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Sunday, April 18, 2004

Weekend update, Part 2 

Okay, first up, it isn't a book story but The Washington Post has an alarming story about the increasing prescription of antidepressants to children, particularly to those under six years old! I leave you to draw your own conclusions.
Nicholas Lezard in The Guardian reassesses Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America and comes to the conclusion that it is as relevant today as ever. It's a book that's well worth dipping into, but if you don't have time for that, do look at this review which covers some interesting points. However, I'm disappointed that Lezard can't help finishing on a slightly petty and snide note -

This edition was actually published in America last year. You will notice the American spellings have been retained. Fair enough. One hopes the Americans appreciate it.

This is quite a common stance in the UK, particularly amongst left-leaning intellectuals, the implication that Americans are a little bit dim and unaware of what's really going on in their country or in the wider world. My response to that is that intellectual Americans could point to the masses of most other Western Democracies and make exactly the same accusation, only they don't, because one thing Americans do have is a generosity of spirit that we seem to have lost somewhere along the way.

Meanwhile, over at The Observer, Robert McCrum feels that In Search of a Beginning, the biography of Graham Greene by his long-term mistress, Yvonne Cloetta, fails to shed much light on the elusive author. As an interesting aside, a bookseller was telling me recently how the market for Graham Greene books (as for Hemingway) has almost entirely dried up. I can't understand why Greene isn't more popular with the crime and thriller community - Brighton Rock, The Quiet American, and even comical tales like Our Man in Havana still have the power to grip. Perhaps after a lull, there will be a resurgence of interest.

The Sunday Times has mixed reviews for both Firewall by Henning Mankell and Doctored Evidence by Donna Leon.
More interesting though, elsewhere in the same paper, is the 2004 Rich List, which offers up the richest thousand people in Britain. Number One this year is Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich, with an estimated 7.5bn (all figures in UK Pounds). Four authors make the cut. Firstly, someone called Joanne Rowling sits at No. 91 with 435 million. It has to be said that JK has consistently nonsensed the estimates of her wealth and I have a tendency to believe her. Even so, she's not short of spare change, and good luck to her. Next comes Barbara Taylor Bradford at No. 419 with 95 million. Then we have Jackie Collins at No. 612 with 66 million, and finally, at No. 621 with 65 million, we have one of Britain's favorite former prisoners, Lord Archer. I thought I might make it on to the list myself this year but they keep raising the baseline. Last year, you needed 30 million to get in, so I work hard to break through that barrier and what do I find? This year you need 40 million to reach the list. Oh well, just a few more short stories should do it (someone call the nurse, Wignall's becoming delusional again).

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