Crawling from the Wreckage
Random House, 2010
This book is a collection of Gwynne Dyer's columns - syndicated in many, many newspapers around the world - from 2005 to the end of 2009, re-organized into thematic chapters such as "South Asia" (chapter 8) and "Nukes" (chapter 17), each containing 3-5 essays ranging in length from about two pages up to about five. He also includes introductory or post-script remarks before and after almost every essay, where he points out changes that occured since he wrote that essay (i.e., between the time of the essay and sometime in 2010), emphasises certain points, or says things he thought he wouldn't be able to get published in a newspaper but fit into the book - most of these have to do with direct insults to various individuals (a former deputy Prime Minister of Japan is called "old and stupid" for example), or greater emphasis of his opinions regarding religion (he's not a fan, generally speaking).
I quite enjoy Gwynne's writing, he maintains a simultaneous tone of both exasperation and sarcasm at just a light level that works well to combine cynicism with, surprisingly enough, optimism. The theme of the book is that despite the overwhelming bad news generated daily - wars, poverty, crime, et cetera - the signs of progress are there if you're willing to look for them. He's a supporter of international organizations such as the U.N. dedicated to preventing wars and promoting human rights and expansion of democracy, and many of the essays centre on victories, minor and otherwise, of such organizations.
This was a good read, a series of thought-provoking short works arranged logically. I suspect I would have enjoyed this book even more if I'd read it shortly after it came out. Chapters dealing with Ukraine and Russia, for example, are fairly optimistic, having been written years before the current crisis. Similarly, the predictions regarding parts of the Arab middle east - Syria, Egypt, and Morocco are each mentioned specifically several times - were all written before the "Arab Spring" of 2011 and the Syrian civil war. Presumably, Gwynne has updated his long-term predictions accordingly, and I'm looking forward to reading his new opinions.