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emma who reads a lot (London)
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Georgie and Elsa: Jorge Luis Borges and His Wife: The Untold Story
Georgie and Elsa: Jorge Luis Borges and His Wife: The Untold Story
by Norman Thomas di Giovanni
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading for any fan of Borges... or Nabokov's Pale Fire..., 13 Sep 2014
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Readers who discover Borges find one of literature's most bizarre originals: an extraordinary, blind, Buenos Aires eccentric with an astonishing imagination, who produced some of the great works of the twentieth century, and whose dealings with the real world were often childlike, or bitchy, or just plain innocent. Yet there is no obviously good biography of him, and he left little autobiographical writing.

Hence the interest in this book. The writer, Norman Thomas di Giovanni, was a translator who started working with Borges in the late sixties/early seventies and it was he who helped the septuagenarian author reach the English-language market for the first time. He also appeared on the scene about the same time that Borges got married for the first time, an event almost inexplicable when you know more about the writer, who was extremely set in his ways and who loved to engage in very over-romanticised attachments. The book focuses on the marriage, and its ending, as the subtitle shows.

Di Giovanni practically lived with the couple as they both faced up to their own weird choice - she was a rather glamorous woman (the book has wonderful photos) with a twenty year old son who NTdG obviously greatly disliked. (NTDG does NOT go into his recent dispute with the Borges estate, which some have alleged is the cause of this book being written.) But no intelligent reader will conclude from this that they are reading 'the truth' about the marriage, or the man, and the assumption in some reviews that somehow, a heavily biased portrait is of less use to a reader, I found a bit annoying. To be honest I often find it EASIER to read biographical material that's grossly weighted in favour of one particular opinion as I can 'edit it' mentally, the assumptions behind it being clear.

It certainly does not make it less interesting. And I found it in many places reminiscent of one of my favourite books, Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire, a very sinister account of a great writer and his literary admirer :-) The TLS in particular was a bit hard on the book: "several urinary accidents are reported in ghastly detail", their reviewer wrote, I think squeamishly. To be honest, I found these very funny and touching, for Borges was unable (or unwilling?) to go to the loo without Di Giovanni's help, and the results were occasionally not good. I find it intriguing that at least two reviewers seem to have felt Borges wetting himself to be beyond the pale as reportage, but when I think of the detailed personal stuff that gets revealed by ANY biography, i don't see why wee should be so exceptional. You get a sense of a real person, for whom the real world was utterly frustrating and a bit disappointing, and that seemed to make beautiful sense to me. And lovely descriptions of the library where Borges was head honcho - worth reading just for them.


Richard Strauss (20th-Century Composers)
Richard Strauss (20th-Century Composers)
by Tim Ashley
Edition: Paperback

1.0 out of 5 stars AMAZON! THESE ARE TWO SEPARATE BOOKS!!, 7 Sep 2014
these are two separate books! one by Boyden and one by Tim Ashley. Can you seperate the two ISBNS so i can order Tim Ashley?? At the moment, it clicks through to Boyden's book. Also some of the reviews are for one book, some for the other


Salome: Wiener Philharmoniker (Bohm) [DVD] [2007] [NTSC]
Salome: Wiener Philharmoniker (Bohm) [DVD] [2007] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Teresa Stratas
Price: £14.10

5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing, 7 Sep 2014
This is a really beautiful account of Strauss's opera, and I'd just like to thank Amazon reviewers who highlighted its idiosyncratic qualities. This is not an opera house recording, this is a directed film, with an extraordinary central performance by Teresa Stratas. It is also MIMED, which I would not have been expecting without other reviewers pointing it out, so I am really grateful that I knew what I was getting. I have to say that this did not in any way interfere with my utter enjoyment of the DVD, but for some people I would so it's good to point it out. It certainly has touches of the 1970s - Salome's headpiece is very Blake's Seven - and the secondary singers are much less convincing than in some other productions - for example, for me, Bryn Terfel in the Covent Garden DVD is better as St John, getting across a real sense of a religious visionary. But worth watching, worth buying, for Stratas alone, who is simply sublime.


The Children Act
The Children Act
by Ian McEwan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.79

27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hallucinatory but strangely cool, 2 Sep 2014
This review is from: The Children Act (Hardcover)
The Children Act, with its odd, cagey title and cool, unforthcoming cover, seems to be doing its best to be unseductive... but start reading, and within a page McEwan's intense, detailed prose summons up the world in which we live, inches from our noses. His fictional London is so particularly drawn - corridors, staircases, kitchens, courtrooms - that it's sometimes difficult to recall that it's not actually real.

What then of the story? Fiona May is a judge, married but without children, nearing her sixtieth birthday. She specialises in family law, cases which involve children and parents: divorces, adoptions, painful territory. In the opening scene, she is in her study, trying to write a very difficult judgement, when her husband comes in to announce - very shockingly - that he wants to have one last affair before he's past it, and that he already has just the person in mind.

We then follow Fiona May at work, making extraordinary judgements about life and death - particularly in the one case that we follow through the whole book - whilst also seeing her try to deal with the bombshell in her private life. At work she must rule on a decision that affects a young man just under the age of adulthood - he is seventeen and nine months I think - and they get emotionally bound together by her judgement in a way that is fascinating, and which has echoes back to Enduring Love and other McEwan books about the strange bonds that can develop between people in odd situations.

However, the book - or perhaps I should say Fiona May's character - is so restrained that I could never quite get to the point of being enchanted by it. Or even really annoyed by it (I'm thinking of Atonement there....). It is almost hallucinatory in its ability to conjure up a world, and I am really glad if there are real people in the world this cool-headed and professional making judgements on these most personal of legal issues - but for me, it just didn't quiiiiite do it. I have hummed and ha-ed between four and five stars: four is churlish, but five seems too much. Imagine an invisible half...


Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love
Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love
by James Booth
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.00

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptionally good, 31 Aug 2014
Rarely does a biography have the flowing impetus of a novel, where you find yourself longing to get back to it, daydreaming through work about finding out 'what happens next'. It's obvious why that is - mostly, you already know a life's ending... But James Booth's biography of Larkin seems in several ways to me to be a major achievement. Firstly, it's enormously generous, about a man who has definitely been subject to most of the central twentieth century accusations (racist, misogynist, pervert, Thatcherite, imperialist, even Nazi - see the detailed discussion of Sidney Larkin's mantelpiece ornaments...).

Booth is determined to retell Larkin's story as that of a kindly boss, encouraging his female staff to sit exams and get qualifications (as well as sometimes admiring their figures and vicariously enjoying their love affairs) a warm friend, and a devoted if utterly confused son and lover to Monica, his main lifetime companion. But at the same time as arguing for the good in Larkin, he never deceives the reader as to the vacillation, the desire for solitude, the duplicity, which the man possessed. (And even where you completely disagree with his conclusions, failing to damn Larkin for what I can only see as racism, for example, he provides enough quotes for you to make your own mind up, which I did.)

This is also a biography fundamentally centred on the poetry, and if you don't have a copy of the poems I'd order one because there are pages and pages of good detailed analysis. Both weigh in together at just under 1.5kilos, so it's a commitment to read it on the tube... and yet I did make that commitment and was glad every time.

Most of all, as well as seeming fair, interesting, balanced and knowledgable, it's an enjoyable read - with just the right level of detail. Larkin dyed his own socks mauve! He said the influence of Yeats was 'as pervasive as garlic'! Brill.There's even two examples from Larkin's pornography collection, which are both utterly tame and also at the same time, extraordinarily evocative of a time and place now vanished...

If you have ever enjoyed his poetry, I really highly recommend this book. Illuminating and also fun, what more could you ask for? (Except for it to be slightly lighter in weight?)
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 19, 2014 6:33 PM BST


Lego 70013 Chima - Equila's Ultra striker
Lego 70013 Chima - Equila's Ultra striker
Offered by Abe Deals UK
Price: £34.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Equila's Striker is a killer, 26 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Very enjoyable. I love the big caterpillar track vehicles, even though it's not like they're THAT reusable in other models once taken apart. Again, my son is only little and he had no trouble getting it all together - the step-by-step instructions these days are so clear that he can almost do it completely on his own. And a great looking, very solid vehicle once finished. Has stayed together a lot longer than some of the planes, which are all quite fragile....


LEGO: Legends of Chima - DVD 4 (DVD) (FSK 6)
LEGO: Legends of Chima - DVD 4 (DVD) (FSK 6)
Offered by wmdservices
Price: £14.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Catch up with Chima, 26 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a German DVD but contains English language option so you can watch some of the episodes from series 1 NOT yet released on UK DVD to your heart's content. The structure isn't quite the same as the UK DVDs - this runs from episode 12 to episode 16 inclusive, and the UK dvd finished with 10 so we had to miss one, but that's not the DVD's fault. Anyway, just to reassure any parents of desperate Chima fans currently watching episodes in Russian on youtube that there is another option


LEGO Legends of Chima 70142: Eris' Fire Eagle Flyer
LEGO Legends of Chima 70142: Eris' Fire Eagle Flyer
Price: £19.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good value and great playability, 26 Aug 2014
Loved this. Eris a favourite in our house, and it's just a nice neat design, great bird head, fun weapons... I could slightly live without the claws and feathers which inevitably fall off right in the middle of the game, but Eris is an Eagle and they're sort of necessary. V clear and easy to make instructions, my four and a half year old did almost the whole thing on his own. And quite a big solid thing at the end for only twenty quid, which isn't something I ALWAYS say at the end of a box of Lego....


LEGO Legends of Chima 70144: Laval's Fire Lion
LEGO Legends of Chima 70144: Laval's Fire Lion
Price: £31.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fire Lion exposes weaknesses in maker's Lego skills which other Chima may not reveal, 26 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
First things first: we love Chima in our house. But second: this one is particularly hard. Tricky little manoeuvres reminiscent of old-fashioned Technic Lego, and my god, I think I've done about 14 rebuilds of little bits my son had missed from the instructions. I know it says 8-14 on the box, but seriously, Lego Chima appeals to infant school children, and this was way the hardest one we've built. AND WE'VE STILL got problems with the caterpillar tracks. So, lots of functionality, humour in the jaw-dropping (literally) lion head, but seriously, there is a massive skills-gap between Who Chima Appeals To and Who Could Actually Build This. And I HATE whoever invited the caterpillar tracks because I've taken it apart three times and I still can't see what's going wrong, and yet, it IS going wrong.


Dear Committee Members
Dear Committee Members
Price: £3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Made my eyes water I laughed so much, 23 Aug 2014
It's not often you read a REALLY funny book. Book reviewers will say something was 'side-splitting' or 'laugh out loud' and actually it just had about three really good jokes in it. This however, is the real deal. I don't want to oversell this book, but it's freaking hliarious.

And ALSO it's just so clever... The whole book is formed of letters - and not just any letters - those stupid letters of recommendation you have to get from your old university tutor for your next course / job application. The book's central character Jay, is a creative writing teacher, and through the series of recommendations he must write for other people, you find out about his story and that of people around him. His championing of his pet student, who cannot get funding, his disastrous exes (theres a Reply-All catastrophe he alludes to occasionally which we can all sympathise with...) the students who will only write about zombies and murder... How Schumacher managed to tell a story at all through these short disparate pieces is a technical marvel - how she made it so funny must just be down to her being, well, excellent.

I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys funny literary novels such as When We Came to the End, or Confederacy of Dunces; anyone who likes a quirky literary conceit; anyone who's done a creative writing course; and generally anyone who finds office politics a bit frustrating but can sort of see the hilarious side.... God, I'm buying copies for loads of people as soon as it's an actual book.

SO enjoyable, please try it...


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