Sunday, March 14, 2010

Book plugs!

As commenter Matthew says "By the way Nick's column this week has been replaced by an advert for Ian Mcewan." As indeed it has.

In the same spirit, if any readers have a book out, or a friend with a book out - feel free to plug it here. Not just books, records, comedy gigs. Don't feel bound by constraints of honesty, make it sound most excellent. And if it's a friend's work, you can slip in a sort of interview in the form of "[friend's name] tells me that..."

Quality journalism at Aaronovitch Watch!


Anonymous Phil said...

You don't expect me to pass that up. 'More work! Less pay!' is the first full-length study in English of some really interesting radical movements which have been largely forgotten even in Italy. Not only that, but it explains how they were forgotten and why it was a bad thing - and it has a lot to do with respectable left-wing politicians demanding that other people denounce terrorists. It's almost topical.

3/14/2010 07:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm very interested in what Phil has been doing, if only I ever get around to it.

I should take this opportunity to plug my friend Madam Miaow who will be on Radio 4 at 11am this coming Friday with what promises to be an enjoyable programme on "The Nunzilla Conundrum".

I have a writing project I'm involved in, but it's too early at this stage to give details. Rest assured, it will be plugged relentlessly when the time is right.

3/14/2010 08:21:00 PM  
Blogger Sangiovese Fellow said...

"Opposition to global warming has been a good cause which has failed to inspire good fiction". Well, Margaret Atwood's Booker-shortlisted "Oryx and Crake" (2003) features a future ravaged by climate change, GM technologies, and brutal corporate power as a sort of dystopian unholy trinity and Atwood revisited that world from different protagonists' angles in "The Year of the Flood" last year. More broadly, writers of the calibre of Ursula LeGuin have been writing on the possibility of human-induced climate change since before the science was settled. These are hardly obscure or disreputable writers or works. Admittedly Nick says he does "not claim encyclopaedic knowledge", but even a bit of regular skimming of basic literary prize info in the broadsheets would have brought the Atwood books to his attention. Nice to see that Nick brings the same profound respect for knowledge and rigorous research in his aesthetics that he does in his more directly political writings! As to the implication that McEwan is doing something original and exciting by advocating technological optimism, the political discourse of "ecological modernization" that highlights such optimism began back in the early 1980s and has been a staple of mainstream debate on green issues since at least the mid-1990s. What's Nick been doing to make him totally miss these rather obvious developments? Oh yes, I remember - he's spent his time parroting anti-green smear stories from the US ultra-right instead.

3/14/2010 08:47:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I don't have a book to plug, but I did like the Guardian digested read. Also, given Nick's opening sentence, I like this from the Telegraph interview: 'I do believe novels are a form of elevated gossip. People sitting around talking about the motives and psychology of mutual friends – gossip, in other words – is deeply fascinating.’

Bad review in the Independent. Not sure if thisis a wind up or not. This "Beard Einstein Conflation" sounds terribly like a riff on the Bose–Einstein condensate, and I can't see what photosynthesis has to do with physics; it's a biochemical process. Different discipline.

3/14/2010 08:54:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Anna Ford had one version of events (not related through the gossip columns but via a letter to the Guardian); Martin Amis another. Nick sides with MA for no reason that I can see: it's just his word against hers. Perhaps he thinks she's just a silly woman. Re Atwood: I consider it a good rule not to trust men who tell you they're feminists. It's almost like "some of my best friends are ..." I doubt Nick's read any Atwood, which would be a shame, because she's good on lots of levels.

3/14/2010 09:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Siding with Amis is one thing, but that silly-lady-newsreaders routine was just awful - and it didn't get any funnier for being stretched over three paragraphs. Apart from anything else, does he have no idea who Anna Ford is, or why her views might be worth taking seriously?

3/15/2010 12:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be absolutely fair, his attitude to female journalists is somewhat better than Rod Liddle's.

3/15/2010 12:09:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Don't want to out myself so won't plug my book but in any case it won't be published for a while. indexing is a lot easier than I thought it'd be.

As Sangiovese says, Nick here demonstrates the limits of his literary knowledge in fairly embarrassing fashion. I've never got the impression that Nick reads much in general, and this column certainly backs that up - it's far from clear that he's even actually read Solar, and his admiration for it is founded on its opposition to a lot of the environmental movement and general lefty-bashing. The reviews hve been ambivalnt at best; and I'm happy about that cos McEwan's been getting an easy ride for far too long. Am ure the 'best days are past him' thing is meant to be a little in-joke but it's so true of both McEwan and Amis. at some pint in the far-off future i'll have a journal article on all of this self-obsessed, more or less islamophobic (more in the case of Amis) nonsense.

I'd have more time for Nick's sympathy with Martin Amis if Amis, the shameless attention whore that he is, hadn't waded in along with all his mates. That, and the 'euthanasia booths' comments, underlines that Amis actively seeks out that kind of press coverage, as opposed to its being an unfortunate outcome of fame - no other author, really, does it.

Incidentally if you want an honest account of the 'feminism' etc of the literary coterie that Nick is clearly a fan of, you could do worse than look here

Something tells me the effect of this writing isn't quite what 'The Hitch' wanted.

3/15/2010 08:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, the physics of photosynthesis is interesting; some people think there is a quantum effect at work.

3/15/2010 09:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look out for my own book on the history of two centuries of police control systems in the UK, coming to you from Manchester UP ("house publishers to AW") some time in 2011. It's got very little to do with anything that we talk about here, I'm afraid.

If you can't wait that long, I've also got something coming out sooner in an issue of 'Taiwan in Comparative Perspective' which is being edited by GB's number one religion and politics blogger.

In other news, let's add Kim Stanley Robinson to the list of people that Nick thinks don't exist.

Chris Williams

3/15/2010 09:32:00 AM  
Anonymous magistra said...

I've just sent a manuscript off to CUP, but haven't got a contract yet. It's on early medieval gender and morality, so in theory not that relevant to AW. On the other hand, I have a whole section on how Carolingian intellectuals justified wars of aggression against their neighbours, which unfortunately still has a lot of modern resonance. I also discuss bestiality, mutilation of corpses and the excuses people made in the ninth century for not giving money to the poor.

3/15/2010 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Teabag said...

Don't want to out myself so won't plug my book

The insider's guide to organic cheese presumably.

3/15/2010 10:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

David Brin, _Earth_ I heard is a very brave novel to take up the same themes as McEwan two decades earlier...

But really, science fiction was lousy with global warming/ozone layer scares in the late eighties and early nineties, as these environmental concerns went mainstream until the tobacco funded wanktanks went on the counter offensive...

3/15/2010 11:53:00 AM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

My book has been out for six years -- all the plugging in the world won't save it now.

3/15/2010 01:44:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

In the same spirit, if any readers have a book out, or a friend with a book out - feel free to plug it here.

Hold that thought while I extract it from my brain; smear it over a page; compile rejection slips and eventually bung it onto Lulu. Ahhh, creativity...

3/15/2010 02:02:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

The Cambridge introduction to organic cheese, that's the one...

Interesting, if not entirely convincing, article on Cohen and Stieg Larsson here btw:

Backs up one side of Nick's love for McEwan - in recent McEwan it's painfully clear whose side the author is on, and the same seems to be the case in Larsson. Thinking about it, though, Nick's views on art bear a close resemblance to an awful lot of people who i used to know who styled themselves anticapitalist - saying things like 'i like The Matrix because it's an anticapitalist film', in all seriousness...

On Decent arts criticsm - one wonders what the film about Iraq Aaro is wistfully imagining would actually be like. Aaro seems more open that Cohen to works of art which appear to deviate from his black-and-white politics, but still...

Nick says of the McEwan:

forcing Beard to endure an audience at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, which bellows that his so-called science is nothing but a "social construct" designed to preserve the "hegemonic arrogance" of the "white male elite"

'bellows', hm where have i seen someone bellowing in a pigheaded fashion at a speaking event? something about the orwell prize rings a bell... In any case I don't quite understand how this boneheaded, by-the-numbers 'satire' can possibly fit into the work of someone who otherwise does so much research for his novels. As a commenter on the Obs website said, it's unlikely you'll find many people in an ICA audience being climate change sceptics, and if they are it will probably not be for this stupidly reductive, and really not very funny, reason.

I can't help wondering if he nicked that joke from a fairly recent episode of The Simpsons - 'that 90s show' - where mid-90s cultural studies is satirised to great effect, but very much as part of a more general satire of that period - it was situated quite precisely (eg lecturer watching american football realises that the Patriots are in Redskin territory and says 'this isn't football, it's genocide' and accepts unhsitatingly the idea that "white men" have downplayed the roles of Amazon tribes in medicine, as they've probably discovered pennicillin, it's just that 'nobody asked them - nobody. asked. them.').

3/15/2010 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Alex - re photosynthesis: I found this on your prompting. OK, I can sort of see how physics could lead to 'artificial photosynthesis' from that. But whenever I hear of quantum effects at the classical level (things like the Bose-Einstein condensate apart) and at room temperatures, I suspect mumbo-jumbo.

OK, Quantum mechanics boosts photosynthesis makes more sense to me.

Indeed, Paul Davies, director of the BEYOND Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University in the US, believes that quantum mechanics might be deployed more widely in the natural world. "My feeling is that nature has had billions of years to evolve to the 'quantum edge' and will exploit quantum efficiencies where they exist, even if the payoff is relatively small," he says. "I suspect that many biological nanostructures can be understood fully only by reference to quantum coherence, tunnelling, entanglement and other non-trivial processes. The challenge is to identify such quantum goings-on amid the complex and noisy environment of the cell."

Hmmm. Still feel doubtful.

3/15/2010 03:37:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

This "Beard Einstein Conflation" sounds terribly like a riff on the Bose–Einstein condensate,
Or indicates a watcher of the "The Big Bang Theory"

3/15/2010 03:46:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

cohen has Gone Bezerk! about the ICA in alarming fashion...

His evidence for the ICA's 'noterirty' seems to be a bunch of stuff him and his mtes have written about it. pisspoor stuff.

3/15/2010 04:45:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

Lord, he's also extracting parts of McEwan's novel:

""From the point of view of the audience, which seemed to be of one mind in all things, she had points in her favour and points against. As a woman she was a poor hegemon, and being unconfident poorer still. (Beard thought that he was getting the hang of this term.) On the other hand she was a Jew, an Israeli and, by association, an oppressor of the Palestinians. Perhaps she was a Zionist, perhaps she had served in the army. And once she got underway, the hostility in the room began to grow. This was a postmodern crowd with well-developed antennae for the unacceptable line. Its heart, when not seized by correct utterance from correct quarters, turned cold.""

From a Booker Prize winner. I am reminded of the old song "If Lee Dixon plays for England so can I".

3/15/2010 04:57:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

As I said I don't quite understand why anyone reads McEwan any more. That is abysmally lazy writing. Even considering the entire novel is first-person, the standard postmodern get-out clause (weird how the anti-po-mo Nick loves two resolutely postmodern novelists, McEwan and Amis) - that these are just the main character's prejudices about the audience - doesn't even really work.

But above all, the writing is just so bad. That Nick likes it is no surprise, mind you.

Also note nick's review:

forcing Beard to endure an audience at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, which bellows that his so-called science is nothing but a "social construct" designed to preserve the "hegemonic arrogance" of the "white male elite".

it refers to part of the book which Nick also helpfully reproduces:

the metastudies reporting that girls' language skills were greater on average than boys', there was a roar of derision and a speaker on the platform rose fearsomely to denounce him for the ‘crude objectivism by which he seeks to maintain and advance the social dominance of the white male elite'.

So it's not actually his science at all. It's actually a rehashing of a 2005 Harvard debate with added 'science'. and isn't it so lucky for mcewan's character that his studies are actually right-on, pro-women ones, whereas the Harvard president (who nick embarassingly mentions by name) was anti-women. Nick calls this stuff 'fact into fiction' but it's really fiction into fiction.

poor quality writing from McEwan; spectacularly poor from Cohen.

3/15/2010 05:10:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

So in a conciliatory spirit, Amis attempted to find common ground. ‘Would all those in the hall who think they are morally superior to the Taliban please raise your hands,' he asked.

WTF is that meant to prove or represent?

Whether or not I approve or disapprove of anybody's policies, what is a feeling of moral superiority going to achieve?

3/15/2010 05:16:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

A friend of mine was there; he found the question loaded and the exercise pointless so did not raise his hand; I know that he considers himself to be 'morally superior', inasmuchas he is not a misyogynist, not an antisemite, etc; but he didn't want to play amis's game which, as you say, is entirely pointless. Not least because the only evidence we have for number of hands raised is form Amis himself who says 'almost a third'. Rather unfair to characterise the audience in that way.

What i love most about cohen's piece in Standpoint is the ending where he says 'i know that to characterise the ICA like this is totally unfair and goes against every kind of rational principle i have but fuck it, those lefties had it coming'.

3/15/2010 05:27:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

The problem with decency (pace Blair) is that they have too much bloody moral superiority.

3/15/2010 05:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not just them, though, is it? One of the things that's always got on my nerves about the UK's peace movement is the propensity of many people in it (not all of them religious) to adopt tactics and positions which seem better design to assert moral superiority and spiritual distance from the Bad Stuff, rather than prioritise things which will actually stop the Bad Stuff.

Chris Williams

3/15/2010 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

it's unlikely you'll find many people in an ICA audience being climate change sceptics

You sure about that? I was under the impression that the ICA was run by professional contrarians who are part of the ex-RCP up-to-something-but-nobody-can-work-out-what crowd.

3/15/2010 06:58:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

By the way, I've not had a book (or much else) published since 1997 but I'm working on

(a) a children's book
(b) a biography of a minor contemporary public figure

neither of which is guaranteed ever to happen.

3/15/2010 07:00:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

@Chris Williams, well I think the first rule of being against bad stuff is not doing bad stuff oneself. And the second rule of Fight Club is ... oh sorry, that's something else. (But that is a much better film, and presumably book, about modernity, being a man and stuff. Funnier than McEwan too.

@ Justin Is it? Oh god. I used to like the ICA. I saw Amis' (former?) mate Julian Barnes (better than McEwan) interview Michel Tournier (French novelist, better than McEwan) there. No one asked any questions about hegemony, as I recall. But Tournier and Barnes are both post-modernists (whatever that really means, but it certainly fits Barnes who is very aware of novelistic construction).

But I do think that lefties generally aren't climate change skeptics; they're mostly the right who think it's all a plot to make us give up cars.

3/15/2010 07:08:00 PM  
Blogger AndyB said...

If the ICA is run by ex(?)-RCPers, then they most certainly are not denying climate change because science is an arrogant white male hegemonic ideology, or whatever it is that the cartoon cultural studies academic is supposed to think. The ex-RCPers are, these days, for hyper-capitalism and unbound 'progress'.

3/15/2010 07:09:00 PM  
Anonymous bensix said...

If Reidy had not been in the audience, if Arena had not commissioned me to write a profile of Amis, if McEwan had not been Amis's friend, then the meeting would have been forgotten.

But now it's forever stained as "the place with the thing that the guy wrote about". Thus, history's made...

3/15/2010 07:10:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I might have mentioned this before, but years and years ago - when I used to sort-of be a writer, in fact - I was invited to speak at the ICA, in a football colloquium, which happened to be on the day of the Country Side Alliance march. As the ICA is just off Trafalgar Square it took some getting to that afternoon, and in my talk I made some reference to the march - onlt to find that much of the audience wanted to say how great the marchers were. They also thought Paul Gascoigne imitating a Loyalist flutist during an Old Firm match (told you it was a long time ago) was great. This was because they were in the ex-RCP mob, and hence professional contrarians.

3/15/2010 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Incidentally, one hopes that Madame Miaow is less unpleasant on the radio than she is whenever she thinks somebody is disagreeing with her on the internet.

3/15/2010 07:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure I disagree with 'striking a morally superior yet practically worthless pose' when it's decents doing it, just as I do when it's peaceniks: the point I was trying to make was that this pose is not unique to decents.


3/15/2010 07:30:00 PM  
Blogger AndyB said...

Oh, plugging, yes. I have a chapter in New Dimensions of Doctor Who, out later this year.

And also later this year, or next, some proper stuff in Social Studies of Science, and maybe something in Economy and Society, if I ever get round to submitting.

3/15/2010 08:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

If the ICA is run by ex(?)-RCPers, then they most certainly are not denying climate change because science is an arrogant white male hegemonic ideology

I strongly suspect the Spikies are currently pushing the "save the planet from global warming with Science! and Rationality! and Self-Interest!" line which both Nick and Ian McEwan are endorsing. So either McEwan has really spectacularly missed the target (possible) or he's been fed a line about what the ICA used to be like before the Enlightenment Rationalists took over - and never mind that the said takeover was several years before Amis's encounter with his moral inferiors. (In which case McEwan is just retailing someone else's gossip, but Nick really has spectacularly missed the target.)

3/15/2010 09:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get the inside poop on Glenn Beck this June, from freelance journalist and former Editor of The Exile Alex Zaitchik, with his unauthorized biography, Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance.

3/15/2010 09:51:00 PM  
Blogger Nathaniel Tapley said...

Plugging things? Well, if you insist...

In The Gloaming podcasts ( ) is a free, monthly horror-comedy anthology podcast, in the vein of Tales of the Unexpected and Hammer House of Horror.

It stars such comic luminaries as ex-Eastender and Celebrity Love Islander Michael Greco, Darren Strange (The Armando Iannucci Shows), Ruth Bratt (Sarah Millican's Support Group), and many others.

It;s had lots of lovely reviews (you can read them here: ) and all of the podcasts are available here:

Plug concluded. As a desperately strained link to the actual post, some of my ex-housemates were the then-Living Marxism lot, who are now always on Jeremy Vine...

3/16/2010 01:41:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Ah, but there was no actual post as such. The point was that if Nick can abandon any attempt at commentary and just plug a book, so can we.

3/16/2010 07:57:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

One third responding is pretty high, I think. For a start there's the point (made earlier) that it takes a bit of time to consider ones response to a question shouted at you in a heated debate, second as it was Amis saying it you might think you were being tricked, and finally - as anyone who has asked the audience questions at conferences before will know - most people don't really like that sort of thing.

3/16/2010 08:47:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

If I had been there (I was offered a ticket but turned it down, partly because I was busy and partly because I couldn't quite stomach paying £8 to hear Amis sneer about how wonderful he is, accompanied by Clothes for Chaps trying desperately to sell his pisspoor book), I can't imagine I'd have played ball either. I mean this was in October 2007, just as the full nastiness of Amis's opinions on Islam and his love of Mark Steyn were coming into wide circulation - I still don't buy him as anything other than an islamophobe, and for that reason I probably wouldn't have raised a hand. And as you say, from experience of teaching, even the most enthusiastic audience will only really have a response rate of about 50% - they didn't come to be judged, after all.

So I don't quite understand how this can be used for evidence about anything at all. People going to the event are likely to be admirers of Amis - £8 is a lot to pay to hear someone you dislike, and the event was accompanied by a book signing. It says more about Amis's fans than the ICA itself. These events are not limited to 'postmodern relativists', you don't have to show a badge with a photo of Judith Butler on it to get in.

now it's forever stained as "the place with the thing that the guy wrote about". Thus, history's made...

That's certainly what cohen would like to think based on this dreadful blog post, and bless, he even thinks his pisspoor interview with Amis might have been McEwan's inspiration, but i'm far from convinced it will stand the test of time. Hanif Kureishi was using the initials 'ICA' as a buzzword for 'stupid liberals' in the late 80s; nobody is going to look back on McEwan's career and think that anything post-Atonement is worth much attention. Especially not when the 'satire' of the ICA is so pisspoor (as it was in Kureishi's Sammy and Rosie Get Laid).

3/16/2010 09:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Amis was just pleased to find a group to which he could judge himself to be morally superior.

I am reminded of how the worst inmates of prisons can look down on those they label 'nonces'.

3/16/2010 05:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Plugging things eh?

That's certainly what cohen would like to think based on this dreadful blog post, and bless, he even thinks his pisspoor interview with Amis might have been McEwan's inspiration,


3/20/2010 03:47:00 PM  

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