How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered The World: A Short History of Modern Delusions by Francis Wheen - review by Dennis Sewell

Dennis Sewell

Are We Quite Mad?

How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered The World: A Short History of Modern Delusions

By

Fourth Estate 256pp £16.99 order from our bookshop
 

IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO fix precisely when Reason nodded and the Age of Bunkum began. You could make a respectable case that good sense has been outweighed by utter drivel in every time and place since the fall of man. Yet a book has to start somewhere. So, while noting that his choice is probably as much mischievous as arbitrary, let's accept without further cavil Francis Wheen's proposed date of 1979 - the year that brought us the Ayatollah Khomeini and Margaret Thatcher - as the year when modern delusions first slipped the bonds of rationality and took wing.

Like Goya in Los Caprichos, Wheen depicts the sleep of reason bringing forth monsters. And like the weird, bat-like creatures in the etching, Wheen's demons are at the same time sinister and comic. Through the chapters of this hdarious book a procession of deftly drawn grotesques passes by: Southern Baptist

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