Books of the year 2010 | Jon Cruddas

The Shadow of Sirius by W S Merwin


The narcissism that dripped from the final acts of New Labour autobiography prompted me to return to two classic texts of centre-left leadership of courage and hope. On 4 April 1968, two hours after Dr King was shot, Bobby Kennedy spoke "to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world". Thurston Clarke's The Last Campaign (Henry Holt, £17.99) makes us ache for such leadership, based on a shared life and common creed. Second, Don Watson's masterpiece Recollections of a Bleeding Heart (Random House Australia, A$27.95). Paul Keating was a true labour leader, a visionary in terms of race and modern political nationhood from the left. These should be two core texts for any new Labour leader - or maybe it's just an Irish Catholic thing!

The Shadow of Sirius (Bloodaxe, £9.95), by the octogenarian American poet W S Merwin, won him a Pulitzer prize. It is a book that complements The Last Campaign because it is about everything that is absent from British politics. It has a sense of life and energy. Most of all, it is
a wonderful example of the wisdom that comes only with old age.

Previous book: Amanda Craig

Next book: Jonathan Derbyshire

Back to list

This article first appeared in the 22 November 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Advantage Cameron