About Me

My photo
Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Friday, 24 June 2016

"Coleridge: Early Visions" by Richard Holmes

This is the first of a two-volume biography of the 'father of romanticism' Samuel Taylor Coleridge, author of classic poetry such as Xanadu, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and Christabel. It covers his life from his birth in 1772 in St Mary Ottery in Devon and childhood as one of many brothers, growing up in a rural parsonage, and his subsequent schooling at Christ's Hospital and Cambridge after his father had died, to 1804 when he travelled to Sicily during the Napoleonic Wars.

It is an extremely well-written book, easy to read (the chapters aren't very long and they are further divided into beautifully short sections), and comprehensive without being exhaustive. There is a very good cast list at the back ("Coleridge's Circle"). I particularly liked the fact that Holmes touched upon literary theory although in my opinion he did not go far enough. It seems to me, from what Holmes does say, that Coleridge was an avant garde young Turk rebelling against the literary establishment which means that he presumably had ideas about what was good and what was bad; Holmes tells us that Coleridge reinvented the traditional ballad form but I wanted to know the details of this. (This is one of those moments when I acknowledge that my tastes are probably as far from mainstream as you can get; despite this cavil the biography is still a damn fine book).

Coleridge knew everyone, including the young poet and chemist Humphrey Davy, who appears in The Age of Wonder, an even more brilliant book by Richard Holmes

He was a 'bit of a lad' at Cambridge, getting drunk and whoring and getting into debt; he left by joining the army but was discharged 'insane' (he must have been totally unsuited to military life; he could not even ride a horse without repeatedly falling off); it sounds as if he was manic-depressive. He then became a political radical (he and Wordsworth were tracked by a government spy (brilliantly called Nozy!) who was very concerned that the notes the poets were making about the countryside were designed to be sold to Napoleon). He made several plans to start artistic communities in the wilderness, believing implicitly in Rousseau's 'Noble Savage'. He was an avidly read and very astute political journalist. He adored long (often 20 miles or more each day for several days) country walks and began both Kubla Khan and Ancient Mariner whilst walking in Devon (I have just spent a week in Watchet where they claim that Ancient Mariner was inspired by a visit to their harbour).

There were so many quotable moments in the book (mostly by Coleridge but still quite a few by Holmes):

  • In literary life "'success' and respectability are delusive concepts" (Ch 1.4) - I love 'delusive'!!!
  • Coleridge was "uncertain whether he was the Benjamin or a black sheep" (Ch 1.4)
  • Coleridge developed a "plain style, expressing emotion in run-on lines, musical alliterations, and bold monosyllabic statements of personal feeling" (Ch 2.6)
  • Coleridge used "suspended rhythmic devices with brilliant effect in his ballads" (Ch 6.6)
  • Xanadu is a "myth of creativity" (Ch 7.10)
  • Coleridge "plunged like a Red Indian ... into the woods" (Ch 8.10)
  • Coleridge in Germany was delighted that kids got presents from "a mysterious forerunner of the modern Father Christmas" (and that older kids kept the secret from their younger siblings) (Ch 9.4)
  • "No animal but man appears ever to be struck by wonder" (Ch 9.9, quoting Carlyon)
  • "With his fatal genius for being all things to all men, for trying to please everyone at once, and for trying to fulfil expectations on every hand, he fell into a pattern of prevarication and fragmentation in much of his work. He dreamed more than he planned, he planned more than he could execute, leaping from one brilliant conception to the next, never still or concentrated for more than a few weeks at a time." (Ch 10.3)
  • He laid out political debate in two columns "so that the closed, mirror-thinking of both sides was effectively demonstrated" (Ch 10.8)


  • "Chasing chance-started friendships" (Ch 1.2)
  • "Love is a local Anguish" (Ch 4.4)
  • "When a Man is unhappy, he writes damn bad Poetry, I find." (Ch 4.8)
  • "soul-gelding Ugliness" (Ch 5.8)
  • He was unable to write when he was depressed below the "writing-point in the thermometer of mind" (Ch 5.11)
  • He described the habit of philosophers of demanding that every concept be exactly defined as "Barricading the road to truth ... setting up a turn-pike at every step we took". (Ch 8.4)
  • A fisherman explained why he and others had risked their lives in a vain attempt to rescue a drowning boy as "we have a nature towards one another." (Ch 8.10)
  • "No one can leap over his Shadow" (Ch 12.8)

"And the Devil thought of his old Friend
Death in the Revelations" (Ch 10.1)

A beautifully written book. I just wanted more! (Yes, I am aware there is a second volume. I will get it.)

June 2016; 371 pages

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

"A Sicilian Romance" by Ann Radcliffe

This is a classic Gothic novel. There is a castle in Sicily; figures are seen in the closed and ruined southern part; strange sounds come from it. There is a secret which a dying man confides to a confessor. There is an evil stepmother, the Marchioness, who wants to be unfaithful to her husband with a young cavalier but he, in his turn, repudiates her advances for the love of her daughter which causes her to lay wicked plans to achieve revenge. People are imprisoned in dungeons. There are locked and bolted doors leading onto subterranean passages and spiral staircases where the steps crumble away. There are bandit gangs living in monstrous caverns. There is a monastery and a strange abbot, and a monk who is in love with a nun. There are mountains and forests and the pursuit of evil counts. There are tempests and shipwrecks. In short, this has everything.

Sources presumably include Shakespeare's Hamlet, and The Winter's Tale, also set partially in Sicily and involving a young heroine escaping from a cruel father who has allegedly killed his wife (lots of characters appear lifeless only to be revived much later, a bit like in Candide). Other obvious sources are The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole and The Monk by Matthew Lewis. There are hints of Cinderella and Snow White. But there is also the thought that this story may have helped to influence details in The Count of Monte Cristo and that spiral staircase reminded me of a scene in Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stephenson.

The first half is tight but the second half feels a bit padded as the characters are moved onto the stage in a variety of combinations and the action flits from scene to scene with no obvious plot development.

There are some great lines:

  • "Joy is as restless as anxiety or sorrow." (Ch II)
  • "in order to have due command of our passions it is necessary to subject them to early obedience." (Ch II)
  • "A young Italian cavalier ... who possessed too much of the spirit of gallantry to permit a lady to languish in vain." (Ch VI)
  • "When once we enter on the labyrinth of vice, we can seldom return, but are led on, through correspondent mazes, to destruction." (Ch XV)

A really enjoyable Gothic romp with lots and lots of liminality.

June 2016; 199 pages

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

"A Man Called Ove" by Fredrik Backman

I wasn't that impressed by the last quirky little novel from a Swede, The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed out of a Window and Disappeared. I adored Ove.

Ove is a grumpy old git. He is a practical man. He has a routine. He used to be head of the Residents Association until the coup d'etat after which he fell out with his best friend. Ove is the Swedish Victor Meldrew. Everyone, and everything, conspires to annoy Ove: the pregnant Iranian woman with the DIY-challenged Lanky husband and their two girls, seven and three; the enormously fat jogger who lives next door; his ex-best friend Rune and his wife Anita; Blonde Weed and her mutt; the stray cat; the illiterate postman and his eyeshadow wearing friend ...

In between Ove rants we discover Ove's back story. He was orphaned at 16. He fell in love with and married Sonja but she died six months ago. Yesterday he was made redundant.  We learn why Ove wants to fix that hook and why, if he does it at night, no one knows when the lights will be turned off. We learn the sources of Ove's anger. And we discover the real Ove.

Right from the first page, the writing was amusing and original. The following is a very scant selection of brilliant epigrams:

  • The iPad box is "a highly dubious box, a box that rides a scooter and wears tracksuit trousers and just called Ove 'my friend' before offering to sell him a watch."
  • Ove knows that the kitchen chairs in the attic "didn't creak at all. Ove knows very well it was just an excuse, because his wife wanted to get some new ones. As if that was all life was about. Buying kitchen chairs and eating in restaurants and carrying on."
  • Of Ove and his wife: "He was a man of black and white. And she was colour. All the colour he had."
  • His wife's laughter made him feel "as if someone was running around barefoot on the inside of his breast."
  • "It was always like that with women. They couldn't stick to a plan if you glued them to it."
  • "They say the best men are born out of their faults and that they often improve later on."
  • Anita is "determinedly driving sorrow out of the house with a broom."
  • Jimmy the fat jogger wears "a fiercely green tracksuit that's so tight around his body that Ove wonders at first if it's in fact a garment or a body painting."

But this book is so much more that a list of clever witticisms. There are 40 chapters. On chapter 5 I write 'Wow! What a tearjerker." On chapter eight I wrote "Wow". Chapter 22 had me laughing out loud, chapter 23 had me in tears. I read the last ten chapters in exquisite agony, trying to laugh with a really big lump in my throat, pretending my hayfever was so bad that I had to keep stopping to blow my nose. I knew what was going to happen. The plot is as transparent as a window that has just been cleaned. There were a couple of little surprises on the way but I was ready for the grand finale. But I can't even reread the damn thing without getting tears in my eyes.

This is a book about today, about growing old, about doing the right thing, about love. It is very funny but at the same time it is incredibly poignant. READ IT!

June 2016; 294 pages

Sunday, 12 June 2016

"The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood

Set in a near future after Christian fundamentalists have taken over a large part of the US and imposed a totalitarian patriarchal hierocracy, Offred (her name means Of Fred) is a 'handmaid', the scarlet and white clothed mistress of one of the powerful commanders. Her job is to provide lustless sex so that the commander can breed children because the birth rate has crashed, many women (never men according to the dogma of the patriarchy) are infertile and many children who are born are deformed and destroyed.

Atwood writes in a simple but lyrical style, delicately dropping breadcrumbs of information, never telling us more than we need for a moment, allowing us slowly to explore the parameters of the strange new world. The back story is always a problem in science fiction; the events that shape the dystopia must (?) be described but this can mean the narrative interrupts; Atwood solves this by doling out the information in tiny nibbles, waiting until over half way through before giving a larger chunk.

Her prose is beautiful, blemished only by those infantile neologisms which American commercial practice imposes on the world, thus there are BirthMobiles and Soul Scrolls and Compubanks and Pornomarts and Feels on Wheels vans and Bun-Dle Buggies.

The Commander's wife, Serena Joy, is an old lady, barren, trapped in a marriage, having achieved what she worked for but possibly not enjoying it now that it has arrived: "her face is sinking in upon itself, and I think of those towns built on underground rivers, where houses and whole streets disappear overnight."

What is beautiful about her writing is the way she can convey peace and despair and hopelessness in sentences of such pure simplicity. It is the way she uses words and very short sentences to comunicate. Simple. Stark. Elegant. Much better than this rubbish that praises her.

Some other gems:

  • "A man is just a woman's strategy for making other women"; a point reinforced by mitochondrial DNA.
  • "Ignoring isn't the same as ignorance, you have to work at it."
  • "at that time men and women tried each other on causally, like suits, rejecting whatever did not fit"
  • "July, its breathless days and sauna nights, hard to sleep"
  • "Better never means better for everyone ... It always means worse, for some."
  • "I am a blank here, between parentheses."

A joy to read.

June 2016; 324 pages if you include the 'Historical Notes' which add nothing to a gem of a story and which I would recommend you not to read.

I am not a usual reader of science fiction but technically this classifies, and as a dystopian vision. Other dystopian books I would recommend in this blog include:

  • Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel although the big unanswered question is why the survivors of the plague would be so keen to preserve Beethoven and Shakespeare and so cavalier about preserving engineering and pysics; perhaps the virus attacked scientists preferentially
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: book one is great, book two OK but book three is a real let down; don't bother
  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick is said to be great by everyone but I was underwhelmed
  • and of course Oryx and Crake, another brilliant novel from Atwood, post-apocalyptic rather than dystopian perhaps.
Books by Margaret Atwood reviewed in this blog:

  • The Heart Goes Last: a homeless couple enter a utopian community
  • Bodily Harm: A wonderful Graham Greenesque excursion to a Caribbean island where no one is who they seem to be
  • Oryx and Crake: adventures in a world post climate change
  • Hag-Seed: a brilliant retelling of the Tempest, re enacted in a prison
  • The Handmaid's Tale: the one that everyone raves about ... but not her best.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

"The Devil's Doctor" by Philip Ball

Philip Ball is the author of the brilliant Critical Mass which is about phase transitions. This is a very different book. This is a biography of Paracelsus,a renaissance doctor and alchemist who was half-way between a scientist and a magician.

His real name was Philip Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim and I has assumed that the word 'bombastic' derived from his boastful style of writing (Ball calls it "verbose, undisciplined and ungrammatical", it contains many neologism, at least one undefined, as with other alchemical writings sometimes it seems to seek to conceal more than it reveals, and it was argumentative, frequently insulting, libellous and vituperative). But Ball tells us that 'bombast' was cotton padding "and it is from this origin that the connotation of 'puffed up' derives." (p 18)

His mum died young so he was brought up by his dad, a (probably unqualified) country doctor; they were poor and Paracelsus suffered from rickets in his youth. He was knocking around at the same sort of time as Agricola, who studied metals and mining, and Agrippa, who was an out and out magician and someone very like Paracelsus: "it is clearly unrealistic to demand too much coherence from a character as contrary as Agrippa of Nettesheim. He was apt to say whatever came into his head, and if it was not the same thing as he said the day before, it was nevertheless equally likely to offend someone." (p 87)

Ball suggests that aspects of the life of Paracelsus may have contributed to the legend of Faust and he tells the story of Johann Faust who, according to Adrien de Jonghe in Batavia, worked for Coster, the inventor of printing, but stole the secrets and sold them to Gutenberg (the reality is probably that ne of Gutenberg's backers was called Johann Fust). I must check this against Ruickbie's biography of Faustus. Furthermore, Ball points out that Simon Magus, the gnostic magician who sought to purchase church office (hence the sin of simony) and challenged St Peter to a miracle battle, had a companion called Helen of Tyre, not a million miles from the Helen of Try who appears in  Dr Faustus by Christopher Marlowe.

Ball follows Paracelsus on his travels from North Africa to Scandinavia including a spell in Russia when he is captured by the Mongol hordes, and follows the travails of his thought through his extensive writing. It was, like all times seem to be, a very interesting time; Paracelsus met Erasmus and Zwingli of the Protestant Reformation; Osiander refused to publish a book by Paracelsus and went on to publish De Revolutionibus by Copernicus.

But there is sometimes too much detail. Detail can easily transmute the surface glitter of alchemy into base metal, though here Ball comes up with perhaps the best line of the book: "if you want men to leave no stone unturned in their enquiry into nature, say that there is gold to be found under one of them." This is the only way to make sense of the thousands of men who devoted their lives to the noxious, laborious and fruitless art of alchemy: it wasn't even as if popular opinion held alchemists in high esteem or egged them on in the societal belief that their efforts would one day be rewarded. Alchemists were hated, feared and mocked. Among the more famous and successful alchemists Ball describes is the Londoner Simon Forman who appears in The Lodger by Charles Nicholl. It struck me that the principle of The Philosopher's Stone was catalysis and that enzymes, biological catalysts are very much like The Stone in their dual ability to facilitate chemical reactions and to create life.

First and foremost, Paracelsus was a doctor and he wrote a book describing the ideal doctor (doesn't sound much like him!) who "must not be married to a bigot, should not be a runaway monk, should not practise self-abuse" and "must not have a red beard". (p 209)

But he was a rough bird who admitted "I do not wash to the satisfaction of everyone." (p 340)

But Paracelsus still dabbled in the occult. He believed that he could make a homunculus by sealing sperm into a glass vessel and heating it in horse manure for forty days. (p 344)

Unusually for a biographer, Ball continues well beyond the death of Paracelsus in Salzburg. There are two chapters devoted to tracing his legacy in detail.

Ball points out that the word 'disaster' literally means 'bad star'. "To most, astrology was just the way the world worked. But the philosopher needed a reason why - a mechanism."

There were a lot of interesting things in this book but, perhaps like the writings of Paracelsus himself, there was too much and I sometimes lost my way.

June 2016, 398 pages

Monday, 6 June 2016

"Against Method" by Paul Feyerabend

Feyerabend is a firebrand, an iconoclast, whose purpose is to demolish any theory that seeks to systematise the processes of scientific discovery. He starts with the statement that "anarchism, while perhaps not the most attractive political philosophy, is certainly excellent medicine for epistemology, and for the philosophy of science" (p 1). The history of science is "complex, chaotic, full of mistakes, and entertaining." (p 3) And he continues to challenge throughout the book. Don't be misled by the italics, which he peppers with the abandon of a Caribbean chef. This is not the work of an obsessed dilettante. He is thoroughly immersed in the history of science and proceeds to provide extensive evidence from the Copernican revolution.

Although it is a little worrying, given his tendency to make broad-brush statements such as "There is not a single interesting theory that agrees with all the known facts in its domain" (p 14; my emphasis), that the evidence he cites comes exclusively from the Copernican revolution (with a little bit added in about Newton but he rarely strays into biology or chemistry or even quantum physics).

His essential thesis is that scientists are mavericks who don't assess theories in terms of the facts they can explain (and certainly, despite Popperianism, don't reject theories because they are falsified by inconvenient facts). Nor do scientists neatly construct methodologies. Indeed, in Feyerabend's eyes, the process of scientific discovery is an essentially ad hoc muddle of methodological innovation, new philosophical insights and perspectives, and facts. In order for science to make progress it is necessary, from time to time, to flout the rules of scientific methodology. (p 7) "Inventing theories and contemplating them in a relaxed and 'artistic' fashion, scientists often make moves that are forbidden by methodological rules." (p 150)

This is an interesting book and contains many insights into the work of Galileo in particular. He can get carried away: "his natural sense of humour and not the inbred and always rather nasty kind of jocularity one finds in specialized professions" combines yet another of his italicisings with the naturalistic fallacy with a sweeping generalisation ('always') and bitchiness. But on the whole it is well written, with reams of footnotes (some pages have more footnote than text) and tons of well-argued evidence.

I often do not read the Appendices of books. Hence, having reached Appendix One, I put the book down and wrote the blog post above. Then, for some reason, I took the book back up and discovered that there were five more chapters after Appendix One (including, interspersed, Appendix Two). And a Post Script. That really is it. So below is the rest of the blog post.

The remaining chapters investigate the processes involved when two inconsistent ideas interact, which is where he differs from Thomas Kuhn who his classic Structure of Scientific Revolutions has suggested that paradigms can be so different as to be incommensurable with no possibility of interaction. Feyerabend believes that "Incommensurability depends on covert classifications." (p 171) and he defines "Covert classifications are sensed rather than comprehended." (p 170) This means that when, for example,an iconoclastic young Turk in, say, theatre despairs of the theatre of his time and, by searching outside the box, promotes a revolution in drama, his new revolutionary school can and does interact with the old school which may "lead to a slight modification of the original practice, it may eliminate it, it may result in a tradition that barely resembles either of the interacting elements." (p 224) This is a very common-sense view.

But his overall argument, summed up in his title Against Method, is that "all rules have their limits" although "I do not argue that we should proceed without rules and standards" (p 242). He uses a nice analogy which will even work in the sat nav era: "The wanderer uses the map to find his way but he also corrects it as he proceeds ... Using the map no matter what will soon get him into trouble. But it is better to have maps than to proceed without them." (p 233)

But one of the reasons why a single uniform method should not be imposed is that we are always seeking to explore hitherto unmapped regions. "We don't know the region, we cannot say what will work in it." Fair point, although one suspects that the human reaction will be to try to apply whatever has worked so far.

He's right of course. Scientists don't follow their own rules. Who does? Exploration must always involve a great deal of making-it-up-as-you-go-along. We should not try to discern, still less impose, a single Method on research. That is just common sense. But Feyerabend's gift for communication sometimes makes him seem more like a prophet than a philosopher, more of an iconoclast than an academic, and ever so slightly a crank. When he seems to suggest that physics as a way of discovering the universe is not as good as mysticism, it is easy to see why his opponents should accuse him of an 'anything goes' platform when actually his 'anarchy' is merely a plea against totalitarianism.

June 2016; 287 pages

Friday, 3 June 2016

"The Soft Machine" by William Burroughs

I think I have figured out a rationale for the William Burroughs technique. Because any fool can write gay porn and cut it up and reassemble the pieces randomly.

Think of the Burroughs style as a symphony. Early in the book (but also at intervals elsewhere) he plays a theme. This theme has to be a crystal clear image, as vivid and as unforgettable as a line in a poem. The elaborate around the theme. Bring in other themes. Experiment with variations (but never so varied that you cannot spot the theme). Use different tempos, vary the volume and the style. A Burroughs book is like a symphony.

What makes a theme is its ability to set an idea down in a few brilliantly-chosen words.

I noticed in The Wild Boys, also by Burroughs, that "there are lots of colours in this book; they are almost his favourite adjectives. Yet his palette isn't terribly extensive and the same colours are repeated again and again." This is an example of his use of themes.

Some of the themes are also found in other Burroughs books. He does seem to be fixated on the early sexual experiences of 'Johnny' and 'Kiki'. Early in this book "he threw himself across the wash basin pressing his stomach against the cool porcelain. I draped myself over his body laughing. His shorts dissolved in rectal mucous ans carbolic soap." We will meet with dissolving shorts, rectal mucous and carbolic soap later in the book. Other repeated themes include boys being hanged and the urban myth that as they die their penises become erect and they ejaculate. It sounds as if Burroughs experimented with autoerotic asphyxia (which allegedly causes a semi-hallucinogenic rush) as well as gay sex and heroin.

There are an awful lots of mentions of molluscs and crustaceans: these often inhabit the bodies of young boys. He also likes lists. Carl (another character found in other cooks) paddles his canoe into a "lagoon infested with" a whole aquarium of exotic life including and "aquatic panther and other noxious creatures dreamed up by the lying explorers who infest bars marginal to the area." Note that 'infest' is used twice in the same sentence; Burroughs didn't seem to believe in editing.

Burroughs is wonderful at one-liners that are perfect images like sparkling little diamonds of prose:

  • His eyes flickered the question
  • Trace a line of goose pimples up the thin young arm.
  • The sick dawn flutes of Ramadan
  • My time was running out its last black grains
  • Dead young flesh in stale underwear vending sex
  • Plaintive ghost in the turnstile
  • I'm Johnny Yen, a friend of - Well, just about everybody
  • You're dead nada walking around visible
  • caustic erogenous slime
  • 'Salt Chunk Mary' had all the 'nos' and none of them ever meant 'yes'.

In the end I found it difficult to read. He runs out of fresh new images and peddles the old ones time and again. There are a lot of gay sexual encounters although many of them seem to be the same encounter told again and again. I guess that is like life. But without the erotic angle this book might be unreadable. I applaud what he is trying to do but perhaps the form needs to be briefer, a short story rather than a novella.

June 2016; 129 pages

The theme of ejaculation by hanging also appears in Naked Lunch by William Burroughs

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

"Cognitive Dissonance" by Joel Cooper

"We do not like inconsistency. It upsets us and it drives us to action to reduce our inconsistency. The greater the inconsistency we face, the more agitated we will be and the more motivated we will be to reduce it." (p 2)

This book contains a fifty year review of the evidence suggesting that 'Cognitive Dissonance' (first proposed by Leon Festinger in his book A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance) leads to attitude change. When we do something that doesn't fit in with our belief about who we are (and we tend to believe that we are "good, competent, and moral people" - p 96), we change our beliefs towards conformity with our actions.

This leads to some quite counter-intuitive outcomes: 
  • If we suffer for something, we are more likely to see it as desirable. 
  • If we expect to fail and actually fail we tend to repeat the action that has confirmed our view of ourselves rather than trying something different. However, if we expect to fail and actually succeed we tend to change what we do next time, even though that will make the likelihood of failure greater. (pp 25 - 26)

We are very good at avoiding dissonance by denying responsibility. Dissonance does not seem to occur unless we had the freedom to choose the action that lead to the discrepant cognitions, and it does not occur unless the consequences were (a) bad and (b) foreseeably bad. (p 73) When  people are publicly committed dissonance is worse and attitudes change fastest (so if a politician publicly endorses a policy, their attitudes about the policy become more firmly entrenched). 

This book was a very readable account of some of the research on this topic but I was disappointed that the scope was quite narrow. Does not cognitive dissonance occur when a student discovers that their previous ways of explaining the world do not work? This book focusses almost entirely on social psychology. Is not learning the way we adjust our cognitions to avoid cognitive dissonance? This book says very little about HOW attitudes get changed. And what does cognitive dissonance feel like? This book skims over this, using only the description 'discomfort'. 

June 2016, 183 pages