Bad habits and dull shapes

We have no nature. Our nations are not built instinctively by our bodies, like beehives; they are works of art, like ships, carpets and gardens. The possible shapes of them are endless. It is bad habits, not bad nature, which makes us repeat the dull old shapes of poverty and war.

Alasdair Gray, Lanark

The emergency budget is intended to change the arrangement of the state permanently. The cuts it contains have been trailed as inevitable as well as irrevocable. The extent of the deficit has been talked up mercilessly. Tim Harford points out that almost all the ‘extra’ debt the government claims to have discovered has in fact been public knowledge for a very long time, but it doesn’t matter: the debt has to seem new, because it has to justify the mercilessness of the cuts. Continue reading

Features update: [Book review] Still Learning

The features page is filling out. I’ve just added my review of Alasdair Gray’s Old Men In Love, originally published in the Oxonian Review Of Books:

From most novelists, a title like Old Men in Love would be an unappealing prospect. It contains intimations of one of the more distressing sub-genres of fiction — the dirty novel by the aging writer, unaware that there are few things as unpleasant as an old man taking an interest in the sex lives of young women.

Read the rest of the review here.

Still learning

I wrote a review of Alasdair Gray’s Old Men In Love for the Oxonian Review of Books. As far as I’m concerned, Gray is one of the best writers at work today – constantly inventive, furiously intelligent, shockingly compassionate, and very funny indeed – so the publication of this piece made me happy as anything. To find out what I think of dirty novels by aging writers, and why this book is better than that sounds, click here.