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I Wouldn't Start from Here: The 21st…

I Wouldn't Start from Here: The 21st Century and Where It All Went…

by Andrew Mueller

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A liberal rationalist Anglo-Australian rock journo goes to the world’s trouble spots to try and get his head around why, in some places, differing groups just won’t stop hating each other, while elsewhere they have worked out that there are more worthwhile things to be doing with their lives, and are content to rub along together.

Each trip is described in a chapter, and they are interesting, insightful, and in places, funny. You might find his point of view irritating if you are right wing or ultra-religious, but as the chapters on the Netherlands (and England) in the wake of the Mohammed-cartoons debacle point out, that’s your problem to get over.

If I have any quibbles, they are two: first, that his style of long, complex sentences (and yes, I am susceptible to the same habit myself) sometimes slips from his control, requiring you to go back and re-read the previous sentence, adding mental punctuation, to make sense of it. And second, that there are a very few places where dodgy grammar has slipped through the editorial net. For example (from Chapter 22), “When it became too dark to take pictures, Amir took Alan and I home to meet his family.” I? Argh. Still, a couple of those in 450-odd pages aren’t too bad. ( )
1 vote dtw42 | Nov 6, 2011 |
this is actually an interesting book, but I'm just not ready to finish it now
  MaryWJ | Dec 20, 2010 |
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What is a jaded rock journalist doing dodging landmines to talk to mercenaries and terrorists? And what kind of conversation can a man who prefers hunting for perfect three-minute pop songs and tubes of beer have with devotees of fasting and ferocity? Sarajevo. Jerusalem. Kabul. Belfast. Kosovo. Gaza. Basra. New York City. Every place where recent history advertises the stubbornness, intolerance, bloodlust and cowardice that sully our collective record, there the intrepid Andrew Mueller goes. With considerable skill, Mueller skids around the globe from failed state to ravaged war zone to desolate no-man's-land to try to unpick why we humans seem so prone to plucking war from the jaws of peace. En route, he meets various influential panjandrums (Al Gore, Gerry Adams, Bono, Paddy Ashdown), any number of assorted warlords and revolutionaries, and a sprinkling of peacemakers and do-gooders. He also manages to get shot at a couple of times, locked up once, and taken on a guided tour by one of the world's most infamous terrorist organisations. It's like a Bond film with much, much less sex, and might appear for that and other reasons to be substantially a story of disappointment. Yet it's a surprisingly sunny book given the mire in which he finds himself. And it is a notably entertaining and eye-opening tour of the world's moral basements in the vein of P. J. O'Rourke's Holidays in Hell.… (more)

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