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on 12 April 2009
Every major anniversary brings the hacks out from under their stones, to the greater or lesser glory of their subjects. This is hackery on a grand scale with the added problem that it's very badly written indeed. I really can't be bothered to go through point by point, but some of the major faults are:
1. Repetition of information - every major point is rephrased at least twice per chapter
2. An acute lack of information about Darwin's Kentish life - half a dozen facts, repeated endlessly (phrases, too. O.K., so CD loved his dead daughter but attaching 'beloved' or 'adored' to the name every time it's used is like the false labels found in tabloids - 'widowed and mourning mother-of-two mary Novak, 36' etc)
3. Talking of tabloids, the attempts at professorial wit are tedious and pathetic, not to mention puerile. It's the 'boring uncle' voice we all learned to loathe very early on, the patronising assumption that any non-grown-up (or non-bigtime intalekchull like Jones)can only be amused by smut and cheap word play.
4. Silly social status references to 'liven up' the text - he can't get near music appreciation without making some dim neologism out of Wagner, can't resist obscure in-references to Flanders and Swann (a comedy duo that included quite funny songs about animals in their repertoire a few decades ago) and generally feels he has to pose all over text to show what a trendy soul he is....
The facts he produces are interesting enough, although I think his introduction to DNA and how it works must be among the worst I've read between the covers of a book. The problem for me is that they're all rehashes of rehashes - and it shows.
The actual names of extraordinary animals and plants cited are often simply left out ('there's an ant which...'; 'one of the orchids is the biggest....). Of course, there's no bibliography or 'further reading'- presumably, they might show us where he lifted the info from, and I'd bet good money it wasn't learned journals.
Enough. I ramble. I'm just very annoyed that I spent half my precious weekly book budget on this trash. That'll teach me to read more in the bookshop....