Peter Catterall, Patrick Doorly, A. W. Purdue, Peter J. Smith and Nicholas D. Thomson...

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

September 18, 2014

Peter Catterall, reader in history, University of Westminster, is reading Sandi Toksvig’s Flying Under Bridges (Sphere, 2001). “This novel offers both a moving plea for gay marriage and a powerful refutation of evangelical homophobia. It is remarkable how far we have moved since 2001. Less progress has been made on Toksvig’s other target. The social construction of gender relations – admittedly to different degrees – is shown here as oppressive of both women and men, and doubly so for gay people.”

Book review: Lila, by Robert M. Persig

Patrick Doorly, part-time lecturer in the history of art, department for continuing education, University of Oxford, is re-reading Robert M. Pirsig’s Lila: An Inquiry into Morals (Alma, 2011). “In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirsig showed how ‘quality’ (Plato’s arête) is not an attribute of subject or object, but the event in which subject and object unite and dissolve. Lila develops a comprehensive metaphysics around this primary experience, illustrated by the dramatis personae of the narrative. A thrilling journey with a first-class mind.”

Book review: Crisis of Empire, by Jeremy Black

A. W. Purdue, visiting professor of history, Northumbria University, is reading Jeremy Black’s Crisis of Empire: Britain and America in the Eighteenth Century (Bloomsbury, 2014). “Black reassesses the American Revolution, or War of Independence, in the context of Britain’s rise as a major world power. He emphasises the close relations between Britain and the colonists, the errors that led to what was, to a great extent, a civil war, and the reactions of Native Americans and black slaves and ex-slaves. The outcome owed much to the intervention of Britain’s colonial rivals, but the crisis would prove to be only a disruption to Britain’s progress towards colonial and maritime dominance.”

Book review: On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan

Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature, Nottingham Trent University, has just finished Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach (Jonathan Cape, 2007). “Edward and Florence, perched on the brink of the swinging Sixties, are honeymooning in Dorset. This delicate novel tells of their sexual expectations and inseparable anxieties. Lawrencian in its elemental power and Arnoldian in its cussed indifference, the beach itself is the backdrop to their final confrontation. An exemplum of human disappointment, pitiable, urgent and a wonderful read.”

Book review: Handbook of Executive Functioning, edited by Sam Goldstein and Jack Naglieri

Nicholas D. Thomson, a doctoral candidate in developmental psychopathology at Durham University, is reading Handbook of Executive Functioning, edited by Sam Goldstein and Jack Naglieri (Springer, 2014). “Given the academic and clinical credibility of the contributors, readers can appreciate the quality and scope of knowledge within this book before going beyond the contents. The editors have compiled a go-to guide for the latest research on executive functioning, confirming it as a necessary multidisciplinary tool for psychology. This is the perfect companion for neuropsychologists.”

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