The week in books

October 16, 2008

Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy by Lawrence Lessig, professor of law, Stanford University. Avery Publications, £20.00 and £12.99, ISBN 9781594201721 and 408113479

"Lessig has spent the past decade rallying global support from geeks and activists for reform of the copyright laws ... He argues that copyright in its current form is archaic, ineffective and stifling, a 'proprietary vault' guarded by government to protect corporations. Between 1998 and June 2006 the Recording Industry Association of America sued 17,587 people, including a 12-year-old girl and a dead grandmother."

Lewis Jones, Financial Times

What Next? Surviving the 21st Century by Chris Patten, chancellor, University of Newcastle and University of Oxford. Allen Lane, £25.00, ISBN 9780713998566

"This book could have surprised more, challenged more. Patten correctly blames the neocons for undermining the cause that he and they shared - the spreading of freedom around the world. He calls for greater multilateral engagement, for the reinforcing of institutions such as the UN. But he tells us little about how any of this is to be achieved and offers few new ideas for reconciling principle, pragmatism and national interest."

John Kampfner, The Observer

The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century by Ian Mortimer, honorary research fellow in history, University of Exeter. Vintage Books, £20.00, ISBN 9780224079945

"By far the best sections are those in which Mortimer stays truest to his conceit, and writes as though his ideal readers really are time-travellers, peeping out through the doors of their Tardis at a world which unsettlingly mixes the familiar and the bizarre. He has a novelist's eye for detail, and his portrait of an England in which sheep are the size of dogs, 30-year-old women are regarded as so much 'winter forage', and green vegetables widely held to be poisonous has something of the hallucinatory quality of science-fiction."

Tom Holland, The Daily Telegraph

The Hell-Fire Clubs: Sex, Satanism and Secret Societies by Evelyn Lord, course director for the MSt in local and regional history, and staff tutor in local history for the Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge. Yale University Press, £18.99, ISBN 9780300116670

"The 18th century was, Lord explains, a time of sexual prurience, fed by the spread of erotic and obscene books and pamphlets. There was much mystery about the female form, and fear of women's libido. Such concerns coincided with an appetite, fed by the Enlightenment, for clubs, and the belief that 'sociability was a key to happiness'. Many of these clubs were private, and few left records that were self-incriminating. Lord sifts through the scant evidence, and concludes that the real culprits in the tales of evil doing were the hypocrites who peddled fanciful notions of what others were up to. 'Plus ca change,' as Max Mosley might say - although, presumably, he would do so in guttural German ..."

Charles Spencer, The Independent on Sunday.

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