So, back in January February I posted on Francis Wheen’s most recent book, which was all about the 1970s. Mumbo-Jumbo was published in 2004, I think, but could be considered as a sequel since it covers the period from 1979 (using the election of Mrs Thatcher and the return of the Ayatollah to Iran as his starting point) to something very close to the present day.
And although as alway this is well-written and makes loads of really good points about the way the world is, I found it much less entertaining and more difficult to get into than Strange Days.
And I think I know why.
You see, as I’ve mentioned before, I turned 17 in 1979 and left home to attend university. So the period that is covered by this book is the one where I grew up and established myself as an adult, so a lot of the things he covers are just so depressing and take me back to a period (especially the 1980s) that I just found dispiriting and awful. At least during the vast majority of the 1970s I was too young to understand the gravity of what was going on in the world, but you couldn’t miss it in the early 80s even if you wanted to.
Wheen’s main point, which I largely agree with, is that the Enlightenment was a good thing, in terms of how it looked at the world and the traditions of scientific enquiry and liberal democracy which it fostered. But since the 80s the world has, for all sorts of reason, moved away from those principles and operates on the basis of celebrity culture, dodgy economics and “moral confusion”, and this is generally a bad thing.
It’s just that for all his humour in approaching these things, what underlies it is so bleak in some respects that the (occasionally extremely funny) jokes ring a bit hollow to me.
So, well-written and clever but perhaps it’s all still to close for comfort to be genuinely enjoyable for me.