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Walter Fane (Shanghai, China)

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Red or Dead
Red or Dead
by David Peace
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.36

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Book of Two Halves, 30 Dec 2013
This review is from: Red or Dead (Hardcover)
This is an experimental and perhaps brave book that defies conventions of language and narrative writing in its attempt to convey the extraordinary passion and religiosity of Bill Shankly's dedication to football and to the city of Liverpool. Does it succeed? To some extent, I would say, but overall, not quite.

It is extremely repetitive, to a degree that many have found absurd. There are two purposes to the device, that I see. One is that it mimics the ritualistic story-telling of the Bible. Secondly, it tries to put the reader inside the mind of an obsessive-compulsive personality.

After the initial "what on earth is this?" reaction that many readers have shared, I found the book strangely mesmerising. I raced through several hundred pages, and my attention never wavered seriously while Shankly was still manager of Liverpool. After that, well, it was a book of two halves. The hypnotic repetitive writing style that worked (just) when describing a fanatic's pursuit of success was no longer suited to following a man in retirement, I felt. I struggled through the last couple of hundred pages.

David Peace is a virtuoso writer of tremendous skill and imagination. I was hugely impressed with The Damned United, but it also struck me as ethically questionable. Is it right to insert oneself as narrator into the mind of a man so recently deceased and relate real-life events, when many of the principals are still living? The same question applies to Red or Dead. I wonder how Shankly's children or grandchildren felt about David Peace imagining his final thoughts and visions.

But what a man. What a character. What a human being! (I write as a Chelsea fan.) The first thing I wanted to do after finishing Red or Dead was read a conventional, more objective account of Bill Shankly's life and career. That's the book's lasting legacy for me.


The Bender
The Bender
by Paul Scott
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A great writer, 2 Sep 2011
This review is from: The Bender (Paperback)
I'm a little surprised to see this apparently out of print. Perhaps not Paul Scott's greatest work, but it shines with his gentle humour and humanity. There is a zen-like quality to Scott's work, an acceptance of people for what they are, with all their foibles, that makes him one of my favourite writers. I read The Bender a long time ago and don't remember the details of the plot too well, but I do remember the feeling it left me with. It doesn't deserve to be forgotten.


The Three of Us: A Family Story
The Three of Us: A Family Story
by Julia Blackburn
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.13

5.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing and uplifting, 24 May 2011
It has the peace and clarity that often mark those who have been through suffering and come out the other side. The author's honesty, acceptance and humour while recounting some terrible events inspired respect and reverence in me. Julia Blackburn reminds us that, whatever has happened to us and whatever our mind has made of it, forgiveness and the unconditional love that are our birthright are always there to be reclaimed.


Help! My Teenager is an Alien: The Everyday Situation Guide for Parents
Help! My Teenager is an Alien: The Everyday Situation Guide for Parents
Price: 6.02

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Formatted Properly, 21 April 2011
While I was impressed with the book, the break-out boxes do not display fully on the Kindle and so I was unable to read them, which was most frustrating. I want my money back. If Amazon cannot format a book correctly for the Kindle, it shouldn't sell it. If you bought a book from a bookshop and it had several pages or parts of pages missing, you would take it back and ask for proper copy or your money back.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 31, 2011 4:12 PM BST


Petite Anglaise: In Paris, In Love, In Trouble
Petite Anglaise: In Paris, In Love, In Trouble
by Catherine Sanderson
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Stupid shallow woman, 11 Nov 2010
I spent an hour or two looking at the blog. Don't need to read the book. Extreme narcissism, total absence of self-awareness and complete indifference to the feelings of others. I feel sorry for her daughter.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 9, 2011 5:04 PM BST


Revolutionary Road
Revolutionary Road
by Richard Yates
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Painful and bleak, 8 Feb 2010
This review is from: Revolutionary Road (Paperback)
A masterpiece. Every word is measured and precise, proceeding with absolute assurance towards the story's grim conclusion. You have the feeling that Yates knew exactly what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it, and he doesn't put a single foot wrong along the way. It is flawless and frightening, a horror story of the emptiness of the soul and the futility of relationship in the absence of love. I was drawn to this book, which I had never heard of, after seeing the Sam Mendes film version. It was something about the way Kate Winslet looks at Leo before the abortion. It was painfully familiar: that look of contempt and distaste mixed with almost a kind of curiosity, as if she is looking at something foreign and slightly disgusting for the first time. I read that Yates is regarded as the foremost chronicler of the Age of Anxiety and American suburbia. I think his legacy will be rather wider than that, for the themes he explores are universal and eternal. We can all identify with April and Frank, their desire to break out of the stultifying routine of their environment and do something special, be something special. We all know the competing pull of comfort, familiarity and security, and many (probably most) end up making that compromise. I saw the film as a morality tale on the consequences of failing to be true to yourself and follow your dreams. The book, in my interpretation, is far more ambiguous and nuanced. You have a sense of April and Frank as being playthings of the gods, being moved forward to their doom by forces that they are only dimly aware of and understand only partially, if at all. Poor old Frank, I found myself thinking: he didn't have a chance. He didn't know what he was dealing with. It has elements of Greek tragedy: character is fate, and all their machinations to engineer a different outcome serve only to move them closer to their ultimate, predetermined destination.
This is a profound and bleak book, beautifully written. An awesome literary achievement.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 16, 2011 10:01 AM BST


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