What are you reading? – 21 March 2019

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

March 21, 2019
Source: Getty

Martin Myers, lecturer in education at the University of Portsmouth, is reading Ted Lewis’ Get Carter (Allison and Busby, 2013). “Towards the fag end of the 1960s, Jack Carter, an enforcer for a pair of sibling kingpins in the ‘smoke’, steps off a train in an industrial northern town. He’s back home for his murdered brother’s funeral and, intent on identifying the killers, wreaks brutal havoc. There’s an absolute economy about the best of Ted Lewis’ work: the weather, the shitty prospects, the impact of a beating are all laid bare. His protagonist is a sardonic, intelligent beast. Someone who deploys extreme violence intentionally and understands the consequences of his actions: who will get hurt, how badly, how far his own interests will advance. He’s a middle manager through and through. These days, he would stalk the corridors of more respectable institutions – weighing up the numbers, identifying profit margins, sticking a knife in the guts of deadwood.”

Kalwant Bhopal, professorial research fellow and professor of education and social justice at the University of Birmingham, is reading John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany (Black Swan, 1990). “The very first sentence of this book is totally gripping: ‘I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice – not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew or because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God.’ In true Irvingesque style, this book makes you laugh and cry – it is both hilarious and heart-breaking. Irving’s genius lies in his ability to understand and empathise with Owen Meany and his belief that he is God’s instrument – which is extraordinary and terrifying. This book is the work of a genius, original in its prose and storytelling, and simply a must-read.”

Stephen Halliday, senior member of Pembroke College, Cambridge, is reading William Keegan’s Nine Crises: Fifty Years of Covering the British Economy from Devaluation to Brexit (Biteback Publishing, 2019). “Written by the long-serving economics editor of The Observer, this is a timely reminder of the ability of our elected representatives to detach themselves from the world in which the rest of us earn our living. The grinding of axes over the Keynesian sympathies of the author is sometimes too evident, but it is hard to disagree about the potentially disastrous consequences of Brexit. However, the strongest message that emerged was the extraordinary resilience of Britain’s economy and democracy in the face of poor political decisions. One can only hope that, once again, the enterprise of the working population will overcome the obstacles strewn on the path by the manoeuvres of those they elect. Read the book, cross fingers and hope for the best.”

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