Archive for April, 2018

Review: A Higher Loyalty – Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James Comey

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

In this 290 page book, Donald Trump does not make an appearance until page 210. This is not what you’d have expected, given the media focus on the sacked FBI director’s account of his meetings with the American president. The first 210 pages of the book describe in considerable detail Comey’s career as a prosecutor and senior figure in both the Department of Justice and later, the FBI. And in those pages we learn about Comey’s values, the lessons that he’s learned, and what makes him a formidable threat to the Trump presidency. One has to read his account of the Cosa Nostra, which he investigated and prosecuted, to fully understand the horror of his well-publicised description of Trump as more like a crime boss than a political leader. Essential reading.

Review: The City & The City, by China Miéville

Saturday, April 14th, 2018

I first learned about this book because of the fact that in the BBC television series based on it, the creators decided to use the Georgian alphabet for one of the two cities — because they found it sufficiently weird.

Having now read the book, which came highly recommended by a number of friends, that turns out to be the least weird thing about it.

The author has imagined two cities situated in the same place, sharing the same roads, and in some cases the same buildings, where it is illegal for residents of one city to see or hear the residents of the other. He creates a verb for this very purpose — to “unsee” — and it’s bits like that which have led some to compare the author to Orwell.

It’s a thought-provoking book in the most literal sense; one is forced to pause and think many times about the issues raised, like divided cities, national and ethnic divisions, and of course social class. Michael Harrington famously described “the other America” more than half a century ago as the poor part of a wealthy society that went largely unseen by most.

I haven’t yet watched the BBC series and am keen to begin, not least because I cannot imagine how one can visualise two cities that largely exist only in the minds of their residents, who are busy “unseeing” what is often within touching distance.

Review: The Revenge of Analog – Real Things and Why They Matter, by David Sax

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

To be honest, I bought this book in a small, independent bookshop in San Francisco, where I spotted it while browsing a few days earlier, and not on Amazon. I read it as a paperback, not on my Kindle. And I guess that’s part of the point author David Sax was making: we still use analog for a lot of things and there’s evidence that we increasingly do so.

The sales of vinyl records are booming, physical notebooks (Moleskines are the best known) are selling like hotcakes, and bookshops (as well as physical books) are starting to make a comeback. Sax writes well, and travelled far and wide to meet the people who manufacture vinyl records, paper notebooks, even luxury analog watches made in the heart of the post-industrial wasteland of Detroit.

I was inspired to go out and buy yet another paper notebook (my favourite is Leuchtturm1917 rather than Moleskine), to get out a board game we bought last summer (Pandemic), and to buy my latest novel (The Boy on the Bridge) from a local bookshop rather than online.

Sax isn’t arguing that we all need to do this. He’s saying it’s happening anyway, and he wants to explain why.