It’s been a week of inequality. First off, I finished Polly Toynbee and David Walker’s Unjust Rewards - one of the most compelling political books of the year. The magnitude of inequality across Britain is extraordinary, the level of self-denial by the rich disgusting - and next time someone mutters something about dole scroungers to you, simply reel off the figures in here about how much tax dodging the rich do.
What’s this got to with the world of books? Well, this may be an unfair connection but with the dreadful levels of literacy of the young working class you can’t help but think that all the World Book Days won’t make an ounce of difference compared to what could be done simply providing enough funding for schools, and for pre-school help, to teach kids to read.
Secondly, Mark and I went to hear Joe Bageant talking about his new book Deer Hunting With Jesus at the Royal Festival Hall. Eloquent and fascinating, he warned about the disconnection between middle class liberals and an increasingly impoverished American working class and how the Republicans had filled the space left. Although the (mainly middle class) audience were anxious that the American poor should vote in their own interests and for Obama, it was oddly refreshing to hear an American progressive sceptical about what Obama would be able to do for them anyway. I paraphrase, but Bageant’s pessimistic view is that the US needs to reach apocalypse before it wakes up. Check out his blog.
Also at London's Royal Festival Hall on Wednesday 17th September, Barbara Ehrenreich is talking with Polly Toynbee about the great wealth divide in America.