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Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Geometry (Penguin science)
Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Geometry (Penguin science)
by David Wells
Edition: Paperback
Price: 12.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shape Up, 17 Dec 2003
A fascinating book that has something for anyone with an interest in geometry, whether they're still at school or just completing a PhD in mathematics. Mathematics is probably the closest human beings come to touching eternity, and geometrical discoveries made by the Babylonians or Greeks thousands of years ago are as valid and beautiful today as they were on the day they were made. You can find those discoveries here with work by modern geometricians, but Wells doesn't forget the special appeal geometry has for the eye and the aesthetic sense: there are also a lot of beautiful and sometimes mind-twisting diagrams.


The Future Is the Medium
The Future Is the Medium
Price: 7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Punk as Funk, 28 Aug 2002
Catchy as pop, but louder, and loud as metal, but catchier, Compulsion deserve to be much better known than they are. Much, much better. If I hadn't picked up a cassette of this album by chance I still wouldn't know about them, but I suppose I picked it up because it looked interesting: I couldn't categorize it then and I can't categorize it now. They're subtle and sometimes sly but there's a sledgehammer side to them too. They're also one of the few bands whose names actually apply to what they do: their music IS compulsive and I can only wonder that it hasn't compelled more people into buying, listening, and spreading the good news. I'm not actually asking where this band had been all my life, but I'm glad they come into it and you might be too.


Grace: The Secret Lives of a Princess (Thorndike Press Large Print Basic Series)
Grace: The Secret Lives of a Princess (Thorndike Press Large Print Basic Series)
by James Spada
Edition: Hardcover

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Monaco's Ice-Maiden, 19 Aug 2002
This is the book that destroyed the myth of Grace Kelly as the flawless ice-maiden whose beauty, poise, and elegance were for display only, not for touching, and even now many of her fans refuse to accept what Spada's research is supposed to have uncovered about her.
They're almost certainly wrong: it seems pretty certain that she had affairs with Bing Crosby, Gary Cooper, and William Holden, among the still famous actors of her day, as well as with other men who weren't famous then and are not famous now. But Spada is careful to emphasize that she wasn't promiscuous: she had affairs because she fell in love with the men first, and if she fell in love easily that probably had a lot to do with her love-starved childhood, in a family whose head, a self-made millionaire called Jack Kelly, never gave her the attention or the praise she longed for.
Spada reads GK's whole life as an attempt to heal the psychological wounds she suffered in her childhood: she went into films because she wanted to become a star, and she wanted to become a star to make her father proud of her. When that didn't work, she left films and married Prince Rainier of Monaco to become another kind of star, again to make her father proud of her. Again it didn't work, and Spada says that she was deeply unhappy in Monaco, where she was isolated and friendless, never comfortable speaking French, and taking a long time to win the trust and affection of her subjects.
In later years, after the death of her father, new troubles came to her from her children, who rebelled against the very care and attention she had devoted to their upbringing, and there were rumors that her marriage to Rainier had become hollow at the time of her death in what was the most famous royal death of the twentieth century, until the death of someone who had attended her funeral in 1982.
That someone was Princess Diana, of course, and the way they died is not the only link between the two women, for GK was the Diana of her day, married live on international television and afterwards pursued relentlessly by photographers and journalists to satisfy the endless, and some said, undeserved interest of newspapers and magazines all around the world. But GK, in the relatively few films she acted in before her marriage, had actually achieved greatness, and had not, like Diana, had it thrust upon her. Her later attempts to return to her career in films -- Hitchcock offered her the leading female part in Marnie, for example -- were frustrated by her husband, who wanted her to do what he had married her to do: serve as the Princess of Monaco and help fill Monaco's coffers with the dollars of the tourists who flocked to the principality in ever-increasing numbers after her wedding.
Spada suggests that the marriage was possibly a cynical one motivated more by the weakened finances of Monaco and the need for an heir than genuine attraction between Rainier and GK. I hope it wasn't so, because GK doesn't seem to have ever been very happy for very long and her life, like Diana's, was never the fairy-tale many liked to picture it as. Unless the fairy-tale had been written by the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson, of course, who did not always provide a happy ending.
In the end, however, comparisons between GK and Diana fail, because GK was more beautiful, more talented, and probably more truly concerned for others. Her films stand as testament to the first two of those facts, and biographies like Spada's to the third. Read this if you're a fan who wants to know more about the lady away from the lens, but expect to be saddened by it. Grace Kelly had grace in abundance all her life, but she never achieved the happiness I and many of her other fans think she deserved.


The Devil Drives: A Life of Sir Richard Burton (Biography & Memoirs)
The Devil Drives: A Life of Sir Richard Burton (Biography & Memoirs)
by Fawn M. Brodie
Edition: Paperback

56 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Led by Lucifer, 19 Aug 2002
Biography and autobiography are supposed to be two different things. In one, you're writing about someone else; in the other, you're writing about yourself. In fact, I think they're far closer than is usually recognized and many, perhaps most biographers are really writing about themselves under the guise of writing about someone else. I don't think such identification between subject and self could make for an objective or well-rounded portrait of the subject, which means that the best biographies will probably tend to be written by people who DON'T identify so closely with their subjects. Indeed, don't identify with their subjects at all.
Though in that case the biographer would probably never get to work at all, and there is probably a happy medium. If there is, this book undoubtedly strikes it, and it may be one of the very best biographies ever written. It's certainly the best I've ever read - and re-read, because it truly is a life, all the way from Burton's childhood in France to his death of pleurisy at the age of 69, and the literary horrors that followed. Say "Richard Burton" today, of course, and you're likely to find that people think first, and often only, of the Welsh actor: the first Burton has succumbed to the same partial oblivion as the first Dylan, the first Tom Jones, and the first band named after an insect (the Beatles were named in homage of Buddy Holly's backing-band, the Crickets).
But the first Richard Burton is far more interesting than the second, which is saying a lot. There were many great scholars and great explorers in the nineteenth century, but very few men could claim membership of both groups. Burton could, joining the first by his astonishing ability to master languages and translate from them, and the second by his arduous and often extremely dangerous expeditions in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. He is still famous for being one of the first Europeans to reach the Muslim holy city of Mecca, for example, and despite being under the threat of instant lynching if his disguise was ever penetrated, he retained sufficient *sang-froid* on his arrival to make a secret sketch of the Ka'aba, or the sacred meteoric stone that is the culmination of the Hajj.
Brodie describes this expedition, and the others to places like the Brazilian jungle and the fabled African city of Harar, in vivid and often moving detail, and even the most blasé 21st-century traveller is in no danger of underestimating the skill, effort, and courage Burton required to reach places that today are often no more than a few hours away by plane. Burton very nearly died on two of his expeditions to Africa, for example, once nearly being killed in an attack on his camp and once nearly succumbing to fever. That attack of fever explains why he never won what he richly deserved, the credit of being the first man to discover the source of the Nile: he was prostrate recovering from it when his companion Speke set out alone and triumphed, though there was controversy for some years to come about whether Speke had actually reached the true source.
And in its sketches of figures like Speke, a hunting fanatic with an odd fetish for shooting pregnant animals, that the book becomes even more valuable than it already is as a record of an extraordinary man and his life and work. Brodie sets Burton in his age, and shows how out of place he was in it. A freethinker in a society dominated and controlled by religion, and a pioneering sexologist at a time when writers could be fined for publishing books on contraception, he was never at home in Britain and never at home out of it, which explains much of the restless spirit and energy that drove him endlessly on, physically in his youth, and scholastically in his middle and old age, when he translated and published such works as *The Arabian Nights* and the *Kama Sutra*.
Though he took the precaution of doing so under a pseudonym, and using a fictitious publishing house in the sacred Indian city of Benares. He need not have worried: this work, which one reviewer condemned as fit only for the gutter, made him rich, and he had the satisfaction of seeing the miserable failure of an expurgated version of his Arabian Nights published by his devoutly Catholic wife Isabel. Brodie's portrait of Isabel, as unsuited in psychology and intellect to her husband as he seemingly was to her, is another valuable part of the book, and sets the stage well for the final act, when Isabel, in one of the greatest acts of literary vandalism ever performed, conducted a holocaust of her husband's papers and notes after his death.
That loss is irrevocable, but Isabel justified herself, and tried to deflect the criticism she rightly attracted, by saying that it was what her husband would have wanted. But then, as Brodie demonstrates, Isabel had identified with her husband for so long that she was incapable of distinguishing her desires from his own when he was no longer there to contradict her. Richard's triumphs in life were Isabel's, and Isabel's hatred of pornography became Richard's in death. It's another illustration of the identification of self with subject that mars so many biographies and that helps, by its absence, to make this one so rewarding. Although she doesn't explicitly say so, Brodie seems to have come across Burton because of his visit to the Mormon capital Salt Lake City and his subsequent writing on the subject. Brodie, though later excommunicated, was born a Mormon and presumably came across Burton's book on Mormonism during her study of the religion's early history. Some spark was struck and this book was the result. It was a chance as happy as I think you will be if you ever read it.


Selected Poems (Fyfield Books)
Selected Poems (Fyfield Books)
by Algernon Charles Swinburne
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.09

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Golden Reed, 19 Aug 2002
Some artists are best compared to birds: they create their art instinctively, almost - or even entirely - without conscious will and intellectual effort. In music, Mozart is probably the most prominent of these avian analogs; in poetry, Swinburne probably is. Tennyson called him a "reed through which all things blow into music", and although that is unfair it does not fall so very far wide of the mark. Nor, in probably the best essay ever written on his work, does A.E. Housman's crude and bathetic comparison of him to a "sausage machine".
Because Swinburne's poetry CAN be called facile. Or fluent. It flows sweetly and smoothly for the most part, though occasionally whirling into rapids of passion or indignation. Despite the claims of some academics, it is informed by serious and considered beliefs - his opposition to Christianity, for example - but whether or not those beliefs chime with your own you should be moved by its beauty and technical perfection...
"The Garden of Proserpina", might stand as a paradigm of his technique: his love of alliteration and his unfailing facility with rhyme... you should sample more of his work in this collection, edited and annotated by L.M. Findlay and published by Carcanet of Manchester. It contains all of his most famous (and best) poems: his forsaken *cri de cœur* "The Triumph of Time"; the subtle, complex, and disturbing Sapphic autograph "Anactoria"; the brief but beautiful "Garden of Proserpina"; the sado-masochistic hymn "Dolores"; the melancholic and paradoxical "A Forsaken Garden"; and more. Even those most reluctant to use that much-abused term "genius" should be happy to agree that it can be used of Swinburne, and that it is unjust for him to be better known today for his extra-curricular sexual activities than for his verse.


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