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review 2017-01-07 23:39
NeoConservatism: Why We Need It - Douglas Murray

I have a great deal of respect for Douglas Murray. He is a confident and passionate speaker. The positions that he takes are often, shall we say, unpopular. Yet this does not deter him from putting forward his arguments. There are probably many areas where I would disagree with him, but I think it's important to get a range of opinions from across the political spectrum in pursuance of growth and learning, so I picked up his book on a controversial topic.

 

Neoconservatism is one of those blanket political terms most often associated with those that believe the Iraq War was the correct thing to do and that the correct path for American foreign policy is to pursue the spreading of liberty and democracy to as many nations as possible in order to protect freedom in the US. It is in some ways a product of the Cold War and the idea of the need to shield the free world from the advances of the Soviet Union and its totalitarian nature.

 

Other than a few core beliefs there doesn't seem to be much in the way of commonality between the people branded neocons. Murray attempts to underpin the roots of the concept and then document how it developed. He believes that it is often misunderstood or misrepresented in mainstream politics. The term has become, as a consequence of the highly-charged nature of the Iraq war, a vague, derogatory word to label those that defended the war and it is perhaps not surprising in 2016, given that in mainstream media and political opinion the war is roundly regarded as a catastrophe. 

 

Snippets of the book are useful for understanding what neocons roughly believe in, however the scope of that task proves too much for Murray in a mere 223 pages. For such a short book there are too many sections that just don't deliver the punches that I have come to expect from a man of Murray's intellect. When he does get some momentum going it ends up short lived because he moves onto another area and in the end a book that wishes to convince the reader of the need for this philosophy ends up a little bit thin on the ground. I can't help but feel unsatisfied. 

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review 2016-01-22 01:06
Bosie: A Biography of Lord Alfred Douglas - Douglas Murray

 

 

                Boise, Alfred Douglas, was a factor in the fall and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde.  Douglas Murray’s book attempts to rescue Douglas from being known just for one thing – as Wilde’s boy toy – as well to restore Boise’s reputation as a poet.

 

                Sadly, there is something off about the book.

 

                Murray does have a point in the whole Wilde/Boise affair. At that point, Boise was young and spoiled.   He didn’t hold a gun to Wilde’s head, and Wilde was the married man and father.

 

                Yet this point aside Murray does not really succeed in what he sets out to do.

                Part of the problem is the sense of vacuum.  The book is   about Boise, and mostly Boise there really isn’t much sense of the time he lived in or the people who formed part of his story. While background is given about his parents, this is one of the few times that such detail is given.  For instance, when Boise’s elder brother’s wife dies it only gets a mention when his brother remarried in the next sentence.   When talking about the animosity between  Ross and Douglas, Murray chalks it up to simple jealous on the part of Ross, an argument that is hard to fully buy because Murray doesn’t really give any sense of the relationship between Ross and Wilde, but to say they slept together at least once.  He also implies that Wilde engaged in homosexual behavior because Wilde and his wife stopped having intercourse as a form of birth control.  While such conclusions might be true to present them with little to no support makes them dangerously simplistic.

 

                Another problem is the double standard and Boise as the only honest person.  When writing a biography about someone who has been the target of potshots, there is always the danger of making the subject a sinned against saint.   While Murray doesn’t go this far, he does come too close.   This is due to two things. The first is that he makes it appear that Boise was the only friend to stand by Wilde upon release from prison.  He does this, in part, by condemning Constance Wilde for refusing to give her husband an allowance unless he broke it off with Boise.  Basically, we are led to be, she is being judgmental and unfair.  But this is put forward in a vacuum (Wilde’s fall in this book seems to have had limited impact on his family), and that is part of the problem.  The second is the account of Douglas’ translating the Protocols of the Elders of Zion into English. While it is true that Anti-Semitism was viewed differently, why does this only get a very brief paragraph?  Why should we avoid judging him when we are encouraged to judge Constance and others who condemn homosexuality by today’s standards?

 

                In fact, this almost cynical and dismissive view of women is consistent. Douglas’ wife is no more than a pawn of her father.  Again, there is a vacuum in the detail.

 

                And we are to view Wilde’s affair with Boise differently than we are to view Boise’s affair with a young man.  This episode in the biography occurs when Boise is older and has converted Catholicism – so why a homosexual affair, Murray doesn’t really say.

 

                The other main thrust of the book is that Boise is an overlooked poet, who might have been greater than Wilde in some cases.  He really doesn’t prove this, and the poetry that he does quote, is rather mediocre.  The focus on poetry accounts for the vacuum that weakens the book.

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review 2013-12-08 18:23
Bloody Sunday: Truths, Lies and the Saville Inquiry - Douglas Murray

 

                I think I first heard about the Troubles in Northern Ireland on a Saturday morning.  This is way back when, and before cartoons the networks would put on shows like Lorne Greene’s New Wildness and Wild Kingdom.  It was some type of mandate for educational programming.  One channel had a half program that presented plays with social aspects.  One play, a very good one, was about a group of people trapped in a pub with a bomb right outside the door.  It took place in Northern Ireland.

                This was before I heard U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday”.

                This book looks at Bloody Sunday though the lens of the Saville Inquiry, which took place years after the event and lasted years.    It is a more narrative form of the inquiry; I guess and points to suggests and conclusions.  There is a chapter about each of the major witnesses as well as a section dealing with the actual day itself.   It also looks at the roles of both sides – more damning naturally to the army, but there are some interesting comments about Derry and Bogside.

                It would help to have some familiarity of Bloody Sunday before reading this book.

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review 2011-06-27 00:00
Bosie: Biography of Lord Alfred Douglas - Douglas Murray Really attention-grabbing read and Mr Murray, in my opinion, has done excellent work researching and writing biography of Lord Alfred Douglas.
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review 2011-01-22 00:00
Catharine and Other Writings
Catharine and Other Writings - Margaret Anne Doody,Douglas Murray,Jane Austen A collection of short stories and poetry by Jane Austen from when she was very young. So very different to anything she had written and had published later on in her life, the juvenalia is full of circumstances that are not found in her novels, including murder and characters being much more outspoken. This is the Regulated Hatred of Austen, but more profound and outspoken, perhaps not as regulated as her novels. A really good collection which shows a diversity in Austen that is not usually seen in her novels, and shows that her "regulated hatred" was concievable.
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