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My Favourite Books of 2018

December 22nd 2018

Gerry Hassan

This is a list of my favourite books of the year. It is a totally subjective and idiosyncratic list: made up things I have read, come across, been involved in or inspired by and which have stopped me and made me think.

There is a bias towards books out this year but as it is my list and a reflection of what inspired me it is a deliberate mixture of old and new. This is the fourth year in a row I have done this kind of selection and recommendations of the year – and I welcome any thoughts and comments on the enclosed. As well as being interested in what inspired and stimulated other people.

SCOTLAND:

POLITICS AND CULTURE:

Momus, The Book of Scotlands, Luath Press.

The left field Momus brings out a new edition of his wonderful ‘The Book of Scotlands’: 150 parallel universe Scotlands of past, present and future. Previously only available as a limited edition from a Berlin publisher – and with an intro by myself. Read the rest of this entry »

My Favourite Music of the Year: 2018

December 21st 2018

Gerry Hassan

This is my fourth year of doing a comprehensive music list of thing I have bought, been listening to, and had come my way in the past year. It has been as usual an eclectic year musically but highlights include the Southside Record Club (meeting at Some Great Reward record shop) and listening to some great sounds through that, some stellar live gigs – with often the smaller the better (and a big hat tip to the Bungalow in Paisley), and some fantastic bootleg recordings.

But as with every year pride of place has to go to the new musical sounds that have impressed me this year – and here in reverse order – as in the old chart rundowns are my top ten spins of the year. Read the rest of this entry »

Memorable Moment

Living with Two Gentle Giants: Salt and Pepper

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 19th 2018

I have lived with cats since a teenager, but this year I ventured into completely new territory by getting two cats at the same time. They are brothers, from the same litter, half Maine Coon, and were one year old when they came to stay. Got from the nearby Cat Protection League and already christened Salt and Pepper, they have retained their names due to the simple logic that they answer to them.

Salt and Pepper have obviously known each other all their lives, and are an item, a couple, who act and interact with each other, but also have independent lives. They have an effortlessness being with each other, cuddling up to go to sleep, or cleaning each other. And they also have a gentleness, trust and intimacy with me and my partner. Read the rest of this entry »

Where is Radical Scotland and does it really exist?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 12th 2018

As the United Kingdom seemingly collapses and its political class shows unprecedented incompetence, where stands Scotland? Where is that much talked about sentiment that we are radical, different, and more left-wing than the rest of the UK?

For some all that matters in the above is difference and the elixir of sovereignty; ‘Take Back Control’ and don’t worry about detail and all the other stuff until we are on the other side of independence. This is rather reminiscent of the version of Brexit as presented by Leave in the 2016 referendum – which did not present any practical offer and just invited people to luxuriate in the warm sunny uplands of the freedom of Brexit Britain. That has not exactly worked to plan as this vague fantasy has hit the cold winds of reality: a warning for any future politics planning similar exercises here or anywhere.

Radical Scotland and its claims centre on a series of different Scottish political choices – that we do universalism more, that we have more humanity and compassion on welfare, and that we have a more progressive set of values as a political community. Read the rest of this entry »

The Brexit Disaster is an Existential Crisis in the ‘Idea’ of Britain

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 5th 2018

Last week I attended an event at Dundee University on the ideas and impact of the Scottish thinker Tom Nairn. Many of his books were discussed, including his critique of the monarchy, and the insularity of the British left, but his most important work – ‘The Break-Up of Britain’ – published 41 years ago, seems more relevant than ever as we live through Brexit.

‘The Break-Up of Britain’ explores the archaic, ossified relic that is the British state; undemocratic, anti-modern and that sees itself as ‘the mother of Parliaments’. It is also a book in which the state of England is central to this mindset – its gathering unease at events in Europe and the European project, and in which a reactionary English nationalism is emerging, initially around Enoch Powell (who was obsessed with ‘sovereignty’), but then taken up by Thatcher, and now by Brexiteers.

Brexit has caused many surprises, but it should not have come as a surprise. The UK Government has shown a scale of incompetence unprecedented in recent times. Leavers have had a cavalier disregard with coming up with a feasible plan for leaving, while the Labour Party has been too often posted missing in action without a Brexit policy worthy of the name. And to cap it all, Theresa May and her Tory Government have managed to lose three Brexit parliamentary votes in a single day – including for the first time having a UK Government held in contempt of Parliament. Read the rest of this entry »

Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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