The Embassy of Cambodia

zadie smith

This book gave me a convenient break from the heavier content of my recent reading. While bound in book form, The Embassy of Cambodia is  caught between being a short story and a novella.

It’s only 68 small pages but covers a lot of ground relating to the life of a migrant worker in London.

Misunderstanding,  suspicion, exploitation and ignorance: the companions of someone far from family and the familiar. Someone who finds a degree of compensation in simple pleasures

Maybe its cheating a little to count this as a book in my 2016 tally, but its brevity and simplicity compensate for the difficulty of other things on my list so far.

The story can be found here: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/02/11/the-embassy-of-cambodia

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The Economic Slowdown of Reading

the-global-minotaurMy reading has slowed to a crawl and I’m trying to stop it from grinding to a complete halt.
The book that has slowed things down is Yanis Varoufakis’s The Global Minotaur a book about the global economy and in particular the effects of America’s involvement within it.

Varoufakis was for a short time the Finance Minister of Greece during recent discussions between Greece and Europe over the economic crisis in his country. His argument at the time was that the austerity measures imposed upon Greece were making the problem worse and not bringing any hope of improvement.

I’ve seen that term “austerity” being used a lot recently relating to Government programmes to bring their economies back under control after the 2008 crash.
An English friend of mine has said that her retirement plans may have to be delayed for another ten years because of cuts related to “austerity” measures.
Through my recent “research” (including reading) I’ve come to understand that “austerity” measures are conditions being imposed upon society’s less well off, to pay for the failed ventures of its richest.
In other words, post-2008 bail out packages for the banks and big business are being financed through cuts to welfare and community services.

But back to my reading problems.
While The Global Minotaur contains some fascinating observations, a lot of its content goes well above my head. Maybe it’s something I’d more easily grasp if I could devote more time to long blocks of reading, instead of being restricted to half an hour here and there. Overall, while I’m having trouble understanding some of the specifics, this book explains and confirms some of the things I’d already observed: that the world’s economic systems are deeply flawed and are skewed to favour the super-wealthy.

I’m now about halfway through the book, so based on earlier experience I’m hoping the rest will be easier going.
It will be good to move on to something else but I’m not sure what it should be. I have a few other “political” books I’d like to start on but maybe I should take a break and get back to some fiction. I have novels by Zadie Smith, David Mitchell and a few others that I’m looking forward to reading, but who do I put first in line?

Capitalism: a ghost story

capitalism
This is another book of essays by Arundhati Roy.

While alot of the issues she addresses are focused on Indian politics, it is clear that the Indian examples she writes about are symptoms of what’s happening globally. While my knowledge of those Indian cases is limited to what I’ve read in her work, the general principles shown through those cases are very familiar – even if their “Western” manifestation is different.

I’ve read a lot of Roy’s work this year and it probably seems dismissive to say this is more of the same – but it would be wrong to interpret that “sameness” in a negative way. Instead I see it as an indication that the problems she raises continue and they aren’t limited to familiar places involving familiar people.

Risky Reading (and blogging)

There are clear risks for a Christian to have a book blog, particularly when the majority of books mentioned (and included on my reading lists) are “secular” books.

Now that word “risk” may seem a strange choice – what risk could there possibly be?
Well… some people like to dig around and find “evidence” they can use to discredit the blogger elsewhere. It’s happened to me in the past, when I was a frequent contributor to a Christian forum. One of the other contributors visited the blog I kept prior to this one, and saw something I’d written about a Stephen King biography – BINGO! – They had “evidence” to prove what a compromised Christian I was, and therefore whatever I wrote on that forum couldn’t be trusted.

A similar thing happened this week, when a poster on a Christian forum pointed out that I’d read five secular books so far this year (clearly finding that information on this blog) , presenting that as evidence of a compromised spiritual state, attempting to invalidate what I was saying in the discussion underway.

That kind of thing is something I have to weigh up before posting anything to this blog – but to date I haven’t held back anything I’ve wanted to say and I haven’t left any books off my “books read” lists to hide my reading material. I have no need to be dishonest about it.

The only concession I make with regard to this issue, is to limit links from my other blog, (one that deals more specifically with Christian matters) to this one. I find I can’t trust some people to put aside religious narrow mindedness to appreciate the reasons for what I read, and the subjects I write about here.

On the other hand, I have no reticence in sending traffic from here to there. In fact I’d like to think that people, who may come here through an interest in books, could also be interested in visiting that other blog and be exposed to a more targeted Christian viewpoint on a variety of issues.

Here is a link to that blog
https://onesimusfiles.wordpress.com/