Thursday, August 31, 2006

Roger Deakin

"Roger belonged to that tradition of topographical and literary writers who had one foot in the library and the other in distant fields." Ken Worpole pays tribute to the life and writing of Roger Deakin, author of the amazing Waterlog: A Swimmer's Journey Through Britain (1999) in the Guardian:,,1860073,00.html

Roger Deakin died in August shortly after completing Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees, which will published in 2007.

Naguib Mahfouz

Mahfouz won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature, and survived an assassination attempt after a fatwa was issued against him, but his work has seldom been mentioned in the literary press, and is hard to find in libraries and bookshops. It is ironic that we can read more about him now that he is dead than we could while he was alive.

Independent obituary:
"His narrative world is peopled with characters from all walks of Egyptian life, from beggars to aristocrats, with a special place reserved for the intellectuals with whom Mahfouz identifies. On the literary plane, his career spans the whole process of development of the Arabic novel from the historical to the modernistic and lyrical. He earned the Arabic novel respect and popularity and lived to see it flourish in the work of numerous writers throughout the Arab world."

Guardian obituary:
"Born in Gamaliya in the old city of Cairo, the son of a minor official, the writer spent his first years in the distinctive medieval atmosphere with its narrow lanes, clustered overhanging buildings and picturesque artisans. Its features became part of his consciousness and are brought to life in some of his early realistic novels and, more particularly, in The Cairo Trilogy on which, both in the Arab world and in the west, his fame in great part rests.",,1861320,00.html

Counterpunch reprints an article written about Mahfouz by the late Edward Said in 2001: "despite his transparent manner, Mahfouz is dauntingly sophisticated not only as an Arabic stylist but as an assiduous student of social process and epistemology--that is, the way people know their experiences--without equal in his part of the world, and probably elsewhere for that matter. The realistic novels on which his fame rests, far from being only a dutiful sociological mirror of modern Egypt, are also audacious attempts to reveal the highly concrete way power is actually deployed."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Idle Thoughts.......

O.K. so the weeds are growing on the allotment, but the raspberries need picking and yesterday I found that every plump ripe raspberry had a beatutiful bright green shield bug sitting in residence; sometimes there were two - doing what comes naturally to shieldbugs in the warm August sun - each one marked with a patch of irridescence on its back. The great thing about summer is being able to lay on the grass under the trees and watch the world go by. .. to watch the plums turn golden and listen to the grasshoppers........and if it sometimes rains I can turn to The Idler. Get a taste of what life is about when lived to a different rythmn and read some of the fascinating archived conversations with Michael Palin, Will Self, Alan Moore and even Paul Bowles (from 1993).

Monday, August 21, 2006

A Knight in Tarnished Armour

Paul Gray reviews Christina Hardyment's new book about Sir Thomas Mallory The Knight Who Became King Arthur’s Chronicler in the New York Times Sunday Book Review.

Student Fingerprinting

I've posted about this before as it's a technology that is used increasingly in school and college libraries but there is an interesting article on Cambridge Indymedia that provides some additonal insight into the way the whole thing works (or doesn't).

Saturday, August 19, 2006

More on Murray Bookchin...

Andy Price explores the relevance of Murray Bookchin in Z Mag:

What's Politics Got To Do With It?

Writer, broadcaster and poet, Michael Rosen publishes the text of a recent talk on education that he gave at King's College London:

"The past twenty years has seen a steady rise in the ways in which teachers have been controlled. It’s the only model that politicians seem to have for getting things done. Command and control...."

"In the particular segment of education where I mostly work, with literature and language for primary age children, I’ve come to the conclusion that literature and reading have become so reduced, dissected, cross-examined, abridged, chopped-up and tested that the most subversive, exciting and political thing to do now is to rush about creating moments in schools where the children will know for certain that all that they’ll have to do with a book, a poem, a story or a play is enjoy it. No questions, no tests, no learning outcomes.

A Quick Note...

A quick note to mention that I have added three recent articles to the articles and reviews page of Booksurfer : These are: a short review of George McKay's Circular Breathing, a longish article about the University of the Third Age, and a study of Black Mountain College: An Experiment in Alternative Education.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Bound By Law?

A free digital comic with a witty and informative storyline about "how the eroded public domain has made documentary film-making a minefield" by Keith Aoki, James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins of the Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain:

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Richard Mock

The New York Times reports the death of Richard Mock (61), a painter and sculptor whose interest in politics led to a second career as an "editorial" cartoonist, specialising in linocut prints. His visual social commentary appeared in the editorial pages of the from 1978 to 1996. His work has also appeared in New York TimesBarrons, The Wall Street Journal and numerous publications of the United Nations. He was also a regular contributor to The Fifth Estate and The Alternative Press Review.

His paintings and prints are in many public collections including The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, The New York Public Library, NYC, and The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK.

The New York Times obituary is avilable at:

Anarchist Bookfair

Make a note in your diary - this year the Bookfair will be on Saturday 21st October at the Resource Centre, 356 Holloway Road, London N7 10.00 a.m. - 6 p.m. Details of the programme of events will be published on the Bookfair website nearer to the date of the event.

The Surveillance State
How much is nightmare and how much is hype? Biometric passports and ID cards are not as secure as the Home Office would have us believe. See this article on and the orginal article on Wired News:,71521-0.html?tw=wn_technology_security_11

Anti-war Protests Gathering Momentum ...

The anti-war movement in Israel is growing stronger. There are reports that the number of soldiers refusing to take part in the war has risen to 160, while continuing anti-war demonstrations are now drawing support from sections of the mainstream left, including the Meretz party and Peace Now that have until now supported the war. See this article in Haaretz for details, and this article from the Jerusalem Post which notes the involvement of novelist Amos Oz in the protests. The growing cracks in the pro-war movement will confront the anti-war movement with its biggest challenge as the established political groups attempt to dominate and redefine the anti-war agenda.

Meanwhile Israeli state is cracking down on direct action protests - when a member of the Anarchists Against the Wall group was seriously injured when he was shot with rubber bullets from close range in the head and neck. He was one of nine people injured druing a non-violent protest in Bil'in. A full report is available on Indymedia Israel
For photos of the protests click here:

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Antiwar Update...

Reuters reports 2,000 protestors on the anti-war demonstration in Tel Aviv at the weekend, although the UK press don't appear to have picked up on it, even though the Washington Post did.

The website of the Israeli daily paper Haaretz reports that police have arrested 12 members of Anarchists Against the Wall after 40 anti-war activists attempted to blockade the entrance to an Israeli Air Force Base in the north of the country. Haaretz also estimates the number of anti-war protestors at weekend at 5,000:

Photos taken during the protest can be found on the Gush Shalom website:

Monday, August 07, 2006

Antiwar Demonstrations

The news blackout on anti-war demonstrations in Tel Aviv continues. This weekend approximately 3,000 people gathered for the one-hour demonstration - double the numbers the police originally permitted. The march went from King George Street to Allenby Street, but then left the agreed route to continue toward the Nahalat Binyamin pedestrian mall. At one point dozens of anarchists supported by other left-wing activists blocked traffic by walking in the road. There were some scuffles when police arrested two demonstrators. Although the demonstrations have been taking place for nearly 6 weeks this is the first time that the police have intervened and arrested protestors.

The challenge that protestors now face is how to turn substantial latent opposition to the war into effective and active opposition. According to Bloomberg polls conducted for the newspaper Yediot Ahronot show that backing for the war in Lebanon was down from 78% on July 18 to 71% on July 28.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Captain Pasteur Amir

Thirty-two year old Pasteur Amir (a captain in the Reserves) has set an example for others by refusing to take part in the Israel assault on Lebanon believing that the war is contrary to the values by which he was brought up. He is currently serving a 28 day sentence in jail in Tel Aviv. You can write to him at:

Capt. Amir Pasteur
Military Prison No: 6
Military Postal Code 01860, IDF
Tel Aviv

Other soldiers are also refusing to fight and have begun implementing their own ceasefire. Yesh Gvul the organisation that supports objectors reports that there of tens of refusniks now refusing to take part in the war, including artilleryman Omri Zeid who has refused to shell a Lebanese village, while the Guardian reports that some pilots are now so concerned about the loss of life that they are deliberately missing their targets.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Voices from the Invisible Republic

Mick Brown reviews And They All Sang an anthology of interviews by oral historian Studs Terkel in the Telegraph:

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Boyd Tonkin

'Look at history, however, and you'll find that a contempt for human beings and a contempt for the culture that they fashion never stand too far apart. In Beirut, this week, some books that powerful but truly callous people in the West really ought to read have just about survived - so far. They are languishing in a warehouse in the pulverised south of the city used by Saqi Books."


Liverpool Central Library has installed gymn equipment alongside its bookcases according to this report from :

In an attempt to throw off their old stereotyped image libraries are forgetting the importance of what in marketing terms is known as brand-marketing and are prepared to try any gimmick to get people through the doors - but the simple truth is that for years library bookstocks have been cut across the country, staffing reduced, libraries closed (with more closure announcements every month) - there is a simple statistical correlation between the running down of the library service and the falling numbers of users.

Ex-Waterstones' boss Tim Coates has made himself very unpopular in some library quarters by campaigning on this issue, but he is getting wide-spread support from Library users - his blog is becoming essential daily reading:

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Il Bestario Barocco

I find this book beautiful but macabre - an Italian feather book created in 1618 by Dionisio Minaggio, "gardener to His Excellency the Governor of Milan". The pictures in the Feather Book consist of 157 collages of birds, hunters, tradesmen, musicians and Commedia del’Arte figures created from real feathers and beaks and claws. Digitised by McGill University as part of its proramme of expanding digital resources, the web-based exhibtion lacks explanation, although the captions are informative. [ via ]

A more detailed description and commentary about the Feather book can be found on Nuevomundo Revues: