What are you reading? – 10 November 2016

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

November 10, 2016
An open book on a beach
Source: iStock

Rachel Garfield, associate professor in fine art, University of Reading, is reading Elena Ferrante’s The Story of the Lost Child (Europa Editions, 2015). “This is the final part of the Neapolitan Quartet, which is a journey through the late 20th century. While it is in many ways a familiar narrative to those who lived through the period, it has been refreshing to have it told from an Italian rather than an American perspective, particularly since the debates and activism of the Left had very different traditions. I’m not sure where this final volume will end, although I’m only 30 pages away now and feel it is drawing towards a bleak conclusion. It’s been an enjoyable read, with the books taken up sporadically over the past two years with breaks in between. I came across them by chance in a bookshop and was engrossed from the start, and have been engrossed till the end.”

Sir Robert Worcester, visiting professor of public opinion and political analysis, King’s College London, is reading Nathaniel Philbrick’s Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution (Viking, 2016) “This remarkable reconstruction of what we know about George Washington and Benedict Arnold, leading characters in the American War of Independence, digs deeply into their personalities to explain their fates, good and bad. Washington would become known as the Founding Father of his country; Arnold, who might have become the hero of the American cause, would end up in ignominy, as the traitor who betrayed his compatriots, country and himself. Washington’s weaknesses as a general were caused by an impetuous nature, even as he was slow to decide which battle to take on; at the same time, he showed the political genius that would characterise presidents Eisenhower and Reagan. Arnold is depicted as a brilliant general, yet he was hopeless as a politician, driven as he was by his ego.”

Dennis Hayes, professor of education at the University of Derby, is reading Claire Fox’s “I find that offensive!” (Biteback Publishing, 2016). “The therapeutic turn in education produced ‘Generation Snowflake’ and now they have come to university and they think they can’t cope. Fox identifies two of the culprits that created them: the student voice movement and the obsession with self-esteem. The snowflakes now think education is all about “ME, ME, ME”. Part III of Fox’s powerful polemic is a “Letter to a Generation” – with separate letters to the snowflakes and anti-snowflakers. She concludes: “You all need to toughen up and make a virtue of the right to be offensive. It’s an easy sentence, but actually it’s a challenge: take hold of your destiny and sort out this mess.” At the beginning of each new academic year, every fresher, indeed every student, should read this book!”

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