Sunday, 16 January 2011

It's been Tony Parker week

And it seems he's converging on a point, really the thing he cares about, being crime and particularly how people end up in situations where it seems to them that the only realistic options are criminal ones. So book 4 was The Frying Pan: a prison and its prisoners, about a "psychiatric prison" somewhere in the midlands, which was a the time of writing (early seventies) very modern and experimental. As usual, the book is virtually all transcribed interviews with little commentary. While there are a few "hard nuts" in there, most of the interest (for me) lies in the people who are more on the fringes, who seem to have fallen into repeated petty offences without being able to see a way to change what they do.
This is taken forward in number 5 The unknown citizen, which looks at just one person, his life so far and the efforts of a few altruistic others to help him. It's a short, sad book and it's hard not to come away wondering what on earth there is left to be done for Charlie. He had a hard childhood, but so did both his brother and his sister, and it's indisputable that every time he leaves prison he does something else wrong.  Parker argues, though, that he's incapable of any other kind of behaviour, and that punishing him for it rather than adapting our society to find ways to help him has as much logic as punishing a man without legs for being unable to walk.

I'm all out of Parker at the moment, so the bench book I start tomorrow morning is going to be some Studs Terkel. In fiction, I'm intermittently enjoying book 6, the english translation of I promessi sposi: I'm  reading and listening to a very abridged version in Italian but felt I should look at the full one. It reads as you might expect something to read that was written in the early nineteenth century and then translated without too much thought for readability. If we could cut out some of the Milanese politics I think I'd find it easier going - at least it's helping me appreciate how much Italian I now understand since the abridged version is seeming like a breeze.

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