Moffatt, Virginia

Virginia Moffatt
21 July 2014Review

Honno Welsh Women’s Press, 2014; 450pp; £10.99

Every now and then, I am sent a book to review that is an absolute pleasure to read from cover to cover. This marvellous collection of interviews and essays by women activists is one such book.

I have to confess to having a personal investment – one of the essays is by my friend Zoe Broughton, and I know several of the women featured – but I suspect that might be true of many PN readers. For, between them, the interviewees have been involved in every major campaign in the UK…

9 June 2014Review

OR Books, 2014; 120pp; £9. Available for online purchase throught the OR books website.

‘When I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2007, I vowed to friends I would not add to the surfeit of cancer confessionals’, Mike Marqusee writes in his introduction to this collection of essays. It was, however, a promise he ‘should have known’ he wouldn’t keep. And thank goodness he didn’t, because this is no ordinary account of living with cancer, and is probably the finest writing I’ve ever come across on the subject.

For Marqusee isn’t particularly interested in telling us…

21 February 2014Review, 2012; 362pp; £21.97

At the heart of this collection of essays is a brilliant and wonderful idea: academics presenting the case against Trident whilst protesting outside Faslane naval base. These al fresco conferences took place in January and June 2007 as part of the year-long Faslane 365 blockade, and resulted in the base being closed down and numerous arrests. Both were clearly successful events, and the road outside Faslane gates must count as one of the most unusual conference venues ever…

21 February 2014Comment

Family television wrestles with the concept of redemptive violence

Image: Casey.B.Bassett CC-BY-SA-3.0
via Wikimedia Commons

As the longest running sci-fi show in the world, the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who was always going to be a big event. It could have easily fallen flat on its face, but luckily ‘The Day of the Doctor’ did not disappoint. Steven Moffat’s excellent story was brilliantly acted, had real heart and the right balance of comedy and seriousness, nods to the past and a marvellous set-up for the future…

26 May 2013Review

Faber and Faber, 2012; 448pp; £18.99

‘A certain feeling comes from throwing your good life away, and it is one part rapture. Or so it seemed for now, to a woman with flame-colored hair, who marched uphill to meet her demise.’ So opens Barbara Kingsolver’s latest novel, as her heroine Dellarobia Turnbow staggers up the mountainside to start a potentially disastrous love affair. It’s an arresting beginning, and with any other writer betrayal, heartbreak and destruction would follow. But this is Kingsolver, a novelist with wider…

26 September 2012Review

Vintage, 2012; 496pp; £7.99

On paper this book should have a lot to offer PN readers. It begins in 1911 with the introduction of Connie Calloway, a fledgling suffragette, to Will Maitland, a cricketer, and traces their relationship through her increasing involvement in politics and his eventual path to war. This is a fascinating historical period, and a fictional account of a young woman moving from talk to action, whilst drawn to a man who despises her values, should have engaged and involved me.

28 August 2012Review

Zero, 2011; 79pp; £6.99

PN readers may recall that I’m a big fan of Laurie Penny (aka Penny Red). I’m an equally big fan of feminism, so I was keen to read Meat Market, her series of essays on the subject.

Penny is a serious and passionate writer, and there’s a lot to commend in this book. The opening chapter on sexualisation demonstrates how disempowering the supposedly ‘liberating’ raunch culture actually is, and how it serves commercial rather than individual interests.

Similarly, the…

28 August 2012Feature

Peace campaigner Virginia Moffatt is (partially) seduced by the Olympics

Munich 1972. I am seven, enthralled by Korbut’s gymnastics, Spitz’s seven golds for swimming. This is the first time I’m old enough to get the Olympics. I am vaguely aware something bad has happened to some Israeli athletes, but too young to realise that politics and the Olympics go hand in hand.

Moscow 1980. I am 15, old enough to understand the US is asking us to join their boycott (because of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan) but young enough not to know what I think. I do…

15 December 2011Review

Pluto, 2011; 224pp; £12.99

Laurie Penny aka “Penny Red”, first grabbed my attention earlier this year with her heartfelt and well-constructed articles about the student protests. But it was her twitter feed on 27 March that confirmed me as a big fan. This was the day of the anti-cuts march that saw protests all over London. I don’t quite know how she did it, but Penny seemed to be everywhere, giving an honest and unique perspective that we never saw in the mainstream media.

So it’s an absolute pleasure to have…

1 October 2011Review

Praeger 2010; 239pp; £23.70

I’m a terribly picky reader and my PN reviews can be a little, shall we say, critical? So it’s a delight to be given a book that deserves the plaudits it has received from the likes of Mairead Maguire Corrigan, Daniel Ellsberg and Bruce Kent.

Reading What Nobel Really Wanted reminded me of a great Polyps cartoon – Jesus’ Last Words. As Jesus hangs on the cross the caption reads, “And I don’t want anyone to go twisting what I’ve said into an excuse for a load of right wing bullshit……

1 July 2011Feature

A pacifist reflects on the many-sided television character, Doctor Who, with spoilers aplenty (especially if you haven’t seen the recent series).

Given how frequently the international community uses violence to resolve political conflicts, it is perhaps not surprising that film and TV reflect this. The myth of redemptive violence is a powerful and familiar cultural theme, and, as the excellent documentary Tough Guise (Media Education Foundation) points out, our heroes get tougher and stronger, carrying bigger weapons each year. So it’s always refreshing to find a TV programme prepared to accept that life is more complex than this.…

1 July 2011Review

OR Books, 2011; 336pp; £11 from www.orbooks.-com

The trouble with short story anthologies is that you can never quite tell what you’re going to get. Unless you are familiar with all the writers in the collection, you just have to dive in and hope for the best. Welcome to the Greenhouse is a typical anthology in this regard. Since I’m not a sci-fi fan I’d never heard of any of the authors, and so I dipped in not knowing what to expect.

What I got was a mixed bag. Some fine stories, some dull, some too badly written to finish. The…

1 May 2011Comment

In February, “Unite for Peace”, a group of (mainly) Christian peace activists affiliated with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, gathered in Derbyshire for our twice-yearly meeting. This weekend was particularly special as it was our tenth anniversary – an opportunity to step back and think about previous gatherings and what it is that keeps us together.

We all live in different parts of the country and have busy jobs, and some of us have families too. It’s an effort to take time out…

1 May 2011Review

Trine Day, 2010; 179pp; £9.23

I don’t doubt that this is an important book, it’s got a quote from Chomsky on the front, so it must be. And there are plenty of powerful stories in it that need to be heard. But, I did struggle to love it, which might perhaps be my problem.

I think it’s partly stylistic – the writer does tend to describe events in rather breathless “action hero” mode when a simpler clearer prose might do. But it’s also infused at other times with the kind of earnest dourness that gives the peace…

24 March 2011Blog entry

<p>How to deal with police "kettling" tactics</p>

I’m currently in training for the London Marathon (more details here), a slightly mad endeavour which means putting myself through increasing long runs in and around Oxford. I tend to find I do a lot of musing as I run, and it crossed my mind the other week that my experience actually might be be of use in the event of getting caught in a kettle. Since there’s a rather big protest coming up this weekend with kettling…