What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

September 30, 2010

Stephen Halliday, lecturer at the Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge, is reading Drew D. Gray's London's Shadows: The Dark Side of the Victorian City (Continuum, 2010). "G. M. Trevelyan wrote that social history was history with the politics left out. Gray takes it a step further: history with the politics and most of the cheerful bits left out, in a fine addition to the literature on urban history. He notes that many criminals emerged from the Victorian prison system 'broken, resentful, malnourished and in many cases mentally disturbed'. Sound familiar?"

Shelley King, professor of English, Queen's University, Canada, is reading Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children's Literature (New York University Press, 2008). "Editors Julia L. Mickenberg, Philip Nel and Jack Zipes bring together a fascinating collection of mostly long-forgotten works for children that gave voice to ideologies counter to the mainstream US Right. Thus far my favourite titbit comes from Pioneer Mother Goose (1934): 'This bloated Pig masters Wall Street, /This little Pig owns your home...This Pig in Congress shouts "War, War!"/All the day long.' Seems prophetic."

Marnia Lazreg, professor of sociology, Graduate Center and Hunter College, City University of New York, is re-reading Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (Penguin, 2003). "I first read this when I was 15; revisiting it filled me with amazement at the universality of women's condition in spite of cultural differences. It revived memories of women in my family whose lives were circumscribed by social conventions as well as an unequal legal system. Feeling at home in a novel set in 18th-century England is an exhilarating experience."

Katharine Reeve, senior lecturer in English and creative studies, Bath Spa University, is reading David Lodge's Small World: An Academic Romance (Penguin, 1984). "What better tonic for the start of a new year under axe-wielding Tories than re-reading one of Lodge's wonderful campus novels? I'm revisiting the University of Rummidge in 1979 and finding many parallels with 2010. This is laugh-out-loud funny in its deliciously accurate depictions of academic rivalry, sexual liaisons on the conference circuit, desperate academics and departments in disarray. "

Paul A. Taylor is senior lecturer in communications theory, University of Leeds. "Re-reading Jean Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness (Taylor and Francis, 2003) has convinced me that he has been unjustifiably neglected in recent years - paraphrasing Seinfeld's George Costanza, it's a great book about nothing. For 'light' relief that continues the existential theme, Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood (Vintage, 2001) is a poignantly powerful antidote to the lobotomising effects of happy-clappy kitsch."

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