What I Am Reading 26th September 2009

  1. The Boy Who Followed RipleyPatricia Highsmith. Refreshing assumptions of amorality, selfishness and ruthlessness. I’ve not found Highsmith’s short stories so enjoyable, and the Ripley series, of which this is the fourth, tails off a bit too. But it’s still fun. And Ripley as a character strongly reminds me of a good friend of mine. More for reasons of style and decisiveness than a total lack of moral compass. (Nor does my friend emit the startling flashes of anti-semitism that trouble me in Highsmith’s Ripley books.)
  2. The One from the Other: A Bernie Gunther MysteryPhilip Kerr. Ex-cop, ex-SS man, current private investigator Bernie Gunther is still poking around the affairs of Nazis, this time as they try to flee to new identities in 1949, post World War Two defeat. Always best when bringing Germany vividly to life pre, during or post war. This one, so far, flags only during a trip outside that familiar territory to Tel Aviv & Cairo, along with Adolf Eichmann of all people. (To be fair, in A Quiet Flame: A Bernie Gunther Mystery, Gunther’s wanderings round Nazi haven Argentina were convincing.) Hard boiled Chandleresque.
  3. Still reading:The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big OneDavid Kilcullen. (See previous reference to jihadist v. takfriri.) Kilcullen quotes a Chinese Colonel Qiao: “The first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules, with nothing forbidden.” Apparently he said that strong countries would not use “unrestricted warfare” against weak countries because “strong countries make the rules while rising ones break them and exploit loopholes… The United States breaks UN rules and makes new ones when those rules don’t suit its purposes, but it has to observe it own rules or the whole world will not trust it.” This was in the context of US complacency about threat levels pre-9/11.
  4. Finished: Death at the President’s Lodging (Classic Crime)Michael Innes. One of those attractively presented Penguin Crime Classics. Thankfully a lot less annoying than The Moving Toyshop (Classic Crime), but still far too contrived. The solution is revealed thanks to the injection of “the unexpected aid of three precocious undergraduates.” In other words, after much brow furrowing and erudite conversation, a new eye witness appears near the end of the story with vital evidence, making most of what has gone before irrelevant. Er, isn’t that cheating?


Filed under What I'm Reading

3 responses to “What I Am Reading 26th September 2009

  1. Ian

    Anti-Semitism makes bizarre appearances, even in 21st Century sophisticated Dublin. I recently heard someone who is a graduate of Queen’s and TCD urging a boycott of M & S – weird ideas.

  2. Basil Dajani

    In responce to Ian: might I respectfully suggest that you have confused anti-semitism with anti-zionism? I cannot speak with certainty for your Irish friend’s motives, but, from my perspective, the boycott of M&S has nothing to do with the fact that it is Jewish per se. It relates to very clear evidence that M&S have helped finance illegal Israeli settlements (Guardian – 24/05/01) and have also purchased goods in illegally occupied Palestine, then sold these in their stores in the UK purporting them to be ‘Made in Israel’.

  3. blackwatertown

    Talk of boycotts takes me back to the 1980s when there was a strike at Dunnes Stores in Henry Street, Dublin, when unionised workers (from the IDATU I think) refused to handle South African (apartheid) goods. “Ten young women and one young man” according to the song by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger. Apart from boycotting the Dunnes retail chain at the time, some of us used to sticker the produce in their other outlets, and carry out other “acts of solidarity” (to use a euphemism).

    Later when I lived in Dublin I was pleasantly surprised to meet at work a woman called Mary Manning. I was initially disappointed to learn she was a different Mary Manning, and not the woman who kicked off the Dunnes strike – but she was lovely all the same.

    Making such a fuss about a grapefruit might seem a bit out of proportion. But tiny though the Dunnes strike was, and still more, far more, feeble were our efforts in support, I felt at the time it was something of which Ireland could be proud – tipping the balance slightly towards decency.

    Some links about it http://www.anc.org.za/un/ngo/sp101185.html
    and http://www.rte.ie/news/2008/0416/archboldb.html

    Since then of course Dunnes has become more famously associated with cocaine and good quality cheap clothes.

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