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Fri, 12 Feb 2010 04:58
New in paperback (and released alongside a collection of interviews, conducted between January 2001 and March 2008, The Shape of the Beast), Arundhati Roy's passionate, informed and intelligent Listening to Grasshoppers: Field Notes on Democracy:
"What happens once democracy has been used up? When it has been hollowed out and emptied of meaning?" Combining brilliant insight and razor-sharp prose, Listening to Grasshoppers is Arundhati Roy's essential exploration of the political picture in India today. In these essays, she takes a hard look at the underbelly of the world's largest democracy and shows how the journey that Hindu nationalism and neo-liberal economic reforms began together in the early 1990s is unravelling in dangerous ways.
Beginning with the state-backed killing of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, and ending with an analysis of the November 2008 attacks on Mumbai, Listening to Grasshoppers tracks the fault-lines that threaten to destroy India's precarious future and, along the way, asks fundamental questions about democracy itself -- a political system that has, by virtue of being considered "the best available option", been put beyond doubt and correction.
Posted by Mark
Fri, 05 Feb 2010 09:49
Historically, English-language readers have been great fans of European literature, and names like Franz Kafka, Gustave Flaubert, and Thomas Mann are so familiar we hardly think of them as foreign at all. What those writers brought to English-language literature was a wide variety of new ideas, styles, and ways of seeing the world. Yet times have changed, and how much do we even know about the richly diverse literature being written in Europe today?
Best European Fiction 2010 is the inaugural installment of what will become an annual anthology of stories from across Europe.
Edited by acclaimed Bosnian novelist and MacArthur "Genius-Award" winner Aleksandar Hemon, and with dozens of editorial, media, and programming partners in the US, UK, and Europe, the Best European Fiction series will be a window onto what's happening right now in literary scenes throughout Europe, where the next Kafka, Flaubert, or Mann is waiting to be discovered.
Fri, 05 Feb 2010 09:41
Writing in The Independent the excellent Boyd Tonkin said Jaron Lanier's You are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto contains "the finest diagnosis of the internet's 'culture of sadism' I have ever read". I don't recognise that culture, but I do think this book is an important contribution to a vital debate:
Something went wrong around the start of the 21st century. Individual creativity began to go out of fashion. Music became an endless rehashing of the past. Scientists were in danger of no longer understanding their own research. Indeed, not only was individual creativity old-fashioned but individuals themselves. The crowd was wise. Machines, specifically computers, were no longer tools to be used by human minds - they were better than humans. Welcome to the world of the digital revolution. Yet what if, by devaluing individuals, we are deadening creativity, endlessly rehashing past culture, risking weaker design in engineering and science, losing democracy, and reducing development -- in every sphere?
In You Are Not a Gadget, Jaron Lanier, digital guru, and inventor of Virtual Reality, delivers a searing manifesto in support of the human and reflects on the good and bad developments in design and thought twenty years after the invention of the web. Controversial and fascinating, You Are Not a Gadget is a deeply felt defence of the individual from an author uniquely qualified to comment on the way technology interacts with our culture.
Fri, 22 Jan 2010 07:00
Wired magazine called Unwritten Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity "Fascinating...one of the brainiest and most interesting comics of the year." Comic writer Brian K. Vaughan said it was "beautifully executed. Highly recommended for anyone who thinks that fantasy can do more than just help you escape the real world." I can't wait to read this...
Tom Taylor's life was screwed from the word go. His father created the mega-popular Tommy Taylor boy-wizard fantasy novels. But dad modeled the fictional epic so closely to Tom that fans constantly compare him to his counterpart, turning him into a lame, Z-level celebrity.
When a scandal hints that Tom might really be the boy-wizard made flesh, Tom comes into contact with a mysterious, deadly group that's secretly kept tabs on him all his life. Now, to protect his life and discover the truth behind his origins, Tom will travel the world, to all the places in world history where fictions have shaped reality.
Fri, 22 Jan 2010 06:37
The Prince of Silicon Valley traces the rise of the foremost investment banker of the Internet stock-market bubble, from the back streets of South Philadelphia to the peak of finance as the highest paid banker on Wall Street:
From Cisco to Netscape to Amazon, Frank Quattrone took some of the biggest names in technology public. During the bubble years of 1999 and 2000, his California-based technology banking group led the most hot initial public offerings, which lifted the entire stock market to record heights.
But after the bubble burst, the hot stocks cooled and ordinary investors lost billions. It emerged that brokers in Quattrone's firm had created lucrative investment accounts, stuffed with hot IPOs, for banking clients who became known as "Friends of Frank." Some of the brokers, regulators charged, cut off other investors who refused to pay back a share of their IPO profits.
And so Quattrone and his firm became embroiled in no less than four different investigations of bubble-related misconduct, culminating in two criminal trials against Quattrone for obstruction of justice, the first resulting in a mistrial, the second in a conviction in 2004. After his conviction was overturned by an appeals court in 2006, Quattrone returned in triumph to the banking business, advising no less than Internet search giant Google on corporate strategy.
But the story of his fall from grace, however temporary, remains a cautionary tale of ambition gone wrong -- of a Wall Street Icarus who flew too close to the sun. The Prince of Silicon Valley is an absorbing noir detective story of the investigations and trials that brought him to the brink of disaster.
Posted by Mark
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