Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Near Neighbours by Gordon Legge (Jonathan Cape 1998)

Adam switched off the motor.

'Oh,' said Geordie, 'you're back again.'

'Back to listen to you and your blethers, aye.'

'By God, see if I was a younger man - I'd take my hand off your face before you could say Gazza. I've battered bigger than you, mind. Plenty bigger.'

Aye, I think I mind you telling me - hundreds of times.'

Geordie was the type as would probably be quite happy if Adam were to headbutt. He'd live off it for years. 'Aye,' he'd tell folk, 'just right in front of my face. What a mess it was and all. Blood and brains all over the shop. Never get that cleaned. That's what the polis said. Said to me, "Geordie," they said, "long as you live, and as hard as you try, you'll never get that cleaned."'

Adam replaced the seat. 'Well, want to give it a go, auld yin?'

Geordie made to get up. He adjusted his legs. He adjusted his legs like they were artificial. To all intents and purposes, they were.

(From the short story, 'Past Masters'.)

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Big Blowdown by George P. Pelecanos (St Martin's Press 1996)

"How much do you want us to collect?" said Recevo

"Forty ought to do it for now. We had a little communication problem in the past. Maybe he was kidding me, but I couldn't understand much of what the old guy said. Typical, with these immigrants - they don't even bother to learn the language."

That's because they've been too busy workin', tryin' to feed their families. Workin' like dogs, as if a dog could ever work that hard. Not that any of you snow-white bastards would understand the meaning of the word-

" . . . That's why I thought it might be a good idea for Karras here to go along. That sound good to you, Karras?"

Karras smiled and nodded. He thought he'd mix things up this time.

"Yeah," said Reed. "Karras and this Georgakos bird, they speak the same language. The two of them can sit around together all night and grunt."

Gearhart snorted, issued a gassy grin. Karra heard Reed strike a match to the Fatima behind his back. The smoke from it crawled across the room.

"Forty dollars," said Recevo, trying to cut the chill. "That should be a walk in the park, right, Pete?"

"Not a problem," said Karras.

"Hey, Karras," said Reed. "Be a good little coloured girl and fetch me that ashtray offa Mr. Burke's desk."

"I'll get it," said Recevo, but Karras held him back with his arm.

"I asked Karras to get it for me," said Reed.

Karras pointed his chin in the direction of Gearhart. "Ask Laird Cregar over there to get it for you, Reed. He's a little closer."

Gearhart's grin turned down. He didn't make a move for the ashtray, and neither did Reed.

Recevo drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair. He shifted in his seat. "Mr. Burke, what should we do if this Georgakos gives us an argument?"

"He won't give you an argument," said Burke, keeping his eyes locked on Karras. "He wouldn't give an argument to a couple of boys who've seen the action you've seen. Would he?"

Burke himself had seen no "action", as he was on the brown side of thirty. But he had a brother who had fought in the European theatre, and being a veteran meant something to Burke. There were points to be had there, Karras figured, and some degree of slack.

"We'll take care of it", said Recevo, and he and Karras rose from their seats.

"Hey," said Reed. "I've got an idea. Maybe you ought to wear your uniforms over to the Greek's place. Wear your medals, too. Maybe that would help.

"Maybe you'd like to go with them," said Burke, with a touch of acid in his voice.

"Reed might have a little problem there," said Karras. He'd need a uniform, too. And the last time I checked, they weren't handin' out uniforms to Section Eights."

Reed stood from his chair, blood coloring his face.

"Hold it," said Burke. "You two can play if you want, but not in here."

"Guy kills a few Japs," muttered Reed, "thinks his asshole squirts perfume."

Burke raised his voice. "Shut your mouth, Reed, and sit down. You can thank me later."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Last Party: Britpop, Blair and the Demise of English Rock by John Harris (Harper Perennial 2003)

Noel Gallagher had turned up at his local polling station to find that he was required to produce one more item of identification than he was carrying. 'Do you want me to sing you a fucking song?' he protested, before celebrity eventually got the better of bureaucracy. That night, though the South Bank beckoned, he remained on the sofa. 'I had a ticket for the Labour Party party, but I had that much fun watching Portillo and the others get done over I stayed at home in front of the TV. It was all champagne and cigars round our house. Meg and me got pissed and went out into the garden and played ['The Beatles'] Revolution dead loud with the neighbours banging on the walls.'

Next month's Socialist Standard

Another classic from design peeps over at the Standard. Kudos to Paddy and Neil.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Desert Island digressions

Funny the things you stumble across on the net when you're looking for something else (in my case, the jpeg of a particular Orwell book cover).

I've read nine ten of the listed books, but which nine ten?

It's a given

Harsh but true . . . and Mancini has the Hart to tell him.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Complaints by Ian Rankin (Orion 2009)

Lothian and Borders Police HQ was on Fettes Avenue. From some windows there was a view towards Fettes College. A few of the officers in the Complaints had been to private schools, but none to Fettes. Fox himself had been educated largely free of charge - Boroughmuir, then Heriot Watt. Supported Hearts FC though seldom managed even a home fixture these days. Had no interest in rugby, even when his city played host to the Six Nations. February was Six Nations month, meaning there'd be hordes of the Welsh in town this weekend, dressed up as dragons and toting oversized inflatable leeks. Fox reckoned he would watch the match on TV, might even rouse himself to go down the pub. Five years now he'd been off the drink, but for the past two he'd trusted himself with occasional visits. Only when he was in the right frame of mind though, only when the willpower was strong.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Don't Be A Soldier! The Radical Anti-War Movement in North London 1914-1918 by Ken Weller (Journeyman Press 1985)

Much of available labour and socialist history is about institutions - parties, trade unions and similar organisations, on the anatomy rather than the physiology of the movement; while another substantial chunk is about individuals - usually those who have reached some sort of prominence. Both of these approaches can be valuable but they do not usually help us understand the confused matrix of the grass roots movements from which these individuals and organisations emerged, or how they articulated together. At worst much of what passed for labour/socialist history - particularly of the twentieth century - is little more than retrospective justfication, a hunt for apostolic or demonic successions and the legitimisation of this or that organisation or ideology, rather than an attempt to describe the rich and fertile contradictions of the movement as it was, and for that matter still is.

The struggle against the 1914-1918 war is often seen in a partial way, as being embodied in either the established socialist parties or in the pacifist movement. I hope that this text will show that the reality was much more substantial, complex and fruitful. What is clear - certainly in London and I suspect nationally too - was that the main origin of radical anti-war movement was not in the established socialist groups, or among middle-class pacifists, although both these currents made a contribution (and were themselves profoundly affected by the heat of the struggle); rather it lay in the 'rebel' milieu which had existed before the war - the syndicalist and industrial unionist movements within industry, the radical wing of the women's movement and the wide range of networks and organisations which by and large were very critical of the established labour movement.

[From Ken Weller's introduction.]

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The House of Sleep by Jonathan Coe (Penguin Books 1997)

. . . He leaned closer to Terry and confided: 'I'm down to four hours, you know.'

'Four hours?'

'Four hours a night. I've kept it up for the last week.'

'But that can't be good for you, surely. No wonder you look so tired.'

'I don't care. My target's three, and I'm going to get there. It's a struggle for some of us, you know. We don't all have your gifts. That's why I envy you so much. That's why I'm determined to discover your secret.'

Terry took a modest sip from his glass. 'Why despise it, anyway? I don't understand.'

'I'll tell you why: because the sleeper is helpless; powerless. Sleep puts even the strongest people at the mercy of the weakest and most feeble. Can you imagine what it must be like for a woman of Mrs Thatcher's fibre, her moral character, to be obliged to prostrate herself every day in that posture of abject submission? The brain disabled, the muscles inert and flaccid? It must be insupportable.'

'I hadn't thought of it like that before,' said Terry. 'Sleep as the great leveller.'

'Exactly. That's exactly what it is: the great leveller. Like fucking socialism.' The wine, Terry noticed, was starting to make Dr Dudden turn sour, and a burst of guttural laughter from Dr Madison's end of the table was enough to attract a poisonous look in her direction. 'Listen to that loud-mouthed witch,' he muttered. 'Huddled with her female cronies at the other end of the room. Have you not noticed, Terry, how this table tends to divide up on the basis of gender? That's her doing.'

Monday, August 16, 2010

I read some Marx (and I liked it)

A boy band not coming to X-Factor soon.

I don't know about their politics being out of date but a Pokemon T-Shirt? 2002 was a long time ago.

File alongside this, and not to be confused with that last disastrous reunion tour by Consolidated.

Hat tip to Louis Proyect.

The Blinder by Barry Hines (Penguin Books 1966)

He stormed out and slammed the door. Lennie took a wad of notes from his pocket and broke the brown paper seal. He stuffed them into a loose heap in his pocket, then walked out of the room and up the stairs to the directors' box at the front of the centre stand. The people sitting at the back saw him first and the information spread quickly downwards to the front. Mr Leary turned and stood up. Lennie stepped down past the ends of two rows and threw a crushed handful of money at him. The ball broke and scattered like confetti. He threw a second ball, squeezed tighter so that more would carry. A roar filled the stand and everyone's head whipped round, freezing the scene like a photograph. Grey, and tweed, and fur caught sitting and standing and crouching, all with their bodies turned to Lennie, their faces to the pitch. Les Adams was stooping into the back of the net to retrieve the ball. The United team were rejoicing in a heap. Lennie turned away and walked down the steps out of the ground.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I don't know about the 'Derry Pele' nickname but, going by this brilliant individual goal against Inverness Caley Thistle yesterday, Pat McCourt does a pretty good impersonation of Socrates.

And as my man crush on Pat McCourt grows a pace, a two year old clip from an Irish football show where McCourt talks about his move from Derry City to Celtic. Nice selection of highlights from his time at Derry City are also included in the clip.

Crass commercialism

Peter the Painter lives! . . . and he can also sort out your guttering.

File under the Man in the Red & Black van.

Hat tip to 'RedEyes' over at Urban 75.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Closely Observed Trains by Bohumil Hrabal (Abacus 1965)

My grandfather again, not to fall too far short of the standard set by Great-grandfather Luke, was a hypnotist who did his act in small circuses, and the whole town saw in his hypnotism nothing more nor less than an ambitious bid to stroll his way through life as idly as possible. But when the Germans crossed our frontier in March to occupy the whole country, and were advancing in the direction of Prague, our grandfather was the only one who went out to meet them, nobody else but our grandfather, and he set out to defy those Germans by means of his hypnotic powers, to hold back the advancing tanks by the force of suggestion. He went striding along the highroad with his eyes fixed on the leading tank, the spearhead of that entire motorized army. In this tank, waist-deep in the cabin, stood an officer of the Reich, with a black beret with the death's-head badge and the crossed bones on his head, and my grandfather kept on going steadily forward, straight towards this tank, with his hands stretched out, and his eyes spraying towards the Germans the thought: 'Turn round, and go back!'

And really, that first tank halted. The whole army stood still. Grandfather touched the leading tank with his outstretched fingers, and kept pouring out towards it the same suggestion: 'Turn round and go back, turn round and . . .' And then the lieutenant gave a signal with his pennant, and the tank changed its mind and moved forward, but Grandfather never budged, and the tank ran over him and crushed his head, and after that there was nothing in the way of the German army.

Afterwards Dad went out to look for Grandfather's head. That leading tank was standing motionless outside Prague, waiting for a crane to come and release it, because Grandfather's head was mashed between the tracks. And the tracks being turned just the way they were, Dad begged to be allowed to free Grandfather's head and bury it with his body, as was only right for a Christian.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Surviving The Blues: Growing Up In the Thatcher Decade edited by Joan Scanlon (Virago Press 1990)

At the end of the three years, all of the few friends I had made in York moved to London. I traipsed after them, clueless as to what my next step should be. They were going into publishing, and taking secretarial or journalist courses, or going on to drama school. I did the rounds, dossing on everybody's floor (they all seemed to have a house in London) for months. There was a particularly curious stage during the Falklands War, when I camped at No. 11 Downing Street for a week. Geoffrey Howe's son was a friend of mine at York University. At this point I was a punk, with spiky, viciously backcombed blonde hair and a tendency to sport a particular pair of very attractive blue trousers, which unfortunately I had singed at the crotch with an iron: a large triangular singe in the exact formation of pubic hair. The security police, who stood constantly on guard, never failed to inspect my person whenever I returned to No. 11. The Falklands War was hotting up, and Mr Haig, the US Secretary of State for Defence was in negotiations with Margaret Thatcher. I sauntered down Downing Street in my short-sighted haphazard way, only to be met by a pack of reporters, awaiting news about war developments from No. 10. There was a most embarrassing scene when I had to knock at No. 10 and wait for an age to be allowed in, so that I could gain access to No. 11. The cameras stopped rolling after they spotted the trousers.

(Louise Donald from the chapter, 'A Deafening Silence'.)

Coming to a Impossibilist literature table near you soon . . . soonish . . . eventually

Is 94 years too long to wait for a book length work relating to the World Socialist Party of the United States? The SPGB only had to wait for 70 years for The Monument. The poor old Proletarian Party are still waiting . . .

Anyway, I've said too much - which is unusual for me on this blog these days. Here's a link to an old article which gives some background information on Rab and the WSPUS.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Unfaithfully Yours (1948)

Hieroglyphics by Anne Donovan (Canongate Books 2001)

Ma mammy thoat ah wis daft, naw, no daft exactly, no the way wee Helen fae doon the street wis. Ah mean she didnae even go tae the same school as us an she couldnae talk right an she looked at ye funny and aw the weans tried tae avoid playin wi her in the street. Ma mammy knew ah could go the messages an dae stuff roond the hoose and talk tae folk, ah wis jist daft at school subjects, the wans that that involved readin or writin oanyway. Fur a while efter she went up tae see the teacher ah got some extra lessons aff the Remmy wummin but ah hated it. She wis nice tae me at furst but then when ah couldnae dae the hings she wis geein me she began tae get a bit scunnered. A hink she thoat A wis lazy, and ah could never tell them aboot the letters diddlin aboot, and oanyway, naebdy ever asked me whit it wis like. They gave me aw these tests an heard ma readin and tellt ma ma ah hud a readin age of 6.4 an a spellin age of 5.7 and Goad knows whit else, but naebdy ever asked me whit wis gaun oan in ma heid. So ah never tellt them.

(From the short story, 'Hieroglyphics'.)

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Festival (2005)

Now's The Time by John Harvey (Slow Dancer Press 1999)

Music has always been important for Charlie, you fancy - as background and as entertainment, as a way of easing a stressful life, papering over emptiness, and more positively, helping him to measure and assess emotion, helping him to understand. And where it had begun for him, this musical affiliation, this need? A tailoring uncle, returned from the States with a pile of chipped and scratched 78s and Charlie, in his early teens, open-minded and keen-eared, set loose amongst them. Bing Crosby. The Ink Spots. Sinatra. Dick Haymes. The Mills Brothers. Ella Fitzgerald's 'A-Tisket, A-Tasket' and 'Stone Cold Dead in the Market'. Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra with Billie Holiday (vocal refrain).
(John Harvey writing about his creation, Charlie Resnick, in the chapter entitled, 'Coda'.)

Monday, August 02, 2010

Pipe Dream (2002)

August 2010 Socialist Standard

August 2010 Socialist Standard


  • Is unemployment really the problem?
  • Regular Columns

  • Pathfinders Meat Into Veg
  • Cooking the Books 1 The problem with capitalism
  • Cooking the Books 2 Economic soothsaying
  • Material World Waste and Want: Grapes of Wrath revisited
  • Greasy Pole You're Nicked
  • Pieces Together Workers Waking Up; A Lost Tribe Indeed; Profitable Carnage; Capitalism in Action
  • 50 Years Ago The Passing of a Labour Leader
  • Main Articles

  • NHS: short-term prescriptions For Tories, liberty means the freedom first and foremost to make money.
  • Communist Camp What communism has in common with a row of tents.
  • Marx and the Ideology of Darwinism Marx admired Darwin’s work but was critical of some of the conclusions drawn from it. The second of our three-part article on Marx and Engels and Darwin.
  • Land Grab: win-win or win-lose? Corporate self-regulation or total system change?
  • Conversation with a hairdresser’s assistant Uncomplicated Marxian economics by Wilhelm Reich, author of The Sexual Revolution.
  • Letters, Book Reviews, Meetings & Obituary

  • Letters to the Editors: Withering away of money?; Declining rate of profit?; Capital – difficult?
  • Book Reviews: Hopes and Prospects by Noam Chomsky; Chinese Whispers by Hsiao-Hung Pai; Socialism or Barbarism. From the 'American Century' to the Crossroads by Istvan Meszaros; Africa’s Liberation. The Legacy of Nyerere edited by Chambi Chachage and Annar Cassam
  • Socialist Party Meetings: Clapham & Norwich:
  • Obituary: Friedrich Vogt
  • Voice From The Back

  • The arrogance of the capitalist class; What recession?; Let ‘em fly copters; The silent spillage; Stop Moaning. Work Harder