Friday, January 25, 2008

God, Gold, and Giggles Two Anglosphere Books

Brief Reviews of Spud by John van de Ruit and God and Gold by Walter Russell Mead

Taking the more serious of these two book first, W.R. Mead’s interesting new book “God and Gold” which traces the assent of the Anglo-American world system. Mead’s who’s previous book “Special Providence” which traced out four competing traditions in American foreign policy in this book looks at the deeper roots of the success of the maritime empire increasingly known as the Anglosphere.

Mead takes especial note of the religious traditions of the English speaking people, concentrating on the so called Anglican compromise between the supremacy of the bible and the supremacy of tradition in church affairs mediating between them with, not reason, but reasonableness or commonsense.

He also discusses the more proximate causes of the Anglosphere’s success, a group of strategies which he cleverly names “the protocalls of the elders of Greenwich.” While he misses several important points, not least the importance of commodity money to a stable and growing economy, in general this is an interesting and informative book.

The second book is a first novel by South African author John van de Ruit about a boy nicknamed Spud (because he has no hair to cover his spuds) during his first year at an all boys boarding school in South Africa (from comments on the net the school Spud is attending is a thin fictionalization of Michaelhouse of which van de Ruit is an Old Boy)

This book is firstly and most importantly side splittingly funny. Take for example the following, which needs the explanation that The Guv is Spud’s English teacher and Rambo is the nickname of one of his class mates.

“Wednesday, 26th January

“06:40 The Guv instructed the class that lesbian writers are to be taken with a pinch of salt. He says they are all “frustrated sex-crazed rug munchers with under arm fur” and we should therefore dismiss the work of women called Woolf, Renault, and Agatha Christy.

“Rambo asked him if we should study Shakespeare sine he was a pillow biter. The Guv then accused Rambo of being homophobic and said he had nothing against dykes and poofs. He even confessed that he wouldn’t mind giving Martina Navratilova a jolly good rogering.”

Secondly this book is a must read for every one who went to an all boys boarding school and has fond memories of the experience. It brings vividly to life the experience of an all male environment, both the good: the camaraderie, freedom to be a boy, and the sense of adventure and the bad: the pack mentality, the farting and other uncouth behavior.

Third and related to the previous this book is a tribute to boys and a relief from the anti boy prejudice all to often seen in our culture today. The boys in this book are drawn true to life. While they have their crudities and faults, they are (with a few memorable exceptions) not brutes. Spud is a boy of reason, sensitivity, and passion as well as a good cricket and rugby player.

Lastly I want to mention that readers should not be turned off by the fact the book is being marketed to a young adult market in the United States. The book will no doubt be enjoyed by younger readers, it was written for an adult audience as the humor cited tends to demonstrate.

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