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Jonners "jrmonk" (Coxhoe)

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The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore (Penguin Classics)
The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore (Penguin Classics)
by Andy Orchard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.79

4.0 out of 5 stars Bang on, 19 Mar. 2014
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Does what it says on the tin - but clearly, carefully, and sensibly, making these fairly difficult materials accessible to a non-specialist goon like me.


Prospero's Mirror
Prospero's Mirror
by A.N Donaldson
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine essay in the form, 19 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: Prospero's Mirror (Paperback)
I bought this, as an existing fan of M.R.James, on the recommendation of the M.R.James Literary Podcast (A Podcast to the Curious) - they interviewed the author, and it sounded interesting. The book proved to be a gripping and exceedingly dark ghost story, almost a meta fiction, in which MRJ is the main character, experiencing for real the sorts of things he repeatedly inflicted on his fictional avatars.

The book shows MRJ in advancing age, and explores his reactions to ageing, increasing academic isolation, and the First World War. It uses the same toolbox of techniques used by MRJ in his own ghost stories, to try to recreate his distinctive voice - something which is achieved rather patchily, but better by a long chalk than any other attempt I know of - the use of extensive extracts of (fictional) 17th century diaries detailing the progress of the Great Plague in Oxford is brilliantly conceived and superbly realised - to the extent that it is sometimes a little difficult to reconnect with the actual narrative after one of these episodes.

The voice of MRJ is well brought out, though purists may object to some of the aspects of the characterisation (foes of the 'homosexual panic' idea had better plug their ears), and the story is well layered, well structured and fairly well paced, though, as if say, the 'diary' extracts are so compelling (and so long) that the junctions with the main story can feel a little disorienting.

The conclusion is...well...horrible, bleak, deeply unsettling and...very personal. In other words, superb.

Indispensable for MRJ fans, and a damn good read for other creepy-folks.


OXO Good Grips Lemon Zester
OXO Good Grips Lemon Zester
Price: £5.49

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Works well - for right-handers, 6 Oct. 2012
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This is basically a good implement - the chunky grip handle is splendid, easy to use and no slipping, and the zester part is sharp and efficient. It is a feature of canelle knives that they have to be either right-handed or left-handed, and for those southpaws among us, this one in common with almost all canelle knives is right-handed. This means you have to use it away from the body, which leads to less tidy results. My r-h housemate found it fine though.


No Title Available

3.0 out of 5 stars Cheap and functional, 5 Oct. 2012
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I was rather pleased with this - it's not a professional leather-worker's punch, it's a cheap and cheerful one for someone who may have to punch holes in belts only rarely (like most domestic users I suspect). Accordingly, it's not like using a paper hole punch, you have to give it a bit of force to get through the leather, but it made tidy holes quickly. Perfectly good for most folk I'd have thought, but if you're going in for leather working in a serious way, you probably want a more upscale model.


The Throwback: Complete & Unabridged
The Throwback: Complete & Unabridged
by Tom Sharpe
Edition: Audio Cassette

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vicious, brakes-off fun, 18 Sept. 2012
This is a seriously dark, malevolent farce - much as I love the gently romantic misunderstandings and necklace shenanigans of dear old P.G., we're not in Wodehouse territory here. This was written at the end of the 70's, the last gasp of the world as seen in 'Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads' before Thatcherism changed the UK for ever. It is a parable of what happens when the old-school, Edwardian squirearchy and its values (the Ancient Virtues and Mathematics) collide headlong with modernising Britain in 1978 (duplicitous accounting, tax inspectors, sexual promiscuity, gun laws and the homicidal possibilities of oven cleaner). Like any good farce, the plotting is at once intricate and ludicrous, and the characters are splendid stereotypes that develop with the plot into creatures you would never have imagined. This is the battle of 19th century humanist (though snobbish) values against 20th century selfish (though egalitarian) values - no-one is safe, no pretension is unpricked, and no gas oven remains unexploded. Violent, misanthropic, poetic fun.

The story follows Lockhart Flawse, bastard heir to a Northumbrian grandfather of wealth and Liberal education, and Fatalistic philosophy. He (LF) falls in love with Jessica, the daughter of a suburban widow and gold-digger, whom the grandfather ends up marrying as a quid-pro-quo for successfully matrimonially warehousing his idiot grandson. The two couples then experience what happens when the 19th century is forced upon the 20th (the grandfather and the mother) and vice-versa (the young couple)...with the terrible proviso that Lockhart, educated in the wild hills of Northumberland by his grandfather, has never learned the niceties of social suburban behaviour...like not firebombing your neighbours by means of revenge for cattle rustling...and cannot reasonably be said to be equipped for 20th century suburban life.

It's tremendous, rollicking fun, with a delicacy of touch usually denied to farce - this is the blackest and the broadest comedy without a syllable misplaced, without a single throwaway line of smut unconsidered for maximum comic effect. The whole book is a dark, warped comic fiesta of tremendous energy and vigour, and the whole job is a rattling good shocker - provided you are prepared to cry with laughter once the Italian taxidermist is unwillingly brought upon the scene.....


Good Things
Good Things
by Jane Grigson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.48

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An early Grigson classic, 17 Sept. 2012
This review is from: Good Things (Hardcover)
I use this book all the time. As the title will tell you, it's not intended as an encyclopaedic review of a particular subject like many of JG's later works (The Fish Book, and the wonderful The Vegetable Book), but it is aimed at celebrating the diversity of particular ingredients which have under-exploited qualities that repay thought and love. Chapter titles include: Kippers and Other Cured Fish, Meat Pies, Sweet Carrots, Parsley, Gooseberries, Apple and Quince, Five French Cakes.

The recipes are of international origin (though grounded in British and French cookery) and all aimed at family cooking, though this doesn't mean they are in any way reduced in elegance. JG's style is friendly, informative and informal, gently guiding you so that you get it right, with her own very special knack for concise instructions that precisely and exactly describe what is going on. You immediately understand the point of a recipe, and how to get there. The book also contains the first version of JG's famous curried parsnip soup.

This edition is a lovely one, as are all of Grub Street's hardback reissues of classic volumes in facsimilie of the original typesettings and illustrations. It, like the others in the series, is chunky, robust, made from good quality paper and crisply printed. It is easy to use and hollandaise sauce can be wiped off the pages, if this is done rapidly!

A modern classic from one of the great 20th century cookery writers.


Chicken Skin Music
Chicken Skin Music
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A majestic one-off, 17 Sept. 2012
This review is from: Chicken Skin Music (Audio CD)
This is an intelligent, spicy, and frankly weird album - I've never heard anything remotely like it, but I found it instantly attractive when I first heard it (played to me late at night by an American housemate amid many Cuba Libres), and I quickly became completely hooked. The Hawaiian-flavoured blend of brass, accordions and ukuleles with American folk music and Blues standards results in a strange, zesty gumbo of an album, and I'm not sure that all tracks are unqualified successes (Yellow Rose in particular only works in the context of the complete album, sounding too sentimental as a stand-alone track), but so many of them are absolutely top-notch that it doesn't matter. The covers of 'He'll Have To Go' and 'Goodnight Irene' in particular are superb. Another essential ingredient is Ry Cooder's one-off voice, which is expressive, textured, and, like most of my favourite vocalists, slightly ragged - nobody could call Bob Dylan or Johnny Cash superb singers, but they sounded great, and Ry Cooder has something of the same effect. Altogether, a gorgeous album, unlike any other I know.


Tir
Tir

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gentle, idiosyncratic, but a success, 18 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: Tir (Audio CD)
Make no bones about it, this is an odd album. But it's also a very lovely one, because CM has selected a pack of songs she loves, and cares deeply about, and uses them to explore her family heritage and to express her Welsh identity, without ever dropping into sentimentality (except 'Myfanwy' - and a non-sentimental version of 'Myfanwy' is like a non-cheerful P.G. Wodehouse novel - it's just not the thing at all). She has a glorious, breathy, expressive voice, and she has created modern orchestrations of these trad Welsh standards to suit her own style, and they pretty much all work. I have to say, though, it probably helps with some of the songs if you either know them as trad songs, or don't read the lyrics, since several translate as complete nonsense, and need to be seen in the context of Welsh culture ('Sospan Fach', I'm looking at you in particular - no matter how much you may go on about macaronics as part of Welsh cultural identity, it's still a nursery rhyme about saucepans).
The version of 'Ar Hyd Y Nos' is gorgeous.


GM Clubman Cricket Balls - Senior
GM Clubman Cricket Balls - Senior
Price: £10.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Have a guess, 13 July 2012
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It's a cricket ball. It's didn't fall apart the first time we played with it; it didn't display propensity to swing more than is endorsed by the ECB; we played a fifteen-over match without becoming exhausted chasing the wretched thing before we reached beer. If you're looking for serious acquirage of cricket kit, look several steps up; if you're looking for balls which will suffice up to club practice standard, this will do well.


Anthony Burgess
Anthony Burgess
by Roger Lewis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mercurial mess-up, 13 July 2012
This review is from: Anthony Burgess (Paperback)
Heavens! I'm astounded that anyone thought this was a serious academic biography. We have two possibilities: either it's the worst serious biography ever written, or it's not, in fact, a serious biography. I claim no special knowledge of Roger Lewis or his motivations, but knowledge of a smattering of his criticism and other works leads me to suppose the latter proposition is the correct one.

What I think he (Lewis) is playing at here, is writing a 'biography' of Burgess in the style of Burgess, only with all the brakes off. It's a mendacious, paranoid, rambling, ludicrously erudite/falsely erudite, scorchingly rude farce, and it's a rumbustious way of setting out what Burgess could have been like, if only he hadn't been Burgess, and had the inner generosity, the guilty humility, and the gloriously eighteenth-century sense of humour that makes Burgess a unique geniu...well, if not a genius, a true game-changer, and an unforgettable writer. What I think Lewis is up to, in short, is quite deliberately painting himself to be a failed, squalid, chiselling writer, a pretender to the throne of the writer he really admires as a hero, even for all his faults, biographising Burgess as Burgess could only have done if he had lost what made him great.

It is quite possible that all this is a load of cobblers.

As I say, I claim no special knowledge of Lewis and his writing, though I have read a lot of Burgess with a reasonably critical eye. I might cite as possible reasons why Lewis has taken this approach:
Firstly, that he is trying to point up by pointing out what it was that made this deeply flawed man (Burgess) great, rather than the miserable misanthropic swine he appears at face value in Lewis' book (the greatnesses are seen greater when set against the flaws);
Secondly, that Burgess had already done the job of a proper academic biography on himself (give-or-take a few legally-induced mendacities) with his resplendent, garlicky and painfully honest two-volume autobiography "Big God and Little Wilson" and "You've Had Your Time";
Thirdly, that being in possession of this accurate (if personal) biography, what the world perhaps lacked was an innovative, critical biography fitting with Burgess' iconoclastic bent, rather than an independent assessment.

IF this was the process, then I accept what Lewis was trying to do, but also feel that he got it wrong. The fact is, that IF he intended to be understood the way I interpret him (or close to), then the vast majority of reviewers on here got it wrong, and interpreted something different. This effectively means that he didn't get his message across to the majority of readers - and the book therefore is a failure. Regardless of what one's intention was, in subtle demonstrations of relative character, if one doesn't reach one's intended audience, then one has had it, mate

Thus, while I think that, if my interpretation is correct, Lewis' attempt at a biography is a brilliant pathfinder, in practical terms, he seems to have fluffed it - you can't argue with the box office, after all, even if it does misunderstand what you're up to - and I suspect (perhaps snobbishly, for which, apologies) that the box office for Burgessiana is more switched-on, critically speaking, than the box office for, say, Rambo, or Dickens.


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