August 26, 2013 § 1 Comment
EUROPE’S DEADLOCK: How the Euro Crisis Could Be Solved – and Why It Won’t Happen by David Marsh (Yale, 130pp; £7.99)
This beginner’s guide to the Euro crisis and what to do about it benefits from the consolation of brevity and the comfort of grand, confident statements. Readers of a nervous economic disposition should not be alarmed: despite encomiums from eminent Eurosceptics such as Nigel Lawson, Norman Lamont and John Redwood, it is a pretty pitiless analysis of a crisis that cannot be permitted to become a disaster. The euro is safe, though perhaps not in the hands of politicians or technocrats; it will not be allowed to fail. British policy is, as customary, masterly inactivity; the star of consistent higher growth is rising in the East; and the euro member states have to decide to commit to political/financial Federalism. Marsh sets out a ten-point plan to underpin the euro bloc for the longer term. Assuming the usual incompetent European politicking, he does not expect it to be implemented anytime soon. Or at all.
MOVE ALONG, PLEASE: Land’s End to John O’Groats by Local Bus by Mark Mason (Random House, 312pp; £12.99)
America has the streamlined Route 66, and Greyhound buses. Britain has the picaresque route from Lands End to Caithness and Stagecoach: “from sea to shining sea”, says Mark Mason, without a hint of irony. Indeed there is no irony and little knowing, nudging humour in Mason’s slow travels in search of the nation by local bus (bypassing Wales), because he was looking for British earthiness and ordinariness. He eschewed eccentricity. He wanted to hear real voices and ordinary conversations in pubs, bus shelters and B&Bs, to buy papers and sweets from places called “News & Chews”, to discover “the things you see scrawled in the dust on the back of builders’ vans.” It took him eleven days, forty six buses and twelve hundred miles. Drab Nation? Not a bit of it. The Great British Public, he found, is as handy dandy as a bog brush and brilliant as brass stair rods.
VENI VIDI VICI: Everything You Wanted to Know about the Romans but Were Afraid to Ask by Peter Jones (Atlantic, 400pp; £19.99)
It takes a man profoundly soaked in a subject to treat it lightly and still be not only witty but wise. The Romans were a serious lot, and – like the effects of the French Revolution – their culture, language, politics and imperial achievements are influential in our own times. So it doesn’t hurt to send them up a little. If the deity paints the big picture but the devil is in the detail, Peter Jones has an eagle’s high eye for the whole history of Rome from mythical Aeneas to saintly Augustine and a pigeon’s ground level eye for the graffiti scratcher of Pompeii to the last oracle of Delphi informing the Emperor Julian that paganism was dead, so Christianity was a shoo-in. Jones is a modern Pliny, curious and credible, but less credulous. As for what the Romans did for us, Lucretius (via Dalton) was indirectly responsible for atomic theory. Thanks.