O U T S I D E L E F T   stay i n d e p e n d e n t

Magic, Egypt, and Sting - Books of the Year

Joe Ambrose ends a tumultuous year with a list of his most unmissable books

get the weekly Outsideleft newsletter
by Joe Ambrose, Literary Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: December, 2010
Negus looks deep inside Egyptian life and talks to ordinary Egyptians in order to capture the lively, chatty, mischievous nature of life on the banks of the Nile.
by Joe Ambrose, Literary Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: December, 2010
Negus looks deep inside Egyptian life and talks to ordinary Egyptians in order to capture the lively, chatty, mischievous nature of life on the banks of the Nile.

Walking on the Moon - The Untold Story of The Police, Chris Campion (Aurum)
Few discerning readers will readily warm to the task of reading a book about The Police, one of (many) contributors to the decline and possible end of rock'n'roll. Don't be put off by the subject matter. Campion's tome is a study of the rise of the political right within mainstream music and the corporate rock industry. He is especially good on Miles Copeland, the talented scion of the ultra-right CIA Copeland family who managed The Police. He is equally firm and sharp on Sting, whose arrogance, parsimony, hypocrisy, and nastiness are celebrated in some detail. Best of all is the section dealing with the rise, post-Live Aid, of charity rock. The cheerleaders for this cynical amoral movement were ideological right-wingers like Bono and Bob Geldolf (Oh, Ireland, weep to have produced such wretches!) who, subsequently, provided ample fig leaves for war criminals like Blair and Bush. Sting, scheming to achieve status as a "serious artist", threw himself wholeheartedly into the Cult of Thirdworldism but, as Campion amusingly recalls, came somewhat unstuck.

Hold on to Your Veil, Fatima!, Sanna Negus, (Garnet)
Egypt is the most vital of all Arab countries. It owns, famously, a hugely complex and significant ancient past. Until Sadat did a divisive deal with Israel, a deal which the Mubarak administration holds to, it was at the centre of all Arab affairs. It possesses a very real contemporary cultural life unparalleled in either the Arab or the Islamic world. Negus looks deep inside Egyptian life and talks to ordinary Egyptians in order to capture the lively, chatty, mischievous nature of life on the banks of the Nile. I've always regarded the country as being the most attractive of places and Negus, who speaks Arabic and reports on the country for the international media, confirms my enthusiasm.

Wormwood Star - The Magickal Life of Marjorie Cameron, Spencer Kansa (Mandrake)
The gorgeous Marjorie Cameron (1922-1995) was a noteworthy occultist, an underground actress loved by Dennis Hopper, a visual artist whose work ended up in the Whitney Museum of American Art, and an utterly provocative mid-20th Century presence who was there when it happened. Kansa might as well have been there when it happened too, so authoritative is his knowledge and feel for the sometimes penniless world of the practicing magician. Jimmy Page once commented that practitioners of magic are often impoverished and, after the death of her top-ranking scientist husband Jack Parsons (he accidentally blew himself up) she often saw tough times.

She played an important part in Kenneth Anger's Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and appeared in the films of Curtis Harrington, including his 1955 documentary, The Wormwood Star, which focuses on her artwork.

Kansa has a successful and easy style which bring to life the countless cabals and social occasions which Cameron enjoyed to the hilt.

see more stories from outsideleft's Fiction & Poetry archive »»

Joe Ambrose
Literary Editor

Joe Ambrose has written 14 books, including Chelsea Hotel Manhattan and The Fenian Reader. Joe is currently working on his next book, Look at Us Now - The Life and Death of Muammar Ghadaffi, which is an expanded version of a story first published in the anthology CUT UP! Visit Joe's website for all the latest info: JoeAmbrose.co.uk.

nick soulsby week

more stories you really could read...


thumb through the ancient archives:

search for something you might like...


sign up for the outsideleft weekly. a selection of new and archived stories every week. Or less.

View previous campaigns.

Kleenex Dirham
Taking Me to Marrakesh
Joe Ambrose on the Marrakesh Express
Redemption Song - The Ballad Of Joe Strummer
Paul Hawkins meets Joe Strummer's definitive biographer Chris Salewicz
The Mass and The Fine Art of Dude Music
Oakland's The Mass manage to do the impossible: create brilliant powerful complicated music that will make you stroke your chin and bang your head, and might also prove Henry Rollins right
World Cups: French Shirts
Are the french shirts bringing the game into disrepute
There's Going To Be a National Album Day. Why?
Jason ponders the mood music behind National Album Day
Some of our favorite things...