings together wide-ranging data concerning Australian children, including economic, physical and mental health indicators.

Lessons from the Great Flood of 1927

Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood and How it Changed America by John M. Barry

By Shannon Jones, 27 January 2006

Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi flood and how it changed America, by John M. Barry, Touchstone 1998

The futile pursuit of reformism

Bait and Switch by Barbara Ehrenreich

By Clare Dennis, 28 December 2005

Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream, by Barbara Ehrenreich, Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt 2005

Marx and democratic rights

Tony Evans, The Politics of Human Rights: A global perspective

By Ann Talbot, 24 December 2005

Tony Evans, The Politics of Human Rights: A global perspective, Pluto Press, 2005

The rise of the religious right in Australia

God Under Howard by Marion Maddox

By Laura Tiernan, 5 December 2005

A recently published book charting the rise of Christian fundamentalism in Australia offers a timely examination of what has become a striking feature of contemporary political life. Marion Maddox, a religious studies scholar at New Zealand’s Victoria University, looks at the creeping influence of the religious right and its role in the political “success” of Prime Minister John Howard.

Poignant cries for freedom

Another country, edited by Rosie Scott and Thomas Keneally, Halstead Press and the Sydney branch of PEN

By Gabriela Zabala-Notaras, 24 November 2005

Another Country is a valuable collection of writings by asylum seekers and refugees who have been held in Australian immigration prisons under the government’s mandatory detention policies. Edited by acclaimed local novelist Thomas Keneally (Schindler’s List) and Rosie Scott, a New Zealand writer, the book was initiated by the Sydney branch of PEN, the international association of poets, essayists and novelists formed in 1921 to defend freedom of expression.

Writing off Europe

By Gabriela Zabala-Notaras and Ismet Redzovic, 16 November 2005

Dead Europe, by Christos Tsiolkas, Sydney: Random House, 2005, 411 pp.

Novel about POWs wins PEN/Faulkner Award

By Sandy English, 10 November 2005

War Trash, by Ha Jin, New York: Pantheon Books, 2004, 352 pp.

A Little History is a dangerous thing

By Ann Talbot, 5 November 2005

E.H. Gombrich, A Little History of the World, translated by Caroline Mustill, Yale, £14.99

Lincoln’s Cooper Union address—an appeal to reason

By Shannon Jones, 5 July 2005

Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President, by Harold Holzer, Simon & Schuster (2004) ISBN 0-7432-2466-3

Life as a low-wage worker in Australia

Dirt Cheap, Life at the wrong end of the job market by Elisabeth Wynhausen, Macmillan, Sydney 2005

By Laura Tiernan, 6 June 2005

In late 2002, Elizabeth Wynhausen, a senior journalist on Rupert Murdoch’s Australian, took unpaid leave and began a nine-month undercover assignment in the ranks of the working poor. Her book, Dirt Cheap, Life at the wrong end of the job market, provides a glimpse of social reality for millions of people in casual and low-wage jobs, now the fastest-growing section of the Australian workforce.

Review of Robert Service’s Stalin. A Biography—Part Two

Harvard University Press, 2005, 715 pages

By Fred Williams, 3 June 2005

The following is the second part of a two-part article. Part one was posted Wednesday, June 2.

Review of Robert Service’s Stalin: A Biography–Part One

Harvard University Press, 2005, 715 pages

By Fred Williams, 2 June 2005

The following is the first part of a two-part article. The second and concluding part will posted Friday, June 3.

Hack work, not scholarship: the decay of American liberalism

The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in the Age of Terror by Michael Ignatieff, Edinburgh University Press 2004

By Richard Hoffman, 24 May 2005

The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in the Age of Terror by Michael Ignatieff was received with great fanfare in liberal circles when published last year. It purports to canvass important political and legal issues arising out of the new “age of terror”. In reality, Ignatieff’s book is a shoddy piece of hack work that expresses, more than anything, the sharp shift to the right in what once constituted liberalism in the United States.

Military interference in American film production

Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon shapes and censors the movies by David L. Robb

By Mile Klindo and Richard Phillips, 14 March 2005

Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon shapes and censors the movies by David L. Robb, a former journalist for Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, is a timely work. Published in 2004, a year after the US-led occupation of Iraq, it exposes one of the dark secrets of American movies—military interference in film production and Hollywood’s acquiescence to it.

Is this a novel of genuine anguish?

By Sandy English, 17 February 2005

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, New York: Doubleday, 2003, 376 pp.

The dawn of reformism in the US

By Tom Mackaman, 27 January 2005

Triangle: The Fire that Changed America, by David Von Drehle (2003, Atlantic Monthly Press, New York)

The drug industry’s chokehold on America’s health care

By Joanne Laurier, 3 January 2005

The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to do About it by Marcia Angell M.D., published by Random House, 304 pp.; Overdosed America: the Broken Promise of American Medicine, by John Abramson, M.D., published by Harper Collins, 332 pp.

Anticommunism run amok: the life of Senator Pat McCarran

By Rick Kelly, 18 December 2004

Washington Gone Crazy: Senator Pat McCarran and the Great American Communist Hunt, Michael J. Ybarra, Steerforth Press, 2004

What price an American Empire? Part Three

Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire by Niall Ferguson, Penguin Press, 2004, ISBN 0-713-99615-3

By Ann Talbot, 9 December 2004

This is the conclusion of a three-part review

What price an American Empire?

Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire by Niall Ferguson, Penguin Press, 2004, ISBN 0-713-99615-3

By Ann Talbot, 8 December 2004

This is the second of a three-part review

What price an American empire?

Niall Ferguson, Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire, Penguin Press, 2004, ISBN 0-713-99615-3

By Ann Talbot, 7 December 2004

This is the first of a three-part review.

An eyewitness account of Israeli occupation

By Niall Green, 17 November 2004

When the Bulbul Stopped Singing by Raja Shehadeh, Profile Books Ltd, London, 2003

They Were in Search of Life. Suicide: the Consequences of German Deportation Policies

An indictment of Germany’s refugee policy

By Martin Kreickenbaum, 1 November 2004

They Were in Search of Life. Suicide: the Consequences of German Deportation Policies. (Sie Suchten das Leben. Suizide als Folge Deutscher Abschiebepolitik), Heike Herzog and Eva Wälde, Hamburg/Münster, Unrast Verlag, 2004. ISBN 3-89771-810-3

Recent older children’s fiction: a new golden age?—Part 3

By Harvey Thompson, 9 September 2004

This is the final article in a three-part series reviewing recent older children’s fiction. Part 1 was published on September 7 and Part 2 was posted September 8.

Recent older children’s fiction: a new golden age?--Part 2

By Harvey Thompson, 8 September 2004

This is the second in a three-part series reviewing recent older children’s fiction. Part 1 was published on September 7.

Recent older children’s fiction: a new golden age?--Part 1

By Harvey Thompson, 7 September 2004

This is the first of a three-part series reviewing recent older children’s fiction.

“Best” short stories of 2003 could do better

By Sandy English, 6 September 2004

The Best American Short Stories 2003, edited by Walter Mosley, New York: Houghton Mifflin

An exposé of dishonest media coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict

By Jean Shaoul, 21 August 2004

Bad News from Israel: Greg Philo and Mike Berry, Pluto Press, London, 2004

Standing up to a right-wing witch hunt

By Nancy Russell, 13 August 2004

The Woman Who Wouldn’t Talk: Why I Refused to Testify Against the Clintons & What I Learned in Jail, by Susan McDougal with Pat Harris. Carroll & Graf Publishers, New York. 2003. Paperback Edition 2004.

Anthony Sampson surveys a transformed Britain 40 years on

Part two

By Robert Stevens, 4 August 2004

Who Runs This Place? The Anatomy of Britain in the 21st Century by Anthony Sampson, published by John Murray

Anthony Sampson surveys a transformed Britain 40 years on

Part one

By Robert Stevens, 3 August 2004

Who Runs This Place? The Anatomy of Britain in the 21st Century, by Anthony Sampson, published by John Murray.

Russian liberal intelligentsia’s view of the Kremlin under Yeltsin and Putin

Tales of a Kremlin Digger, by Elena Tregubova

By Vladimir Volkov, 23 June 2004

The political journalism of post-Soviet Russia has given rise to dozens of books. The majority of them are written in a boring, turgid style. Some are fixated on the latest scandals. Others concentrate on matters known only to a narrow circle of people, with the authors striving not so much to provide a general picture and analysis of events as to successfully “sell” their “insider” information to the public and make the strongest possible impression.

The enduring significance of the Emancipation Proclamation

By Shannon Jones, 2 June 2004

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America, by Allen C. Guelzo (Simon & Schuster, 2004)

The politics of electrical power

Power Play: The Fight to Control the World’s Electricity by Sharon Beder

By Joanne Laurier, 7 April 2004

Power Play: The Fight to Control the World’s Electricity by Sharon Beder; 400 pages; New York: The New Press, 2003

A series of neo-reformist illusions

The Real World Economic Outlook 2003 The Legacy of Globalization: Debt and Deflation, Anne Pettifor (editor), Palgrave Macmillan

By Nick Beams, 10 February 2004

This book, written as a challenge to the World Economic Outlook reports issued by the International Monetary Fund and comprising a collection of articles critical of the dominant economic order, is a useful publication from two standpoints.

An old man’s anger: Absolute Friends, by John le Carré

By Stefan Steinberg, 6 February 2004

Absolute Friends, by John le Carré, 455 pages, Boston: Little, Brown, 2003

Poisoning for profit: Book exposes US corporate cover-up of toxic pollution

Part 2

By E. Galen, 3 February 2004

The is the concluding part of a two-part review of Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution, by Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner (University of California Press, 2002). The first part was posted on February 2.

Poisoning for profit: Book exposes US corporate cover-up of toxic pollution

Part 1

By E. Galen, 2 February 2004

Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution, by Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner, University of California Press

Politics and reality in fiction

By Sandy English, 15 January 2004

Roscoe by William Kennedy, New York: Penguin, 2002, 294 pp.

The probability of dissent

The Girl from the Coast by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

By Sandy English, 5 November 2003

The Girl from the Coast by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, New York, Hyperion, 2002.

A moving novel exploring the Rwanda tragedy

Review of Gil Courtemanche’s A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali

By Linda Slattery, 4 November 2003

Gil Courtemanche, A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali, ISBN: 1400041074, Canongate Books Ltd., 2003, Patricia Claxton (trans.).

Former weapons inspector exposes “Big Lie” of Iraqi WMD

By Joanne Laurier, 17 October 2003

Former United Nations chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter’s latest book, Frontier Justice: Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Bushwhacking of America, is a scathing critique of the Bush administration’s main pretext for the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

A glib satire of contemporary life in the US

Fury by Salman Rushdie

By Gabriela Notaras, 12 September 2003

Fury, Salman Rushdie’s latest novel, is an abysmal work. The book purports to explore the personal demons or “furies”, such as alcoholism, drug addiction, murder, rape, incest and other social ills, which Rushdie claims torment and sometimes inspire various individuals in New York City.

Rabbit Proof Fence translated into French

By our correspondent, 3 September 2003

Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence, one of the most popular books by an Australian Aboriginal writer, has now been translated and published in France. Written by Doris Pilkington in 1996, and subsequently produced as a film last year by director Phillip Noyce, it tells the story of the forcible removal of three young mixed-race Aboriginal girls from their families by government officials in the early 1930s. Thousands of Aboriginal children were subjected to this cruel government policy in the first seven decades of the twentieth century.

Spinoza Reconsidered

Jonathan Israel, Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750 Oxford University Press

By Ann Talbot, 26 August 2003

I last reviewed Jonathan Israel’s Radical Enlightenment on this site in 2001 just after it came out in hardback. Why return to it now? The book itself would justify another review since it is a large and rich work that delves deeply into early Enlightenment history and repays reading and rereading. There is always something more to find in it. A first impression of such a book will inevitably represent a limited judgement and fail to do it complete justice. It is also now out in paperback.

Walkerton: Key truths submerged in journalist’s account of contaminated water tragedy

By Carl Bronski, 14 August 2003

Well Of Lies: The Walkerton Water Tragedy by Colin N. Perkel, McLelland & Stewart Ltd, 2002.

Bush’s hatchet man: two biographies of Karl Rove

Bush’s Brain and Boy Genius

By Joanne Laurier, 19 July 2003

Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential by James Moore and Wayne Slater; Boy Genius: Karl Rove, the Brains Behind the Remarkable Political Triumph of George W. Bush by Lou Dubose, Jan Reid and Carl M. Cannon

Investigating the foundations of equality

God, Locke and Equality by Jeremy Waldron

By Ann Talbot, 16 June 2003

Professor Jeremy Waldron’s latest book is an examination of the theory of equality put forward by the seventeenth century English philosopher John Locke. This is a subject that is highly relevant today as the widening social gulf between the super rich and the rest of the population increasingly undermines the political institutions that have been based on the maintenance of at least a measure of social and economic equality.

Flaunting rottenness: Plateforme, by Michel Houellebecq

By Alex Lefebvre, 2 May 2003

French novelist Michel Houellebecq has acquired celebrity status in France and, increasingly, abroad as a well-established literary shock jock. His latest novel, Plateforme, has the merit of clearly exposing this outlook’s artistic emptiness and repugnant social content. From glorifying sexual oppression and mass murder to embracing the glossy emptiness of travel brochures, Houellebecq stirs up all that is horrifying, diseased or sterile in modern life.

Henry Ford: American anti-Semitism and the class struggle

By Nancy Russell, 18 April 2003

Henry Ford and the Jews: the Mass Production of Hate by Neil Baldwin, Public Affairs. New York. 2001, paperback release December 17, 2002

"To heighten our awareness of humanity"

Interview with Morris Gleitzman, author of Boy Overboard

By Kaye Tucker, 16 April 2003

Morris Gleitzman, author of Boy Overboard , a children’s novel based on a fictional account of the journey of Afghan child refugees [See: Nurturing a sense of fairness and humanity], spoke with Kaye Tucker last month about his work.

A graphic depiction of everyday life in Iraq

By Robert Stevens, 10 April 2003

Iraq: A report from the inside , by Dilip Hiro, published by Granta (ISBN 1-86207-627-8)

2002 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction: a static view of American life

Richard Russo’s Empire Falls

By Sandy English, 28 March 2003

Richard Russo, Empire Falls , New York: Random House, 2001

Heribert Prantl’s book “Suspicious”

Growth of police-state measures in Germany

By Marius Heuser, 14 March 2003

Heribert Prantl, Suspicious: The authoritarian state and the politics of domestic insecurity, published by Europa 2002, ISBN: 3-203-81041-7

Bush at War: a flattering portrait of a government of the political underworld

Bush at War, by Bob Woodward, 2002, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY.

By Patrick Martin, 7 March 2003

This is the latest in a series of behind-the-scenes books by the Washington Post journalist of Watergate fame. Over the past 16 years Woodward has cranked out a half dozen such volumes on the major institutions of official Washington. The CIA, the Pentagon, the Supreme Court, the Clinton White House and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan have all received this largely adulatory treatment, and now it is the turn of the Bush administration, in a retelling of the 100 days which followed the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Nurturing a sense of fairness and humanity

Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman, Puffin Books

By Kaye Tucker, 4 March 2003

Before the US-led attack on Afghanistan in 2001, many Afghan families made hazardous journeys to Australia, clinging to the hope that they would find a country willing to give them political asylum and shelter. Rather than welcome and charity, the refugees were met with callous indifference or outright hostility from the Australian government.

Wall Street Journal editor’s brief for a “Pax Americana”

By Shannon Jones, 13 February 2003

The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power, Max Boot, Basic Books, 2002

A forceful reminder of the plight of seafarers and immigrants

The Death Ship by Ret Marut/B. Traven

By Paul McCarten, 9 September 2002

Sadly, these days B. Traven and his many novels have been assigned to relative obscurity in the world of literature and politics. Traven was but one of the many aliases used by this mysterious author, adventurer and revolutionary. Many historians have tried to uncover the secret behind Traven’s identity, some suggesting he was the illegitimate son of Kaiser Wilhelm II, others that he was a theology student from Cincinnati in the US. Whatever his precise origins, Traven always shunned publicity, preferring to let his novels be judged by the ideas contained within.

The FBI and Albert Einstein

The Einstein File: J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret War Against the World’s Most Famous Scientist, by Fred Jerome. St. Martin’s Press, 2002. 348 pages. ISBN 0-312-28856-5

By Alan Whyte and Peter Daniels, 3 September 2002

A 22-year campaign of spying and slander by the FBI against Albert Einstein is traced in this recently published book.

British foreign policy adviser calls for a new imperialism

Robert Cooper, The postmodern state and the world order, Demos, Second Edition 2000, ISBN 1-84180-010-4 Re-ordering the world—the long-term implications of 11 September, Foreign Policy Centre, 2002, ISBN 1-903558-10-7

27 April 2002

Foreign Office Adviser Robert Cooper’s call last month for the development of a “new imperialism” initially caused outrage amongst sections of the press and some Labour MPs. That one of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s closest foreign policy advisers could make such an unabashed appeal was considered at best ill-judged. Especially after the UK government, fresh from its involvement in the US led war against Afghanistan, was involved in talks with the Bush administration on renewing its war against Iraq.

"Cover-up of Convenience—the Hidden Scandal of Lockerbie"

by John Ashton and Ian Ferguson, Mainstream Publishing, 2002, ISBN 1840183896

By Steve James, 24 April 2002

John Ashton’s and Ian Ferguson’s work on the circumstances surrounding the destruction on December 21, 1988, of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland is worthy of careful study. It raises serious doubts, not only regarding the recent conviction of the Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, now incarcerated in Barlinnie jail, Glasgow, but over the entire official presentation of events before and after the crash, from 1988 to the present day. They give indicators as to how the full facts regarding the atrocity which killed 270, perhaps 271, people might be uncovered and conclude with a series of searching questions which any genuinely independent inquiry into the Lockerbie disaster should direct toward various governments, intelligence services, and individuals.

Physiology, sociology and murder: a scientist looks at violence in America

By E. Galen, 17 April 2002

Base Instincts: What Makes Killers Kill? , by Jonathan H. Pincus, M.D., W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, NY, 2001

Evading serious issues

The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville, Pan MacMillan Australia, ISBN 0-330-36206-2

By Gabriela Notaras, 15 April 2002

Kate Grenville is a critically acclaimed Australian novelist who briefly worked in the film industry before taking up writing seriously in the late 1970s. Most of her books attempt to explore inequality between the sexes in relationships, family life and society in general.

Inside and outside the family

Alice Munro’s short stories

By Sandy English, 9 April 2002

Alice Munro, The Love of a Good Woman, New York:Alfred A Knopf, 1998

Trapped in Moscow: Exile and Stalinist Persecution, by Reinhard Müller

Stalin’s persecution of German communists

By Alexander Boulerian, 16 March 2002

Menschenfalle Moskau: Exil und Stalinistische Verfolgung (Trapped in Moscow: Exile and Stalinist Persecution), by Reinhard Müller, Hamburg 2001

It didn’t happen here: Why socialism failed in the United States

The failure of reformism, not socialism

By Shannon Jones, 6 March 2002

It didn’t happen here: Why socialism failed in the United States, by Seymour Martin Lipset and Gary Marks, WW Norton & Company 2000

The fascist roots of Germany’s post-war Criminal Police Office

By Jörg Victor, 8 December 2001

The book Blind in the right eye—The fascist roots of the BKA * examines the post-war establishment of Germany’s Bundeskriminalamt (BKA, Federal Criminal Police Office) and its roots within the fascist Third Reich. (The BKA is the equivalent of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation). The author, Dieter Schenk, who himself worked for nine years in the BKA, refutes the view that the organisation is basically non-political and free from any sort of responsibility for crimes committed during the Nazi regime: “In 1959 the leadership of the BKA consisted of 47 officials—only two of whom were not involved in the activities of the fascists”.

Novel questions media hysteria over children who kill

Border Crossing, by Pat Barker Published by the Penguin Group (Viking), ISBN (hardback) 0-670-87841-3 (paperback) 0-670-89315-3

By Harvey Thompson, 7 November 2001

Border Crossing begins as child-psychologist Tom Seymour rescues a young man from drowning while out walking near a lake. The young man turns out to be Danny Miller, who was convicted as a ten-year-old child of murder and at whose trial Tom had given evidence.

Carnegie Medal for children’s fiction:

Naidoo’s story of two young refugees wins 2001 prize

By Harvey Thompson, 5 October 2001

The Other Side of Truth, ISBN 0-14-130476-6, Puffin Books, 2000, £4.99 (The book is expected to be released in the US Oct/Nov 2001)

How the social democrats came to the aid of Pinochet

30 August 2001

Augusto Pinochet: 503 Days Trapped in London (Augusto Pinochet: 503 Días Atrapado en Londres) By Mónica Pérez and Felipe Gerdtzen Editorial Los Andes, Santiago de Chile ISBN 956-7849-14-5

Australia’s refugee detention policy called into question

Borderline: Australia’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers by Peter Mares, University of New South Wales Press, ISBN 0 86840 746 1

By Jake Skeers, 11 August 2001

In recent years, differences have emerged in Australian ruling circles over the policy of compulsorily detaining asylum seekers, sometimes for years, until they exhaust their avenues of appeal against denial of refugee status. Violent repression, including the use of mass arrests, water cannon, tear gas and solitary confinement, has failed to quell the growing unrest in the overcrowded camps—expressed in hunger strikes, mass breakouts and increasingly determined protests—and this has fuelled concerns within the media and political establishment that damage is being done to Australia’s international reputation.

Spinoza revisited

Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity1650-1750, by Jonathan I. Israel, Oxford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-19-820608-9, £30.00

7 August 2001

To talk favourably of the Enlightenment has become something of a taboo in recent years. Some writers deny its existence, while others present it as a reactionary development. It is therefore refreshing to find a serious treatment of the intellectual trends of the late 17th and early 18th century that is not afraid to identify the Enlightenment as a progressive movement, which is associated with the rise of rational thought and a belief in equality and democracy.