Reading dates: 19 February–26 March 2016
There are two elemental forces in the universe. One draws matter toward matter. That is how life comes into being and how it propagates. In physics, this force is called gravity; in psychology, love. The other force tears matter apart. It is the force of disunification, disintegration, destruction. If I’m correct, every planet, every star in the universe is not only drawn toward the others by gravity, but laos pushed away from them by a force of repulsion we can’t see.
I seem to be on a path of awarding 3 stars to every crime novel I read, yet, these stars are given (or two taken away) for very different reasons. The Death Instinct is a very competent novel, set in New York in the 1920s at the time of the Treasury bomb. The narration is very well research and fact and fiction merge seamlessly, coherently and in a very dramatic way. Freud as a character is again joyous to read (as in Rubenfeld’s previous novel ‘The Interpretation of Murder’) and well researched. Even the resolution to the mystery is reasonable. It is certainly better that the Frank Tallis novels I read. Yet, it is just that, literarily just above average. Good research, interesting characters, reasonable writing and a vibrant story don’t make a book I want to re-read. There is something missing here, some flair, some risk, something. Perhaps it is the point of view. The narrator is omniscient so we don’t know anyone very well. Perhaps it is the construction, acceptable but also standard. And Freud was anything but those things: omniscient or standard. He deserved a little better I think.
Read this entry | No Comments »
Reading dates: 04 February–18 March 2016
Chris chose this book for our March meeting, which took place on the eve of the start of the Paris Commune. I was educated in the French system; I received the reading assignment with a roll of my eyes. OK, the Commune. Let’s do it. I was slow starting the book, huffing and not really engaging with its ideas until, perhaps, the start of chapter 2. Kristin Ross’s work is wonderful, well-written, well-researched and exploring an exciting territory hitherto unknown to me. I had dismissed the Communards as a bunch of idealist anarchists that almost got their way and never thought of their rich ideology around culture, education, ecology and wellbeing. Reclus, Gaillard and his shoes, William Morris and Kropotkin are fantastic characters in the narrative, people one does not hear about often in relation to the Commune (as Neil pointed out, the wikipedia page on the Commune has quite different names forefronted). Her aim is to isolate and expand on what worked, on the legacy after Bloody Week, which, as the rest of the timeline, is not something she goes into. The achievements, the methodology of looking at the past and the ideas of the Commune (especially those uncompromising anti-capitalist and well argued points) were remarkable.
Ross’s analysis is very applicable to our times, even if she explicitly says this is not her ambition. During our meeting, I made the comparison between #RhodesMustfall and the tearing down of the Place Vendôme. Can we return to what made the Commune? Today, on the 145th anniversary of its start, I am most certain than ever that we must.
Read this entry | No Comments »