Report on The Naked Swiss by Claire O’Dea
The Naked Swiss were well received into the Waterloo Bar ;-)
The general appreciation of the book was quite positive – some reading to substantiate or illuminate their own feelings and connections with the Swiss – most reading purely for general interest. The use of anecdotal injection was appreciated and did enliven what was otherwise relatively dense recitation of statistics. This certainly substantiated that the author did a fine job of marshalling research to address the myths that she aimed to address, but left a sense with some that it may have been somewhat tending to the journalistic in this regard. Good journalism though.
I believe that midway through our face-to-face discussion we attempted to step back from the book and clearly assay what Ms O’Dea sought and claimed she would accomplish with whether this was in fact carried out. The answers to this charge were mixed – and I think this speaks to Jim’s assertion – that there was a degree of cherrypicking and selective assembly undertaken.
Are these claimed myths actually widely held? Are they myths in light of the evidence submitted to the reader? I think that this was a split decision.
Who was the book for? There was a sense that it would serve newly arrived emigrants well and possibly give them a bit of a leg-up based on the author’s own experiences…but as far as serving a wider audience it was perhaps a little lacking. Although everyone felt that it was readable and well worth the read there was a sense of something just a wee bit lacking. Now, whether Dr Wilson’s hope for more analysis was justified or fair — desired sure – promised no. So there does remain some question as to whether the author’s promises were ultimately fulfilled.
The book read as a collection of essays (10 in fact ;-) for good or bad and although the clever ploy of returning to party experience as a thin red thread may have drawn them together lightly I was struck that this seemed as a series of articles for the FT or the Economist. Well written pieces nonetheless.
There was also a point raised about how fierce the condemnation of the Swiss she may have felt free to undertake give the fact that she still lives there. So when it comes down to looking at national guilt over certain events and behaviours these may simply have been off limits to he for personal reasons.
Additionally – has Claire gone Swiss??? One thing that did emerge from the book was a sense that the Swiss really have no great interest in those outside of Switzerland. They cling to a neutrality, but even culturally there is a perceived lack of curiosity beyond tone, canton, or nation. Even between various lingo-cultural regions within Switzerland. Where was discussion of the dissension or diversity between Swiss-French and Swiss-Germans for example. A point on the table.
Having raised all these points and quite conscious that it sounds slightly on the more critical side, the book faire very well in the voting in fairness.
F – 6, M – 5.5, D – 6.5, BM – 7, BC – 7.5, S – 6, JO – 8 and JW – 7 for an average of 6.68. (hopefully enough pints at that stage to do good maths – well apparently not;-)
There was a subsequent and valid question tabled asking why it is our scoring seems to avoid scores of 1-4 altogether and how each member actually comes up with these scores. What does a score of 5 actually mean? Job well done and objective accomplished or somehow lacking in delivery. That being the case when we move above or below this grade what do we actually say? Well worth a further discussion….
Anyway… there’s this Man Called Mike (oops Ove;-) awaiting our August deliberations. Some having finished, some still starting out. We will discuss Ove along with our additional (supplemental – but certainly not light as it turns out) fiction read.
Tabled suggestions were:
Brian C – Martin Cruz-Smith: Gorkiy Park
Brian M – Mike McCormack: Solar Bones
Declan – Lindsey Davis: The Silver Pigs
Fergal – Robert Harris: Conclave (how can RH win again if we don’t have a book to vote on in December?)
The Solar Bones by Mike McCormack was the winner with 17 points and is thus our second read for August.