25 August, 2011

FSP by Arthur Gwynn-Browne (1942)

A few pages into this war memoir I was sure it was an Ern Malley-style hoax. Using simple, meandering speech-like patterns to describe his experiences as ‘Field Security Personnel’ in the first months of WWII, Gwynn-Browne produced a war memoir unlike any other. The style reminded me of Stein’s modernist classic Alice B. Toklas - and perhaps that’s the key. FSP’s avant-garde style allows the author a voice that does not shrink from the horror while also exposing the Catch-22-like absurdity of war. Once you cotton on to this, FSP becomes a very funny read and I don’t understand why it has slipped into obscurity.

08 August, 2011

Anarchy in Action by Colin Ward (1973)

Anarchists have always delivered the most withering of social critiques. Their shortcoming has typically been in the alternatives they offer. This book, despite the barricade-evoking title, is an attempt at remedying this. Ward sees examples of voluntary, unregulated cooperation everywhere and builds on these to provide a framework for how an anarchist society might function in a complex, industrialised world. His scope is wide - from family structure to education to housing to play. His argument simple – there is no need to ‘smash the state’, nor is there some utopian endpoint, rather the seeds of change lie all around us. It really is a most beguiling read.