New and noteworthy – 8 September 2016

This week’s bookish things to do: brush up your Shakespeare, explore a mother of a holiday, put paid to the rentiers and count the cost of London’s Olympics

September 8, 2016
William Shakespeare books on bookshelf
Source: iStock

Shakespeare on Page & Stage: Selected Essays
Stanley Wells
Oxford University Press

Sir Stanley, as he became this year, delivers a bumper 30 chapters of essays on you-know-who, written over the past half-century plus. Violence in Titus Andronicus, the “failure” of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Leigh Hunt, William Hazlitt, Peter Brook, the sonnets and the ghosts, and some wise and puckish thoughts on being a General Editor of Shakespeare for two publishers are among the standouts in a volume that is wrapped, not surprisingly, in peers’ fond superlatives for “one of Shakespeare’s greatest critics”. He looks chuffed with himself in David Fallow’s portrait in oils on the inside dust jacket, and rightly so.

Fertility Holidays: IVF Tourism and the Reproduction of Whiteness
Amy Speier
New York-University Press

An anthropologist turns a keen, empathetic eye on a corner of the worldwide baby business: lower middle-class North Americans travelling to the Czech Republic for fertility treatments, relatively low-cost medical expertise and, Speier contends and interviewees mostly confirm, “white” babies. It is a tale of “intimate labour”, stigma, profit, ethical dilemmas, increasingly globalised for-profit medicine and accounts of hope and despair played out in tidy Prague bed and breakfasts. Beautifully written, rich with a sense of place and of humanity.

The Corruption of Capitalism: Why Rentiers Thrive and Work Does Not Pay
Guy Standing

Lies, power, corruption and more lies: the economist author of the term-coining 2011 work The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class, shoots fact-fuelled broadsides at the guilty of the new Gilded Age with a steady arm, en route to a compelling, general reader-friendly exposition of his call for a basic income. Not surprisingly, John McDonnell, Paul Mason and Robert Reich have offered kudos for this bracing, pugnacious evisceration of the sins of rentier capitalism that reads like a thriller – although alas, none of the baddies is fictional.

Citizen’s Wealth: Why (and How) Sovereign Funds Should Be Managed by the People for the People
Angela Cummine
Yale University Press

Exceedingly impressive work from a rising academic star, who argues for governments to “help transform sovereign funds managing sovereign wealth into community funds managing citizens’ wealth”, emphasising that “too few…have acknowledged that the money in these funds is ultimately the property of citizens, not their governments”. Sizing up SWFs from Singapore and New Zealand to Alaska, and returning repeatedly to the recent experience of Chile (and the Santiago Principles that grew out of it), this study is sharp, focused and persuasive.

London’s Olympic Legacy: The Inside Track
Gillian Evans
Palgrave Macmillan

A telling study of fudges, cock-ups, broken promises, venality, unaffordable housing and the screwing-over of allotment gardeners. Evans, an anthropologist, had “unprecedented access” to the organisations, institutions and individuals involved with London’s 2012 Olympic Games and all the goodies that were supposed to follow, but largely didn’t. She trails Tessa Jowell via evenings at Elena’s L’Étoile with Boris Johnson and the “very macho”, “very curiously dysfunctional” culture of the Olympic Park Legacy Company, highlighting “the potential for publicly funded projects worldwide to become devices for a highly paid, constantly circulating elite to extract private value from the public purse”. A 19-point “Lessons from London” is stuffed with insight, should any of the less admirable dramatis personae here, or their counterparts elsewhere, care to read it.

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