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Showing posts from February, 2011

Eagleton on Hobsbawn on Marx

The current issue of the London Review of Books features Terry Eagleton reviewing Eric Hobsbawm's How to Change the World: Marx and Marxism 1840-2011. I wish, however, that in referring to Friedrich Engels, he hadn't said he had a mistress in Mary Burns. She was much more than that. She was his partner. His common-law wife. They lived together. She guided him around many of the slum areas that would be included in his work, The Condition of the Working Classes in England in 1844. It never changes, this lazy reference to Mary - the mistress, the illiterate ex-factory girl, the fiery Fenian, etcetera. Eagleton not only corrects some of Hobsbawm, he also challenges some of the author's views, for instance that Gramsci was the best thinker produced by the west since 1917. Eagleton claims that Hobsbawn has omitted the 'Marxist' from thinker and that in any case, it is not Gramsci who should have that title, but Walter Benjamin. He also points out that Marx was at heart …


What better way to ignore a crisis on the PhD than to slide into a new book that, actually, has successfully executed some of the things I have been aiming for? I hurriedly and somewhat absent-mindedly picked it up in Waterstone's last week. I glanced at the front cover - liked the title, which conjured up outsiders and make do and menders - travellers - and the first line of the back cover synopsis. 'An old man lies dying'. The cover also sold it for me, of a solitary man walking into the distance in the snow; oh, and the fact that it proudly declared that it was the 'Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction'. I have to start, then, by declaring that it is a worthy winner; nay, more than that, I would go so far, in my opinion, and declare it a masterpiece. You see, when I like a book, I love a book and I've never been afraid of saying as much. There's also a coincidence for me in the fact that another of my favourite books is The Solitude of Thomas Cave, b…

Maxine Peake blasts classism

Actress Maxine Peake has blasted classist TV industry, lamenting the number of working-class female actresses compared to the posher ones like Keira et al. She's right when she says that working-class women are often seen as 'gobby' and 'brassy' and are encouraged to tone down their accent, yet working-class men are, on the other hand, seen as 'poetic'. It's one of the reasons why, in the 1950s, there were the 'angry young men', but no 'angry young women'! (Except, maybe, for Shelagh Delaney).

Verso call for forgotten books

I've just received an email from Verso who are busy trying to make all of their out-of-print back list titles available again, however, some titles from the 1970s and 1980s are proving difficult for them to pin down. If you have a copy of any of the following books please email In return for a good copy they will give you a copy of the new version, as well as another Verso book of your choice. (I know that Owen Jones has a very good book called 'CHAVS' due out shortly with Verso).

Abendroth / A Short History of the European Working-Class / ISBN-10: 0902308475 / Paperback / 1972

Althusser / Essays in Self-Criticism / ISBN-10: 0902308874 / Hardcover / 1976

Arlacchi / Mafia Business / ISBN-10: 0860918920 / Paperback / 1987

Aronson / Jean Paul Sartre : Philosophy in the World / ISBN-10: 0860910326 / Paperback / 1987

Aronson / Dialectics of Disaster / ISBN-10: 0860917754 / Paperback / 1983

Bahro / From Red to Green / ISBN-10: 0860917606 / Paperback / 1984

Benn / …

Fighting with writing

I am writing this from Kew Gardens Starbucks, which doubles as a creche. It doesn't really, but it feels like it. Can someone please launch a coffee shop chain that is adults only? Am I old fashioned in thinking that coffeeshops and children do not mix? Why am I here then? Because it's the closest and because there's free wifi. The truth is, I think I would struggle writing anywhere at the moment - I'm fighting with my writing. I have written almost three versions of this book over the past two and a bit years - including redrafts of each of those versions, and I still feel like I'm not digging enough, not ... what is it? What is that nagging voice? I'm trying to listen to it but it's muffled. And then when I do get a hint and try again it doesn't come out right. Sometimes I think I do far too much rewriting, if that's possible. A writer friend says 'just tell the truth', because she feels that I should be putting much more of myself - my ba…