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Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more


Barack Obama, Andy Murray, A Tale of Two Floods

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I stir awake to Barack Obama, whose State of the Union address is enough to encourage me to keep one eye and ear open. This is a return to form for the classical orator, and reminds of those heady late nights during the elections last year, when we in Western Europe finally saw that America need no longer be the world's super-pariah.

Obama is offensive rather than contrite, and really does what he should have done all along (maybe he read my diary entry last week): he boxes the Republicans into a corner, promising to check the power of banks and big business, curtail lobbyists, drive through healthcare reform, and inviting them to try and stop these populist measures.

Interestingly, from this environmentalist's point of view, his focus on climate change is more blurred. He barely mentions global warming or climate change, and instead focuses more on energy security, which is a way of the Commander-in-Chief sneaking renewables in through the back door. Sadly, though, he also mentions offshore drilling and clean coal technologies, both oxymorons in an environmentally-friendly politics.

The day is spent mostly doing little admin bits, picking up all the digital post-it notes (i.e. Google tasks) that have been consistently shoved forward in my calendar to this, my first clear day not teaching or marking in two weeks. Happily, doing incidental emailing and so on allows me to keep half a mind and a tab on Andy Murray's semi-final in the Australian Open which, having dropped his first set against Marin Cilic, he cruises through comfortably. That is my Sunday morning sorted then, when Murray will take to the court as the first Brit in the final of this Grand Slam since 1977, where he probably will face a fading - OK, that's wishful - Federer.

In the evening, I read two essays on two very different floods. The great Paris flood of 1910 celebrates its centenary this year. Ordinarily, "celebrates" would be the wrong word to use, but in this case the flood seems to have been largely an excuse for Parisian excursions and photo opportunities. They seem largely to have viewed the spectacle of boulevards turned into canals as some kind of divine, impressionistic art work.

Not so the floods in New Orleans. In The Atlantic Ocean: Essays on Britain and America, Andrew O'Hagan follows a pair of working class South Carolinans into the devastated heart of New Orleans, using the experience as an opportunity to discuss America's odd blend of intransigent racism and militaristic patriotism.

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Posted by Alistair at 11:09 pm

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