Scoop Review of Books

Archive for February, 2018

Poet of Many Parts

Book Review
The Light and Dark in our Stuff
by Mere Taito (MT Productions)
Reviewed by Vaughan Rapatahana

mere-taito-poems_coverThis small (30pp) and beautifully presented book is Mere Taito’s inspired/inspiring first collection of poetry. The poems are lively, well crafted, the poet unafraid to call a spade a spade, to present stark differences between black and white.
There is considerable accent on body and bodily functions throughout the 10 poems within (5 x ‘dark’; 5 x ‘light’). Indeed, the very first saturnine poem, Bad Charity, regales the reader with bones, tears, frameless selves, skeleton, fractures – all in nine lines. The next poem, The Lost Art of Kissing a Government, delves further into the corpus both literally, and figuratively, as Taito refers to mouths (x 3), lips, teeth, tonsils, forked tongues, eyes, screams. Here she eviscerates not only governments, but also we who no longer chew up at and spit out legislators and administrators, and merely suck up to them.

So it goes in these dark (p)ages, for the very next schism-making poem Building Code, further references cavity-riddled human molars, skeleton, tibia, hair, cartilage, dislocated human spine, clammy hands – whereby humanity is deconstructed metaphorically and devolved physically – by humans.

Conflict Minerals furthers the depiction of human greed – here over tantalum – and the concomitant desperate sounds of hungry men; while the strongly worded This Charmed Life forces further the division, here between bucolic and bitumen, as angry villagers in Rotuma – the poet’s turangawaewae – confront the situation, whereby

a black tar-seal road

slithers into a village like a hungry boa

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A History Lesson for Silicon Valley

Book Review
The Square and the Tower: Networks, hierarchies and the struggle for global power by Niall Ferguson (Allen Lane, $40)
Reviewed by Alex Beattie

book-cover-raw2017 was a turning point for how the world saw Facebook. Last year the social media giant was accused of spreading fake news, rigging the U.S. Election and Brexit vote, and gluing people to their screens. It was a tough year for Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. It leads you to wonder what his New Year’s resolution was. Be a better global citizen?

Niall Ferguson thinks it should have been a history lesson. In his new book The Square and the Tower: Networks, Hierarchies, and the Struggle for Global Power, he argues we live in tumultuous times, largely because of powerful networks like Facebook. And if Zuckerberg and the rest of the Silicon Valley learned a bit of history, the world may be a little more certain and stable.

Connect the dots for history lovers

The Square and the Tower is an ambitious book, which bizarrely reminded me of the puzzle connect the dots. Yes, that’s right – I’ve just compared premier historian Niall Ferguson’s latest book to a juvenile game where the sole purpose is to connect dots to complete a happy picture, like a smiling triceratops, posing superhero, or fluffy bunny. Stay with me on this one.

Credit: Casey Sams

Credit: Casey Sams

The Square and the Tower is connect the dots for history lovers. But here the dots are key historical groups (such as the Rothschild family) or figures (like Winston Churchill) and by connecting them together, Ferguson draws a big picture of how societies have been disrupted in unexpected ways. In his words:

[This book] proposes a new historical narrative, in which major changes – dating back to the Age of Discovery and the Reformation, if not earlier – can be understood, in essence, as disruptive challenges posed to established hierarchies by networks.

Ferguson argues that historians have given nation states and other hierarchical organisations too much credit for shaping the world. While empires like Great Britain and Spain colonised large parts of the world in their image, no ruler ever ordered the Enlightenment, or the French and American Revolutions. Networks caused these periods of turmoil, and Ferguson dedicates most of The Square and the Tower to describing this in detail.

Credit: Stan Pines

Credit: Stan Pines

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