Classics,contemporary fiction, Politics, Philosophy, Economics - a weekly eye on The New Yorker & The Guardian and dense word style/play.
Recent exhortations in The Guardian that the time is now to stop reading fiction and start dipping into popular economics swayed me to give this one a try. I’m not going to stop reading fiction, and neither do I think (or, let’s be honest did I anticipate) that Lanchester has the authority of a Chomsky. But an honest endeavour in switching from fiction to faction is well rewarded - this is an informed and informing volume which has the added benefit of impeccable timing. It is important to understand the current economic environment and the insights provided here are wonderful, fresh and endlessly entertaining - but whether the prognosis goes far enough is a matter for further debate and consideration.
Having missed the whole of the Celtic Tiger project and only watched in wonder from the sidelines as the Ireland that I knew in my childhood and my early twenties changed completely before my returning eyes, Fintan O’Toole makes an excellent left-wing job of bring the picture shockingly up to date. It is in the main a logical step by step voyage through the last twenty years of Irish history - roughly the 1990’s to 2009 - in which more happened in Ireland than at any time since the heroic 1913 to 1922 period on which so much of the sensitivities which underpin politic life in Ireland are built. When he widens his considerations, there is a little more inconsistency in targeting and hitting the home truths. Absolutely correct to say that Ireland is a society where sin equals sex and money has no sinful value. Wrong to equate the imperative to creativity with the motive to conceal the nature of truth in Ireland - Beckett and Joyce reached deep down into the emotions and taught us all more about ourselves, River Dance and Flatley’s Celtic Tiger are universally understood for what they are and abhorred by Irish people. Joyce himself understood that Leprechauns, smoky peat fires and toothless grannies dragged Ireland back to what others wanted it to be - it is enough to say that Michael Flatley was born in Chicago without wasting time dissecting the choreography and sets of his dance show. Wrong also to spend so much of the book re-hashing well trod ground in respect of Charles Haughey - odious as his sins of money were, they are well known and dead and buried with The Boss. The main job in hand is to determine how the axis of Bush-Blair-Bertie-Bankers managed to ruin the lives of the 75m inhabitants of the British Isles. Good man yourself, Fintan for pointing out the structural shortcomings on which the Irish bubble was allowed to inflate before the inevitable burst, but what role did American and Britain play?
I was hoping for an insight into economic theory and perhaps some explanations of what part the UK played in the global financial crisis. The book started as a moan about the Thatcher's government, then highlighted that perhaps it was not such a bad government, went on to complain about tax evasion and then started against the Conservative government, before I had to stop listening. Don't think I got much past chapter 2.