Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations

Or An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, as it seems to be called. I read this a couple of years ago (another illustration of the benefits of free out-of-copyright books for e-readers) but with all the Corbynomics kerfuffle it seemed a good time to mention it.

I read it in the spirit of Know Your Enemy, since Adam Smith seems to get blamed/credited with everything free market from Thatcher onwards that I oppose, but I was pleasantly surprised. His views were not quite what I expected, I even agreed with a fair bit of it (though some might have worked with a smaller population and a different system of banking etc but isn’t applicable today. And sometimes he seems almost naive in thinking people will do what’s fair or best for the country rather than what provides most short-term advantage to themselves).

He’s by no means a socialist but the provision of a living wage and progressive taxes seem to fall naturally out of his style of pragmatism. He doesn’t have much time for the idle rich, or greedy merchants who whisper in government ears to make sure their own interests come before those of the nation. Which I’m sure would come as a great disappointment to half the people who point to him as the foundation of their economic beliefs, but haven’t actually read this book.

What’s the moral of this tale? That Tories aren’t always as bad as you think? Well, I’m not sure I’d go that far… However, go to the original source whenever possible, that could be one lesson to learn. Like reading Corbyn’s economic policy for yourself instead of believing the doom merchants.

Stormy Sunday

A lazy afternoon in a warm garden with a satisfyingly chunky book. Breeze riffling the pages, the occasional yew needle landing in my hair. The breeze picks up, the sky turns grey. Still warm, but bring the book inside for safety and sit by an open window instead. The sky darkens, lights on in the afternoon like it was November. A distant flash from the corner of my eye, then the sky lights up and the rain turns on like the most invigorating shower. Rain like a grey curtain concealing the valley, the wood, the nearby houses. Rain hissing and splattering as it fills the gutter and pools on the neighbour’s garage. Rain drumming on the roof demanding to be let in, competing with the thunder. Rain running down the road, the pavement, pooling where it can, straddling the T-junction. Wildflower meadow flattened, its strimmed paths obliterated. The cat yowls to be let out, to show that this is his territory and not even the forces of nature can drive him out of it. But I keep him in the dry warmth of the living room, listening to the rain, within easy reach of the hand that isn’t holding the book.

Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis

My review of Lives of the Monster Dogs is now up at Luna Station Quarterly. It’s science fiction from 1997 with a pleasingly old-fashioned (19th century) aspect, so if that sounds at all like your thing, bob over there and read the whole review. If it doesn’t, stay here and read something else…

READ, carved in rockYou could try my SF collection Cracks in the Foundations, which you can download for free here (tip me if you enjoy it).

A quick news and reviews round-up

I’ve got a new review at The Bookbag this week, for The Affinity Bridge by George Mann, a steampunk mystery that might appeal if you like both Sherlock Holmes and the popular novels of Robert Rankin. Another book that Rankin fans may enjoy (which I don’t have time to review properly, I’m currently reading Confluence by Paul McAuley to review for The Bookbag, and it’s a huge doorstopper of a volume with a whole trilogy in one book) is Something Borrowed by Paul Magrs which I picked off a library shelf at random, as is my wont, and was captivated by. Frankenstein’s monster’s wife Brenda is running a B&B in Whitby, and in between washing sheets and frying breakfasts she investigates supernatural mysteries with her best friend Effie. Lovely interplay of old Northern ladies, understated humour, bonkers plot twists, a hint of a romance, and proper tense scary bits. It’s part of a series so I shall be going back for more.

As for the news, well the Ilkley Literature Festival programme came out this week, and as part of Ilkley Writers I’ll be reading a story at the Fringe again, Thursday 8th October:


Yet more book reviews

A couple of weeks ago I said there was another possible opportunity for me to do book reviews. It’s now all come to fruition and my first review for The Bookbag is for a non-genre novel The Artificial Anatomy of Parks by Kat Gordon. Rather than reviewing books I’ve bought, or borrowed from the library (as often happens), this is the kind of reviewing where you choose from the available books and then they send you it to read. The excitement of receiving books through the post! You can imagine the glee this is filling me with, I’m sure. Don’t worry library, I haven’t forgotten you and I’m sure I’ll still be a regular visitor, but this is definitely going to help with my aim of reading more recent novels this year.

The Prisoner of Paradise by Romesh Gunesekera

Set in Mauritius in 1825 this is a richly descriptive novel about freedom and fetters, be it freed slaves, shackled convicts, or those bound by convention and the rules of society.

Don Lambodar is from Ceylon, the young interpreter for an exiled old prince of that island. Lucy Gladwell is a 19 year old orphan, recently arrived from England to live with her uncle who works for the British administration. Their class, race and gender separate them, yet events and a penchant for philosophical discussion keep throwing them together.

The heat and humidity, exotic flora and the ocean-dominated landscape are vividly conjured. I found the poetry of the language engaging, and a certain tension was built up as the paths that Don and Lucy’s lives would take unfolded. Outside of the focus of this pair, however, I felt that the other action (a slave revolt, for instance) became mere background with few consequences, and Lucy had a remarkable amount of leeway considering her uncle’s demeanour. Enjoy it for the strained romance and the beautiful writing rather than the history.

Today York, tomorrow… Ilkley

This is probably the last time I’ll mention the storytelling evening at this year’s York Festival of Ideas, but I wanted to convey a tiny bit of the buzz we got from the evening. OneMonkey (who was ably assisting with the technical gubbins) took a couple of action shots (with no flash so as not to disrupt us) so here is my friend Alice Courvoisier in her off the cuff storytelling groove:

Alice Courvoisier storytelling with JY Saville, York Festival of Ideasand here is me reading from the marvellous book I made for the purpose:

JY Saville reading at York Festival of Ideas, with Alice CourvoisierFor those that know me (too) well, yes I have had that shirt since 1994 and it’s wearing fine, thank you.

We told stories from around the world, in a variety of genres, all linked by the theme of secrets and discoveries. Two were stories that I’d written (one set in the past about Luddites, one set in the near future about the dangers of scientific discoveries in the wrong hands) and I’d hoped to record them so you could listen to them here, but unfortunately the computer’s built-in microphone made it sound like I was reading from the bottom of the garden in a storm, and the tablet sounded like I’d been recording with a sock over it (which I’m fairly sure wasn’t the case). However, should I find myself in a situation where I can record them more clearly I’ll do so and post them somewhere in this vicinity.

It seems like I’m going on about this event, I know, but we had such a great time putting it together, rehearsing, and then finally performing it to a (pretty full) audience, almost all of whom were complete strangers. One of those strangers, rather wonderfully, described the evening as ‘random, mad & fab‘ which Alice and I are quite happy with as our first review. I say ‘first’ because we’d quite like to do this again sometime, and other people have also expressed an interest in us doing so.

In the meantime, Ilkley Writers (which, as regulars here will know, includes me) this week kicked off their preparations for a second appearance at the Ilkley Literature Festival. Clear your diaries for the first week of October, we’re going to be fab.