What are you reading? – 15 December 2016

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

December 15, 2016
Pile of books on park bench
Source: iStock

Tim Hall, head of the department of applied social sciences, University of Winchester, is reading Roberto Saviano’s ZeroZeroZero (Penguin, 2016). “Saviano is the investigative journalist who produced 2008’s Gomorrah, an undercover exposé of Naples’ Camorra mafia crime group and the malevolent grip it holds on the city. It must have hit a few nerves, as he has spent the subsequent years living behind police protection after a contract was put on his life. ZeroZeroZero is the follow-up, a kaleidoscopic collection of stories of cocaine capitalism. At times a little overwritten, it still manages to convey the power of the transnational networks of corruption and violence that characterise this now global industry. It confirms that there are no easy solutions to the problems it generates. There is more to say, though, about the consumers who drive the demand for cocaine. Their voices we only glimpse in the text.”

Uwe Schütte, reader in German, Aston University, is reading Rüdi Esch’s Electri_City: The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music (Omnibus Press, 2016). “The capital of German music, at least of electronic pop music, isn’t Berlin, but Düsseldorf. Kraftwerk were the city’s key innovators, replacing guitars and drums with synthesisers, drum machines, vocoders and self‑made instruments. Their peculiarly German brand of ‘industrielle Volksmusik’ (industrial people’s music) resonated deeply with British bands such as Cabaret Voltaire, Depeche Mode and Ultravox. But Düsseldorf was also where Neu!, DAF, Propaganda, Der Plan and others forged their vision of cutting-edge machine-made music. Rüdi Esch, bassist for the pioneering industrial group Die Krupps, has compiled a fascinating oral history from interviews with the people who shaped and experienced Germany’s pop music revolution. Electri_City offers a multifaceted, poly-vocal account of the emergence of a futuristic sound that would change the course of pop music for ever.”

Stephen Halliday, a senior member of Pembroke College, Cambridge, is reading Alan Bennett’s Keeping on Keeping on (Faber & Faber/Profile, 2016). “The numerous theatrical anecdotes are mostly lost on this reader, but the familiar Yorkshire voice echoes from these pages, disapproving of much that crosses the author’s path, especially if it was born after 1950. Into this category come Tony Blair and, a particular bête noire, Classic FM, which, with the National Trust, another previously blameless organisation, is accused of the offence of ‘Torification’. His mood is lightened, briefly, by the sight of two Jehovah’s Witnesses reeling from a doorstep interview with Jonathan Miller, whose harangue pursues them down Gloucester Crescent. That episode alone is worth the price of the book. But, Alan, not all politicians are bad! Even some Tories have redeeming features. Undoubtedly this is the work of Britain’s most popular grumpy old man. And compulsive reading.”

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