October Book Reviews

Reviewed by Mandy Vere & Maria Ng from News from Nowhere

Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction
By Sue Townsend
£6.99 (paperback), Penguin Books

It's September 2002 and the latest instalment of the Mole diaries begins with Adrian working in a bookshop, miring himself in debt for a loft apartment (where the toilet has glass-brick walls) in Leicester's 'Rat Wharf', and trying to reclaim the £57.10 deposit he had paid for his holiday before discovering (thanks to Tony Blair) that Cyprus was in fact within 45 minutes' range of Iraqi WMDs. The usual cast of family, friends and enemies are all there, all getting on a bit - older but no wiser of course. Adrian manages to fall in love with his fiancée's sister , while his 17-year old soldier son Glenn is sent to serve in Iraq, and his first love Pandora is still a ruthlessly ambitious MP. Sue Townsend delivers beautifully observed comedy as always, giving us her own critique of Blair's war and Blair's Britain through the hapless life of Mole.

Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution
By Richard Gott
£9.99 (paperback), Verso

Venezuela was perhaps the first country to begin to resist the US-imposed neoliberal economic regime that has driven the poorest citizens of Latin America into ever-deeper poverty. Internationally now all eyes are on this oil-rich nation and its charismatic President Hugo Chavez, thanks to his continuing defiance of his superpower neighbour. His reforms have earned him the devotion of masses of the Venezuelan poor, and he invokes the legacy of the country's nineteenth century hero Simon Bolivar, who fought Spanish imperialism. Veteran journalist Richard Gott brings us the first in-depth, authoritative account of contemporary Venezuela and its recent history, and the career of Chavez. This book is a substantially updated version of Gott's In the Shadow of the Liberator: Hugo Chavez and the Transformation of Venezuela, with new chapters on the failed coup and the recall election, and the covert role of the USA in these attempts to undermine Chavez.

Authenticity: Brands, Fakes, Spin and the Lust for Real Life
By David Boyle
£8.99 (paperback), Harper Perennial

What David Boyle achieves here is to articulate and decrypt something that is right at the heart of our interaction with mass media and culture, the running battle between our own unquenchable hunger for the real and authentic and the advertisers and corporations and spin-doctors who want to supply us with their own tidier, much more controllable versions of 'reality'. As we turn to businesses that trade ethically and sustainably or products with more local roots, the big brands are never far behind, trying to capture and repackage that authenticity, while never quite 'getting it'. But what is authenticity? Boyle doesn't pretend to have the definitive answer, but picks his way through the real, the fake and the virtual, and concludes that authenticity has a lot to do with integrity and honesty and above all, "Real means human". This book will wake you up to the mindgames of the McDonaldized world.

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