Book Reviews

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.

Book Review

The Reichstag Fire, 68 years on

Alexander Bahar, Wilfried Kugel: Der Reichstagbrand - Wie Geschichte gemacht wird (The Reichstag Fire - How History is Created), edition q, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-86124-523-2, 864 pages, price: 68.00 DM

5 July 2001

On February 27, 1933—more than 68 years ago—the Berlin Reichstag, the seat of Germany’s parliament, was set on fire. Shortly after the fire began, the Dutch left-wing radical Marinus van der Lubbe was arrested at the scene of the crime, apparently as the sole culprit.

How IBM helped the Nazis

IBM and the Holocaust By Edwin Black, Little Brown, ISBN 0-316-85769-6, Hardback, £20

27 June 2001

IBM and the Holocaust tells the story of the involvement of this major US corporation in the establishment of Hitler’s Third Reich and the destruction of European Jewry.

The far-right Austrian Freedom Party under the magnifying glass

Hans-Hennig Scharsach/Kurt Kuch: Haider—Schatten ueber Europa("Haider—A shadow over Europe"), Kiepenheuer und Witsch 2000

30 April 2001

Since Jörg Haider and his rightwing Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) have increasingly won influence, and have even sat in a national government coalition with the Conservative People's Party (ÖVP) for over a year, journalists and writers have been busy analysing their ascent. The book by Hans Henning Scharsach and Kurt Kuch, both editors of the Austrian weekly magazine NEWS, is an important contribution to this subject.

"Ulbricht's helpers": the role of Hitler's army generals in former East Germany

By Hendrik Paul, 25 April 2001

Anti-fascism was always one of the myths of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Fascism had been wiped out root and branch in the GDR, according to the history textbooks there. It was something that was proclaimed at every opportunity by the party and government leadership in official statements, and which is repeated today, and not just by nostalgics.

De-Stalinisation and the German Democratic Republic

Die Architekten (The Architects), by Stefan Heym, Bertelsmann Verlag, 2000

By Peter Schwarz, 23 February 2001

Stefan Heym's newly published novel The Architects tells the story of the married architect couple Arnold and Julia Sundstrom in the German Democratic Republic (GDR—East Germany) in 1956.

Child victims of the industrial revolution

Orphans of History—The Forgotten Children of the First Fleet by Robert Holden The Text Publishing Company 1999, ISBN 1- 8758477 -08-1

By Erika Zimmer, 20 February 2001

Robert Holden is an art historian and an authority on children's literature. The main focus of his recently published Orphans of History—The Forgotten Children of the First Fleet, is nine-year-old John Hudson, one of the child convicts transported from Britain to Australia over two centuries ago. Holden's achievement is that he has been able to transform what had been a government statistic into a clear and sympathetic picture of Hudson, a former London chimney-sweep, and reveal some of the social conditions facing working class children in Britain's industrial revolution.

Le Carré's new novel questions his previous Cold War certainties

John le Carré's The Constant Gardener, Hodder and Stoughton, £16.99 ISBN 0-340-7337-3

15 February 2001

John le Carré's latest novel The Constant Gardener tells the story of Justin Quayle, a British diplomat—and the constant gardener of the title—who after the murder of his wife devotes himself to tracking down her killers. It is a simple enough theme, but le Carré develops it into a satisfying novel that deals with a highly topical topic—the giant pharmaceutical companies use of third world countries for drug testing.

The School Report: Why Britain's Schools are Failing — a book by Nick Davies

3 February 2001

The School Report presents an overwhelming case against Conservative and Labour Party education policy pursued from the 1980s to the present day. Written by investigative journalist Nick Davies, it brings together his articles, letters and comments serialised in the Guardian newspaper between September 1999 and July 2000.

Actual Innocence —case studies of DNA testing freeing the wrongfully convicted in the US

By Alden Long, 14 September 2000

Actual Innocence: Five Days to Execution and Other Dispatches from the Wrongly Convicted, by Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld and Jim Dwyer. Doubleday, 289 pp., $24.95.

Justifying the role of imperialism in Africa

Aid to Africa: So Much to Do, So Little Done, by Carol Lancaster

By Ann Talbot, 4 August 2000

University of Chicago Press, 1999, ISBN: 0226468399

A liberal brief for militarism and neo-colonialism

Virtual War—Kosovo and Beyond

By Margaret Rees, 25 July 2000

Virtual War—Kosovo and Beyond, Michael Ignatieff, Metropolitan Books, New York, 2000, 246 pp., $23.00

The post-modernist wonderland: Intellectual Impostures by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont

By Stefan Steinberg, 1 July 2000

Intellectual Impostures should be read by all those who have an interest in modern ideological trends, in particular, the various somewhat nebulous schools of thought included under the hybrid term “postmodernism”.

Critique of Kosovo War urges European powers to unite against US

10 June 2000

Masters of the Universe? NATO's Balkan Crusade, Edited by Tariq Ali, Verso, 2000, ISBN 1-85984-269-0, £15 ($20 in US)

An account of American terrorism in Vietnam

By Patrick Martin, 6 June 2000

The Secret War Against Hanoi: Kennedy's and Johnson's Use of Spies, Saboteurs, and Covert Warriors in North Vietnam, by Richard H. Shultz, Jr., 1999, HarperCollins Books, New York

Galileo's Daughter: An important contribution to the history of science

By Walter Gilberti, 1 March 2000

Dava Sobel, Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love, Walker & Co., ISBN 0802713432, 448 pp., $27.00

My century?

A review of Günter Grass' latest novel, Mein Jahrhundert (My Century)

By Wolfgang Weber, 8 February 2000

The 1999 Nobel prize for literature was given to 72-year-old Günter Grass. Prior to the award being announced, the author conducted well-attended public readings in a number of German cities. He read from his latest work—My Century —a fictional review of the last hundred years. The book has been translated by Michael Henry Heim and is published in English by Harcourt and Brace, ISBN 015100496X, $25.

Getting away with corporate murder

Blood in the Bank: Social and Legal Aspects of Death at Work by Gary Slapper

24 January 2000

Introduction by Noam Chomsky, published by Ashgate Publishing in 1999 as part of the Advances in Criminology series, ISBN 1-84014-079-8, £50.00, 284 pp.

Strangeness and failure: Gish Jen's Who's Irish?

By Sandy English, 19 January 2000

Who's Irish? , by Gish Jen, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1999, 208 pp., $22.00

The plausible and the implausible in Carolyn Chute's Snow Man

By Sandy English, 3 December 1999

Snow Man, by Carolyn Chute, Harcourt, Brace & Co., New York, 1999, 242 pp. $23.00

The serious artist and the Cold War

By David Walsh, 3 November 1998

Anyone concerned about the fate of literature and society ought to welcome Don DeLillo's novel Underworld, a serious effort to trace out the impact on the American psyche of the Cold War.

A Civil Action, by Jonathan Harr, Vintage Books, New York, 1996

A telling saga of cancer and the courts

By Book Review By Peter Stavropoulos, 21 February 1998

This book, though written as a gripping novel, is a true story. It chronicles the tortured history of a court case mounted against three major US companies. They were accused of dumping poisonous chemicals that caused leukaemia deaths and severe health problems among children and entire families in the town of Woburn, Massachusetts, just north of Boston.

Anti-Semitism, Fascism & the Holocaust

A critical review of Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners

By David North, 17 April 1997

The following was given as a lecture by David North, national secretary of the Socialist Equality Party in the United States, at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

The objective character of artistic cognition

By David Walsh, 13 September 1993

Edward Said, a Palestinian and a professor of literature at Columbia University in New York City, has set himself the task in Culture and Imperialism of offering "a history of the imperial adventure rendered in cultural terms."