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The Anthologist
The Anthologist
by Nicholson Baker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not just a young man's job., 16 Jan. 2010
This review is from: The Anthologist (Hardcover)
I was interested that another reviewer discovered Nicholson Baker through this book and that she was encouraged to seek out more. I suppose it might make quite a smooth introduction to his novels - I found it less challenging than some of his others. At first I thought it was too staid even to enjoy it very much, but by about half-way through I had found the right mood for it and took it for what it was.

By the end, I was convinced that Baker was giving it for what it was, too. He had been a few steps ahead of me all the way and was very much on top of his game. It is a little more tranquil than his others, but has plenty of laughs, and observations to remember. It has the patience of an older man than me - and than the author of The Mezzanine - and taught me something as a result.

The Penguin Book of Modern Speeches
The Penguin Book of Modern Speeches
by Brian MacArthur
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A rush through history not slowed by hindsight, 23 Nov. 2009
I picked this up in order to find some great uses of language, but read it through for the historical interest.

It is presented as a chronicle of oratorical skill. This partly explains the Western bias in the selection - the editor's excuse being that linguistic flair is not best served in translation. However, as another reviewer pointed out, the entries are heavily abridged, so there is rarely any sense of a speech's structure. As such, if you want to know how the greats worked their audiences, you will often be disappointed.

However, as a young man not especially well informed about 20th century history, this was a great way to tie together different events, and to see the contemporary spin that was applied to major issues. The editor's brief introductions and codas set the contexts well and help link pieces up, making a highly readable collection of historical snippets that is satisfying to follow from cover to cover.

As a reference book on oratorical moments - how it seems to sell itself - it is limited. As a rush through history, it's easy education: in the moment, hindsight absent, events worn out at school get a great narrative drive.

The Complete Guide to Everyday Kanji
The Complete Guide to Everyday Kanji
by S. Yaeko
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique and useful supplementary study tool, 10 Feb. 2009
This book takes a graphological approach to laying out the 2,000 or so J'ouyou' Kanji.

As a relative beginner, I found it frustrating to have to memorise kanji without any good grasp of why they take the forms they do. It would be great, I thought, if someone could explain the significance of all the various component parts of the kanji, and tell me why the components of each kanji are so juxtaposed.

What this book reveals is that that would be a huge task, since the history of modern kanji is long and untidy. Apart from that, the roots and derivations of the many modern kanji components are in fact so various that learning kanji on that basis would not necessarily be sensible. So as a stand-alone kanji tutor this book would be very hard going.

However, as someone who is already learning kanji in an organised way as part of a Japanese course, I find this book to be a helpful, unique and fascinating reference. Any of the 1945 Jouyou Kanji (due to be added to soon, unfortunately!) can be looked up by reading or stroke count, and a (sometimes very) brief history is set out. Since the origins of kanji and their routes from their origins to their modern forms are complex and uncertain, the histories in 'The Complete Guide...' represent a distillation of scholarly thought (circa 1991), skewed towards the unequivocal for the benefit of the beginning kanji learner.

In short, it's a reference for digestible, simplified versions of the histories of kanji forms that goes a long way to elucidating the reasons why each kanji is written as it is. It is not a stand-alone Japanese language textbook, and it is not an accurate scholarly reference for kanji graphologists. But, being somewhere in between, it is unique, and as a supplementary learning aid for the right student, it is interesting and valuable.

In Praise Of Shadows (Vintage Classics)
In Praise Of Shadows (Vintage Classics)
by Junichiro Tanizaki
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.24

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ...and it's not just for designers, 10 Feb. 2009
Some reviewers were troubled by parts of the essay that are "weird" or politically incorrect. However, this work is a preservation of a disappearing era, and succeeds in pinpointing the roots of the beauty in the things it describes. Those things themselves, then, are not as relevant as the underlying lesson in appreciating and understanding spaces, moods, customs, and the day-to-day. Here is a subtly delivered train of thought, demonstrating the gentle delineation and enjoyment of nuances that are easily and commonly ignored.

Short, cheap, and easy to read, it can be recommended to almost any thoughtful person. It is well worth taking as a companion to Tanizaki's novels, too, as an elucidation of his style of thought. (In particular, 'Some Prefer Nettles' addresses related themes of culture, custom, enjoyment and appreciation.)

Wittgenstein's 'Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus': A Reader's Guide (Reader's Guides)
Wittgenstein's 'Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus': A Reader's Guide (Reader's Guides)
by Roger M. White
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Tractatus companion, 18 Jan. 2009
This guide brings a tough text within reach. It largely penetrates the difficult presentation of the Tractatus, saving the reader's energy for the difficult ideas underneath.

Although it will always be a challenge, taken with this guide, reading the Tractatus becomes a highly rewarding endeavour.

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