Remarkable books part 1: I went to the library to borrow King Rat and the book next to it on the display was Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis. The back was covered with plaudits but it was the premise that sent it home with me: speculate that in turn of the century German, a scientist had conceived of a super-army, made up of dogs that can talk and plan and follow orders, dogs with hands to manipulate weapons, dogs which walk like men ... and then, by some unlikely chance, his dream had succeeded, but so many years later that no-one knew what they were for any more, least of all the monster dogs themselves. It's a curious thing, a real fairy tale of New York, shot through with such a longing, such a yearning for the miraculous. Millennium fare, I suppose; strung across a century, trying to pin down the changes, see how violence and the weapons and ambition of wars past haunt and thereaten our future present. She's not written anything else, and doesn't know if she ever will.
Is contemporary life disfigured by an unfounded dread of the future? Charlie Leadbeater - Demos associate and one-time adviser to the Prime Minister's Policy Unit, the DTI and the European Commission - thinks so. In his new book, Up The Down Escalator: Why The Global Pessimists Are Wrong, he argues that the pessimistic attitudes that prevail about business, globalisation and our new world order are not borne out by the facts. Furthermore, this pessimism, in which unlikely bedfellows from both the anti-globalisation movement and the New Right find themselves linked, is itself one of the greatest threats to global stability. Can optimism be conjured about what lies ahead, and can it be justified? Leadbeater will lead a special debate at the ICA on Thursday 5th September, where he will be joined by John Gray, professor of European Thought at the LSE and author of The Two Faces of Liberalism; and the writer and broadcaster Laurie Taylor
I'm glad that there's a professor of European Thought: that makes me feel cared for.