What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

March 22, 2012

Arthur Bradley, senior lecturer in contemporary literature and culture at Lancaster University, is reading Robert Appelbaum's Dishing It Out: In Search of the Restaurant Experience (Reaktion, 2011). "In this remarkable book - which mixes high social theory with gonzo journalism, literary criticism with Proustian memoir - Robert Appelbaum eats (and thinks and writes) his way around the restaurants of Europe and America in search of an ideal of social democracy: 'a restaurant for the rest of us'."

Stephen Halliday, lecturer at the Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge, is reading Ben Pimlott's Harold Wilson (Harper Collins, 1993). "The biography confirmed this reader's impression that the subject was primarily a manipulator whose chief aims were to preserve the unity of the Labour Party and its hold on government, rather than to use his office to tackle the nation's manifold problems. But having read how divisive and awkward many of his colleagues were, one has more sympathy for him."

Barry Hymer, professor of psychology in education at the University of Cumbria, has been reading Michiel Heyns' Lost Ground (Jonathan Ball, 2011). "Heyns, a former professor of English at the University of Stellenbosch, is one of a long line of South African scholar-novelists. His fifth novel is a piece of crime fiction set in a nondescript dorp in post-independence South Africa. It's an expat novel and plays on the recognisable motifs of this genre at a meta-level. Suffused with anomie, pitch-perfect dialogue and characters in various states of psychological health and decay, this is a book written with spare wit and a dry elegance. Think J.M. Coetzee meets Herman Charles Bosman."

Willy Maley, professor of Renaissance studies, University of Glasgow, is reading Anna Reid's Leningrad: Tragedy of a City Under Siege, 1941-44 (Bloomsbury, 2011). "The siege of Leningrad, 'one of the most under-reported atrocities of World War Two', belongs to the tragic history of cities under siege, but as Reid's beautiful blend of scholarship and storytelling shows, it belongs also to a larger history of human suffering that must be told, as Samuel Beckett advised, without words becoming 'a form of complacency'. Reid achieves the perfect measure of intimate knowledge and understated eloquence."

Stephen Wildman is director of the Ruskin Library and Research Centre at Lancaster University, which features towards the end of Marion McClintock's Shaping the Future: A History of The University of Lancaster, 1961-2011. "This fascinatingly lucid and considered account of one of the most successful newer universities is written with delightfully understated passion by its former academic registrar, a servant to Lancaster of over 40 years' standing, who is never less than faithful to its motto, patet omnibus veritas (truth lies open to all)."

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