Someone came to this blog today following a search for a review of Farah Mendlesohn's edited collection Glorifying Terrorism. The sharp eyed among you will have seen from the reading/read list (over on the left somewhere, page down quite a bit) that this is what I have been mostly reading this month. Well, I guess I'd better review it then.
The purpose of this collection was, quite simply, to show up the utter absurdity of the knee-jerk Terrorism Act 2006, specifically, the bit that forbids "the glorification of terrorism". Quite why this is so silly is best shown by a glimpse at the book's recommended reading/viewing list at the end. The Act could be used to outlaw Star Wars. The Act could be used to outlaw - and this really brings it home - C.S. Lewis's Prince Caspian. Say what you like about the latter, it's about a campaign of armed resistance against the brutal yet legitimate rulers of - um - Narnia.
Of course, we all cry, no one's ever going to be arrested for reading Prince Caspian. But what's to stop it? There isn't a copper on the face of the planet who, if he's made his mind up to exercise the rights of enforcement granted to him by law, will stay his hand because "that's not what the legislation was meant for." No, but that's how it can be taken. Any blunt instrument, sledgehammer law is a bad law. Like this one.
So, after all that, is the collection any good? Well, yeah, here and there. Some are good stories in their own right and needed publishing anyway (let's call them category A). Some probably never would have been without this collection but still justify their own existence (category B). And some frankly left me cold (category C) or actively didn't do the book any favours (category D). I enjoyed Charles Stross's "Minutes of the Labour Party Conference, 2016" in which the chickens come home to roost for Labour; H.H. Loyche's "The Rural Kitchen", in which an innocent recipe book falls foul of over restrictive legislation; Lucy Kemnitzer's "John Brown's Body", exploring an alternative fate of the nineteenth century emancipator. These were category A above. In category B, I didn't enjoy but was glad to have read (for example) Rachel Swirsky's "The Debt of the Innocent" and Una McCormack's "Torch Song". I'll be kind and not identify the category Cs and Ds.
Let's just say the level of copy editing shows that Farah is a busy lady. Which she is. The multiple use of "annoint", far too often and with far too many 'n's in the first story sets the tone ...
I'm glad the book was published; I'm glad I've read it; and I'll probably put it on Amazon.