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Mr. D. Mcguffog

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Lucky Jim (Penguin Modern Classics)
Lucky Jim (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Kingsley Amis
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Makes you chuckle, 18 Dec 2008
I find it hard to regard this book a classic but its still an enjoyable read. Its starts slowly but nicely with Amis teeing up some well assembled comedic set pieces. The comedy involves that most British of emotions- social embarrassment. The humour is very wry and snearing, and whilst this didnt make me laugh out loud, like it seems to have done with many others, it certainy did make me snigger a bit. The first half or so of the book reminded me very much of the last ten years of British sit coms, paticulary "The Office" and "Peep Show". I wonder if Lucky Jim was an influence?

As the book wore i did seem to grow a bit tired of it. Certain things about it started to grate on me. Firstly, its a very insular book. It doesnt really concern much beyond post war academic life in provinsial Britian. So its certainly not a book to read if your looking for an expansive epic about the meaning of life. The small mindedness of the book means that women and the working class for example get totally glossed over. The working class only appear in the book as bar maids or taxi drivers and Amis gives no real texture to them. They simply perform there service and move on, ignored by all characters. Women feature alot in the book but are not really given an expression or voice and the main purpose of women in the book is to infuriate Jim. These concerns led me to hate all the characters in the book especially Jim, and see them as nothing more than a bunch of pompous middle class intelectuals not worth wasting my time on. Not a good way to feel about a book.

However the book did somewhat redeem itself in the final chapters. The climax of the book is Jim reading out a lecture to important university dignitaries on English history in the middle ages. This section is a comic masterstoke from Amis. It genuinly is laugh out loud funny and is probably some of the funnest writing i have read. This certainly saves the book from being an utter disaster as far as my reading of it was concerned.

Down and Out in Paris and London (Essential Penguin)
Down and Out in Paris and London (Essential Penguin)
by George Orwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.17

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars George does it so you dont have to, 17 Sep 2007
Despite its subject matter that at times can be harrowing and bleak, down and out is still an entertaining and easy read. The chapters are short and the writing style friendly that makes the book difficult to put down.

Before writing Orwell threw himself right into the heart of poverty in Paris and London. He lived in squalor, went hungry, and let himself be exploited. He worked seventeen hour days as a dishwasher and slept amongst disease ridden people on urine stained sheets in London's workhouses.

He did this all because he wanted to get into the souls of the most destitute people of society. Rather than invent some crazy intellectual theories Orwell instead just talks with people and becomes there friend. He seems to be someone who loves human beings and gets great joy from listening to individuals and watching there behaviour. He sees through the stupidity surrounding society and has affection for the individual at the heart of it all.

However he stays resolutely British, his anger always quiet and sneering, rather than fist pumping and passionate, and he never becomes sentimental or corny in his support of those at the bottom.

You cant help but admire Orwells attitude. Whilst many people talk about poverty from the sidelines, he was determined to understand poverty from the point of view of the people living in it. I myself would not have been able to hack what Orwell put himself through, and would have quit after the first few days. He is strong willed and fearless, thirsty for experience and sees no reason why he shouldn't live in squalor if it means him growing closer to those at the bottom of society.

Sometimes Orwell can use phrases that seem a little bit politically incorrect today, and you can argue that he wasn't entirely genuine because he was never going to be in poverty for the rest of his life, but Down and Out in Paris and London still hits you hard, and is still ahead of its time.

It makes me laugh to think of all the Liberal middle classes of the time reading this book. It would have blown there minds, some would have cheered, and in others it would have incited anger. With me it made me feel guilty for getting depressed about my part time job that I do as a student. I hate the work, but after reading down and out I feel that I should stop whining and get on with it. I'm going to try and work harder rather than skive and do as little as possible.

Although our society has undoubtedly moved on since the 1930's you cant help but see some similarities between then and now. The poor still get exploited in society, by loan companies for example. And our society still seems to hold the view that if you are poor then you must be lazy as well. Orwell blew apart that myth in the 1930's and he is still doing it today, and probably will be for the rest of time. Its just a shame no one seems to be able to catch up with him.

A Farewell To Arms
A Farewell To Arms
by Ernest Hemingway
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: 5.24

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fond Farewell, 30 May 2007
The first thing that hits you about this book is the way it's written. The language is bare and sparce, yet somehow successfully evokes the Italian landscape and places a clear picture inside your head. The book is more than the sum of its parts and seems to effect you almost sublimily. Without realising it i found i was almost halfway through the book and had barely put it down.

The book is set during the first world war in Italy and really conveys the pointlessness and harshness of this war and war in general. Of course i have always assumed war to be an awfull experience, but this book really hammers that home like a nail through the head. What it really conveys is how unorganised and shambolic the war was and how no body really knew what they were doing. The soldiers dont seem to have any paticular special training or skills, and seem to have about as much idea as i would in what to do for the best. The book shows that war is just a crazy backward concept that you can never be prepared for.

As well as the war this book also conveys what it is to be young and in love and having a good time amongst friends. Despite the setting, the war was still gangs of young men together and at times you could almost imagine they were just friends on holiday. Hemmingway shows the soldiers drinking and laughing, finding girs, falling in love, and trying to make sure they dont get killed in the process. It created strong unshakable friendships between people. The war was terrible but the things that happened to the soldiers would certainly give you one hell of an adrenalin rush, and are experiences that we'l probably never get close to.

You dont have to be interested in war to read this book, God knows im not. This is a book about becoming an adult and finding out who you really are in life. You could substitute the war for any turbulant event in life that changes how you think and how you see the world.

Neon Bible
Neon Bible
Price: 6.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bible Bashers, 25 Mar 2007
This review is from: Neon Bible (Audio CD)
Neon Bible opens with what sounds like a rolling cymbal roar, and it's a roar that carries on throughout pretty much the whole album. The Arcade Fires second album is big, epic, and deals with important issues. It means some of the intricacies of songs such as Kettles and Haiti from the first album have been lost and this is a disappointment to me. On Neon Bible you can barely hear any individual instruments. Instead each individual instrument melds together to form one all encompassing giant sound. But I guess the band just wanted to do something different on there second record and I can't begrudge them that. This record is heavy and oppressive; Win Butlers intense presence hangs over it throughout leaving no opportunity for light relief. The booming sound suits the atmosphere of the record, giving the impression of a sermon being delivered on the tip of a mountain during a thunderstorm.

This record sea's the Arcade Fire turn there gaze towards the rest of the world. Many of the lyrics concern the state of America and the war on terror. To be honest sometimes Win Butlers lyrics are sometimes quite poor and resemble sixth form poetry. But it doesn't really matter too much because his voice just becomes another shade of the stomping sound and you can't really understand what he's saying.

Musically perhaps the most obvious influence on the record is Bruce Springsteen. The album is political and the Arcade Fire knows how to right a good fist pumping chorus. However I can also hear the influence of 80's new wave on The Well and The Lighthouse, and Echo and The Bunnymen on Keep the Car Running. The Arcade Fire are really a pretty original band though. This sounds like a record of our times, sound tracking the first decade of the new millennium. Its lyrics concern current issues and on top of this, it's the kind of record that has choruses that everyone can sing along to. I think that the Arcade Fire are the most interesting current band out there right now and may have made the album of 2007.

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