Thursday, 26 January 2012

Book learning #74 Chronicles Vol 1 by Bob Dylan

Oh I just loved this book.

It felt like a novel written by a quirky poet, an adventure through a not quite specific time and a New York I can still recognize. I loved reading about the Village and reminiscing about the streets and the places he started out in. There was a 40 year gap between our experiences but, as any New Yorker will tell you "the city changes and it doesn't change".

I found philosophy on almost every page, poetry, wisdom, a love of music and of life.

This was a perfect start to 2012.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Book learning #73 Revolution 1989. The fall of the Soviet Empire by Victor Sebestyen.

If the man hassles you, threatens or intimidates you, tries to build a cheap and nasty supermarket on the meadow opposite your home, fear not. There is such a glorious thing as people power.

I loved 1989. The actual year at the actual time was a good year for Mondale. I saw the Stone Roses live at Norwich Arts Centre (I don't think I have even sweated so much, not even in a broken subway car in an New York heatwave). I left school (in those days you still 'left school' at 16 even if you went onto higher things) I kissed girls, I wore floppy shirts and ragged jeans, I drank beer, I listened to alot of loud jangly guitar, my skin was perfect, I had no belly, I got stoned, I sailed a helluva lot, I was pure blonde, no grey in sight, I started smoking, I danced, I sang.
I was rock n' roll. I was 16. I was on it!

And I was aware, because that was the year I got an A grade in Modern History GCSE that Europe had been divided in half at the end of WW2. And I was aware, because my mum listened to Radio 4 non stop, that all things were not as they should be in Eastern Europe. And I was aware, because I had had nightmares in the early 1980s about nuclear war that the Russians were baddies. I was also aware of these things because I was a bright lad obsessed with history and politics. Just as I am now an older bloke obsessed with history and politics which is possibly why I enjoyed this book an awful lot.

The Cold War now seems like an odd dream. It's hard to think that we were living on the front line of an armageddon that would have rendered things like 'front lines' irrelevant.
It also seems incredible that The Soviet Union, and Mr Gorbachev in particular allowed the dissent to turn into revolution. This book brings those days back to life, reminds us of the hope that was ushered in during that amazing year. It was the year I began A'Levels, the year I studied 1848 'The year of Revolutions'. Such history suddenly seemed belittled by events in our own time.
I still recall our history teacher, a man in his sixties who vividly remembered the war. His opinions about German and Russian behaviour were often controversial. I shall never forget his face on November 10th as we talked about the Berlin wall coming down.

He could not fathom it.

Neither could we.