Blog description.

Accentuating the Liberal in Classical Liberal: Advocating Ascendency of the Individual & a Politick & Literature to Fight the Rise & Rise of the Tax Surveillance State. 'Illigitum non carborundum'.

Liberty and freedom are two proud words that have been executed from the political lexicon: they were frog marched and stood before a wall of blank minds, then forcibly blindfolded, and shot, with the whimpering staccato of ‘equality’ and ‘fairness’ resounding over and over. And not only did this atrocity go unreported by journalists in the mainstream media, they were in the firing squad.

The premise of this blog is simple: the Soviets thought they had equality, and welfare from cradle to grave, until the illusory free lunch of redistribution took its inevitable course, and cost them everything they had. First to go was their privacy, after that their freedom, then on being ground down to an equality of poverty only, for many of them their lives as they tried to escape a life behind the Iron Curtain. In the state-enforced common good, was found only slavery to the prison of each other's mind; instead of the caring state, they had imposed the surveillance state to keep them in line. So why are we accumulating a national debt to build the slave state again in the West? Where is the contrarian, uncomfortable literature to put the state experiment finally to rest?

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book Review: Wake, by Elizabeth Knox.

Confession: this is not a book review. Writing a review requires more time and concentration than I can currently muster with my work commitments, and a review done awfully is irresponsible. But Wake gave me joy over the Christmas to New Year break, and fortunately I can sum up why by simply quoting a single, small extract that encapsulates everything I loved about the book: its overarching concept, skilful storytelling, characters, and even - despite its subject matter - humour. (I get the feeling in the opening scenes the author was having some deal of fun in the writing.)

You can easily enough Google a full synopsis of Wake, so by way of context, I only need explain how after a mass hysteria has overtaken the town of Kahukura, and with it the brutal death of most its inhabitants, the surviving fourteen characters of Wake are trapped from the outside world by a mysterious no-go zone. In the section I've chosen below, Dan is talking to fellow survivor, policewoman Theresa, about why the authorities outside the zone won’t immediately respond to their attempt at communication by Morse code, after the survivors have finally gained news of the outside world via messages in plastic milk bottles that have drifted to them through the no-go. For my (over 70%) US readership, note the Wahine disaster referred to is the New Zealand maritime disaster on 10 April, 1968, in which the ferry Wahine sank during a storm with the loss of fifty one lives, as would-be rescuers watched helplessly from the shore.

As with all book recommendations appearing on my blog, I apologise to the author for appearing on my blog. That said, my readers will understand an important truth, or two, being covered so ably here.

[Dan’s] back was to the light and Theresa couldn’t read his face. He said, ‘Look, it’s good that you’re so staunch. And I know that you, more than anyone else here, can imagine how the authorities are going to go about handling something like this. But don’t you think they’re being extra harsh?’

He took a deep breath and went on. ‘Either things don’t work the way I think they do, or – well, like, in the Wahine disaster, they always talk about how people broke the police cordon to jump into the waves and haul the lifeboats out of the surf at Eastbourne beach. Ordinary people, with stacks of blankets, and thermoses full of soup. Everyone soaking wet and cold, and doing their best. Wahine wasn’t that long ago. We aren’t that different. New Zealand isn’t that different. How come this disaster has been taken out of the hands of the ordinary people who just turn up to help?’

‘There are the bottles.’

‘That’s mostly Oscar’s mum and dad and some bloke who can’t bear to think we don’t know what bloggers are saying about us.’

As a blogger, I’m laughing out loud – largely at my own expense – typing out that final sentence. Only the best fiction explains how we live as succinctly as this. And don't be fooled by a plot synopsis either: there's a lot of serious content going on in this novel, particularly regarding the tough and oftentimes cruel decisions we have to make in so many spheres of living; from the moral judgements, and trade-offs, required in conservation, to the heart of it - the responsibility of authority, and what justifies the sacrifice of an innocent individual human life. I'm philosophically uncomfortable with where Knox leads me, but then, that in itself is the importance of reading and literature: to get you to that point of difference, or not, understanding how you got there, and who you are because of it.

But this isn't a review, and I don't want to risk spoilers. 

In summary, as with all of Knox’s work, Wake is exceptional storytelling delivered through enduring characters: a very good read.  And the novel is yet further proof of the exceptional range that Knox is capable of from my favourite of her works, the ‘realist’ Glamour and the Sea, to the glorious fallen angel Xas of The Vintner’s Luck, whom I think is one of the best realised characters in New Zealand literature, and strangely the most human, while not forgetting also that novel’s equally worthy follow-up, The Angel’s Cut. Especially when Knox's young adult fiction is considered alongside these adult offerings - and Wake is adult fiction - I can’t think of another New Zealand writer who can so deftly change their spots.


Wake comes from the stable of Victoria University Press which had a stunning 2013: Wake, Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries (2013 Man Booker winner and a fine book), plus a fascinating novel for a New Zealand publishing house, John Sinclair's The Phoenix Song; a novel which starts in Mao's revolutionary China, and ends in New Zealand. I read it earlier this year when distracted by too much of life and earning an income, so hope to read again in order I can review at a future date. But for those who enjoy thinking about political content, you need to put The Phoenix Song on your list.

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