Sunday 15 December 1996
! Declarations of Independence: War Zones and Wheelchairs by John Hockenberry, Penguin pounds 7.99. Writing of the road accident which cut his spine and his teenage life in half, Hockenberry offers a surprising rebuttal to the view of the world (as held by certain economists?) of a machine in which nothing interesting happens except to a tiny minority of catastrophic losers and fabulous winners. By contrast, Hockenberry offers a model in which there is nothing but "levels of accident, filled with new truth and the chance to remake the world". If this sets your psychobabble alarm chirping, be reassured. Hockenberry writes brilliantly about life in a wheelchair: with humour, anger and above all truth. He is also an exceptional reporter and foreign correspondent, and his account of his professional career is highly readable.
! Conversations with My Agent by Rob Long, Faber pounds 5.99. Long - co-writer of the comedy show Cheers - tells how he gave up his hit show and embarked on the nerve-stretching business of putting a new project into production. The gloriously surreal, cross-wired, hierarchical world of Hollywood's money-tree monkeys is beautifully captured, from the arcane rules about who gets a restaurant table and the secret of Hollywood's inverted economics to the important truth that, in TV, it's the writer who does all the work (and, if Long's to be believed, gets all the girls) - while the other guys are simply employed to watch him do it. Long makes it seem an awfully attractive number, just as long as you've got a lock-tight grip on reality.
! RL's Dream by Walter Mosley, Picador pounds 5.99. A sick old black man is thrown out of his low-rent apartment in the East Village - name of Soupspoons Wise, a moniker for an old bluesman if ever there was one. Kiki, the hard- drinking white office worker from two floors above, herself scarred in body and soul, creates a fake health insurance policy through her employer to get him treatment. As the two form a relationship, based on need but also, gradually, on love, Soupspoons dreams of his days on the road with the legendary Robert Johnson. Mosley expertly paints the city, its violent colours flecked with unexpected humanity and tenderness. He also builds a suspenseful plot in which Kiki's fraud threatens to catch up with her and destroy her precarious happiness. Above all this is, like every good New York novel, a delicately bittersweet story.
! Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation by Declan Kiberd, Vintage pounds 8.99. Having been induced, in the 19th century, to ditch their own language, the Irish went on almost at once to raise the colonial tongue to a height of literary innovation that left Britain gasping. With Wilde, Shaw, Yeats, Synge, O'Casey and Joyce, all born within a 30-year span, tiny Ireland had a full team of cultural heavy hitters. Kiberd argues, in this impressively accessible tome, that the loss of the Irish language was nevertheless traumatic. Irish writers, he says, chose to write for English readers and fed back a paradoxical inferiority complex to the Irish hinterland. The loss of the language, he says, also led to more identification with Catholicism than was healthy. But signs are that both these burdens are now being cast aside, while Irish literature is still booming.
! Capitalism With a Human Face by Samuel Brittan, Fontana pounds 8.99. Although unable to agree with Thatcher's ideas about "Victorian values" or her foreign adventures (it was John Major's government that knighted him), Samuel Brittan, Chief Economics Brain at the Financial Times, is otherwise a Thatcherite monetarist as dry as the Negev Desert. But these essays attempt to show the benign side of that self-regulating machine-god known as the market. Some of it is rather technical for economic semi-literates, but I'm struck by Brittan's apparent neutrality on Europe (brother Leon is a commissioner) and by political implications of his position on poverty, whose solution "would require an onslaught on what has been called the middle-class welfare state". Later, he answers the awkward fact that the Thatcherite drive against government has landed us with more government by maintaining that the job wasn't done ruthlessly enough.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 A daily walk 'can add seven years to your life'
- 2 Rules on 5p plastic bags likely to lead to arguments at the check-out
- 3 Chrissie Hynde says women who 'wear high heels and dress provocatively entice rapists'
- 4 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
- 5 News agency criticised for describing Amal Clooney as 'actor's wife' in coverage of human rights trial
X Factor hopeful Mason Noise: 'How is Cheryl Fernandez-Versini in the music business, let alone a judge?'
Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
Trevor Noah, Edinburgh Fringe review: New Daily Show host warms up in inspired style
Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Online toy marathon to launch new film
The X Factor 2015: Ratings drop almost 2 million compared to last year's launch show
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn