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Books

So, whadda we do about it?

Research from BookTrust found that only half of children aged 1-2 from low-income families are read to daily. Furthermore, children from low-income families who do well at the end of primary school are twice as likely to have been read to early in their lives.

“Reading isn’t a silver bullet to solve world poverty, I know that. But it is a major way to improve equality and bring fairness. To dramatically improve the quality of family life and open up possibilities, opportunities. We know children who read have tools for life at their disposal,” Cottrell-Boyce said.

“It is not right and not fair that children who could benefit the most are deprived of a life that is rich in reading.”

I think there’s a truth there but that’s not the point. So, what do we do about it?

Second hand kiddies books are what, 50p each? So each household with a kid in it gets £10 to create a library. We’re done. Or, at least, we’re as done as government policy can make it.

That is, even if there is a real point here there’s not a grand amount that the state can do about it…..

One of the Greats has gone

Yep, Kinky is now straightened out.

Way back when, in that new freedom of Russia and the end of censorship, a friend decided that he would translate the novels into Russia. Didn’t bother with rights and copyright and so on, just went ahead. “Elvis, Jesus and Coca Cola” perhaps? The market reaction was, odd. So much so that Kinky actually came on a publicity tour. Friend was most pleased to meet him too.

The Guardian is, of course, wrong:

Friedman referred to himself as the “Jewish cowboy” after his song “My Governor Is a Jewish Cowboy”, a nod to his unsuccessful attempt at a political career in 2006 when he ran for governor of Texas against Republican incumbent Rick Perry.

Other way around, idiots. The band from the 70s was called the Texas Jewboys. Sheesh.

Your help required

So Monbiot’s new book is a bestseller.

It also has a number of errors, of fact, of logic etc. So, I’m going to do a quickie response to it. Up on Amazon in 10 days to 2 weeks, about. Also run it as the paid part of the Substack.

OK. So, what do I call it?

Their title is “The Invisible Doctrine. The Secret History of Neoliberalism (& How It Came To Control Your Life)”.

What should I call mine? “Monbiot Talks Toss” would not quite work while being usefully descriptive.

Any ideas?

You what?

In a blistering new book, Monbiot and the filmmaker Peter Hutchison define the deep impact of a doctrine which began as a fringe philosophy in the 1930s. Adopted by a wealthy elite, it has played a profound role in transforming our economics, politics, environment: from soaring inequality, to the rise of modern day demagogues such as Viktor Orban, Narendra Modi and Donald Trump, to our ecological crises and environmental disasters.

They’re, umm, describing Orban, Modi and Trump as neoliberals.

I’ve asked for a review copy but whether I get one in time to give it the write up it deserves is uncertain….

Oh. Right.

Rebel Wilson claims British royal invited her to drug-fuelled orgy
Writing in her memoir Rebel Rising, the Australian actress says that the party was held in 2014 and hosted by a tech billionaire

What was last week’s advertisement for her new book? She was a virgin until 35 or whatever? This week…..

The Black Tax

Property value assessment may not sound like the most thrilling of topics, but according to historian Andrew W Kahrl’s new book The Black Tax, it represents a hugely important piece of structural inequality in the US, one that implicates a wide range of topics, including the process of gentrification, the quality of public schools and other amenities, and maintenance of local infrastructure.

Kahrl argues that for decades now the assessment process for homes has been used prejudicially against African Americans, leading them to pay more than their fair share in property tax despite receiving fewer benefits than those living in white-dominated areas. These unequal taxes have had all sorts of downline repercussions, making them a “missing piece” of the puzzle when it comes to inequality in the US.

Not sure even about the thesis. Property tax system means blacks get hard done by. Hmm – can’t see a simple explanation of the mechanism anywhere so as to be able to evaluate the idea.

Then we get this:

There are solutions to this problem: according to Kahrl, the US is the only federated nation in the world without a system to ensure fiscal equity at the local level. “Germany, Canada, India and Australia, have fiscal equity programs. In those nations, the federal government ensures there’s a baseline, where federal dollars are delivered to localities based on need. That at least would be a good first step.” He pointed the finger at the Reagan administration, which began the defunding of local governments that has continued to snowball since the 1980s, resulting in things like unclean water, the resurgence of formerly controlled diseases, and the use of fines and fees to bolster local budgets.

Ah, more redistribution then, eh? Doesn’t really matter about the mechanism any more…..

Hmm

There has always been respect for Disher, but not always recognition outside the crime cognoscenti. “He’s the crime writer’s crime writer,” says author Michael Robotham, who has sold 8.5m books. “He’s the crime writer that other crime writers read. He’s incredibly influential.”

“It has always puzzled me as to why he wasn’t recognised more widely,” says Sue Turnbull, crime fiction expert and senior professor of communication and media at the University of Wollongong. “He’s always been a brilliant writer. He’s certainly in the same league as Peter Temple and Peter Corris.”

Those last two household names ’round my way.

Babar

Over the years Babar attracted both fans and enemies who read all kinds of allegory into the stories. Charles de Gaulle was among the former and believed the Babar books promoted “a certain idea of France’’. Others called the series elitist, racist and colonialist, denouncing the symbolism of Babar travelling to Europe to be educated and “civilised” and then returning to the jungle to be crowned king over the uneducated herd he had left behind.

In the 1960s the writer Toni Morrison objected that the Africans in Laurent’s second book, Babar’s Picnic (1949), were depicted as “savages”. De Brunhoff concluded that she was right and asked for the title to be taken out of print. It was “a little embarrassing to see Babar fighting with black people in Africa”, he admitted.

Hmm.

the judge who presided perhaps summed up the appeal of Babar better than even de Brunhoff himself could have put it. “In the world of Babar, all colours are pastel, all rainstorms are brief, and all foes are more or less benign,’’ he said in his ruling. “The storylines celebrate the persistence of goodness, work, patience and perseverance in the face of ignorance, discouragement, indolence and misfortune.’’

Ah, yes, no wonder the usual cunts hated it. Can’t have children learning any of that now, can we?

Yes, obviously

William Shatner: ‘Good science fiction is humanity, moved into a different milieu’

This probably isn’t original but I liken it to jazz.

In music you’ve the three, rhythm, harmony and melody. Play all three straight and it’s not jazz. Hold two constant and play with one – say Dave Brubeck with rhythm or Jaques Loussier with melody – and it’s jazz. Yes, yes, that’s very simplistic and so much so that it’s wrong but it works for me as an analogy. And when you try to play with two holding one constant it’s often very odd and sometimes just wondrous. Playing with all three at the same time gives you freeform which is just noise.

So too with sci-fi. Having humans acting humanly in a weird environment is sci-fi. Having humans acting like a fairy story in a weird environment is probably sci-fantasy. As is also non-humans in a normal one and so on.

Playing with all three – one story I recall had non-humans in another universe tryinmg to break through into this one (no, not following Rincewind) because theirs was dying and that was just a word salad – freeform.

Appealing to Sir Pterry also works here. We’re Pan Narrans. But it’s stories about us that interest. So, good stories are going to be about us – perhaps in a weird environment.

30 year veteran journalist gets surprised

All this weirdness, Swisher says, was there, whether consciously or not, to smooth over the fact that the new tech industry was not the big-hearted humanitarian project its founders often talked about, but something much more straightforward: the latest iteration of rapacious capitalism.

How’s that for long term insight, eh?

I have, very vaguely, come across Swisher in my own working life. Not impressed is one way to put it.

Does she think he ever feels any fear about the huge responsibilities that ought to come with what he has built? She answers emphatically. “Yes. I think every now and then you see that he knows he’s in over his head.” She mentions an interview she did with Zuckerberg in 2018, for her Recode Decode Podcast, in which he expressed the somewhat startling opinion not only that Facebook (since folded into the giant company that Zuckerberg named Meta) should host content put up by Holocaust deniers, but that such people were “not intentionally getting it wrong”.

“He was so out of his depth, and you could see that he kind of knew it,” she says. “But he kind of walked into it: like: ‘I can handle this.’ I’m like: ‘You cannot handle hundreds of years of antisemitism – I’m telling you that you can’t. You need some real experience.’ And that was my issue: someone who was so ill-prepared was making decisions that affected all kinds of people and unleashed an enormous amount of toxic waste.”

Man doesn’t share my opinion. Man Bad.

Now to be really unkind. Swisher was married to a senior, long term and early Google engineer. Those stock options were going to be worth something. So, what was the divorce settlement? It still work as joint property in a lesbian marriage?

Well now, fancy that

Fear of a Labour government is driving down mansion prices as ultra-rich buyers cite a potential tax grab by Sir Keir Starmer when haggling with sellers.

Wealthy buyers in the market for properties worth at least £15m have started using Labour policies as a bargaining chip in negotiations, according to Beauchamp Estates.

Markets are forward looking, are they? Someone should study this, write a book about it maybe.

True story

‘I repeatedly failed to win any awards’: my doomed career as a North Korean novelist

No, that’s not me. But this next is. I was once offered a job sorting out the memoirs of Kim Il Sung. When I was in Moscow. They had an “English” translation and wanted it turned into an English translation. They knew I was doing some writing back then. So, would I take on the job?

“Maybe. How much?”

“$100”.

“$100 per what?”

“$100 for the book, about a thousand pages”.

“Err, no.”

This is hardly news

Arthur Conan Doyle secretly resented his Sherlock Holmes creation, says historian

He killed him off so that he could stop writing about him after all.

Author blamed literary success of the fictional detective for his highbrow historical novels ‘lying unread’

Then brought him back as no one read his other guff anyway…..

Pr Spinnery

The reason Judy Finnigan no longer watches This Morning
Having co-presented the programme for 13 years, she explains why she won’t appear on it to talk about her new book

Because the bastards won’t have me on, you cretin. Now, how to get this into the papers to sell the book anyway?

It can take me some time

In hte Tom Holt novels there’s an Alan Partridge sorta character, Danny someone, who keep connecting everything to international conspiracies.

Many of which refer to the International Milk Company – or the Milk Marketing Board perhaps. It’s just a background gag in several of the novels. But never really understood the background to the gag.

Ah, Wonder Woman battles the International Milk Company…..that’s where the gag comes from then….

Since when did we have censorship?

The short version is that if you know trans people, you’re much more likely to oppose hateful anti-trans legislation.

This is why they want to ban books about or by us, and why they want to erase us from public life. Because as the cliché goes, to know us is to love us.

Ban? Erase? Whut?

Nobody knows!

But I’m a professor and I’ve a book to sell!

Karl Pillemer, a professor at Cornell University and author of Fault Lines: Fractured Families and How to Mend Them, found that in 2020, 27% of Americans over the age of 18 were estranged from a family member. That’s more than a quarter, although the actual proportion could be much higher because many people are still reluctant to discuss such a personal and stigmatized topic. Although there is a lack of long-term research, Pillemer believes estrangement rates are increasing in the United States and other Western countries, especially in white and non-immigrant people under the age of 35.