Albert Camus wrote that ‘the world needs real dialogue, that falsehood is just as much the opposite of dialogue as is silence, and that the only possible dialogue is the kind between people who remain what they are and speak their minds’. This seems completely sensible and yet many books have a veiled quality to them, as if there is something the author would like to say, but won’t or can’t. We live in an ostensibly free society, in which people are not imprisoned or persecuted for speaking their minds. Nonetheless there are reams of authors suppressing or adjusting their opinions because they must earn a living, because their editors won’t publish what they want to write, or because they fear they’ll be savaged by critics or the trolls of Twitter. Though this is not the worst oppression ever endured, it is a shame and a waste if people are not writing the books they want to write. You think of all those sincere tracts that have been lost forever, replaced by careful, anaemic versions that swoon in the reader’s arms and fade into oblivion.
With this in mind, I was delighted to read Jay Griffiths’s latest book, Kith. It is a strident polemic against Western consumerism, and particularly