Monthly Archives: October 2014

Gutenberg’s Apprentice

Gutenberg’s Apprentice by Alix Christie (HarperCollins, 2014)

This is one of those historical novels that is based on real historical figures, so some of it is factual and the rest is filled in with imagination. It is very similar in style to the 2013 novel by Sally Cabot “Benjamin Franklin’s Bastard.” Both main characters are real: Johann Gutenberg, known to bibliophiles as the inventor of printing, and his “apprentice”, Peter Schoeffer. Christie, a first-time novelist, evokes the flavor of 15th century Germany well. It does seem odd that the Germans are so angry about the abuses of the Catholic Church at the same time that they seem to be quite faithful believers in Christianity, but that does foretell the Protestant Reformation of the next century. It is interesting the way several minor characters (and Schoeffer himself, initially) seem to find printing so frightening and immoral, like they were somehow interfering with God by not using handwriting to transmit His words to the people. At any rate, Christie does her best to make the characters come to life as the arrogant and ambitious folk they apparently were, and it makes a good novel.

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This Changes Everything

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein (Simon & Schuster, 2014)

Smart, articulate Canadian writer Naomi Klein is best known for her previous book, The Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism. In this new book, she takes on the all-important issue of our time, climate change. While many environmentalists are reluctant to condemn capitalism as the primary cause of climate change for fear of losing mainstream support, Naomi Klein doesn’t flinch. She explains in no uncertain terms how ‘free market fundamentalism helped overheat the planet’ and why this ideology is a powerful barrier to doing anything meaningful about climate change. Klein also warns us about putting too much faith in “green billionaires” with technology solutions, and lauds the efforts of indigenous peoples worldwide to assert their rights to continue to use their historical lands for agriculture and fishing. This is a must-read for environmentalists who are starting to get discouraged with the lack of progress on climate change.

 

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