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Reviews Written by
N. H. Rowland "Elfin Print" (England)

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Tall Tales and Perpendicular Poems
Tall Tales and Perpendicular Poems
Price: £5.05

4.0 out of 5 stars British wit meets the hipsters, 30 Aug. 2014
I purchased my copy of Tall Tales and Perpendicular Poems at a reading by the author, and would like to recommend it to anyone browsing on Amazon. If you are looking for an excellent coffee shop read, you need wander no further. The pieces are indeed short enough to consume in that tea break or lunch break, while zesty and satisfying enough - I am tempted to say calorie rich - to send you off with a smile or an idea.
Richard Brautigan is a clear influence and artistic spirit within these pages. Similarly we are returned to the atmosphere of the City Lights during its Beat pomp (obviously within the poems at the back of this volume - yet not at the back of our minds). So if you enjoy the Beat ethos of hip subversion, linguist invention and experiment, with an acidic lick on the absurdities of society, you will enjoy having this book in your Gaulloises stained fingers.... at least, you may limit yourself to cigarettes.
At the same time there is a distinctly British flavour to the humour here, the satire, which evokes for me the dry wit of a Peter Cook, perhaps, having spent the evening at a Beckett.
The man With Three Penises is a scream, while the Hogg character is a unique invention.

The Unnamed
The Unnamed
by Joshua Ferris
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling scenario, loses its way, 13 Aug. 2012
This review is from: The Unnamed (Paperback)
This is a brave, intelligent and compelling read. It is the type of novel that should be published and celebrated, as it is stylish and highly topical: indeed captures many of our contemporary fears, issues and thoughts. For example there is the relationship between mind and body (what controls us?) the denigration of our environment and social structures (fossils fuel consumption/capitalism) and stress on family life and friendship (all those issues...and who knows what else?)
The dilemma of the slick lawyer who has a physical compulsion to go awol, go walkabout, grips from the start.
Ferris has an efficient, smart prose style, and for much of the novel he gripped my attention by his narrative, and the enigmas of the story. He particularly captures the razor-shark atmosphere of top lawyers practice, as it were. The family relationships of Tim with his wife Jane and daughter are v well done, convincing - ordinary, yet interesting.
But I was really disappointed by the section "Letting it Go", as Tim's desperate situation in the world seems to extend purposelessly - into the areas of bathos and self-pity. The potential suspense of the novel - in particular the menacing stranger who accosts him on Brooklyn Bridge - is allowed to fizzle out into a dull explanation. When he suddenly doesn't have a good story to tell the efficient prose style begins to sound a bit hollow.
However you can see how brilliantly Ferris captures the modern working life, as from his debut novel. He is among the most fascinating contemporary American writers, asking the searching questions.
He doubts the mind, but work like this shows that the mind is our only defence.

Price: £10.92

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling musical communication, 5 Dec. 2010
This review is from: AfroCubism (Audio CD)
The post dated nature of this mingling of African and Cuban musicians has inevitably tinted the eventual album. The phenomenon of the Buena Vista Social Club has impacted on world music, world circuit and no doubt influences the 2010 product. Presumably the popularity of the Cuban album means that the Cuban influence may be greater than originally intended. This is not necessarily a negative comment, so much as an observation.
Arguably musical cultures and influences take decades, if not centuries to truly blend and to become something with integrity and lustre. The success of the Cuban project showed this, as it was essentially conservative in nature. Of course Cuban music is a hybrid itself, a beautiful outcome from a legacy of colonial and historical violence and upset....a flower on the rust heap of human history.
The idea of pushing cultures together, even in a romantic marriage, is more artificial and has Frankenstein aspects about it.
Here there is a beautiful meeting, and already Western African music has taken an influence from Cuban styles; which means it does not seem forced, like an airport lounge encounter.
Certain tracks emphasise the African musicians, so often there is a contrast, rather than a mixing. The outcome is not quite as radical or free as you may expect. Largely this is considered musicianship, not some kind of improvised jam session between strangers. There is little grandstanding here.
This is a wonderful album, providing threads of musical ideas and melody, that will keep the appreciative listener absolutely entranced. This truly shows how music is a power for harmony, in every sense, for life and for art.
For me as an enthusiast of World Circuit's output, this proves again what a creative and original label it is.
How about some new musical areas too?

Fallen Angel: The Passion of Fausto Coppi
Fallen Angel: The Passion of Fausto Coppi
by William Fotheringham
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Classic age of the bike, 20 Sept. 2009
This was a birthday present for my 77 year old cycling fanatic father. He was already familiar with the author - being such a veteran - and he was really thrilled with this book. For my Dad Coppi was a boyhood and youthhood idol and he really enjoyed reading the account of Coppi's life and about that particular classic period of cycling, when the roads and the techology were more basic and the athletes themselvese were not so cute about their schedules or even about their potential legacy.

Divine (Bloomsbury Paperbacks)
Divine (Bloomsbury Paperbacks)
by Joanna Traynor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You are going to be excited by this novel, 9 Feb. 2006
I recently had to read this novel for a reading group and was much impressed. On the surface the (first person) narrator of this novel, Vivian Jackson is quite a reprehensible person; she is a casual drug dealer and user. Indeed drugs seem to be as natural as fresh air to her and, apparently, much tastier.
Similarly her friends are caught up in the drug scene and like many topers and dopers are full of mystic wisdom and non-existent personal ethics. Some of the minor characters don't quite lift off the page maybe, but the important characters are memorable.
Despite this Viv is a fantastically charismatic young black woman. Despite her seedy kind of broken world she (or Traynor) writes with wonderful wit and flair. Indeed Traynor is what I'd call a real writer - she is risky and experimental with language, with ideas and metaphorical associations. Compare this to the etiolated language, constipated sentence structure and shrink wrapped safety of much popular fiction. This isn't the type of corporate MacFiction that we are so used to now, but the real thing, free as a bird.
To further add to Vivian's disadvantages in life she also has a disfiguring scar to the face: "scarred for life". This was inflicted by her more favoured sister, the Divine of the title, when they were both children. Divine graduated for Oxford and went to live in Paris. Viv goes off on a jaunt to Paris to visit her sister (in perhaps a less successful interlude of the book, although enjoyable to read). At first I thought this matter of Vivian's terrible disfigurement was maybe a bit too heavy, a kind of extreme metaphor. But as I continued to read I thought "well, actually there are thousands of people, yes thousands of people, even in the UK alone who struggle with this kind of thing. Then think of that French woman who went through a face transplant". So it isn't just a heavy metaphor, if you happen to struggle with such a burden. Yes, it is a metaphor too, but it is a credible part of the character.
I admired this novel for describing the lives of problematical and (in many ways) unappealling `people', with a lot of disadvantages and issues, certainly out of the mainstream of society. Afterall these make the most fascinating characters in literature (think even of Dostoyevsky) even if they are balanced against questions of "good and evil". Not that the character here is evil, but she certainly dabbles her toes and loses her way in the modern hall of mirrors.
I also enjoyed the mix of racial and religious backgrounds in the characters, which is certainly a good reflection of contemporary London (a high octane global city). This reminded me of a recent Stephen Frears movie Dirty Pretty Things (?) showing the struggle to survive in London, if you are an outsider or recent arrival. The London milieu is really well done. There are slightly soapy elements to the household, yet these offset the more serious elements.
Viv has a particularly interesting relationship with an Asian (Pakistani) woman, which (apart from being charming and true) evokes all the hot points about race/culture, identity/belonging that are white hot in Britain and elsewhere in Europe. Excuse my "white hot" pun. These really get under the skin of contemporary Britian. No pun there.
As I mentioned above, Vivian's jaunt to Paris is less convincing and shows the author trying to spice things up a bit: just too many violent and extreme incidents happen in succession, almost like an action flick. At times there is a hint of naked sexual prurience, so to speak, as if the author is nervous about keeping our interest up, so to speak. But these weaknesses will not detract from a really strong and vital narrative that grabs the attention.
We are convinced by the humanity and realilty of these characters, even if they are submerged up to their necks.

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