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Recommended Reading: December 2010 and January 2011

BookgenericBe inspired, motivated, challenged and intrigued by this month's selection of books.

Why Some Wars Never End
Joseph Cummins
Fair Winds Press. Distributed in Australia through Scribo

Why_Some_WarsSometimes the causes of war are so intractable, the opponents so unyielding, and the rivalries so deep-rooted that the combat continues for years, decades, even centuries. And often when it does abate, the resentments still smolder, so that the slightest spark might reignite the conflagration.

An at once captivating and unsettling volume, Why Some Wars Never End shines a spotlight on fourteen of history’s longest-running conflicts.

They range from the almost century-long Punic Wars, which saw ancient Rome achieve dominance over the Mediterranean and lay the foundations of its world-changing empire, to the seventy years of uprisings and bloody encounters that triggered the Jewish Diaspora in the second century CE, to the nineteenth-century Seminole Wars, which virtually wiped out the Seminole Indians, to the violent British suppression of Afghan self-rule that set the stage for that nation’s distressing contemporary plight.

Each of these wars had consequences and influences far beyond its source and the reach of its battles, not only redrawing political boundaries, but also coloring the worldview of generations of participants and bystanders, and thereby refashioning entire cultures.

And all demonstrate, in harrowing fashion, why violence still stains our modern world, and why warfare shows no sign of ending any time soon.




Finding Santana
Jill Jolliffe
Wakefield Press

FindingSantanaFinding Santana is the latest work of journalist Jill Jolliffe and follows on the success of her best-selling book Balibo, the basis for the AFI Award-winning movie starring Anthony LaPaglia. It tells of her clandestine 1994 journey across the Indonesian archipelago pursued by the Suharto dictatorship's notorious secret police to interview East Timorese guerilla commander Nino Konis Santana.

Part memoir, part adventure story, it is written from the diaries of the journey and interwoven with those of intrepid nineteenth-century traveller Anna Forbes, who also narrowly escaped death in the East Timor mountains.



Angela Carter’s Book of Wayward Girls and Wicked Women
Angela Carter
Virago. Distributed in Australia through Hachette.

Angela_CarterThis bestselling collection of stories extols the female virtues of discontent, sexual disruptiveness and bad manners Here are subversive tales by Ama Ata Aidoo, Jane Bowles, Angela Carter, Colette, Bessie Head, Jamaica Kincaid and Katherine Mansfield among others.

All have one thing in common: the wish to restore adventuresses and revolutionaries to their rightful position as models for all women.

Reflecting the wide-ranging intelligence and deliciously anarchic taste of Angela Carter, some of these stories celebrate toughness and resilience, some of them low cunning: all of them are about not being nice.


Blogistan: The Internet and Politics in Iran
Annabelle Sreberny and Gholam Khiabany
L.B Tauris. Distributed in Australia through Palgrave Macmillan

BlogistanThe protests unleashed by Iran's disputed presidential election in June 2009 brought the Islamic Republic's vigorous cyber culture to the world's attention. Iran has an estimated 700,000 bloggers, and new media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were thought to have played a key role in spreading news of the protests.

The internet is often celebrated as an agent of social change in countries like Iran, but most literature on the subject has struggled to grasp what this new phenomenon actually means. How is it different from print culture.

Is it really a new public sphere? Will the Iranian blogosphere create a culture of dissidence, which eventually overpowers the Islamist regime?

In this groundbreaking work, the authors give a flavour of contemporary internet culture in Iran and analyse how this new form of communication is affecting the social and political life of the country.

Although they warn against stereotyping bloggers as dissidents, they argue that the internet is changing things in ways which neither the government nor the democracy movement could have anticipated.

Blogistan offers both a new reading of Iranian politics and a new conceptual framework for understanding the politics of the internet, with implications for the wider Middle East, China and beyond.


The Erotic Engine: How Pornography has Powered Mass Communication from Gutenberg to Google
Patchen Barss

EroticEngineFor 40 millennia, sexual depiction has been a powerful source of creative and technological innovation. From cave drawings and Renaissance paintings to the Gutenberg Press and every nook and cranny of the internet, all forms of media have been influenced by sexuality.

Today this influence is so pronounced there is an argument that any business model for a new communications technology should appeal to the pornography market. Pornographers are 'early adopters' who will see new technologies through their rough early stages until they're ready for mainstream markets.

Pornography built the infrastructure of the internet, for example, and cable television and the VCR might never have taken off without pornography. Even video streaming software developed for and by the pornography industry paved the way for CNN and YouTube.

The privacy, convenience and anonymity of modern communications technology has made it pornography's natural bedfellow.

But the most surprising aspect of this story is how people's desire to express themselves sexually, passionately and intimately has driven creativity and innovation in mass communication.

The Erotic Engine shows how a vast hidden trade has bankrolled and shaped the machinery of mainstream media.

With sharp intelligence, dry wit, and virtuosic grasp of the interweaving stories of science, art, commerce and the taboo, Patchen Barss breaks the embarrassed silence to tell the history of what's really driving communications technology - and where it's headed next.


Frames of War
Judith Butler
Verso. Distributed in Australia through Palgrave Macmillan

Frames_WarFrames of War begins where Butler’s Precarious Lives left off: on the idea that we cannot grieve for those lost lives that we never saw as lives to begin with.

In this age of CNN-mediated war, the lives of those wretched populations of the earth—the refugees; the victims of unjust imprisonment and torture; the immigrants virtually enslaved by their starvation and legal disenfranchisement—are always presented to us as already irretrievable and thereby already lost.

We may shake our heads at their wretchedness but then we sacrifice them nonetheless, for they are already forgone.

By analyzing the different frames through which we experience war, Butler calls for a reorientation of the Left toward the precarity of those lives. Only by recognizing those lives as precarious lives—lives that are not yet lost but are ever fragile and in need of protection—might the Left stand in unity against the violence perpetrated through arbitrary state power.



Books selected by Katrina Fox, Editor-in Chief.

For details of where to send review copies, click on the Contact menu.


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