Next Salon Discussion

First Tuesday current affairs discussion - Tuesday 5 December 7:00pm start

Tuesday 5th Dec: First Tuesday Current Affairs discussion

We'll discuss two topical subjects

Manchester book reviews
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Manchester book reviews

Assisted Suicide: The Liberal, Humanist Case Against Legalization

Assisted Suicide: The Liberal, Humanist Case Against Legalization

By Dr Kevin Yuill, Published by Palgrave Macmillan 2013

Reviewed by Denis Joe May 2013

  

The high profile case of Jacintha Saldanha, who was assumed to have taken her own life after a prank call by two Australian DJs, and that of Frances Andrade, the violinist who killed herself after being subjected to a cross-examination during the trial of Michael Brewer as well as the BBC journalist, Russell Joslin, who apparently walked in front of an oncoming bus having been sexually harassed by a colleague have put the debate about suicide back on the agenda.

 

The announcements by veteran BBC presenter John Simpson and film maker Peter Greenaway that they intended to put an end to their own lives rather than face the problems of old age have certainly brought to the fore the most perplexing philosophical question: that of the value of human life.

 

And the recent death of Nobel laureate Christian de Duve by lethal injection, in Belgium, where euthanasia is legal, was greeted not with sadness, that such a pathetic act would normally bring about, but with praise for de Duve’s conviction and courage.

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Manchester book reviews

Green Philosophy

Green Philosophy: How to Think Seriously About the Planet by Roger Scruton

Reviewed by Dominic Standish April 2013

 

Green, but not very philosophical: Roger Scruton is an accomplished philosopher, yet endorses environmentalism rather than breaking new philosophical ground.

 

Having enjoyed and learnt a great deal from Roger Scruton's books and lectures on classical philosophy, I had high hopes that I would gain much from the 413 pages of his Green Philosophy: How to Think Seriously About the Planet. Despite Scruton's deep understanding of classical philosophy, in this book he fails to break new ground and does little more than endorse many contemporary green prejudices.


Let's start with some positive sections of the book. In chapter 10, Scruton provides a useful description of the early historical evolution of conservationism in the UK, USA and Europe. He is right to link the emergence of conservationism with Romantic reactions against industrialisation, epitomised by William Wordsworth, William Morris and John Ruskin in Britain. Meanwhile, conservationism was also developed by John Muir, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the USA and Rudolf Steiner in Austria and Germany. Scruton then connects these reactions to the birth of conservationist associations, including the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in Britain in 1877 and the Sierra Club in the USA in 1892.

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Manchester book reviews

Injustice

Injustice: Why social inequality persists by Daniel Dorling

Reviewed by Ken McLaughlin February 2013

 

When the British welfare state was set up, it targeted what its main architect William Beveridge called the five ‘Giant Evils’ of ’Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness’. Significant social and economic advances may have seen the gradual eradication of the worst aspects of all these targets, but in Injustice: Why social inequality persists, Daniel Dorling argues that they are being replaced by five new tenets of injustice. According to him these take the basis of beliefs that ‘elitism is efficient’; ‘exclusion is necessary’; ‘prejudice is natural’; ‘greed is good’ and ‘despair is inevitable’.

 

So, for Dorling, well meaning attempts to eliminate very poor education have unwittingly helped fuel the rise of a new injustice by beginning to promote the widespread acceptance of elitism; whilst very few people in the UK will starve from lack of food, want is replaced by social exclusion whereby there are many who cannot afford the norms of society such as a yearly holiday abroad; prejudice is recast as the maxim that those at the lower end of society are there due to their inherent weakness; greed is portrayed as a good and encourages us to want and consume more and more food and other commodities; and despair is seen as inevitable as we in the West suffer rising levels of mental illness.

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Manchester book reviews

The Memory Eater

The Memory Eater

Stories that Erase the Past to Save the Future

To be reviewed by Sara Porter January 2013

 

The Memory Eater: Stories that Erase the Past to Save the Future. This science fiction-inspired anthology consists of 27 uniquely written and illustrated stories based on a futuristic device with the ability to locate and destroy any memory in the human mind. Each of the 24 authors wrote original stories around the concept, and 27 artists contributed a companion original piece of art for the stories.

 

The anthology was pitched to select publishers with positive feedback, but ultimately, I decided to take advantage of the evolving book publishing landscape and retain control over the book publication and distribution by raising the funds to self-publish. Today marks the launch of the Kickstarter.com fundraising campaign to raise funds to publish The Memory Eater, which is ready to print right now!

 

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Manchester book reviews

Killing Daniel by Sarah Dobbs

Killing Daniel by Sarah Dobbs

To be reviewed by Yvonne Cawley January 2013

 

In Manchester Fleur is drifting through life haunted by her murdered boyfriend Daniel. In Japan Chinatsu is trying to escape a passionless marriage to Yugi Hamogoshi, a man with a secret who won't let her go. Fleur and Chinatsu used to be schoolfriends. Fleur and Chinatsu had a bond. Fleur and Chinatsu had dreams. This is the story of what happens before they can be together again. A cross-cultural thriller like no other, Sarah Dobbs' KILLING DANIEL exposes the secret lives of contrasting people with unflinching insight and lyrical prose. This is a cross-cultural thriller like no other.

 
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Manchester book reviews

The Swerve by Julith Jedamus

The Swerve by Julith Jedamus

Publisher: Carcanet Press, 80 pages

Reviewed by Denis Joe August 2012

 

There are those who think that that as long as you can write then you can compose poems. Novelists and other prose writers have turned their hand to poetry on many occasions - Raymond Carver and Jorge Luis Borges are two of the most successful - but on the whole, prose writers don’t really hack it as poets. James Joyce’s Pomes Penyeach is among some of the worst poetry ever published, for example.

Julith Jedamus’s previous publication was the novel The Book of Loss, and Swerve is her debut collection of poetry. I first came across one of her poems when it featured in The New York Times, in May 2011. The Drowning of Drenthe, which appears in this collection, is a wonderful poem that takes us from the physical journey and age, through nine tercets. Some of the rhyming may strike some as clichéd (‘The linseed mill with icy arms,/The whitewashed churches purged of charms’) but I think that Jedamus shows a great deal of artistry. The simplicity gives us a sense of wonderment, almost child-like. There is a nursery rhyme feel to the poem. The final stanza - the denouement – seems to confirm a feeling of awe:

The past is new, the future old;
Who can say now what rhymes are told
In this drowned world?

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Manchester book reviews

Sit Down! Listen to This! by Bill Sykes

Sit Down! Listen to This!

The Roger Eagle story by Bill Sykes, published by Empire

Reviewed by Charlotte Starkey August 2012

 

Sit Down! Listen to This! by Bill Sykes is a fascinating book for many reasons. It is mesmeric for those born during the Second World War or thereabouts and who remember The Twisted Wheel in both its venues in Manchester and/or Eric’s in Liverpool and for those who know ‘Northern Soul’ and its origins. It is a compilation of interviews, reminiscences with some of the friends and acquaintances of Roger Eagle, and with Roger Eagle’s own account in interview. It tells a story of the music clubs of Manchester and Liverpool for well-nigh thirty years until Roger Eagle’s death in 1999 at the age of fifty six. Specifically it is a story about Roger Eagle himself, placing him at the centre of the key musical developments in Manchester and Liverpool from the 60s to the late 80s: his amazing record collection, his influential contacts with musicians from Britain and America, the clubs in which he worked, which he came to run.

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Manchester book reviews

Plague Lands and other poems by Fawzi Karim

Plague Lands and other poems by Fawzi Karim

Versions by Anthony Howell after translations by Abbas Kadhim

Publisher: Carcanet Press, 160 pages

Reviewed by Denis Joe July 2012

 

Poetry does not deal with history but with myth . . . A poet has to neglect historical time and go beyond it.
[Fawzi Karim]

 

A few years ago I came across a handful of Fawzi Karim’s poems which had been translated into English by Saadi Simawe and Melissa Brown (in Banipal No 19, 2006) and Michael Glover (in The International Literary Quarterly, May 2009). I was immediately struck by the voice of the poems. There was no attempt at protest but the works captured a feeling of a world being torn apart, much more so than Owen or Sassoon or even the works of the early Modernists. So this first collection in English of Karim’s poetry is most welcome.

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Manchester book reviews

Adropiean Galactic Lego Set Blues by Fat Roland

Adropiean Galactic Lego Set Blues by Fat Roland

Pages: 84, available from Italic Eyeball Shop

Reviewed by Denis Joe July 2012

 

There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad.
[Salvador Dali]

 

There is a long tradition of surrealism in Britain, the works of Lewis Carroll or Edward Lear being prime examples. One could also include the last two novels of James Joyce. In the twentieth century, surrealism gained a wider audience through radio and TV shows such as The Goon Show and Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Whereas one can detect an element of snobbery, knowingness, in much of this type of entertainment, in later years a more Absurdist take would develop, with the popularity of Vic Reeves or The League of Gentlemen and a near rejection of rationalism, where we respond because we are made to feel unsure about what it is we are experiencing.

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Manchester book reviews

Full Blood by John Siddique

Full Blood by John Siddique

published by Salt Publishing, pps. 112

Reviewed by Denis Joe July 2012

 

Full Blood is one of the most exciting collections of British poetry I’ve come across in the last few years. John Siddique stands apart from the much of the poetry scene in Britain that, with a few exceptions, seems to be dominated by crude confessionalism and even cruder moralism. Here Siddique presents us with poems that call on his life for inspiration. Whether about childhood or adulthood, Siddique’s poems draw you into experiences rather than places in time.

 

The group of poems under the title The Knife are a case in point. The opening poem, National Front, begins rather blandly:

Their mouths full of fire and alcohol;
they patrol the town; night and weekends

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