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Sunday, 08 April 2012 07:31

Good Reads 08/04/2012

lucy

Lucy, Heart Editor 

New house? Make it a bright pink windmill

Whether you're travelling through the countryside in the Czech Republic or the Republic of Ireland, you'll see them: oversized houses, painted bizarre colours, and sometimes even featuring turrets and ornamental windmills. In countries where individual wealth has increased quickly over the last twenty years, people are sometimes scarily eager to show that they have the most oddly-shaped carport in the village - and Czech photographer Jan Kruml has documented some of the most weird and wonderful examples. Kruml has campaigned in the past to encourage Czech villagers to maintain their heritage and restore old buildings rather than building new ones inspired by their exotic holidays. His work raises interesting questions: should kitsch eyesores be banned, or does everyone have the right to make their home a castle?

What happened to the revolution?

If Marx travelled forward in time and found himself in the year 2012, watching bankers spend their bonuses or seeing Chinese workers queuing up for jobs making iphones at one of the Foxconn factories, he might have been surprised. Not all of his predictions have come true: for instance, how can we explain the fact that the financial crisis has not yet resulted in a mass revolt by the global proletariat? John Lanchester sets out to answer this question in a lecture called Marx at 193, which is very accessible to non-economists and features a fascinating description of "the world's most typical human being."

Women who "sell" their "assets": businesswomen, or victims?

Pole-dancing: can it be empowering? Or does it always encourage sexual inequality? The question of sexual empowerment divides young women today, with books such as Catherine Hakim's Honey Money suggesting that women should use their attractiveness for their own gain. Poet Sabrina Mahfouz tackles the question in her poem First Night, about a stripper's first night on the job. Mahfouz is an impressive performer, and the poem has many great moments linguistically (look out for the double use of "hard") - but what I really like about it is the way she creates a clamour of disorientating voices. For me, the feeling of overload which you have at the end of the poem reflects many women's sense of confusion and uncertainty when it comes to the question of empowerment.

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