What are you reading? – 14 September 2017

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

September 14, 2017
Source: istock

Douglas Chalmers, senior lecturer in media and journalism, Glasgow Caledonian University, and vice-president, University and College Union, is reading Noam Chomsky’s Optimism over Despair (Penguin Special, 2017). “Chomsky has been seen by many (including myself) as ‘America’s moral conscience’ for more than half a century. This collection of recent interviews, originally undertaken for the Truthout website, gives yet another example of his wide-ranging exploration of events, both international and nearer to home, and his wish to synthesise them into an understandable narrative. Although dark in parts, his analysis still offers hope for those wishing for a radical but positive agenda. He discusses everything from empire, religion and inequality to ‘global struggles for dominance’ between Isis, Nato and Russia, although readers of Times Higher Education may find his chapter on ‘The perils of market-driven education’ particularly insightful. His final chapter, ‘Why I choose optimism over despair’, encapsulates his still positive outlook.”

Carina Buckley, instructional design manager, Southampton Solent University, is reading Helen McClory’s Flesh of the Peach (Freight Books, 2017). “Bereaved after her estranged mother’s death and newly dumped by her married girlfriend, Sarah leaves her apartment in New York and her recently inherited wealth back home in Cornwall for a three-day bus journey to her mother’s cabin in New Mexico. Caught up in a grief she can’t acknowledge, her unravelling has ominous implications for Theo, the neighbour she has claimed as both shield and target. In a book dedicated to ‘unlikeable women’, Sarah is more a damaged one, struggling to find and accept love. The poetic, punchy and immediate language draws us into her turbulent despair without letting us too close, leaving her at the end as isolated as we found her but with a sense of the healing that comes from time, distance and self-acceptance.”

Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor, University of Reading, is reading Rory Clements’ Corpus (Zaffre, 2017). “Best known for his Tudor espionage novels, Rory Clements has turned his hand to 1930s skulduggery in Corpus. Edward VIII is on the verge of abdicating. Working under instructions from Berlin, British fascist sympathisers in the shady North Sea organisation seek to change the course of events. Yet ties of family and friendship are strong and matters become more complicated…The book has enough diversions and wrong turns to keep the reader engaged. Also in the mix are a mysterious reporter from The Times, one of Stalin’s henchmen fresh from the Spanish Civil War and machinations within a Cambridge college involving a chippy American scholar whose amateur sleuthing might save the day. More please, Mr Clements.”

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