I was eagerly awaiting the paperback edition to read this, it sounded so interesting. And it was. Is. Grr. Don't worry, it's not about grammar or punc...moreI was eagerly awaiting the paperback edition to read this, it sounded so interesting. And it was. Is. Grr. Don't worry, it's not about grammar or punctuation. This is about reading for enjoyment and also for inspiration, motivation, guidance, example....
Divided into chapters on words, sentences, paragraphs, narration, dialogue, gestures - you get the picture - Prose (isn't that the most perfect name?!) uses analysis, anecdotes and extensive quotes to bring books and short stories to life.
The first chapter, on Close Reading, was very reassuring and gave me cause to be quite pleased with myself too. (Writers are perhaps the most needy of people, constantly needing reassurance and a bolstering of the ego.) She offers advice to new writers on reading books like 'professional' writers do:
I read closely, word by word, sentence by sentence, pondering each deceptively minor decision the writer had made. And though it's impossible to recall every source of inspiration and instruction, I can remember the novels and stories that seemed to me revelations: wells of beauty and pleasure that were also textbooks, private lessons in the art of fiction. ... What writers know is that, ultimately, we learn to write by practice, hard work, by repeated trial and error, success and failure, and from the books we admire.
This is so true. From the time I could read - also the time I could write - I was fascinated by how stories were created, formed, structured, plotted. I was the only kid in my class, if not my entire primary school, who wrote what the teachers called "sagas" (a new word for me): very involved stories, complete with dialogue, plot, beginning, middle, ending, and illustrations. Even my punctuation - learnt from reading - was spot-on. I'm sure they weren't particularly original, but they satisfied a great, urgent need in me, and still do. I also learnt - and continue to learn - vocabulary: I can still remember discovering the word "melancholy" from a book I was reading in grade 5, and it was fun to work out the meanings of new words from the context in which they were used. Sadly, this means I often struggle to give a dictionary-definition of a word; I'm more likely to put it in a sentence and expect people to get it like I do. Better get better at that if I want to be a teacher!
Different books got me started on experimenting with different styles. After reading the Silver Brumby books, for instance, I practiced writing description, creating pieces that weren't even complete short stories, often discarded, like sketches. After reading Georgette Heyer's Regency romances (don't knock 'em till you've read 'em!), I practiced dialogue - she has a great knack for it. And so on.
The works that Francine Prose quotes from are a little more sophisticated than the ones I used growing up, but the principle is the same. Her chapters on gestures and details is a great reference for me - they're often overlooked aspects in my writing, that still needs a lot of work. I fear cliches, which are almost unavoidable. She leans towards Chekov, Flannery O'Connor, Joyce, Flaubert, Kleist, Alice Munro, Melville, Austen, Paula Fox and Henry Green, for example - only a few of the books she mentions or uses in analysis have I read. A particularly fun chapter, Character, starts with an anecdote of the time when, slightly out of mischief, she assigned a story by Heinrich von Kleist called The Marquise of O- to a group of students in Utah: all mormons, which was about a lady who was raped by the chivalrous knight while unconscious after he'd saved her from a fire (during a battle), and so on, only to discover that the students came alive in their discussions and talked about the characters like they knew them personally.
The problem with this book is it gets you so impatient not only to start reading these works of literature, but also to go back over your own writing and see what traps, if any, you've fallen into, or how you can lift up a passage of dialogue or even reveal your characters in a different way. It's definitely one of the better writing guides I've come across - and the only one I've ever bothered to read, since it's an informal guide at best, not at all condescending, and lacks a superiority complex. Prose loves to read as much as she loves to write, and teaches as well, and has a real talent for opening up an otherwise dry passage to the treasures going on in the inner workings.
What Prose also mentions is that there are no rules, that every time she tried to give advice to her students such as Don't write from the point of view (first person) of someone who dies in the story, she finds a story - often by Chekov - that contradicts that rule, and works. In this sense, writing is a very distinct artform: you learn how to do it "properly", just as you learn how to draw a face with perfect proportions, before you go all Picasso on it and have the eyes sticking out the side and the nose upside-down. Perhaps an absolute genius would skip that learning stage, but if we do it's like - what's the expression? Learning to run before you can walk? It takes time, and patience, and hard work, and perseverance, but if you have the passion it's not painful in the slightest. And if you lose momentum, or get writer's block, Prose has some great advice: to have a shelf put aside for especially inspiring novels, to pick up one author who excels at, say, dialogue, and read a passage at random for inspiration. She even has a list of "Books to be read immediately" at the end of the book. For myself, I can say that this works, though I usually read the entire book to get into the flow of a style. Even when working on my fantasy story, though, I often prefer to read literature. I find it helps to stop me from slipping into cliche-mode.
To be honest, I never heard the panda joke until this book came out. The Australian version is a bit different - not as clever and involved, perhaps,...moreTo be honest, I never heard the panda joke until this book came out. The Australian version is a bit different - not as clever and involved, perhaps, but funny nonetheless. It went something like (and I am the worst person at re-telling jokes, I always forget bits. Usually the punchline): What does an Aussie bloke have in common with a wombat? They both eat, shoots and leaves. Except that's not quite it cause the grammar is off. Never let me tell a joke, I'll always ruin it.
Anyway, to the book. Wonderful, wonderful book. Hilarious, absolutely hilarious. And, as a bit of a "stickler" myself, very welcome too.
Eats, Shoots & Leaves covers the apostrophe, the comma, the semicolon and colon, the hyphen, dash and bracket, and even the question and exclamation marks. If you have always struggled, or sometimes doubt, how to use any of these, this is definitely the book for you. If, like me, you read it and get awfully chuffed with yourself for using them (almost always) correctly, you'll still want to keep this little gem around, either for back-up in those arguments with other sticklers (or punctuation-impaired people), or for a laugh. It's an easy-going, ironic book, full of tongues-in-cheeks and witticisms and puns - intelligent puns.
One of the things I love about this book is how Truss captures the punctuations marks' true characters. Giving marks personalities is a great joy to me - the only reason I used to fly through the times table every morning in primary school was because all the numbers had personalities and characters, and when they times'd by each other it was like a dramatic scene in a play; that was how I remembered it all. I can't say I do the same with punctuation, but I totally agree with Truss' personifications. For example:
Now, there are no laws against imprisoning apostrophes and making them look daft. Cruelty to punctuation is quite unlegislated: you can get away with pulling the legs off semicolons; shrivelling question marks on the garden path under a pwerful magnifying glass; you name it. ... the tractable apostrophe has always done its proper jobs in our language with enthusiasm and elegance, but it has never been taken seriously enough; its talent for adaptability has been cruelly taken for granted; and now, in an age of supreme graphic frivolity, we pay the price. [p.36:]
... if you feel you are safe paddling in these sparklingly clear shallows of comma usage, think again. See that comma-shaped shark fin ominously slicing through the waves in this direction? Hear that staccato cello? Well, start waving and yelling, because it is the so-called Oxford comma (also known as the serial comma) and it is a lot more dangerous than its exclusive, ivory-tower moniker might suggest. [p.84:]
There are times ... when the semicolon ... performs the duties of a kind of Special Policeman in the event of comma fights. ... One minute the semicolon is gracefully joining sentences together in a flattering manner ... and the next it is calling a bunch of brawling commas to attention. [p.125:]
I love it! It also does wonders for understanding how to use the fiddly little things, if you've ever had trouble - and let's face it, who doesn't? And while Truss' tone may often be light and playful (even a little frivolous), this book is hip-deep in interesting historical background, usages and common mistakes, and entertaining examples of real-life punctuation boo-boos that, if you care at all, will actually make you tense up in indignation.
She also has a friendly dig at Australians and our tendency to turn statements into questions, which the British fans of Neighbours have picked up, much to her chagrin:
Increasingly people are (ignorantly) adding question marks to sentences containing indirect questions, which is a bit depressing, but the reason is not hard to find: blame the famous upward inflection caught by all teenage viewers of Neighbours in the past twenty years. Previously, people said "you know?" and "know what I'm saying?" at the end of every sentence. Now they don't bother with the words and just use the question marks, to save time. Everything ends up becoming a question? I'm talking about statements? It's getting quite annoying? But at least it keeps the question mark alive so it can't be all bad? [p.141-2:]
I laughed and laughed.
I did feel a bit ashamed when Truss disparagingly brings emoticons into the discussion - I have used a couple of smileys and the like on occassion. But it's not easy getting tone across in written words - or, rather, it kinda is (isn't that what writers accomplish all the time?), but in emails etc. it's more personal, and you can't read body language or facial expressions, and these people you are chatting away to are so often strangers, that it is so easy to be misconstrued, misunderstood, and a whole lot of other "mis-es".
Another thing I appreciated was that, this book having been written by a Brit, it hasn't been Americanised. That would be a completely different book. But Truss does make distinctions between American and British usages which are very helpful, and interesting too.
This book reads a bit like an essay, the kind famous writers write so that we'll all be awed by the intellectual genius behind their Great Works - except Eats, Shoots & Leaves is not at all pretentious; on the contrary, Truss confesses several times that she herself has doubts, and still learns that what she thought was wrong is actually "correct" (such as it is). What I mean, is that this is not some dry reference book - and the panda joke on the back cover prepares you for that. Even so, this is perfect reference material for students, teachers, copy-editors, journalists, proof-readers (please!), sticklers and, well, anybody. I learnt a lot from it but had fun learning, which should actually help me remember it all.
And I just can't believe I never noticed that the movie Two Weeks Notice doesn't have an apostrophe (which I very nearly typed in myself just now), or that Who Framed Roger Rabbit doesn't have a question mark. I think my brain put them in for me, which is why I'm very surprised to find these punctuation marks are missing.
Recommended for everyone, even people who are bored shitless by anything to do with writing.
This is one of the most amazing books I've ever read. I simply can't get over how fantastic, informative, well-written, and mind-opening it is. Wow, w...moreThis is one of the most amazing books I've ever read. I simply can't get over how fantastic, informative, well-written, and mind-opening it is. Wow, where do I start?
The book revolves around the hypothetical question: What would happen if all humans disappeared tomorrow? Would anything we created survive? Would anything miss us?
The short answer is: very little, not really. It's a blow to our ego perhaps, but true nevertheless. The only creatures who are dependent on us for survival are the miniscule mites that live on and in our bodies, eating our dead skin cells before we suffocate in them, and nasty bacterias.
This is not a doomsday book. It's actually playfully optimistic, and is more of a history and science lesson than a judgement on our sins. Though the evidence is plentiful that we are in fact killing the planet that sustains us.
Weisman covers everything from our leaky homes - describing in detail exactly how they would fall apart without our constant care - to the early years of home sapiens and our impact on wildlife; from art to nuclear power to the oceans. I learnt so much, my head is literally buzzing. Some of it is downright scary, but I'm not one to put my head in the sand and expect someone else to take care of it all.
If you're interested in history, science, environmentalism, impressing people at dinner parties with your knowledge or just plain interested: this is the book for you!(less)
In the 1990s Sierra Leone, a small country in West Africa, found itself sinking into a very bloody internal war between corrupt government soldiers an...moreIn the 1990s Sierra Leone, a small country in West Africa, found itself sinking into a very bloody internal war between corrupt government soldiers and armed rebels. It lasted at least ten years, and while now the country is stable and has a booming tourism industry, during the war countless innocent civilians were slaughtered and hundreds of boys were recruited by both sides.
Ishmael is twelve when the rebels arrive at his small mining town in the south-west, not so far from the ocean. He is with his older brother, Junior, and their friends at a nearby town when the attack happens, and he is separated from his parents and younger brother, never to see them again. People are mowed down as they run, fleeing one town for another with the rebels not far behind.
So begins a long journey for Ishmael as he tries to survive and stay alive. Food is hard to come by, and he has so many near-misses with death - not just at the hands of the rebels, but other villagers who are suspicious of him - that if this weren't a memoir you would never believe it. More than once, the tapes of American rap music save his life. Ironic, huh?
He is recruited into the government's army, given an AK-47 and becomes addicted to several kinds of drugs, including cocaine, that the lieutenant hands out. He hardly sleeps, has loads of energy, and his migraines have stopped. He becomes a junior sergeant and leads his small unit of boys - some of these recruited boys are as young as 7 and can barely lift their guns - into laying ambushes and attacks on villages. At one point, he encounters a rebel group of boys just like his, and like all the other squirmishes it is a fight to the death.
A Long Way Gone tells Ishmael's story, from the moment his home is destroyed, to being rehabilitated, representing other child soldiers at a UN conference and finally finding a new home in America. It is an interesting read on many levels. It is at the same time both simplistic and complex, distant and intense, coldly factual and emotionally harrowing. Throughout it all I kept reminding myself, "He's twelve"; "He's thirteen" and so on. Sometimes Bael's writing has the mature tone of a reflective adult, but generally the style is reminiscent of a report a 15-year-old might make for school. While this is a simplistic way to write anything, it could also be the only way he could write it. It is fact, not embellishment. He was deeply scarred and traumatised by all the things he'd seen and done during the war, and that's not something you can write fancifully about. It also renders it coldly brutal in its accuracy.
Some people have complained that if it had delved into the political etc. situation, the circumstances behind the war, it would have been more interesting. I disagree, though it certainly made me curious about what was going on. This is not that type of memoir, and if that's what they were expecting then they have some very strange expectations of former child soldiers. On the contrary, this is the side of the war you usually don't get to see. It humanises it, in a way, and desensitises it. It's one thing to see this kind of thing on the telly, another to be pulled into a personal story as sad and frightening as this one. The very fact of the often unemotional writing (not dry or dull, but with a protective layer to shield the author) makes it all the more believable and heart-breaking.
His speech at the UN conference brought tears to my eyes - not because it was poetic or profound or a great piece of oratory skill, but because it was straight-forward, from the mouth of a child who had lived through a kind of hell. His experiences didn't exactly make him older - not at first - but they certainly made him wild for a time. Bael doesn't dwell too much on his experiences as a soldier, it is more a balanced account of how he got into such a situation, what it did to him, and how he got out of it. Even then, he doesn't really explain how he shook off the mentality of a child soldier and became "rehabilitated". He also doesn't explain how he made it to America the second time - here I, perhaps suspiciously, feel US immigration wouldn't want that in a book; or maybe Bael just didn't feel it had any relevance. Still, I was taken rather by surprised when the story stopped.
In short, A Long Way Gone is a powerful, visceral account of what happens when you give a scared but resourceful boy a big fucking gun and teach him how to kill people and be proud of it. It also shows with painful clarity the truly pointless aspects of this kind of war - of any war, true, but this kind especially, where those involved lose their sense of humanity and feel nothing for killing innocent bystanders, or burning people in their homes, or raping, looting and terrifying, all in the name of freeing the country from someone else doing exactly the same things. It makes no sense. It is hell on earth. (less)
A fantastic accompaniment to his 2007 tv series, full of great recipes and guides for growing different veggies and some fruit, like strawberries, as...moreA fantastic accompaniment to his 2007 tv series, full of great recipes and guides for growing different veggies and some fruit, like strawberries, as well as Jamie's thoughts on hunting and battery chickens.(less)
This is the book Tina Fey based her screenplay for the movie Mean Girls on, but I didn't know it was a book until, in 2006, a woman I used to work wit...moreThis is the book Tina Fey based her screenplay for the movie Mean Girls on, but I didn't know it was a book until, in 2006, a woman I used to work with was reading it and showed it to me. Love the movie, by the way, though it's very exaggerated. Maybe not "very", but it's still pretty extreme. Funny, but. Whether you read this book before or after watching the movie, you'll notice how they fit together instantly. It's a clever script for that alone.
I don't have a daughter, teenage or otherwise, but I was once a teen and hope to one day have a daughter, though this book does put you off child-rearing somewhat. Regardless, it's fascinating. The author is the cofounder of a program in the States that goes to different schools, working with boys and girls on these issues - the book includes many quotes from such students that add insight and support, important especially considering Wiseman's target audience: parents who, for the most part, while loving and caring, don't want to believe their kid gets up to half these things, and would react badly if they did find out.
Wiseman examines what teenage girls face (girls from age 10 and up, actually), and how this effects them later in life. While the book has an American focus and uses American statistics etc., it's fair to say that the situation is pretty much the same in any developed western nation - the language may be different, some of the "scenes" too, or maybe that's just because I grew up on a sheep farm in the country and didn't socialise much outside school hours?
The chapters included cover Cliques and Popularity, the Beauty Pageant, gossiping and teasing (why she doesn't say "bullying" is puzzling to me), rites of passage, Boy World, parties, sex, drugs and getting help. She examines how the relationships between girls are structured, how they change and why friendships are often neglected or betrayed for sake of a boy. Societal attitudes, cultural expectations and stereotypes, peer pressure, parental pressure, and how girls treat each other, all play an important part.
Naturally, while reading it - especially the first chapter, on cliques - I couldn't help but compare what I was reading to my own experience at high school (which, in Tasmania, is grades 7 to 10; college - years 11 and 12 - was a joyful, liberating experience with many happy memories and none of this nasty clique business), and I tried to figure out what kind of person I was, and what kind of parents mine were (Wiseman breaks parents into kinds, too, the better to help them see what their parenting style is like and how it affects their children). I could also visualise a lot of the scenarios, or interactions - I had a memory for many of them, and most weren't pretty. But I went to a bogan school in the country; I always thought that was why it was particularly bad. But I guess, unless you've been to different schools in different settings, you couldn't say whether that's a big factor or not.
I didn't really learn anything new from this book, but it did clarify and put into words things I merely understood - and the chapter about boys was interesting. I agree with Wiseman that boys and men need a sexual revelation just as much as women ever did - they're just as much pinned down and trapped by social expectations, stereotypes and peer pressure as girls and women are. I can't say "were" because things haven't changed all that much.
Wiseman includes strategies and even example scripts for how to talk to your daughter, how to help her, how to reaffirm your relationship with her, how to give her the confidence she needs to solve her own problems - always Wiseman stresses the importance of parents giving their children the support and tools they need to fight their own battles and make their own decisions, rather than try to solve their children's problems for them.
Most important though is the insight the author provides - while she does stay mainstream and doesn't go into the many exceptions and variations of her typecasting, it's easy to see that, yes, the majority of kids fit somewhere within her parameters, even if not neatly. At the very least it would give parents a framework, and since adolescence is such a trying time for all, I'm sure that would be a big help (just as I'm sure that, were I one day a parent with a teenaged daughter, I'd read this and wince).(less)
It's become a cliché, but true nonetheless, that when faced with something big and scary, something that makes us feel both angry and impotent, we alw...moreIt's become a cliché, but true nonetheless, that when faced with something big and scary, something that makes us feel both angry and impotent, we always think and say we are too small in the scheme of things, that we are just one person, we couldn't do anything to help with those things, and so we never try. We make excuses in order to live with ourselves, because we know X is wrong, we can see the big picture and some of the long-running implications and consequences, we care, we want to scream our frustration at times at the injustice of it and we want to enact change - but we feel helpless to do it. Volunteering with an organisation, donating time or money or what's needed to a charity - these are things we can do. For some people, it appeases their conscience and they never think of making any changes in their own lives; saying they care and buying the Organics label is enough for them.
But there are people out there who didn't make those time-worn excuses to themselves, but instead made a promise to themselves and kept it. It sounds cheesy to say "So-and-so made the world a better place for these people"; we also, if we are sensitive to it, become wary and judgemental for fear we white people are being all colonial on the brown people - blundering in, taking over, thinking we know what's best for them just like we always do, and trying to make them more like us.
So there are two things you should know about Greg Mortenson: he started something that became huge and changed the lives of thousands of children and adults in one of the most remote and poverty-stricken areas in the world, without lots of money or even much help from fellow white people (but plenty from the locals); and he managed to do it without trying to change the people, their traditions and beliefs or their way of life. In fact, he learnt more from them than he ever could have taught them.
Truthfully, I was wary too - here we have an American who, after failing to reach the summit of K2 in Pakistan, becomes lost on his way back down and ends up in a small village called Korphe. The villagers take him in without question, help him regain his strength, and he ends up staying and putting into practice all his nurse training - the village is so poor and so isolated the people can die from simple things. He wants to repay them by giving them something they are lacking: when the village headman, Haji Ali, shows him where the children are scratching in the dirt on a windblown ledge under the tutelage of a teacher who hasn't been paid by the government in a year, and tells Mortenson that it's the school, Greg knows he has to do something to help.
It's one thing to promise someone you'll build a school for them, another entirely to make it happen. Mortenson worked odd shifts at a hospital so he could take off to go mountain-climbing when he wanted to. He didn't have any money. He didn't know any rich people. He had not connections. He lived in his old yellow car, on a cheap and nasty diet, renting a typewriter (this is 1993) to write letters to several hundred influential people, like Oprah Winfrey. His mother worked at a primary school and after he came and gave a talk to the children, they saved their pennies and donated them to help build Korphe's school - over six hundred dollars.
It wasn't until a rich old man heard of what Greg was trying to do through their mutual mountain climbing friends and donated the money he needed in one fell swoop - twelve thousand dollars - that Mortenson felt like he could actually keep his promise to Haji Ali and Korphe's children. Yet it was only the first step in what proved to be a very long and complicated road that only his determination and selfless dedication saw him complete. Along the way, every setback you could think and more (including a kidnapping) are thrown Greg's way, and it's really due to the kind of person he is that he didn't give up. A new non-profit organisation, the Central Asia Institute, began and many more schools were built, and continue to be built - and by making it a community endeavour, with the villagers themselves working to build them and Mortenson supplying the funds and helping to organise the project, it became very much a matter of the people helping themselves.
Greg is a big man all over - tall, broad, and with a big heart. So say all the people interviewed by journalist David Oliver Relin, and I believe them. In terms of size, Mortenson is heavy-footed. But in terms of intelligence, sensitivity and determination, he's a gentle giant (another quote). Terribly shy, he nonetheless becomes fluent in the Balti language (the remote area of Pakistan that he first works in is called Baltistan) and learns both the Shia and the Sunni traditions of prayer, dress etc. He goes to some of the most formidable, frightening places in Pakistan and Afghanistan to see if the people are interested in helping him build a school, and along the way his determination shifts: from caring on a small scale for the people of Korphe and the nearby villages and wanting to help them achieve their dream of an education, to deeply believing that the answer to the problems in the region - including terrorism - is education, especially for girls. And I couldn't agree more.
Several times during this book I felt my chin wobble and my eyes ache: I really wanted to cry. If I'd been at home I would have, but it's never a good idea for a woman to start crying on the subway. It's not because it's necessarily a sad or tragic book, and it's certainly not manipulative - that only makes me pissed off. No, it's because it makes you feel at once tiny in a big scary world, and like your heart is bigger than your whole body, and it aches. It aches at the enormity of Mortenson's simple idea; it aches at what people in the world endure through economic policies designed to make rich countries richer; it aches to hear Korphe's first female graduate share her plans to get a medical degree; it aches for those poor (literally) boys whose only chance at an education in some places is through madrassas where they are taught to fight and kill; it aches at the world, both the goodness in it and the short-sighted, narrow-minded, greedy, corrupting badness.
Because it was written by a journalist, it's much more readable than if Mortenson had tried to write it himself. There are still some rough patches, but overall I found it engrossing. I absolutely loved the first half, reading about how it all began. It's the kind of thing I always want to know, and even though Mortenson has the advantage of being male in a traditional Islamic country which undoubtedly helped, it was actually reassuring to hear that a "regular" person with no capital could make something happen through sweat and determination. It's inspiring (and it's sad I don't say that much).
It does shy away from delving into the political side of things, and even the historical side. There are passing mentions of America's involvement in helping the Taliban get the Soviets out of Afghanistan, and Mortenson does make an effort to bring the Washington politicians to task about the truth of the war in its early days. But this isn't a book about that; rather, it can provide detailed and personal insight into the people, culture and problems of the region, humanise it for us, and hopefully do some good that way. It is not a critical examination of the practices of colonialism, either in Pakistan's history (it was once part of British-India) or in its present, but it shows more than tells or passes judgement. Descriptions of the European, American, Canadian, Australian and Kiwi mountain climbers traipsing through and leaving their shit (literally) all over the place, speaks loud and clear. The world is a fucked-up place, at times, and it's mostly our fault - we can't go back and change anything; we can only work with what's left and stop shitting all over it. In the meantime, books like this will help educate in their own way, even if those to whom the ideas aren't new, and who realise that it's deeply complex, might be motivated by it to read more deeply into the issue. It really just whets the appetite.
It's not without faults, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this, it's one of those bestsellers that as soon as you've read it you know exactly why it's done so well and are happy for it (have you noticed in yourself a slight penchant for resenting bestsellers, like Life of Pi, until you cave and read it and join right in? Yeah I do that). The message that Mortenson is trying to get people to hear is still timely and probably will be for a long time to come, until our governments wise up to the importance of a balanced education in fighting the kind of fear, anger and religious fundamentalism bred by ignorance, instead of bombs and neo-liberal economic policies (if you're interested in that side of things, I recommend Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine.