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C. W. Robbins (Spain)
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The Odyssey: Unabridged (Naxos Complete Texts) (Complete Classics)
The Odyssey: Unabridged (Naxos Complete Texts) (Complete Classics)
by Homer
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £35.75

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars is this the only complete version on disc?, 27 July 2011
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I bought this version because it was complete. The best to be said for it is that it is a workmanlike job. But the (new) translation is plodding and inelegant compared to others available (some out of copyright). It's hard to see why Naxos commissioned it. Moreover, Anton Lesser's voice and delivery grate after a time. He has neither an attractive voice nor the skill to use his voice to build impressions of the different personalities.
A brave effort: I wish I could give it more stars.


The Trip [DVD]
The Trip [DVD]
Dvd ~ Steve Coogan
Price: £3.96

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, 14 July 2011
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This review is from: The Trip [DVD] (DVD)
Fact and fiction are so intertwined in this series that it's not worth the viewer's while worrying about which is which. The result is an engaging mix of comic dialogues, splendid camerawork and above all of of Mr Coogan's huge ego.


Paintings in Proust: A Visual Companion to 'In Search of Lost Time'
Paintings in Proust: A Visual Companion to 'In Search of Lost Time'
by Eric Karpeles
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Paintings in Proust, 30 May 2011
Karpeles is well-qualified - as a practising artist and a devoted Proustian - to have undertaken the unprecedented task of assembling references to paintings and painters in Proust's great work. He had a good idea and saw it to publication. (There is, incidentally, a successful French version which is the one I have read, in order to examine Proust's actual texts rather than rely on translations.)
Karpeles sheds new light on Proust's extraordinary novel. His work substantiates his claim in the subtle Introduction that Proust regarded his references to paintings and painters as crucial to the book, not just because they stimulate the reader's visual imagination and evoke emotions and sensations, but also because the ideal - and therefore unreachable - worlds of art correspond to the unattainability of fulfilment in love. The novel of course refers to itself: it too presents an ideal or idealised world as the best paintings do. Proust also wants to show that painters operate unconsciously as well as deliberately: they create images for which words are inadequate. Proust's narrator often says he has no eye for art or for visual description when the opposite is of course the case.
No book is perfect - this one isn't.
(a)I share other reviewers' reservations about the size of certain reproductions (the publishers have not adopted a consistent practice in this regard) and the legibility of some captions. But the book is in other respects well-produced
(b)Karpeles sometimes chooses bizarre examples of the work of an artist mentioned by Proust (would he really have compared Albertine to Rembrandt's Bathsheba?) and does not follow up all the references to all of Proust's allusions either to images in art or to artists.
(c)there is a mystery about "Lebourg and Guillaumin"; Karpeles says nothing about the former but assumes that the latter is the painter Armand Guillaumin, although the text (as other scholars think) seems to be referring to furniture makers not painters
We therefore need a second edition to include better illustrations, a more complete survey of artists, images and paintings, and perhaps references to sculpture (thus entailing a change in the book's English title).
Meanwhile this book is indispensable to keen Proustians.


My Happy Days In Hell (Penguin Modern Classics)
My Happy Days In Hell (Penguin Modern Classics)
by György Faludy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Graphic, moving and very funny, 19 April 2011
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This unclassifiable book is both an autobiography and a novel. Much seems re-imagined from memory but the overall effect is of devastating truthfulness.

Faludi made no attempt in this book to conceal his own enormous ego but it was this, translated into a life force, and his inner strength which got him through the most appalling experiences... and gave him some of his greatest pleasures.


Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry
Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry
by Bernard Williams
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars outstanding as philosophy and as history of philosophy, 19 April 2011
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It would almost be impertinent to point out how good a philosopher Williams was and how brilliantly executed is this book, the fruit of many years' teaching and discussion.

Williams does not dismiss Descartes's "project" or his various arguments out of hand. He makes the best case for them before identifying Descartes's errors and dismembering some of his amazingly sloppy arguments. He depends not on the arguments of other 20th century philosophers to make his points but on his own ingenious perceptions. At the time he was writing, it would have been easy to to write a book ending up with a scorecard "Wittgenstein 10: Descartes 0" but Williams does not need to draw on others in that way.

Williams puts his finger on Descartes's two main problems:
(a) Having doubted the existence of the perceived world (including other people!), Descartes cannot locate a secure argument to justify belief in the physical world; he becomes a prisoner of his consciousness.
(b) His conceptual analysis produced a mathematical matrix for the description of the physical world, including some laws of nature, but Descartes was never able to demonstrate that observed phenomena in nature actually obeyed his laws. He set out a cosmological programme for the new science but it was at such a high level of generality as to be inapplicable to his own observations.

Any serious undergraduate should tussle with the complexities of this excellent book.


Lost and Found in Russia: Encounters in a Deep Heartland
Lost and Found in Russia: Encounters in a Deep Heartland
by Susan Richards
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars disappointing, 19 April 2011
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Richards' book contains a lot of fascinating and revealing material. However, a reader who has not trodden the same path cannot judge how accurate her stories are (other reviews cast some doubt on this). I was struck by the number of conversations reported verbatim, Russian translated into fluent colloquial English. Perhaps the book does include some fictional elements as well as misremembered events. But it seems perceptive, e.g. on the clever guesswork employed by the "faith healer" or the hypocrisy of the Old Believer community.

Why is this reader underwhelmed? Two main reasons: (a)there is far too much about Richards' own feelings and emotions. Readers probably want - instead of the autobiography - to have the portraits of the Russians fleshed out, to see more continuity between the chapters in their lives and thus to get a better feel for each of the main characters. (b) Richards' style is insecure, to say the least: she seems unsure of the meaning of some words (e.g. "tonsure"); she resorts too many clunky metaphors or similes, too many adjectives, too many sentences that don't work (e.g. "The end of his second term in office was drawing to a close"(p. 231)). [Colin Thubron has encouraged Richards, with his usual kindness; but compare his style, his sheer verve, with hers!] Richards acknowledges the help of an editor. She needs a better one to prune and polish what could have been a good book.

Three stars for effort.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 9, 2013 10:18 AM BST


The Memory Chalet
The Memory Chalet
by Tony Judt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars do buy this book!, 24 Feb. 2011
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This review is from: The Memory Chalet (Hardcover)
It is not easy to compile a book of short essays which maintain a high level of quality and authority throughout. The risk is that one or two "feuilletons" will fade into pleonasm (as do those of the popular philosopher Grayling). Judt succeeded where many have not. He never waffles. He is unfailingly interesting.

So I share the other reviewers' enthusiasm for this jewel of a book. Judt was not just a supremely humane, cultured and intelligent man, he also had attitudes which, if emulated by others, would make the world an easier place to live in. For example, his insistence on being rootless, on belonging nowhere but seeing the virtues of many places; and his rejection of patriotism as well as nationalism. He was an affectionate man but also no friend of the knavish politicians who govern us. Faced with death he neither despaired nor tired.

His editors have not served him impeccably. There are one or two repetitions which could be ironed out (eg. references to Atlee and Oxymandias in the same terms), a "whence" which should be a "Whither" and so on.


Seven Types of Ambiguity
Seven Types of Ambiguity
by Elliot Perlman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2.0 out of 5 stars All cake and little fruit, 18 Sept. 2010
There are some very good things in this book: the courtroom scenes and the blackjack tutorial stand out. The reference near the end to "learned helplessness" and the descriptions of insider dealing in the stockbroking firm indicate a fine nose for the way our Western societies are going.

But I agree with the reviewers who find the book (a) too long and repetitive; (b) implausibly all on one note; (c) with a feeble plot depending on coincidences; (d) having characters one dislikes or at least can't sympathise with: Simon is feeble, Joe is a drunken thug, Alex is an ineffective wimp, Angel is a mystery (why does she engage in prostitution?), Anna is confused and heartless, Mitch a borderline case; (e) showing almost no ear for the varied ways in which people speak - with the exception of the Greek grandfather (the New York Times compared Perlman to Dickens and George Eliot!!).


Shakespeare the Thinker
Shakespeare the Thinker
by A D Nuttall
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A clear, committed and enlightening account as far as it goes, 11 Sept. 2010
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I declare an interest: Nuttall was my stimulating tutor at Sussex many years ago. He then revealed a refined interest in philosophical and other non-literary works. He had a superb ear for poetry and prose. And enormous skill as a persistently thorough reader & interpreter of texts

I was expecting this to be a good book which it certainly is. I enjoyed it immensely and learnt a lot about Shakespeare. I am sympathetic to his views of historicism, for which he has been castigated by some reviewers of the book. For me, however, it gets only 4 stars because sometimes Nuttall treats philosophical issues (e.g. theories of truth) in an excessively broad-brush way. He is in command of his material but stops short of philosophical penetration or originality. I hope I'm not being unfair to what is, in sum, an ambitious and largely successful book.


The History of English Poetry (Non-fiction)
The History of English Poetry (Non-fiction)
by Peter Whitfield
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £20.41

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars excellent coverage but wonky judgments, 11 Sept. 2010
These discs cover a great deal of ground, introducing lesser known as well as famous poets. The information about the poets and the manner and object of the transmission of their works is also excellent.

I have two reservations about the set.
(a) I admire Sir D Jacobi, but was he really a good choice for this exercise? He is too much of an actOR [sic] for my taste: he declaims as if at a public gathering whereas one wants a more conversational tone. He reads little of the poetry himself...where he would have shone!
(b) Some of Whitfield's judgments strike me as naïf: for example, he claims that Shakespeare's works reveal his own clear moral or at least normative views. But surely Shakespeare was far too intelligent to tilt his plays in one direction or another: at the very least, Whitfield might have observed that tragedy is in many ways an account of how our attempts to lead a moral and fulfilled life come a cropper. As for the other plays, consider how many of the often conventional justice-is-done endings seem perfunctory and unconvincing. As for Shakespeare's poetic output, I'd believe that scarcely any moral commitment emerges unambiguously from them.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 10, 2015 6:57 AM BST


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