It’s been a while since the last installment of Wonkette World o’ Books, and heavens how the world has changed since that time of economic chaos and meaningless violence here and abroad. Oh, we’re kidding, for there is nothing new under the sun (which is known to feast on human hearts). But as a blind Argentinian (not Diego Maradona, that’s more like a blinG Argentinian, ho ho!) once wrote, “The world is inexhaustible.” In that spirit, let’s take some quick looks at a few books. In nooks, with cooks.
Americapedia: Taking the Dumb Out of Freedom by Andisheh Nouraee, Daniel Ehrenhaft, and Jodi Lynn Anderson is an amusing satirical survey of American history and politics intended for the Teenagers. Even though your reviewer is no longer a teenager, he can well remember being one, and thinks his teenage self would probably have enjoyed Americapedia. It seems to be kin to Jon Stewart’s America: The Book: Lots of funny pictures and so on. And jokes! Yes madame, are there ever jokes. How can you not like a book that includes a picture of an adorable Labrador next to a brief section on “Nuclear Watchdogs?” Nuclear watchdogs! Your reviewer is chortling just thinking about it. Anyway, buy it for the Children (and visit the Americapedia website, which will give you some idea of what the book is like).
We were most impressed by the fact that the three authors include a long section on American foreign policy, which has something to do with inscrutable foreigners.
Speaking of foreigners, how about those Israelis and their Palestinian cubicle-mates? Israelis are up in arms about housing prices and other social justice issues at the moment, pitching tents in Tel Aviv (Pitching Tents in Tel Aviv would be a fine title for a small film production) and marching with strollers, because, well, it’s expensive to live in Israel. We’re not sure about Tel Aviv, but we know that the going rate in certain areas of Jerusalem is something like Lots of Money + Not Being Arab. Which is pretty steep, for some people.
Anyway, Jeremy Ben-Ami, who heads the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization J Street, has written a book titled A New Voice for Israel. It makes the case that 1) not every American Jew is uncritically pro-everything Israel does, 2) that AIPAC doesn’t speak for every Jew in America, and 3) you can be Jewish and still support the creation of a Palestinian state (Ben-Ami and J Street favor the possibly past-its-sell-by-date two-state solution). This book is in many ways a fine thing, and probably necessary for introducing a different perspective into the dumb “debate” about this subject in the U.S., but your reviewer can’t say it’s revelatory. Which perhaps it wasn’t meant to be.
If it’s revelatory you want, we recommend the wonderful Israeli novelist Yoel Hoffmann, who’s a “new” voice of a different kind. His writing doesn’t have anything to do with the Ongoing Crisis, thankfully. Instead he writes odd and gorgeous stuff about obscure topics like love, death, people and animals in a strangely youthful, ever-fresh style.
What else has happened in the world lately? Markets tumbling then resurrecting then tumbling again, of course, always. Just what is “money,” anyway? If you’re looking for a good “book about finance” to set on your shelf next to the complete works of George Soros, your reviewer highly recommends Frozen Desire: The Meaning of Money by James Buchan. It’s not a technical book, and it won’t teach you to how build a hedge fund or make millions trading corn syrup futures. What it is is an elegant book about the history and philosophical implications of this Age of Money whose end we’re currently witnessing.
Yes, money is over. In the near future we’re just going to barter with each other, and the only widely available goods will be truck nutz and hobo flowers.
Meanwhile, London’s reserve supply of mobile phones and Playstations has been almost totally confiscated by drunken 12-year-olds and their permanent-underclass 40-year-old parents. Pundits and bloggers of all stripes have tried to understand the trouble by dispensing sage Analysis (i.e. dusting off readymade stock phrases/opinions and applying them to a situation where they don’t apply at all). Especially in America, where everyone (very much including nice U.S.-ian liberals) seems to have a terrible time not seeing everything through an American prism and framing every problem as something that reminds them of something over here. “It’s a (somewhat misdirected and regrettably surly) uprising against unemployment/public spending cuts/capitalism! Take note, GOP!” is as moronic as “it’s the browns and blacks and immigrants and Mooslims, even though they’re burning the homes and businesses of browns and blacks and immigrants and Mooslims.”
This isn’t the first time London has experienced incredibly stupid riots, of course. Charles Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge, set during the Gordon Riots, might be worth revisiting while the consumerist fires burn. The Gordon Riots were different from the current revolt in important ways, though. The 1780 riots were about empowerment through terrorizing Catholics. This has given way to empowerment through terrorizing everyone (small grocers, pub landlords, working class people oppressively trying to live their lives in reasonable calm). Progress, innit?