Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Book Review - "Honourable Friends" by Caroline Lucas - "Glass" by Alex Christofi

People have become accustomed to thinking of those involved in politics as being in it for themselves. Yet there was a time when those given to pursuing careers in public life were passionate about that which they sought to improve.
I am not the biggest fan of Margaret Thatcher and as much as I found her unpleasant, the lady said what she meant and meant what she said. She then went on to do exactly what she said she would.
Tony Benn, from the very polar opposite point of view, was another politician whose integrity remained intact. He was honest, sincere and stayed true to his beliefs throughout his long career. The same can be said for Caroline Lucas. 
Lucas has the same qualities as Thatcher in that she says what she means, and means what she says. But Caroline Lucas is cut from the same cloth as Tony Benn. As a progressive Green, she pursues environmental policies but not at the cost of a broader, more pluralistic outlook. Her desire to see a fairer, cross-class sharing of wealth where the elite, along with the corporates, are encouraged to pay taxes commensurate with their earnings is fair and just. Particularly in light of the past 36 years where Hayek has ruled supreme, and where investments banks with their sidekick, the free market, have dictated how we should live. This lady is, above all else, a staunch Democrat. She is unafraid of treading on the corn's of the old school when the old school needs treading on.
A darn good read this, full of intelligent insight, and written with a degree of passion that is missing in modern day Parliament. This powerful book reveals a woman not only passionate about her political career but about serving those for whom she has been elected to do a job.
It isn’t just her passion that makes this book such an interesting read but the concise way her arguments are delivered. Yes, she has a variety of opinions and yes, they can be flawed but her conviction is largely unhampered by partisanism. She is a politician who, if not unique in her principled approach, is very much a rarity.
Lucas’ clarity and vision are a godsend within the stale chambers of Parliament. She makes solid arguments against the lame erectile dysfunctional politics that currently afflict our mainstream parties. Nevertheless, her intelligence and passion are tempered by a desire for cooperation rather than confrontation
As a memoir ‘Honourable Friends?’ is perhaps a little too ambiguous in its categorisation. It tends to focus on recent events, or issues that have arisen since Caroline Lucas became an elected Member of Parliament. But as a statement of personal intent and as a reflection of the past five years this is a perfect political memoir.

Neatly wedged between two of my favourite authors, J. Robert Lennon, and Magnus Mills sits this delightful debut novel. Less deadpan than the magisterial Magnus Mills though no less dark and marginally less grotesque that Lennon. Alex Christofi has talents similar to those other two luminaries in that he also delights in the absurd, the slightly grotesque whilst colouring his dark humour with a svelte skin of the ridiculous. 
 Gunter Glass is an apology of a young man. Lacking the drive required to survive in the modern world he declines the offer given by silly things such as school or societal pressures accepting his lot in life is to be little. He eats a great deal and grows fat. Well, fatter than he should like to be with belly billowing forth from beneath his T-shirts, hanging over the belt of his jeans.

 "The only certainty is fish is good for you." - Steppenwolf.
Gunter is the main character of this author’s debut novel, 'Glass.' It is an exquisitely twisted slant on life demanding of the reader only that he or she suspend belief long enough to accept reality and fiction are often the same thing. The same thing? The insane thing perhaps might be better.

Young Glass is an ex-milkman who turns his talents to window cleaning. When his mother dies Gunter, saddened but not as devastated as one might have thought, slips into slow drive. As his mother’s death gradually sinks in with all the speed of tapioca used to hang wallpaper, Gunter regards his father through a worried lens. The man is falling apart.
Seeing a similar fate lined up for himself, Gunter, armed with a Batman-like utility belt containing toxic cleaning fluids, turns to a substance he long has loved - glass. It is after all his namesake and he has loved the look and feel of the transparent material since childhood. 

After a spectacularly successful adventure atop the spire of Salisbury cathedral, Gunter takes to bigger and better things. With the eccentric Steppenwolf as his unhygienic mentor; with Wikipedia as his reference point; with his mother’s words of wisdom as his guide, Gunter agrees to help clean The Shard. Taking a short-range psychic, Lieve Toureau, as a lover only to find she is the ex-wife to his current boss, Blade, and that she is pregnant with his child, life for the man becomes somewhat complicated. More so when suspicions of his boss’s intention become muddied, confused.

The story is as bright as it is dark, as witty as it is droll. I especially liked the use of the Pratchett like footnotes that litter the bottom of the page. If you like your fiction amusing, moving and rather dark then this might be for you. It certainly is for me.

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.


Cara H said...

I think all nations could use more politicians like Caroline Lucas and fewer of what generally tends to be offered up. The recent crop of theocrats in the U.S. are a pretty scary bunch. It was just their sort that the separation of church and state edict hoped to keep from getting into power.

Russell Duffy said...

Exactly so Cara. America, unlike Britain, was founded as a secular state. Whereas we aren't but folks like Caroline really are progressives as they are all things theocrats aren't.

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A Utility Fish Shed Blog

A Utility Fish Shed Blog