Peter Paul Catterall, George McKay, Claire O’Mahony, Lyla Quinn and Stephen Senn...

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

January 22, 2015

Peter Paul Catterall, reader in history, University of Westminster, is reading Terry Pratchett’s Raising Steam (Transworld, 2013). “The real heroine of this story is a steam engine, the idea of progress it represents, and the way in which its cosmopolitan benefits can bring peoples together – all except those for whom the art of politics is not so much about managing change as imposing dogma. I wonder who these dwarfish purveyors of certainty and hatred for all who are different represent in our world?”

Book review: Different Every Time, by Marcus O'Dair

George McKay, professor in media studies, University of East Anglia, is reading Marcus O’Dair’s Different Every Time: The Authorised Biography of Robert Wyatt (Serpent’s Tail, 2014). “Rare and evocative family photographs contribute greatly to a compelling biography of ‘the best non-voice in the business’, as Wyatt’s own mother once put it. The story travels from Canterbury rock to touring with Hendrix, avant-garde jazz to Marxism, via the awkwardly delicate falsetto anti-Falklands War song Shipbuilding. Wyatt’s is an extraordinary, rich and committed musical life, punctuated by the accident that left him with paraplegia.”

Book review: British Army Uniform and the First World War, by Jane Tynan

Claire O’Mahony, course director of the master’s in the history of design, University of Oxford, has been rereading Jane Tynan’s British Army Uniform and the First World War: Men in Khaki (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). “This well-researched interdisciplinary study assesses the ways in which clothing shapes the gendered bodies and identities of a nation in wartime. Tynan shows how the visual cultures of photographs, tailoring manuals and advertising captured the way uniforms embody and subvert the impact of military life through her readable deployment of theoretical models and archives. In this book, khaki illuminates rather than camouflages memories of 1914.”

Book review: Marabou Stork Nightmares, by Irvine Welsh

Lyla Quinn, academic administrator, journalism and publishing, London College of Communication, University of the Arts London, is reading Irvine Welsh’s Marabou Stork Nightmares (Vintage, 1996). “A dark, disturbing novel that is sickening and hilarious in equal measure. Welsh discusses issues such as child abuse and rape while reducing the reader to tears of aching laughter. Written in Scottish dialect and set against a surreal dreamlike backdrop, this cleverly composed work is a difficult read, but worth it if you have the stomach.”

Book review: The Testament of Gideon Mack, by James Robertson

Stephen Senn, head of the Competence Center for Methodology and Statistics, Centre de Recherche Public de la Santé, Luxembourg, is reading James Robertson’s The Testament of Gideon Mack (Hamish Hamilton, 2006). “The murky choice is divine madness or satanic sanity, but one thing is clear in this eldritch tale with echoes of fellow Scotsmen James Hogg and Walter Scott: someone is messing with somebody’s heid. But is it the Deil with the minister’s or the minister with the reader’s? If reading it after dark, follow the minister’s example and have a large dram at hand.”

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