The week in books

May 29, 2008

The Complete Works of W.H. Auden: Prose, Volume III 1949-1955 edited by Edward Mendelson, professor of English and comparative literature and Lionel Trilling professor in the humanities, Columbia University. Faber and Faber, £40.00, ISBN 9780571237616.

"This is the fifth volume in the complete edition of Auden's works ... How lucky he was in his choice of literary executor ... Many things in Auden's life, and in his death, were chaotic. But the handling of his literary estate has been exemplary ... So much effort has been saved - from the back number, from the archive and from the editor's spike. Auden would have been astonished. The rest of us can say: Bravo."

James Fenton, The Sunday Times

Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris, fellow, American Psychological Association, and Elliot Aronson, professor emeritus of psychology, University of California, Santa Cruz. Pinter and Martin, £8.99, ISBN 9781905177219

"But how do we square two dissonant cognitions when one of them is the belief that we are decent people and the other is the knowledge that we have inflicted pain on an innocent victim? It's the most vicious of circles. Aggression begets self-justification, which begets more aggression, and thus do the authors lead us, one small step at a time, down the road to Abu Ghraib and to all those deeds throughout the ages whose doers were never the monsters we'd prefer them to be but just decent people like us."

David Newnham, The Guardian

Global Financial Regulation: The Essential Guide by Howard Davies, director, London School of Economics, and David Green. Polity Press, £15.99, ISBN 9780745643502

"Howard Davies and David Green offer a superb account of the international regulatory system, together with a set of proposals for its reform that are highly relevant ... Their account of the workings of the system contains many insights even informed observers may have missed. I had not realised, for example, that the European Central Bank turned up uninvited at the first meeting of the Financial Stability Forum, a by-product of the Asian financial crisis, and has never been shown the door."

John Plender, Financial Times

God and Gold: Britain, America and the Making of the Modern World by Walter Russell Mead, member of the department of globalisation and international affairs, Bard College. Atlantic Books, £25.00, ISBN 9781843547235

"A bold thesis which illuminates some of the underlying assumptions of American (and possibly of 'Anglo-American') culture; but it is also an easy argument to caricature, and to many in Europe, let alone the Middle East, it will be read as a confirmation of all their worst suspicions about the Anglo-Saxons' arrogant plans for world domination. Mead glosses over the dark side of the Anglo-American triumph ... (but) this is really just an issue of tone, since his argument does not depend on the moral superiority of the Anglos, merely their capacity to come out on top."

Adam I.P. Smith, The Times Literary Supplement.

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