Reading...

I am currently reading John Green's recent biography of Friedrich Engels, Life of a Revolutionary (Artery Publications). Despite the bio-ubiquitous title, a nod to Che Guevara to whom Green likens the young Engels, getting hold of this book had me on a wild goose-chase across central London. The Waterstone's website said that the usually well and diversely stocked Gower Street store would have at least one copy and so over there I went yesterday morning only to be told by a bizarrely gleeful Germanic-sounding assistant that a) they didn't have the book in stock b) how could I be so stupid as to trust the website and not call them first and c) but hope you find what you're looking for, byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! which is akin to 'have a nice day' through gritted teeth. And so off I went to Borders on Charing Cross Road, then crossed over to Foyles and then back round to the Bookmarks (should have been the obvious first choice) socialist bookshop on... Gower Street. Only to discover that, as though to banish the Monday morning workaday blues and stick two fingers up to the working-week conventions (but the four last digits of the phone number are 1848!), they didn't open until 12! And so back I went to Foyles - the cafe not the bookshop - trying to read more on Chartism only to have each and every sentence slip and slide whilst every time I look up there's a strange looking man peering at me above the screen of his laptop which has me wondering what faces I'm pulling whilst confusedly reading or whether someone has graffitted my face without my knowledge or maybe he was just trying to work out why someone who looks so serious could be wearing yellow tights! Or maybe just looking in my direction was a comfortable and convenient glaring post. Whatever. He wasn't my type. I finally returned to Bookmarks late afternoon and picked up Green's biography, also pleased to see my own book stocked there. Green has been criticised in at least one review for claiming to have used the present instead of the past tense, but it isn't strictly true - but where it is used feels rather strange and distracting, e.g. when reading how we think Engels Snr must be delighted at the birth of his first child - little Freddie - whom Green dramatically yet effectively considers as the father producing his own future enemy, which is already automatically bringing the future past into the past present! I am not sure what I was hoping for in this biography - although in the space of one evening I have only got through half a chapter - but I am already doubtful as to whether I will get it, whatever 'it' is, unsure as to how new he can present Engels life from the way in which Henderson or Mayer presented it - or even Grace Carlton's The Shadow Prophet, which, whilst immensely readable has small yet glaring errors that don't exactly inspire confidence. Needless to say I shall post some sort of a fuller review over the next week. In fact, it has been over a week since my last post, partly because my head has been a bit all over the show, still is, but it's early morning and I'm striking before the gremlins become too loud.

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