These essays fly in the face of ‘junk culture’, political expediency, cultural imperialism, globalisation; they also reject any depiction of the natural world that sentimentalises its realities.
Central to the book is Barnie’s atheism; in one section of the book he painstakingly dissects biblical texts and confronts what he believes to be a major contemporary problem: the influence of the literalists and creationists of modern religion. Their debunking is done with engaging relish; Barnie’s insights are hard won and lucidly expressed.
The essays are liberal, humanist and informed by varying degrees of altruism, environmentalism and culture. They are concerned with humanity and how it responds to and is manipulated by capitalism, religion, politics and technology, and by how buying into this exploitation (knowingly or not) has created a reduction in human experience (junk culture, short-termism, the cult of self). Barnie doesn’t set out to be popular (or unpopular); the careful, informed setting out of argument and opinion is just one of the book’s strengths.
John Barnie is a poet and essayist whose books include a recent memoir, Tales of the Shopocracy (2009), about life growing up in his father’s sweet and ice-cream shop in Abergavenny. Formerly the long-term editor of the cultural magazine Planet, he has written about Wales, the environment and contemporary society for many years. His collection of essays, The King of Ashes (1989), won a Welsh Arts Council Prize for Literature in 1990. He was on the English language panel of judges for the 2009 Wales Book of the Year award, and is a Fellow of Academi. He lives in Comins Coch, Aberystwyth and performs with the bilingual poetry and blues group Llaeth Mwnci Madog/ Madog’s Moonshine.