Archive for August, 2004

Aug 17 2004

The King, the Crook, and the Gambler

Published by Brian under history, politics, reviews

review by Brian Charles Clark

The King, the Crook, and the Gambler: The True Story of the South Sea Bubble and the Greatest Financial Scandal in History
by Malcolm Balen
Publisher: Harper Perennial, 2004

Nearly 300 years ago, a group of financial speculators dreamed up a plan to make money from England’s national debt. In an age when someone making £100 a year was considered wealthy, the national debt was huge: about £9 million. The idea behind the South Sea Company was that British merchants would trade English goods in South America, then controlled by Spain and Portugal. The problem was that Spain and Portugal wouldn’t allow any such thing to happen: they had a strictly controlled monopoly. What actually happened was that John Blunt, the director of the South Sea Company, ended up convincing the British government to sell its debt to the public through the Company in the form of shares. From the profits of the share sales, the Company would then repay the debt. Moreover, “in the persuasive but intrinsically nonsensical analysis” put forward by the South Sea Company, “as surely as night follows day, the bigger the debt, the greater the profit.” Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Aug 06 2004


Published by Brian under philosophy, reviews

review by Brian Charles Clark

Ecocriticism: Creating Self and Place in Environmental and American Indian Literatures
by Donelle N. Dreese
Publisher: Peter Lang, 2002

Donelle N. Dreese’s short book, Ecocriticism: Creating Self and Place in Environmental and American Indian Literatures, manages to cover, in the space of only 116 pages (not counting the index or bibliography) and five chapters, 10 major works by contemporary Native American and feminist writers. The thesis and purpose of the book is quite ambitious: “Working from postcolonial and ecocritical theoretical notions that place is inherent in configurations of the self and in the establishment of community and holistic well-being, the purpose of this book is to examine the centrality of landscape in contemporary poetry and prose works by writers who, either through mythic, psychic, or geographic channels, have identified a landscape or environment as intrinsic to their own conceptualizations of self” (3). The first of the book’s six chapters contains the theoretical underpinnings that support her subsequent readings of N. Scott Momaday, Linda Hogan (whose work is examined twice, in chapters 2 and 4), Joy Harjo, Chrystos, Gloria Anzaldúa, Susan Griffin, Wendell Berry, Simon Ortiz, Wendy Rose and Gerald Vizenor. By covering major works by these important authors who frequently turn up on the reading list of a feminist or Native American literature class, Ecocriticism should be an important contribution useful for both students and professors. Continue Reading »

One response so far

Aug 05 2004


Published by Brian under reviews, science_fiction

review by Brian Charles Clark

John Barnes
Tor, 2004

Gaudeamus means “rejoice,” as in, Rejoice! The aliens are here! (At last!) But, like everything in this comic thriller of a science fiction parody, “gaudeamus” has a double (at least) meaning: “gaudeamus” sound suspiciously like “God damn us!” That second, undercover meaning is never directly referred to, but what else are we supposed to say when, every time someone invents the Gaudeamus technology, aliens show up and buy the entire planet Earth?

The jacket and publicity hype about this book is that it “shatters the line between reality and fantasy.” Sure it does—if you believe aliens willing to barter megatons of platinum for the planet are on the line between reality and fantasy. And that “blur” is supposed to make Barnes’ novel “post-modern.” Take my advice: leave the marketing hype for the suckers (after all, there’s one born every minute, but you’re not one of them, ey?) and the “post-modern” nonsense for the grad-school nerds (word up, y’all: “post-modern” is an architectural term, and the more we all cooperate to shove it back on their plate the better off and happier we’ll all be). Continue Reading »

No responses yet