Friday, October 27, 2006

Some Books To Read & One Not To Bother With

Nick Cohen, Independent columnist (UK) and one of my favourite journalists, reviews Paul Berman's Power and the Idealists and Ian Buruma's Murder in Amsterdam here. He prefers Berman:

Along with Bernard Kouchner, the inspirational founder of Médecins Sans Frontières, and Sergio Vieira de Mello, the great United Nations servant whom Islamists murdered in Baghdad, he had concluded that the liberal left had a duty to protect the victims of oppression. Iraq blew that apart, of course. Berman knows all the good reasons for opposing the war, but when he dutifully criticises the Bush administration I sense that his heart isn’t in it. The failure of Fischer and so many other 1968 radicals to challenge the neo-conservatives with a left-wing argument that included solidarity with the victims of Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda astonishes him, and rightly so: it was astonishing.

I should say so.

Nick's got a new book coming out soon, What's Left? How Liberals Lost Their Way, and it asks certain necessary and impertinent questions: Why is it that apologies for a militant Islam that stands for everything the liberal-Left is against come from a section of the Left? After the American and British wars in Bosnia and Kosovo against Slobodan Milosevic's ethnic cleansers, why were men and women of the Left denying the existence of Serb concentration camps? Why is Palestine a cause for the liberal-Left, but not, for instance, China, the Sudan, Zimbabwe or North Korea? Why can't those who say they support the Palestinian cause tell you what type of Palestine they would like to see? After the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington why were you as likely to read that a sinister conspiracy of Jews controlled American or British foreign policy in a liberal literary journal as in a neo-Nazi rag?

My new book (Waiting for the Macaws) is out in the UK now, under the title Stories from the Age of Extinctions, published by Saqi Books. And I see that a rambling and thoroughly enjoyable conversation I had with Robert Gougeon of the Writers Cafe in Toronto is now on-line. You can listen to the whole dang thing here. Just click on "play" under the book cover.

Meanwhile, my Tyee colleague Crawford Killian puts the boots to Paul Chiasson's The Island of the Seven Cities.

I admit I'm disappointed that Menzies and Chiasson are wrong. But I'm more angered than disappointed, because their pseudoscience has cast a pall over the subject.

The Chinese certainly did reach East Africa, and perhaps they reached Australia and North America as well. Maybe their shipwrecks lie in San Francisco Bay and off Australia, as Menzies claims.

But what serious archaeologist would risk his reputation now to search for real evidence? Menzies and Chiasson have effectively closed off research into China's maritime history. The scraps of fact in their books are buried in a jumble of errors. And we are all the poorer for it.

Good for you, Crawford.


Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

The link to the Cohen piece you mention is actually here.

5:58 PM  
Blogger tglavin said...

Thanks DPU.



7:24 PM  

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