Jonathan Coe made his name with What A Carve Up!, a gothic state-of-the-nation novel that took the Thatcher settlement to violent comic task. A quarter of a century on, Coe is taking the country’s temperature again – and finding it hot with anger and cold with fear.
Clang, clang, clang goes the trolley. But look! There are five people tethered to the track! The train is headed straight for them … what to do? How about pulling that lever next to you? That will divert the train on to a side line. True, if you do so, the one person who is tied up on that line will die. But hey, better one dead than five, right?
Ricks’ mission is to convince us that his two “vastly dissimilar” subjects were in fact cut from the same cloth. The high-born Tory romantic and the socialist scholarship boy were united in their belief that the twentieth century’s big- shot ideologues wanted to sound the death knell on individual freedom.
Naomi Klein’s last book was called This Changes Everything. Her new book, No Is Not Enough, could as well be called “You Change Everything”. Like Karl Marx before her, Klein has decided that it is all very well to interpret the world, but the point is to make it better.
If the devil has all the best tunes, the Right has all the best stories. The great crash of 2008 had its roots in the American sub-prime mortgage market. That had burgeoned from the financial deregulation of the 1980s which was the brainchild of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Yet Thatcher’s party, which was lucky enough to be out of power at the time, sought to blame this global crisis on the then Labour Government’s spending (spending the Tories had until the eve of the crash been promising to maintain should they win any future election).
A man of parts, Arthur Koestler. Journalist, Zionist, anti-fascist, Communist, anti-Communist, novelist, historian of science – the list could fill this review. Little wonder David Cesarani and Michael Scammell took more than 600 pages apiece to accommodate him in biographical form.
“Hardly a day goes by,” Gabriel Marcel noted in 1946, “without my being asked what is existentialism?” Nor was it only Marcel’s fellow thinkers who wanted the lowdown on the latest ideas. “Usually it is a society lady who asks,” he went on, “but tomorrow it may be my charwoman or the ticket-collector.”
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