Monday, June 30, 2008

Amnesty International Report 2008

Amnesty International's annual report 2008 is available as a pdf download.
The report concludes that people are currently being "tortured or ill-treated in at least 81 countries, face unfair trials in at least 54 countries and are not allowed to speak freely in at least 77 countries." Statistical evidence that demonstrates that most states are currently waging war against the populations they claim to protect:

UK Confidential

A new book from "Think Tank" Demos, about the ways in which our lives are being transformed by surveillance and changes in technology, and which explores the realities of privacy in the 21st century. Written by Charles Edwards and Catherine Fieschi, the book costs £10 - although it is also available as a free pdf download under a creative commons license from the DEMOS website:

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Little Light Reading.....

A quick round-up of things I've noticed recently that are worth reading:
Peter Ackroyd's review's Sarah Wise's The Blackest Slum - in The Times. A book which "invokes the dereliction and despair of a group of alleys and passages known as the 'Old Nichol', otherwise called 'Sweaters' Hell' or 'The Empire of Hunger'.
Memoirs of a Wobbly an online full-text version of the autobiography of Henry McGuckin. Recently posted on Libcom:
"a superb account by a rank'n'file Wobbly organiser; on the road, on the job, on strike, in jail, on the run, coast to coast...".

Kathryn Hughes on "The Death of Life Writing" in The Guardian.

A short report from Birdlife International on a recent decision by the Kenyan government to approve a proposal "to turn 20,000 hectares of the pristine Tana Delta into irrigated sugarcane plantations." Conservationists and villagers living in the Delta, which provides refuge for 350 species of bird, lions, elephants, rare sharks and reptiles including the Tana writhing skink, believe the decision is illegal and are determined to block the development. The groups are considering what action they might take.

and in print only, a provocative article in this week's Freedom entitled "Crimethinc and the Corrupting Influence of Art" by Jim L. (Freedom is available from Freedom Press Bookshop
84 B Whitechapel High Street (down a dingy alley near the Whitechapel Art Gallery) or from Housman's Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, both in London.) If you can get to Housman's on 5th July the Porcupine Bookcellar is having a closing down sale with cut prices on "thousands of new books." I've no idea what's in the sale, but the poster features a range of people including Lenin, Trotsky, Che Guervara and Sylvia Pankhurst.

...and a little listening:

The Times has Details of the "Celebrating Linda Smith" tour, and a previously unreleased recording of Linda in a stand-up routine in Sheffield in 1986: I think the nurses are stealing my clothes.
Robert Browning's The Ring and the Book is the first episode of this week's classic serial on Radio 4.
Sunday 29th June 3.00-4.00pm, repeated Saturday 5th July 9.00-10.00pm
or listen again.

Friday, June 27, 2008

F. Kafka, Everyman

Zadie Smith reviews Louis Begley's 220-page "biographical essay" The Tremendous world I Have Inside My Head: Franz Kafka for the New York Review of Books:

CIA Above the Law?

Watch out for the forthcoming book: CIA Above the Law? Secret Detentions and Unlawful Inter-State Transfers of Detainees in Europe. Published by the Council of Europe next week (1st July) this book contains revealing eye-witness accounts of the state-sponsored extra-judicial kidnapping, detention and torture that has reduced several European states to the level of mobsters.

This publication is particularly relevant given MI5's involvement in the detention of two men Al-Rawi and El-Banna in Gambia, who were subsequently incarcerated at Guantánamo Bay without "due process". This act was in direct contravention of the British government's obligation as a member of the Council of Europe, as "Active and passive co-operation by a Council of Europe member state in imposing and executing secret detentions engages its responsibility under the European Convention on Human Rights."
Copies are available form the TSO Bookshop, but they charge £24 for a copy. You can buy a pdf download directly from the council of europe for 15 euros:

The Ownership of News

The current monopoly control exercised over the production and distribution of "News" is a subject too important to be left to those who own the press or own and administer the broadcasting media as Nick Davies demonstrated in Flat Earth News. Now all the evidence you might want about the monopoly has been published in a two volume report published today by the House of Lords Select Committee on The Ownership of News. The report is in two volumes: Volume 1 is the Report, and volume 2 contains the Evidence.

"Owners can and do influence the news in a variety of ways. They are in a position to have significant political impact. The consolidation of media ownership adds to the risk of disproportionate influence. The Committee recommends reform of the public interest test criteria for newspaper mergers and also believes that reforming cross-media ownership restrictions on regional and local newspaper and radio mergers is necessary."

Available as free pdf or html downloads from:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Radical Press

A great little on-line newspaper from Staffordshire set up in April 2008 by Matthew Taylor. It has style and attitude and is intended to "debate issues which protect the people, and question authority". Raises national issues through their local impact. Great stuff - every town should have one!

Sarah Hall

An interview with Sarah Hall, winner of the James Tiptree Jr Award for a "work of science fiction or fantasy that engages the subject of gender in new and thought-provoking ways" on the excellent galleycat.

The dystopian Daughters of the North is set in a stricken and flooded Britain reduced to accepting food airlifted from a US government under the control of Christian fundamentalists.
The novel, published in the UK as The Carhullan Army has already won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for writers under the age of 35.

[url shortened on tinyurl]

Monday, June 23, 2008


A useful search-engine that searches library catalogues, online booksellers, like Amazon and Abebooks, as well as thestock of some 20,000 antiquarian booksellers. You can also search 553 years of printing history by date, with results retrieved from viaLibri's cached-files:

Saturday, June 21, 2008

"Chick Lit"

Emma Jones writes about the recent awards for romantic comedy fiction for the BBC:

There is also a short video on the BBC News:

Free Cinema

One of those totally unexpected programmes that occasionally pop up on Radio 4 and continue to make radio far more exciting and relevant than television, was Simon Hoggart's 30-minute introduction to Free Cinema last Tuesday. Free Cinema, was a series of six programmes of short documentary films produced by Lindsay Anderson, Lorenza Mazzetti, Tony Richardson, Karel Reisz, and others, which were shown at the National Film Theatre between 1956 and 1959.

"Modest films that caused a sensation" (Simon Hoggart), Free Cinema was "rough edged" and intended to "release British Cinema from its middle-class respectability". Subjects included a group of teenagers visiting a jazz club (Momma Don't Allow) Together, the story of two deaf-mutes in East London, and O Dreamland about an amusement park.

The informal style of the films, their energy and the focus on the real lives of working-class people paved the way for the later emergence of the British New Wave cinema.

Listen again for the next few days:

For more information about the Free Cinema movement try this page at the British film Institute, which includes biographies of the film-makers, and a complete transcript of a panel discussion held at the BFI in 2001 in which many of the film-makers took part:

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Fiction of Politics

"We have numerous novels that allegorize or burlesque politics, few that convey it as a calling, a complex process demanding to be understood, or the means by which individual hopes and destinies, promises of social improvement, might be frustrated or fulfilled." Morris Dickstein writes on the development of the political novel from Dostoyevsky to Doctorow for Bookforum:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Oil - Crude Reflections

The high cost of oil isn't limited to the recent price rises, as a new book from publishers City Lights explains. Crude Reflections/Cruda Realidad: Oil, Ruin and Resistance in the Amazon Rainforest "chronicles the human and environmental impact of oil drilling in the Ecuadoran Amazon, where the pollution is so extensive that medical experts currently predict thousands of deaths from cancer and the disappearance of five indigenous rainforest communities."

Elevated rates of cancer and birth defects are already being reported in the region. The local struggle against the social and environmental destruction of the rainforest in Ecuador is graphically documented by photographers Lou Dematteis and Kayana Szymczak. The text is in both English and Spanish.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

New York Public Library Digital Gallery

"Free and open online access to hundreds of thousands of digital images...NYPL Digital Gallery provides access to over 600,000 images digitized from primary sources and printed rarities in the collections of The New York Public Library" ranging from illuminated manuscripts to photographs and historical maps, illustrated books and printed ephemera.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Notebooks Elevated

Emily Colette Wilkinson writes about Cyril Connolly's The Unquiet Grave for The Millions:

"A book like Connolly's performs what manuscript papers actually do. Connolly and his ilk turn the casual essay-istic style of the notebook into art. They refine, polish, and uplift the fragmentary, meandering private style: They make it palatable, even beautiful."

Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet

Mark Lynas' book about global warning has won this year's Royal Society prize for popular science writing. According to the report on the BBC, Six Degrees "uses published scientific data and interviews with leading researchers to illustrate the changes we could witness in a warmer world" and explains "how Earth will change for every degree rise in temperature - from droughts to mass extinctions."

Publishers and Monopoly Capitalism

Writing in the New York Times, Doreen Carvajal looks at how Amazon uses Internet dominance to increase its profits:

"The struggle comes at a time that Amazon’s power as a bookseller is increasing, with sales growing online in an otherwise tepid global book market. Some publishers fear that with the introduction of Amazon’s Kindle electronic reader, the company will rise into a position to be able to demand more concessions."

(It must, however, be pointed out that Hachette Livre, one of the publisher's described in the article under the heading of "small publisher", is in fact the largest UK publisher with a market share of 16% of the UK market according to the Bookseller.)

[With thanks to Library Link of the Day]

Monday, June 16, 2008

Death of the Bookshop?

Only half of young people aged 18-24 years old think people will still be using bookshops in 20 years' time, was one of the disturbing conclusions uncovered by recent consumer research and revealed at the Bookseller's Reading The Future conference. Read Alison Flood's report here:

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Why We Still Need the Spirit of the Sixties

Michael McClure headed for San Francisco at the age of 21 - just in time to catch the flowering of the Beat poets. In this short essay from the Guardian's "Comment is Free" Michael writes about Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Duncan and Gary Snyder and about the excitement of the moment when new forms of poetry fused with street politics:
"As we began our poems, spoken loudly from the knocked-together stage, we found we woke each other up to more action, and inspiration, and outspokenness. Most importantly we could feel that human voices were breaking the grim US silence. And most meaningful of all we found the audience was opening us wider with their encouragement and reception, and their feedback. We knew something had happened. We were speaking their ideas."

Michael has also worked with both Ray Manzarek and Terry Riley and its certainly worth checking Michael's webpages on "Light and Dust" for the essays on the Beats: