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Christopher H (Keilor, Australia)
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A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists from Bronte to Lessing
A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists from Bronte to Lessing
by Elaine Showalter
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A Foundation Text for Current Criticism, 21 July 2015
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First published in 1978, readers should view this as a foundation text for Feminist Criticism, much later writing having developed, expanded and refined the insights offered here by Dr Showalter. Many novels and short stories (not poetry) are discussed in a work that covers so many English writers, not just the noted names. However, the enduring strength of this study is Dr Showalter's precise analyses of:

- the critical response to fiction written by Women (too often death by a thousand chauvinist cuts);
- historical debates over what constitutes Women's "experience";
- the problematic value of sentimental escapism;
- themes in suffragette and activist fiction;
- authors' experiments in devising prose that equates with a Woman's "voice";
- and Showalter's lengthy discussions of who she presents as, sequentially, the key shapers in an English feminist tradition: 1. Charlotte Bronte, 2. George Eliot, 3. Olive Schreiner, 4. Dorothy Richardson, 5. Virginia Woolf, 6. Margaret Drabble and 7. Doris Lessing.


Young Adolf
Young Adolf
by Beryl Bainbridge
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mocking the Devil, 11 July 2015
This review is from: Young Adolf (Paperback)
Imagine a Keystone Cops-style tale, travelling at a zany high speed, where the central character was a young, bewildered, rather dim Adolf Hitler. Imagine him arriving in Liverpool during 1912, not comprehending the language, using a false passport (& so fearful of being picked up by the authorities), and going to live in a drab cold slum. Imagine him conversing intently with a Jewish neighbour from downstairs - the only person who befriends and likes young Adolf. Imagine him working as a bell hop in a posh hotel, trying to cadge tips from crooked French businessmen; or imagine Adolf running in sheer panic around darkened backstreets and alleyways thinking he is in some sort of anarchist conspiracy (although the truth, when it emerges, couldn't be so different). Imagine him disguised in women's clothes, and being groped by a randy older man.

Its a very funny tale, with lashings of Charlie Chaplin mania mixed in to spice up the comedy. Not quite at the same hilarious level as The Bottle Factory Outing, but a perfect vehicle to mock.


Making Waves: New Cinemas of the 1960s
Making Waves: New Cinemas of the 1960s
by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.40

5.0 out of 5 stars A book for film buffs - the best introduction to its subject, 25 Jun. 2015
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This is a book for the film buff and committed kinophile. While it is not dense and jargon-loaded, the issues explored in it are complex and of specialised interest. Nor is this to be approached as film dictionary - if over a hundred films are discussed, the book does not give rundowns of plots and cast members. (It also avoids Hollywood, movie trivia, and gossip about "stars".)

Having made those qualifications, Nowell-Smith has written a very impressive study that surely rates it as one of the best books in English on the transformation that overwhelmed cinema during the 1950s and 60s. It is organised into 4 overarching sections (each divided into further chapters): the situation in the 1950s; the new cinemas of the 1960s; national movements; and, last, four defining 1960s auteurs (Godard, Antonioni, Pasolini, Oshima).

The book has especial value for those who have seen a LOT of 1950s and 60s non-American films. Nowell-Smith plots out structures that contextualise what you have seen in various ways: national genres, stylistic concerns, attitudes to plot, political stances, effects of censorship, technological changes (new cameras, sound, film processes). Aspects of this one may already be familiar with, but the great advantage of this book is that so many different contexts are condensed into a well-organised book.

For instance, the discussion of documentary film in 1950s France is marvel of concision, and precisely conveys what the French meant by "cinema verite" (a term some authors muddle). Especially recommended is Chapter 8 which explains how Narrative was completely reconfigured by innovative directors in the 1960s. This is the most clear, direct introduction to that knotty subject I have encountered and it uses a superb set of examples to explain the points!!!

Frankly, this is a terrific book: the best introduction to its subject I have read.


Gothic Short Stories (Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural)
Gothic Short Stories (Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural)
by David Blair
Edition: Paperback
Price: £2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Classic spooky read for a dark night - and its such a bargain price, 21 Jun. 2015
All the dark themes are well covered in this quality historical anthology: early tales of Vampires, Ghosts, Werewolves, Spectral creatures, Damned souls, Demonic suitors, Vulnerable maidens, Haunted rooms, and more. The selection of tales is nicely balanced and they are all highly readable. Indeed, some historical stories seem more imaginative than 20th century schlock-and-horror: for example, one absorbing gothic tale involves an evil portrait that leaves blood on the hands of any people who lift it, and which also keeps returning overnight to the wall it was removed from. Very simple idea, yet it is adroitly handled in an edge-of-your-seat manner.

This is just the entertaining book to take on holidays. Better still, save these stories for a dark lonely winter's night!!!


Egon Schiele Landscapes
Egon Schiele Landscapes
by Rudolf Leopold
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.48

4.0 out of 5 stars Striking pictures - but book needs a better introduction, 18 Jun. 2015
The illustrations are the undoubted strength of this superb book. It reproduces much of Schiele's landscape production in colour; indeed, nearly all of the works are accompanied by reference photographs showing the exact scene depicted. In this the author performs a valuable service to his readers: one can cross-check between scene and final composition, assessing how Schiele adapted and processed the motif to transform it into art.

What this otherwise fine book lacks - and does need - is an introductory discussion of Schiele's ideas about how the landscape was to be represented, showing how these views influenced the design of his striking pictures. The textual notes accompanying each work are slender, and remain narrowly descriptive, so they do not explain much. (I had to use Wolfgang Fischer's Schiele to learn what the artist set out to do with his landscapes.) The need for an illuminating and analytical introduction is why I give the book 4½ stars.


Invasion of the Body Snatchers (BFI Film Classics)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (BFI Film Classics)
by Professor Barry Keith Grant
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Underwhelming - Doesn't do the film justice, 10 Jun. 2015
Readers be careful - those expecting a lively read might be underwhelmed by this bare bones discussion. The film is poorly served by a short essay which tends to plod, stating the obvious about the plot. The usual points about Cold War symbolism are aired, but the book doesn't offer new insights or fresh ideas. Most disappointing is the lack of any effort to analyse the visual style of this influential film. Nor does the author discuss assorted changes made when the novel was adapted to a screenplay.

This is just not one expects of an analysis of a definitive, sometimes edge-of-your-seat early Sci Fi thriller. (Not up to BFI's usual standard.)


Night and the City (BFI Film Classics)
Night and the City (BFI Film Classics)
by Andrew Pulver
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A six star introduction!!!!, 10 Jun. 2015
Pulver is a superb writer. He shapes an evocative, stimulating discussion of a near forgotten example of Brit film-noir, Jules Dassin's Night And The City (1950). The first part of this book explains how the movie came to be made, and what brought the Hollywood director and lead actors to shoot it in London. Pulver also fills in the back story of Gerald Kersh's pre-war Soho crime novel Night and the City (1938), sorting out where the movie follows the original plot and where it diverges, as well as how Richard Wydmark chose to act the lead role.

Pulver then summarises the critical reception in Britain and abroad. Then he shifts to consider how the film stands within film noir, explaining why material from the movie were used by French critics to define the movement stylistically. His explanation of visual style here is most enlightening. Especially impressive is Pulver's own photo-essay section at the end of the book's second chapter, and where he analyses 34 separate stills to show how the film operates visually - it deserves an award for critical writing!

The final part of Pulver's study fills in the original novel's context. He gives a thumbnail history of organised crime within Soho during the 1920s, 30s and 40s; then the discussion moves to the topic of London-focussed lowlife fiction during the same period, including the key novels There Ain't No Justice, They Drive by Night, Brighton Rock, and Wide Boys Never Work. Along the way fascinating gems of information appear on the subject of spivs (Harry Lime in The Third Man was meant to be a spiv), and changed community attitudes to crime during the War years.

This is one of the best single film introductions published by BFI. At moments reading it is better than watching the film - because its such a capably structured and entertaining analysis.


The Best of Doisneau: Paris
The Best of Doisneau: Paris
by Robert Doisneau
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A delight to browse through, 19 May 2015
This is certainly the better of several small surveys of Robert Doisneau's photographs. Its nearly 3cm wider and 2.5cm taller than Taschen's pocket-sized book (Doisneau (Taschen Icons)), and that size really does count; besides, Flammarion's overall quality of reproduction is superior to the others (the range of tones is accurate).

Having made that point, there is an overlap of around 20 photographs with other small survey, which means that many lesser known images are included here. And there are a couple of alternate versions: the portraits of Simone de Beauvoir and Orson Welles come from the same shoot as the most publicised images, but these are different shots (in Welles's case an entirely different composition). Some of Doisneau's most celebrated photographs have been cropped differently to the familiar version. "Bastille Day, Rues des Canettes" (1949) is barely recognisable, however this is the best crop of "Coco" (1952). If I give this book 4½ stars, it is because the choice under-represents the warm-humoured aspect of a photographer who often drew one's attention to the comic side of life in Parisian street.

There is no clear organisation to the selection, and the book lacks an explanatory essay. The text consists of several short statements/comments by the photographer, slipped among the pictures, which do work well. Plus, of course, a quick biography at the end.


The Twilight of the Intellectuals: Culture And Politics In The Era Of The Cold War
The Twilight of the Intellectuals: Culture And Politics In The Era Of The Cold War
by Hilton Kramer
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars When Greenwich Village railed against Stalinism, 13 May 2015
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When Kramer says "intellectuals", he means New York's intellectual left a-la-Greenwich Village during the 1940s and 50s; while his book is an anthology of reflective essays and book reviews looking back on the issues and personalities. These accumulate into an impressive, thought provoking read that brings to life what were urgent issues in the intellectual circles associated with "Partisan Review" and "The New Republic" during the early stages of Cold War.

The chief issue Kramer keeps addressing is the plight of the anti-Stalinist Left which found itself accused of conservatism by the mainstream Left. The key figures are all discussed here: Lionel and Diana Trilling, Mary McCarthy, Edmund Wilson, Whittaker Chambers, Dwight Macdonald, Sidney Hook, Saul Bellow, Clement Greenberg, Meyer Shapiro, with many references to the Philip Rahv coterie. And their key London counterparts also are examined: Cyril Connolly, George Orwell, Arthur Koestler, Kenneth Tynan (plus a piece on Sartre).

Its an illuminating read. A comparison needs to be with William Barrett's memoir of this same intellectual scene The Truants: Adventures Among the Intellectuals, and Kramer's book cogently interweaves with that marvellous work.

This is a book I have had out of the public library a couple of times over several years, and have now purchased my own copy because I find it so stimulating.


The truants: Adventures among the intellectuals
The truants: Adventures among the intellectuals
by William Barrett
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars An eyewitness among New York's 1940s intellectuals, 1 May 2015
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Soon after being demobbed, Barrett found himself living in New York's Greenwich Village and appointed an associate editor of "Partisan Review" magazine, the lively defender of modernist culture and progressive ideas. "The Truants" is his personal reminiscence of this experience, giving his insider's view of New York intellectuals engaging in a virtual non-stop chat show mixing gossip and gags with ideas and political disputes against the early phase of the Cold War.

This lively, engagingly written book makes for compulsive reading, not the least due to Barrett's extended verbal portraits-cum-discussions of key figures on the literary, political and artistic scenes. While a large host of personalities and cultural icons appear on these pages, those examined and portrayed in depth include: Hannah Arendt, Simone Beauvoir, John Berryman, Jack Burnham, Albert Camus, Clement Greenberg, Paul Goodman, Randall Jarrell, Willem de Kooning, Mary McCarthy, Dwight MacDonald, William Phillips, Philip Rahv, Meyer Schapiro, Delmore Schwartz, Lionel Trilling, & Edmund Wilson.

All roads lead haltingly to literature in this book, but there is a marvellous thick chapter on the abstract expressionists. And the overriding political thread is a struggle within New York's intellectual Left between those who opposed, and those who supported Stalin. Its also fascinating to see how "Partisan Review" predicted the Cold War, while rival journals such as "The New Yorker", "The New Republic", "Nation" and "Politics" continued to spruik for Russia right up until the Iron Curtain slammed down.

This should be an essential read for anyone trying to get to grips with the troubled story of the American left at mid-century. (It makes a lively contrast with the world of English small magazines at the time, as explicated in Michael Shelden's Friends of Promise: Cyril Connolly and the World of Horizon.)


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