Moneymakers, Separate Beds, and Other New Book Reviews
This week: economic hardship tests a marriage, a former U.N. official prescribes a new political order, classic South Africa stories, a harrowing memoir of a son’s battle with schizophrenia, and the story of infamous American conmen.
Separate Bedsby Elizabeth Buchan
The ebb and flow of the economy doesn’t just impact the Nicholson’s wallets but their hearts as well.
Elizabeth Buchan, the bestselling author of Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman, expertly ties in today’s economic hardships with the struggles of keeping the Nicholson family together. Outward appearances show Tom and Annie Nicholson as a happy couple who’ve watched their three children enter adulthood and are now secure financially til their retirement. But when Tom loses his job, their son and mother move back into the house, and what were once empty rooms are now occupied, meaning that Tom and Annie must sleep in the same bed for the first time in a long time. Buchan’s novel ties in all-too-familiar everyday situations with the Nicholson’s own personal struggle to stick together.
The Unfinished Global Revolution: The Pursuit of a New International Politicsby Mark Malloch-Brown
The former United Nations leader introduces a groundbreaking view of global politics in the 21st century.
As we enter a new decade of the 21st century, the world’s citizens and governments are united by the social, political, and environmental challenges that lay ahead. Mark Malloch-Brown’s The Unfinished Global Revolution proposes a global government reform for the 21st century, one which shifts focus away from terrorism and Iraq and zooms in on climate change and poverty. Malloch-Brown recalls his experiences spearheading international development as former United Nations deputy secretary general to provide a personal, frontline view of the most pressing issues of our time. In light of 2008’s worldwide economic crisis, it has become increasingly clear that a global economy needs global institutions; by the same token, Malloch-Brown argues, other global issues such as public health and climate change must be addressed on an international level. Thus The Unfinished Global Revolution introduces a revolutionary “simple global social contract” through which individuals, corporations, and governments can effectively cooperate and establish more powerful international institutions.
In Corner Bby Es’kia Mphahlele
Mphahlele’s quintessential 1960s South African stories are reissued for another generation of readers in the first new edition of the author’s work since his death in 2008.
Originally published in 1967, Penguin Classics’ reprint of the renowned story collection In Corner B highlights Mphahlele’s profound narratives of life under South Africa’s oppressive, apartheid regime. The edition boasts a new introduction by Mphahlele’s former student, Peter N. Thuynsma, who praises the author for providing a “spectrum of the warp and weft of being Black under legislated prejudice,” and for capturing “Black South African sensibility at its most observant, at its most prescient.” Yet In Corner B also paints an insightful, often humor-filled picture of humanity and South African life outside the parameters of racism. Nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature in 1969, Mphahlele has been hailed as Nelson Mandela’s literary equivalent.
Henry’s Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, A Father and Son’s Storyby Patrick Cockburn and Henry Cockburn
A mesmerizing narrative of the eight harrowing year’s since Patrick Cockburn’s son was diagnosed with a harrowing mental illness.
All parents are haunted by the thought that some day their children might be in danger, and there’s nothing they can do about it. So begins the story of Patrick Cockburn, a journalist who was reporting in Afghanistan when he learned that his son Henry had been admitted to a hospital mental ward in England after suffering a nervous breakdown. At 20 years old, Henry waded into an estuary and nearly drowned in an attempt to swim across. The surrounding trees, he said, had egged him on. Shortly thereafter he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. A happy and creative child, Henry was flourishing at art school only six weeks before his sudden breakdown, when he began roaming the woods, mistrusting clocks, and soiling his pants. The once handsome young man was unrecognizable in his squalor. Henry’s head was abuzz with strange, insistent voices, but his own voice resonates powerfully in Henry’s Demons. Coupled with his father’s devastating account of his son’s suffering, their stories form an original narrative that reveals the vagaries of a largely misunderstood illness; the complex world where sanity, madness, and identity meet; and a family’s brave response to a tortuous condition. The author of two other books and recipient of the Orwell Prize for Journalism for his feats as an Iraq correspondent in London, Henry’s Demons may be Cockburn’s most personal profound work yet.
Tarnoff presents a vivid history of America’s financial system through the escapades of three cunning conmen.
The American Dream is built on the premise that our country’s citizens can create something from nothing. The counterfeiters in Ben Tarnoff’s Moneymakers did just that, using their fake currencies and manipulating the economic realities of their day to make personal fortunes. They embodied the dark side of America’s economic success, paving the way for Wall Street’s get-rich-quick culture that continues to breed corruption in our financial system today. Moneymakers follows three of our nation’s most infamous counterfeiters from colonial times (the American Colonies were first in the Western world to forge paper bills) through the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, when hundreds and eventually thousands of different banknotes were in circulation, each fluctuating in value. The federal government stood aside and watched the wealth of America’s banks rapidly soar and then plummet in an unstable economy. Ultimately, Tarnoff’s investigative, empirical history of financial volatility in our nation sheds light on today’s economic crisis.