Elite as the new outsider? Liberal protest and the failure of illusion

‘This liberal press nonsense about Trump being an ‘outsider’ shows how out of touch they are. No wonder they didn’t see a Trump victory looming.’

This liberal press nonsense about Trump being an ‘outsider’ shows how out of touch they are. No wonder they didn’t see a Trump victory looming. Trump is not an ‘outsider’ he is as much part of the elite with as much access to media and money as any player in the American political landscape. Some of his success was driven by a self-censoring and adoring media — not naming in any particular order, CNN and Fox. This came on top of the enormous leverage of the hit TV show ‘The Apprentice’ financed by none other than Trump Productions (with producer partner Mark Burnett Productions) and MGM Television. Hardly light-weights in the media world. Certainly not the stuff an outsider would have access to.

Then there’s the Trump billions. I suppose a billion dollar legacy doesn’t make any difference to the fantasy. But these banal fictions are part of the personality cult that greased the Trump rise to power. Oh, for sure there’s something to the idea of a ‘protest vote’ – but protest against what? Like the Brexit brigade  not a movement so much as a vast, angry and socially clueless disconnected mob. Trump’s popularity among angry-frightened white men looking to strike out is hardly surprising. This is a group who love to advertise themselves as victims – usually of something formless and threatening, whether it’s ‘political correctness gone mad’ or Black Lives Matter – so this ‘outsider’ nonsense plays well with them.

This outburst was partly in response to the article: Considering what America’s choice of Donald Trump really means By Marc Fisher in The Washington Post

medium.com/thewashingtonpost/considering-what-americas-choice-of-donald-trump-really-means-9774232286bb#.er98jaf67

View story at Medium.com

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REVIEW: John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things – a joy to find

Fearful writers recycle the clichés and familiar tropes of genres, brave writers redefine them and use them to amaze, startle, seduce and frighten us. John Connolly’s fantasy novel The Book of Lost Things does all of this with a few more turns to keep readers wrong-footed and following the action.

Cleverly tapping into multiple genres: coming-of-age fantasy, fairytale, as well as horror, Connolly avoids the pitfalls of each and brings a fresh and exciting take on many beloved tales and conventional tropes in the process: The wandering knight, re-imagined as gay man searching for his lost love in a thorn-covered tower, Snow White as an obese and exploitive bully, the Seven Dwarves as a delightfully goofy Python-esque workers’ collective, Red Ridinghood as the whorish mother of werewolves. Stories without happy endings, parables that remind people only of our unimportance, metaphors that point to the choices we make as out only hope of happiness.

Yet, and despite the cleverness and fantasy name-checking, The Book of Lost Things most successful and satisfying elements are its characters: the protagonist, twelve-year-old David who loses his mother, before being thrust into a family situation which has no room for his grief. Best of all is the grotesque and disturbing Crooked Man, Connolly’s antagonist. The writer draws on the tradition of folkloric monsters to create an insatiably malevolent child-stealing monster. It is a mark of Connolly’s talent, that despite the grotesque evil of The Crooked Man, the more poignant point is that the child-victims must be betrayed into his clutches by a trusted protector.

As a coming-of-age tale it it resonates on many level: David’s lonely efforts to grieve for his dead mother, his inability understand the new family situation when his father’s remarries a younger woman, the constant uncertainty of life in war-time England during the blitz ,and, not least of all, David’s struggle with mental illness.

David’s journey across the unknown land beyond the sunken garden of his new step-mother’s house, to search for the king – dying or simply unconcerned by the threat posed by an army of marauding werewolf-led wolves gathering on the his borders – and his book of ‘forgotten things’ which may (or may not) return David to own world.

Connolly, known more for his award-winning Charlie Parker detective series, is an esteemed story teller and his experience is evident in the pacing, suspense and – importantly – the surprises he drops at crucial points. The story never lags, as some new twist, unexpected development, or unforeseen alliance appear at the right moment to keep it all chugging along.

The Book of Lost Things is a well-rounded universe whose settings and background from war-time London to the monster-infested unnamed kingdom ground the characters and counterpoints the forays into horror. Well-thought out minor characters add much to the texture and tone. Connolly’s prose is deft,sensitive and to the point.The tone always appropriate whether delving into humour or horror.

As a Young Adult novel, The Book of Lost Things, ticks a lot of boxes. David, like many teens in this age of over-worked and rarely-home parents, negotiates the journey into adulthood mostly on his own. Mentors like the Woodsman, and Roland, the love-lorn knight, appear and teach him important lessons in compassion, humility and self-reliance along the way. But in the end, David’s own courage are what must carry him through. The ending, after David faces his greatest enemy, and learns his most important lesson is powerful and cathartic. The resolution made me cry, and that’s not something that just any old narrative can do these days.

The Book of Lost Things is a delight, full of surprises and a welcome addition to the ranks of modern fantasy writing, and one I am happy to recommend to adult and young readers. It deserves a place alongside Pullman’s His Dark Materials and Leguin’s Earthsea series.

See more reviews of ‘The Book of Lost Things’ at Good Reads

An interview with John Connolly – http://tlcbooks.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/author-interview-with-john-connolly/

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Bosc:Rev 4

Bosc:Rev 4.

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Because it’s Monkday

‘Evidence’, live in Japan, 1963. Thelonius Monk with the sublime skins of  Frankie Dunlop

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qweSlfP6Bt

Via wojciechkucha

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REVIEW: The Priestess and the Slave (audio book) by Jenny Blackford, read by Holly Jackson, on Audiophile

61lBXEBXM6L._SL175_‘The priestess and the slave’ is a compelling and dramatic tale of a tumultuous period in ancient Greek history told from the perspective of two very different women: Harmonia, a household slave, and Thrasullas, a priestess of Delphic Apollo. Author, Jenny Blackford’s eye for detail in characterisation, historical setting and political intrigue brings the characters and era to vivid life.

The story is set in the fifth century BC though Thrasulla’s story precedes Harmonia’s by several decades. Despite this separation in time there is a strong sense of continuity between the two.

Thrasulla, is an older woman whose life has encompassed the roles of daughter, wife, mother and later, pythia. Her narrative concerns the machinations of the mad Spartan King Klyomenes, a man with the ‘eyes of a ravening wolf’, and the duplicity of the senior priestess, Perialla, as they attempt to manipulate the role of the oracle to further Klyomenes’ quest for power.

The story is told through the observations of Thrasulla, and her conversations with a fellow priestess.

Harmonia’s story unfolds during the Great Plague of Athens which devastated the city from 430 BC in the wake of the Peloponnesian War. According to Thucydides, an historian of the period, up to a quarter of the Athenian army and a similar fraction of the civilian population perished. Harmonia’s description of nursing the family whom she belongs to and her own twin sister through the ravages of the plague is harrowing and moving.

Blackford’s eye for detail in characterisation, setting and political intrigue make the story a compelling one. Her decision to have both women past their child-rearing years, with a wealth of life experience to draw on an, and understanding of the relationships which are chosen and which are forced on characters, adds depth and credibility to the tale. Concentrating on the experiences of those marginalised in traditional accounts of the time also gives the tale freshness and energy. The characters of Thrasulla and Harmonia are portrayed as warm, intelligent and engaging. Blackford does not romanticise the era nor the institution of slavery, but through Harmonia, we get a nuanced glimpse into the politics of dependence and coercion of slave-owning society.

The womens’ contrasting narratives, differing in perspective in time and social position, give a sense of the period and changes taking place in ancient Greece. The similarities and differences in the two characters are fascinating and enhance the listeners understanding of womens’ roles and contribution to ancient society.

The audio book (on Audiophile), read by Hollie Jackson, is competent, clear and energetic though sometimes missing some subtlety in delivery which might have done more justice to characters who lived through such trying times.

Recommended for readers who enjoy a vivid account of a fascinating historical period, students and lovers of a well told tale.

see AUDIBLE : http://www.audible.com.au/pd/Fiction/The-Priestess-and-the-Slave-Audiobook/B00KNACXGG/ref=a_listener__cco_1_1_t

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Science fiction review: The Man Who Melted by Jack Dann on audio book

The Man who melted by Jack Dann is a detailed and disturbing portrait of a future where societal destruction is not a result of weapons or other technologies but of a severe telepathic disturbance within its ranks. The Man who melted received a nomination for a Nebula Award for best novel.

Protagonist Raymond Mantle is trying to find out what happened to his lover, Josiane (also his sister) who is either dead or has disappeared into the telepathic void of the ‘screamers’. Mantle is trapped in an emotional limbo: unable to grieve and let go of the past or to move forward with his life. The conflict sends him seeking out the ‘dark places’ in his own psyche before they consume him.

‘Screamers’ are the physical shells of human beings whose minds have been destroyed or absorbed into a conglomerate telepathic entity. In 22nd century society Screamers are seen and treated by most as dangerous and unpredictable conduits of violence and chaos. Whether the telepathy results from mutation or disease is unclear; whether it is an advantage or a dangerous deviation is explored as Mantle struggles to reconcile his past with Josiane with the future he faces.

Mantle’s search for Josiane leads him to attend a ceremony of the The Christian Criers a cult who tap into the consciousness of dead screamers for enlightenment or simply a psychic thrill. But there is a danger that his quest might lead further from sanity and deeper into the chaos of the screamers’ collective psychosis.

Dann’s novel explores, as in previous works such as Bad Medicine, the frontiers of consciousness. Drawing on the theories of Julian Jaynes who, in his 1976 book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.

The Man who melted uses the idea of telepathic apocalypse to explore themes of love, grief, inter-connection, and redemption.

In Mantle the author has created a compelling and obsessive protagonist who struggles to deal with guilt, perhaps a result of his incestuous relationship with Josiane, or because of his conflicted emotions about his current love, Joan. Mantle’s story untangles his relationship with ‘frenemy’ Carl Pfeiffer.

Dann’s settings are believable and disturbing – the descriptions of post-Scream Naples with its decaying streets is reminiscent of Graham Greene’s occupied Vienna in The Third Man creating an atmosphere of seediness, corruption and danger to underline the uncertainties of the post-Screamer world.

The Man who melted is an exploration of the threshold of the human mind told in thriller form and as compelling and disturbing as anything by Dick or Vonnegut. It raises timely questions about mass society’s retreat from reality into the regressive certainties of fundamentalism, new age delusions and other irrationalities.

For readers and fans of Dann there is much to enjoy in this work: compelling ideas, as well as its focus on that strangest of frontiers: consciousness itself. For those new to this author’s work it is an excellent introduction to one of modern science fictions’ master storytellers.

Kevin T. Collins’ narration captures Mantle’s intensity and the complexity of Dann’s crumbling 22nd century world while maintaining the momentum of the narrative.

The Man Who Melted is available at: http://www.audible.com.au51FrYyt6yPL._SL300_

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Bolt from the right

TRAGEDY STRIKES – ANDREW BOLT ‘ALMOST CLOSE TO DEATH’ AFTER ABC INTERVIEW SUGGESTS HE COULD BE ‘A BIT RACIST’

Soon to be deceased

Soon to be deceased

Australia mourns as the nation’s favourite liberal-baiter Andrew Bolt is reportedly ‘close to death’ after it was suggested he might be ‘a bit racist’ in an ABC radio interview.

Mr. Bolt was so traumatised by the comment that he was forced to take to bed where he barely managed to bang out 14 Twitter posts before news of his impending demise hit the blogoverse.

Supporters have blamed the ABC for Bolt’s not-quite-but-almost-fatal collapse. “In such instances we like to blame the ABC. Hell! We blame the ABC for everything else why not blame them for Bolt too?” a Bolt insider commented.

Even with the Grim Reaper at his side, Mr. Bolt continues blogging heroically, warning his constituents about the dangers of refugees and public school education.

The ABC have issued an almost-apology for the slight inference in the quip about Bolt’s somewhat-racist views.

The Murdoch family are said to be pressing for Mr. Bolts immediate almost-canonisation.

-Tim White, for The Centre for Almost Ideas

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