Next Salon Discussion

First Tuesday current affairs discussion - Tuesday 4 September 7:00pm start

Tuesday 4th September: First Tuesday Current Affairs discussion

We'll discuss two issues in the news that draw out contemporary trends in politics

Manchester book reviews
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Manchester book reviews

 


Radical Gardening: Politics, Idealism and Rebellion

Radical Gardening: Politics, Idealism and Rebellion

by George McKay

Being reviewed by Simon Belt August 2011

 

Sowing the seeds of discontent or disconnection?

George McKay has written quite widely on alternative culture through music, protest and lifestyle, and as I've always wondered why gardening is taken so seriously in a predominantly urban society, I was intrigued to read his new book entitled 'Radical Gardening: Politics, Idealism and Rebellion in the Garden'. Gardening was something older people did when I was young, though I often copped for a fair bit of it myself, which was ok, especially on a sunny Sunday listening to Radio 2's Sunday love songs whilst I did the weeding. Today though, it seems to have quite a popular resonance with more younger people, along with do-it-yourself and various other craft hobbies, and especially in its urban guerilla form.

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Manchester book reviews

Not a Chimp

Defending human uniqueness in 'Not a Chimp'

by Jeremy Taylor

Simon Belt offered to publish a response to Iain Brassington’s review of my book “Not A Chimp: The Hunt To Find The Genes That Make Us Human”. I provide my response here without, hopefully, descending to the level of pomposity and gratuitous rudeness that attends his review. I shall restrict myself, at outset, to the observation that while Brassington has clearly picked up a smattering of philosophy during his career as a bioethicist, he has been less successful in his understanding of the relationship between genes and cognition and their relationship, in turn, to human culture, which has thrown up phenomena such as morals and the concept of rights.

 

Brassington calls my scholarship into question a number of times and so I feel I must respond, first, by pointing out precisely where he has mis-represented, or simply mis-read or mis-understood, what points I actually make in the book before I try to make clear as succinctly as possible precisely why I believe humans are unique in terms of their cognition and why I believe this explains and supports the idea that concepts of morality and rights should be unique to humans and are inappropriately extended to any other species.

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Manchester book reviews

Mullah Nasruddin in Marrakech

Mullah Nasruddin in Marrakech – by Mansoor Shah

Reviewed by Dave Porter December 2010

 

Despite only being published last month, this slim volume is already garnering attention from some highly-placed quarters. It has been picked up by the likes of the Lonely Planet and our own Asian News based here in Manchester.

 

Manchester author Mansoor Shah has had the clever idea of taking a popular historical figure from the Middle Ages and dropping him into the modern world to see how the two take to each other.

 

Like Don Quixote, Mullah Nasruddin is a comic mix of the absurd and the worldly-wise, his encounters with the people he meets on the streets of Marrakech providing fertile material for semi-philosophical musings.

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Manchester book reviews

Not a Chimp

'NOT A CHIMP: The hunt to find the genes that make us human'
by Jeremy Taylor (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009) xiv+338pp

Reviewed by Iain Brassington

To what extent, if any, do nonhuman animals enjoy a moral status comparable to that of human animals?  Jeremy Taylor’s claim in Not a Chimp is that there is a clear and significant moral gulf between us and them; hence, whatever we may or may not do to nonhuman animals, this is not because they can make the same rights-claims as we.  The basic thrust of the case he makes – I was going to say “argument”, but stopped myself just in time – is simple: much weight has been carried by the idea that humans and their closest nonhuman relatives, chimpanzees, are separated by a mere 1.6% of their genome and that chimps at least should be recognised as having a comparable moral status on that basis; but the genetic story is more complicated than that; therefore the claim about moral status is unsound.

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Manchester book reviews

Ferraris For All

Ferraris For All by Daniel Ben-Ami

Reviewed by Mark Iddon November 2010

‘Ferraris For All’, is a book of bold ambition setting out to defend the idea of economic progress, from those with the presently dominant view who the author refers to as growth sceptics. It is also published at a time when we appear to have been at low point of the worst recession since the 1930’s, following the near collapse of the banking industry. The Labour Party has been recently voted out of office and the ConDem coalition attempts to reduce the national deficit with savage cuts to public spending and the Bank of England expresses deep uncertainty about the future.

 

Now, in complete contrast, Daniel Ben-Ami, a well established journalist specialising in writing on economics and finance for over 20 years, makes a very novel statement suggesting that everyone in the world should own a Ferrari. The title of the book is attributed to WORLDwrite, an education charity committed to global equality, whose slogan is ‘Ferraris For All’. Ben-Ami notes, however, that actually the Ferrari is symbolic, and it is not essential to be restricted to that particular brand, but it is about the aspiration and ambition for everyone to have much more than they actually need.

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Manchester book reviews

The Land of Green GingerThe Land of Green Ginger by Antony Rowland

Published by Salt Publishing: Cambridge, 2008

Reviewed by Angelica Michelis September 2010

‘Amongst the highly placed
It is considered low to talk about food.
The fact is: they have
Already eaten.’
(Bertolt Brecht, A German War Primer)

 

Antony Rowland does not consider it low to talk about food. The Land of Green Ginger gathers poems that delight in the taste, texture and smell of food, and that celebrate the sublime in the ordinary:

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A Sheesha in Radcliffe – by Mansoor Shah

A Sheesha in Radcliffe

Reviewed by Dave Porter August 2010

Sub-titled ‘A Spiritual Journey Through Seven Mystical Windows’, this is the second collection by Manchester author Mansoor Shah of esoteric poems in the Sufi tradition.

 

An academic by day, Shah describes his heritage as a product of the Ottoman Empire and is following in the great traditions of Sufism, his work suffused with its religious and philosophical underpinnings.

 

Specifically, Shah – who lives in Radcliffe, hence the title – draws upon the influences of great Sufi authors such as Rumi, Jamie and El Arabi. With illustrations by local artist David Vaughn which reflect his Celtic heritage, the collection makes for an arresting and thought-provoking read.

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Manchester book reviews

'God is a Manc' poetry collection by Mike Garry

'God is a Manc' mosaic by Amanda McCrann

Reviewed by Simon Belt June 2010

 

Having come across Mike Garry, a Manchester poet whose work focuses upon the beautiful ugliness of the city and its people, just before the launch of 'God is a Manc', I managed to do a little research on him and his poetry before reading this collection. And I'm very glad I did as it is not just a great piece of writing in its own right, but I think it's also the outcome of a process that attempts to take the reader beyond the Mancunian Meander collection I reviewed before the launch of this previously.

 

Mike cites his heroes are the underdogs, the outsiders, the people the glossies airbrush out. His first book, Men’s Morning tells the tale of an inner city sauna and his second book, Mancunian Meander is a poetic journey around the south side of Manchester, its suburbs and people. Having worked on residencies in Strangeways prison, the Big Issue and Trafford Mental Health and most recently six children’s homes in Manchester, the BBC and Arts Council England commissioned him to go to the north of the city and write a collection of poems about his experiences there. 'God is a Manc' is that collection.

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Manchester book reviews

'Mancunian Meander' poetry collection by Mike Garry

Mancunian Meander by Mike Garry

Reviewed by Simon Belt June 2010

I first became aware of Mike Garry and his poetry when PR agent Alison Bell emailed me some promotional flyers including one for the launch of Mike's third book 'God is a Manc'. As I was born and bred in Yorkshire, God's own country, and moved to Manchester on a civilising mission when I turned twenty, and having lived and worked in and around Manchester most of my adult life, I was intrigued to find out more (truthfully, I was smitten with a couple of rebellious Manchester ladies at the time and thought if they were what Manchester offered, I wanted more!).

 

So, I was definitely going to go to the launch of Mike's new book and in preparation I did a little research on him, online of course - but then I was holidaying in Menorca. Between Mike and his PR agent, and whoever else, it was certainly easy to find out about him - he's all over the show on the internet, and seems to have been involved in a variety of poetry writing and citing in libraries, schools, prisons, street performances, and festivals. I had to get hold of his written work to see what was causing such an impact, which leads me onto this review.

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The girl who kicked the hornets' nest'The girl who kicked the hornets’ nest

from the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

Reviewed by Angelica Michelis May 2010

The final part of Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy starts exactly where the second volume has finished: Lisbeth Salander, the plucky and unusual heroine fights for her life after having been attacked by her father and mentally disturbed brother. Lisbeth, in contrast to the previous two books where she was always on the move and rarely remained at one place, is more or less stationary for the most part of this text. Lying critically injured in a hospital bed only a short distance apart from her father, Lisbeth (and with her the reader whose position, morally and politically, is right by her side) cannot relax knowing that her father’s determination to kill her will not subside as long as he lives, since too much is at risk. And since his destiny is deeply and inextricably intertwined with the conservative, reactionary and patriarchal forces in Swedish society, her fight for physical survival is also one of moral and social rehabilitation.

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