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Gille Liath (Lancashire)

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Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others (Oxford World's Classics)
Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others (Oxford World's Classics)
by Stephanie Dalley
Edition: Paperback

38 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars men in cuneiform, 13 July 2006
This, though billed as an edition for the general reader, really isn't. The texts, instead of being worked up into a continuous narrative as in some other versions, are presented exactly as they appear in the original sources: disjointed, repetitive, incomplete. Sadly, the Epic of Gilgamesh is particularly affected by this. Thus whatever the merits of the translation, which I'm not qualified to judge, this is not something you can just sit and read as entertainment. Since it is avowedly not a scholarly edition either, it's hard to see who it's going to please.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 8, 2008 10:52 AM GMT


Pick up your Parrots and Monkeys...: A Boy Soldier in India (Cassell Military Paperbacks)
Pick up your Parrots and Monkeys...: A Boy Soldier in India (Cassell Military Paperbacks)
by J. W. Pennington
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars parrots and monkeys?, 3 Jun. 2006
Claiming to be a memoir of life `on the fabled Northwest Frontier', only a quarter of this is about peacetime India and Pennington comes no nearer the frontier than Delhi in an uneventful tour of duty. The real subject of the book is the old-style regular army. It's strange to think that, as recently as 1935, a fifteen-year-old boy could ship out for military service there; today he'd be grappling with his GCSE coursework.

Probably the best chapters are those dealing with the war in Burma, gruesome though they are. Pennington skilfully incorporates his experiences into the wider historical context, with the kind of what-it-was-like detail you get neither from conventional histories nor those bitty `voices of the past' things.

Not a literary classic, but an interesting picture of a now-vanished way of life. I half-feel I should give it an extra star for the title...but I won't.


Irish Classics
Irish Classics
by Declan Kiberd
Edition: Paperback

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Instant classic, 2 Jun. 2006
This review is from: Irish Classics (Paperback)
`Irish Classics' fills a long-standing gap by taking Irish works in both the Irish and English languages, studying them side by side and attempting to show that they form a unified literary tradition. Whether Kiberd convinces you in every case or not, you will have read widely in Irish culture and history if you don't learn plenty about both along the way.

That aside, the wonderful thing about this book is its stout refusal to take the tenets of national mythology at face value, and forthright denunciation of those who remain in thrall to them. Whilst doing honour to the great ones of the past, Kiberd always has a hopeful eye on the future.

It's hardly sufficient praise to say that this is the best book about literature I've ever read, or even that it has introduced me to some superb but little-known works. It deserves to be as celebrated and influential as all but the greatest of the writing it examines.


Warriors of the Lord: The Military Orders of Christendom
Warriors of the Lord: The Military Orders of Christendom
by Michael J. Walsh
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Order something else, 2 Jun. 2006
If I had seen this book's large type and glossy pages before buying, I would have steered clear. With the main text less than two hundred pages long, it ludicrously and quite unnecessarily goes back to the foundation of Constantinople, taking in western monasticism, the feudal system, the rise of Islam and the launch of the Crusades before getting to grips with its ostensible subject matter about halfway through. Needless to say, that leaves room for only the most cursory treatment.

This is more a coffee-table book than a serious history. If you know nothing about the crusades it may be of some interest; if you want a detailed study of the military orders, look elsewhere.


The Small Isles: Canna, Rum, Eigg and Muck
The Small Isles: Canna, Rum, Eigg and Muck
by Denis Rixson
Edition: Paperback

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars surplus to requirements, 25 May 2006
Denis Rixson says he doesn't want this book to compete with the existing histories of the individual islands, but it's hard to say just what he does want it to do. He's obviously uneasily aware that this ground has already been swept clean, particularly by J.L. Campbell's excellent history of Canna.

The Small Isles have only become a distinct entity in recent times, so there's little to be gained by a unified history. But whatever could have been gained, isn't, because there's no attempt here to form a narrative - it's just a scrapbook of source material. And though there is definitely scope for someone to address the issue of the islands' future, he doesn't really do that either; merely hinting darkly that they are a waste of taxpayers' money.

You can only hope no public funds went towards producing this volume. Quite simply, it is superfluous.


Trip To Harrogate: Tunes & Songs From Joshua Jackson's Book - 1798
Trip To Harrogate: Tunes & Songs From Joshua Jackson's Book - 1798
Price: £11.28

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars pennine breakdown, 23 May 2006
Northern England has had a raw deal from folk music collectors, so these selections from an eighteenth century Yorkshire manuscript are a real rarity.

What's fascinating is the mixture of what are today totally different genres: echoes of courtly and medieval music are here, along with forerunners of Irish and American as well as English folk. The traditional-but-modern instruments - banjo, concertina, Northumbrian pipes, guitar - add to the confusion. The playing is adept (though many quirks of modern style creep in) and the arrangements satisfying; above all there is no frippery or whimsy.

Originally recorded in the seventies, for the period the sound is good and the running time generous at 52 minutes. Well worth a listen for its own sake, and an eye-opener for anyone tracing the development of traditional music.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 5, 2008 6:32 PM BST


O Bheal Go Beal
O Bheal Go Beal

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, 22 May 2006
This review is from: O Bheal Go Beal (Audio CD)
I bought this on spec, but it's a fantastic album from the Connemara label. I don't want it to sound mundane, but all you can say is that everything is right. In terms of traditional flute music, the only thing I know to compare with it is Matt Molloy's first album. The pacing is great, with a sprinkling of songs to keep things interesting. There is just the right amount and variety of accompaniment; probably Séamus O'Kane's bodhran is the outstanding contribution, showing what an asset the instrument can be when it is not regarded as something to make weird noises with. Then again, the planxty duet with harpist Eoghan O'Brien is breathtaking; and who's the uncredited double bass player (if that's what it is)?

As for Ó Murchú's own playing, there's plenty of fire in the dance music although you wouldn't say it was quite up to the Molloy/McConnell standard - what is? But I've honestly never heard more lyrical slow airs, on flute or otherwise. What perhaps deserves most credit is the rare focus and restraint shown in the production (which, sound-wise, is very clear with lots of oomph). The highest praise I can give it is to say it wears its 70-minute running time lightly. All in all it goes to show that a self-taught city boy, if he has enough talent and sensibility, can trade tunes with the best of them.

For those who don't know Irish, the title means `from mouth to mouth' - and I certainly find it resuscitating.


The Proving Grounds: Journey Through the Interior of New Guinea and Australia
The Proving Grounds: Journey Through the Interior of New Guinea and Australia
by Benedict Allen
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars foster an allen, 7 May 2006
A book of ant-climaxes, really; Allen returns to his 'Crocodiles Nest' village and from there goes walkabout, hoping thus to finish his initiation. One community after another, in New Guinea and Australia, fails to offer what he wants, and he goes home wondering aloud whether he wanted it after all.

You won't learn much about tribal cultures. Allen is really exploring the space within, and moreover there's no escaping the fact that he's exploiting his subjects just as surely as the various cultural and commercial pioneers he encounters. Yet, amidst the longueurs, the desolate frontier towns, the hopeless lives of the people he meets, there's the making of a profound meditation on what it means to be a man.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 8, 2013 8:37 PM BST


Brewer's Anthology of England and the English
Brewer's Anthology of England and the English
by David Milsted
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars England - whose England?, 1 May 2006
Considering the plethora of good writing, this is a strangely unsatisfying anthology - neither a celebration of Englishness nor a really balanced look at the modern nation. There's almost nothing about ordinary English life, too little poetry, and the section on religion is totally inadequate. On the other hand there's rather too much about things like public schools, cricket and of course The War. Perhaps appropriately (but not very entertainingly) the whole is topped and tailed with a certain amount of hand-wringing about identity, loss of countryside etc., and ends with the somewhat implausible announcement that we are now living After England.

On the plus side there's lots from George Orwell. His is the most perceptive voice on almost every subject, and the reader in search of a discourse on Englishness would probably do better to seek out his Selected Essays.

David Milsted states that he is happy, but not proud, to be English. This volume may inspire some pride, but is unlikely to make you happy.


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