Tip-toe into unfamiliar intellectual terrain

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 December, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 December, 1998, 12:00am

THE tricky thing about book reviews is the beginning: this is where the reviewer tries to make some general points to tie it all together. Just as you don't really want to read them, the writer doesn't really want to go to the bother of making them up.

There, having got that bit over, here are the books.

So what happened this year? The issue of the hour must be the financial crisis that has filled the tittle-tattle of many a bar-room economist.

While many of us would be positively turned off to receive a worthy work on the financial system, the topicality of this subject might just prompt a few hardy souls to tip-toe into the unfamiliar intellectual terrain.

A quick trip to the Hong Kong Book Centre in Exchange Square reveals a couple of best-sellers among the SAR's investment community.

Manias, Panics and Crashes - a history of financial crises written by Charles Kindleberger and published by John Wiley & Sons could not be a more apt selection for our bemused and battered brokers and bankers.

Mr Kindleberger was the Ford professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for 30 years.

With that span of experience at such a senior level he is extremely well-placed to put the recent events into some kind of historical perspective.

This book is what one might term a hardy perennial, having reached its third edition in 1996. While the work does not cover the turmoil of the past 18 months, any attempt to do so would doubtless attract the charge of incompleteness - let's face it, we are not out of the woods just yet.

The latest crisis to come under the good professor's scrutiny concerns the Mexican peso, which began in December 1994 and dragged into 1995, rattling markets across the globe.

As the author admits, the business of writing on economic crises is a cyclical business, and business has been quite good of late.

Tower Books has a few interesting offerings. Mark Footer, who buys all the books for Tower, tips We Interrupt This Broad cast for the discerning Christmas buyer.

'I'm particularly excited about this one,' he says, displaying the book's double CD recording of the great events of the century - barring, of course, any that might crop up in the last couple of years to spoil the concept.

The only drawback is that it's a little bit American-oriented, he warns, which is only a warning if you happen to be anything other than American, of course.

Relive the events that stopped our lives, the book demands. It carries a foreword by Walter Cronkite and contains some excellent photographs of most of the great events of the century.

But rather than the events themselves, this book is really about the way they were interpreted by the media and the way the media itself has changed in the manner it records events.

The death of Elvis, the Hindenberg, John Glenn orbiting the Earth, D-Day, it's all here.

At the other end of the scale, and strictly one for the stockings, is the Ally McBeal Dancing Baby Flip Book. Just in case you have a life on Monday evenings, Ally McBeal is a kinda cute, kinda kookie American lawyer in a kinda cute, kinda kookie American TV show. She hallucinates in every show, often of a baby doing a kinda cute, kinda kookie dance. Well, Tower has the books that everyone is flipping for.

Another book that promises entertainment without words is Flyer Mania, also available at Tower. This, funnily enough, contains oodles of flyers for DJs. Very arty, very modern, very chic. Not for grandma - if only because of the naked ladies bottoms, and very nice, too.

And on the subject of bottoms, Pamela Des Barres' Rock Bottom gives us the low down on the downright low lives of those dreadful rock stars.

Everything you ever wanted to know about the bad boys and girls of rock 'n roll is captured here - including the gory details of how they bit the big one.

It may all be vicarious kicks but, at $150, it's a lot cheaper than trashing a hotel room.

Still on the rock 'n roll front, The Un known Legends of Rock 'n Roll is a real rip- snorter for all of you who, like me, misspent your youth buying records of bands you had never heard of in the hope you would stumble across a real gem.

Flipping through the pages is like a walk down memory lane. Swamp Dogg and John's Children (a very early Mark Bolan foray: 'They were dreadful - positively the worst band I'd ever seen,' as one reviewer put it) were just two of the outfits on which I lavished my teenage pocket money.

Perhaps a novel? Soho Black by Christopher Fowler is an interesting little number. Written as four separate stories that gradually converge, the tale is a kind of whodunnit revolving around Soho in London and adulterated cocaine and a man who can't quite keep himself together, which may have something to do with the fact that he's dead and is quietly decomposing.