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jacr100 "jacr100" (UK)
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Epson Perfection V370 Photo 4800 dpi scanner with ReadyScan LED technology - slides, film and negatives
Epson Perfection V370 Photo 4800 dpi scanner with ReadyScan LED technology - slides, film and negatives
Price: £89.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Fine quality but problems with software, 7 April 2014
It didn't work when I hooked it up to my iMac. I tried an online community which helped a bit but it was still not fully functional. Then I contacted Epson and they explained that I needed to download some special software as my Mac was running on the latest Mavericks operating system. It would have helped if this had been explained on the Amazon web-page.

I've not yet had a chance to use it a lot, but the main reason I bought it was to transfer slides into digital format, which it does very well so I'm happy.


The Plain in Flames (Joe R. and Teresa Lozana Long Series in Latin American and Latino Art and Culture)
The Plain in Flames (Joe R. and Teresa Lozana Long Series in Latin American and Latino Art and Culture)
by Juan Rulfo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent, 29 July 2013
Juan Rulfo wrote only two works, both classics of Mexican literature: the haunting and unforgettable Pedro Paramo, and this collection of short stories, translated here as The Plain in Flames. For anyone who is an enthusiast of the short story form, this is a huge treat. Rulfo was very much a perfectionist and his mesmerizing style is all the more powerful for his ability to reduce a story to its essence: always sparse on dialogue, he lets characters talk through what they don't say (as Susan Sontag said, he is "a man of many silences"). His descriptions of the harsh Mexican landscape, and a harsher Mexican life under grinding poverty, are always original, evocative and carefully restrained.

Some of the short stories here are among the best I've read: they are, as the translator states in the foreword, "astonishing examples of artistic distillation". Three in particular are exceptional: the almost impossibly concise and tragic "It's Because We're So Poor"; the twistingly inevitable "Tell Them Not to Kill Me!" (which surely influenced Marquez's Chronicle of a Death Foretold) and the surreal and memorable "Luvina" - whose eponymous town feels in many ways like the otherwordly setting of Comala in Pedro Paramo.

A couple of stories among the 17 are notably weaker ("Paso del Norte" and "The Day of the Collapse") but the overall collection is as strong as any I can recall from a single author. If only, if only Rulfo had written a little more in his lifetime. I leave it to Marquez, whose influence by Rulfo was significant, to echo my thoughts:

"Juan Rulfo didn't write more than 300 pages, but they are almost as many, and, I believe, as durable as those we're acquainted with from Sophocles."


Lands of Memory (New Directions Paperbook)
Lands of Memory (New Directions Paperbook)
by Felisberto Hernandez
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent in parts, boring in others, 29 July 2013
If you come across a previously unknown book,one that has declarations of love on the jacket from some of your favourite authors - then I urge you to not get more than a trifle excited. Upon picking up 'Lands of Memory' by the little-known Felisberto Hernandez I was suitably seduced by the outpouring of affection from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Julio Cortazar and Italo Calvino - how could this be anything less than a classic?

'Lands of Memory' is a collection of four short stories and two novellas. There is minimal overlap in terms of character or plot but truth be told they could all form a singular part of a post-modernist latter-day novel, as the similarities are compulsive, albeit far enough apart to affect a strange dream-like existence (you could compare it to 'The Pale King' by David Foster Wallace) that hangs together without seemingly intending to do so.

In each story there is a pianist who is almost always reflecting on his memories. The final story is probably the strongest and consists of the protagonist sitting down on a journey to a far away city and letting his mind wander.

Hernandez is a dense writer and ideas and tangents can build up pretty quickly so it does pay to be alert - he also has a wonderful turn of phrase that is certainly unique.

However, rather than be reminded of my favourite authors who showered him with praise, I was instead more closely reminded of Fernando Pessoa and 'The Book of Disquiet' - excellently written and strewn with nuggets of arresting excellence certainly but also, dare I say it, a little bit boring.


Doña Barbara: A Novel
Doña Barbara: A Novel
by Rómulo Gallegos
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.00

4.0 out of 5 stars A sweeping novel of the plain, 2 July 2013
This review is from: Doña Barbara: A Novel (Paperback)
Gallegos's masterpiece tells of the return of Santos Luzardo, an exile in Caracas, to the land of his forefathers: the llano, or vast cattle plains. He has come to reclaim the Altamira ranch that belonged to the Luzardos, before a bitter rivalry with the Barquero clan came close to destroying either side and allowed the manipulative, witch-like figure of Dona Barbara to gradually steal their land away under her possession. Gallegos's plain is deeply symbolic: it is unforgiving, merciless, sensory, beautiful, heart-rending and regenerative. Of it, Gallegos says:

"The Plain is at once lovely and fearful. It holds, side by side, beautiful life and hideous death. The latter lurks everywhere, but no one fears it. The Plain frightens, but the fear which the Plain inspires is not the terror which chills the heart; it is hot, like the wind sweeping over the immeasurable solitude."

The manner by which Dona Barbara, a man-hater betrayed by men, rises to a position of great wealth, influence and awe is in many ways satirical of the way Gallegos thought the corrupt Venezuelan dictatorship was handing out wealth and power to its cronies. Dona Barbara bewitches or bribes all who can play to her advantage, and attains an almost demonic reputation in the process. Her unwinding runs parallel to Santos Luzardo's rehabilitation in the unconquerable land he has set ou to conquer.

Overall this is a very enjoyable read: quick-paced, with some poetic language and a cast of characters worthy of a soap opera, it set a standard that the great Latin American writers of the next generation built on so successfully.


Three Trapped Tigers
Three Trapped Tigers
by G. Cabrera Infante
Edition: Paperback

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the worst book ever, 1 July 2013
This review is from: Three Trapped Tigers (Paperback)
This book is clearly not suited to translation. But that's not a good enough excuse.

The first quarter or so is promising - interesting characters, jazz reference and witty dialogue set in the 50s Havana underworld. But quickly the novel obliterates itself with rambling non-sensical letter-soup poured over the next few hundred pages. The word play is annoying and largely pointless. It even feels inappropriate to call it "play". Word dysentery.

Smatterings of something commendable sporadically turn up but the majority is absolute try-hard, fail-hard tripe.

"Spooneristmus in my handshake and later outlawside with my handsoff": what a lunatic. I don't even care if this is critically acclaimed - I'm telling you the emperor is butt-naked - and his butt is one inch from your face.

The ending was no redemption. And the epilogue just made things worse.


The Book of Embraces (Norton Paperback)
The Book of Embraces (Norton Paperback)
by Eduardo Galeano
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent collection, 1 July 2013
The Book of Embraces comprises a couple of hundred vignettes and musings (and many peculiar illustrations). Some are very funny. Some offer profundity, politic, sadness, reflection, clever observations: all with a distinctly Latin American flavour or perspective.

Eduardo's offerings are surprising in range, and despite brevity satisfying in their power.

Sharp and playful - I'd recommend it.


Heartland (Caribbean Modern Classics)
Heartland (Caribbean Modern Classics)
by Harris Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.71

3.0 out of 5 stars Effective attempt to create language of the jungle, 1 July 2013
With a backdrop of fraud and emotional confusion, Zechariah turns his back on his business enterprises and enters the Guyanese forest interior. He takes the position of lone watchman at a timber operation, and quickly sinks into a half-real world where nature, the supernatural, mental regression and slightly bizarre occurrences swirl in and out of philosophical and narrative focus.

Wilson's style can occasionally seem tangled and certainly makes for arduous reading - but this does reflect the physical overgrown surroundings and the strange mesh of ideas that are being coaxed into opaque form.

The story has a somewhat unnerving quality. Rather obscure, unique, and enjoyable enough, but I'm glad it was short.


Old Rosa: A Novel in Two Stories
Old Rosa: A Novel in Two Stories
by Reinaldo Arenas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Very powerful writing from a Cuban great, 11 Jun. 2013
Old Rosa is a novel composed of two novellas: the first, which is frankly brilliant, relates the story of a weeping Cuban mother watching her farmhouse burn in front of her eyes. This is Old Rosa; what Arenas sketches out in the rest of the story is the life of young Rosa, from an unsatisfying marriage to a diligent and religious life bent on making her farm as productive as possible, while her three children all defy her hopes in different ways. Old Rosa is symbolic of an independent conservative whose prosperity, and whose bigotry, would soon be quashed by Castro's Revolution. The final pages are harrowing and starkly sensual.

The third of Rosa's children is Arturo, her "Brightest Star" - which is the name of the second novella, and deals with Arturo's later confinement in a homosexual labour camp. Arenas uses a very different style here, with long, uninterrupted prose separated only by commas, and hallucinatory dream sequences. The ending is again very good, but it lacks the characters and draw of the first tale, and at times feels a bit over-stylised or showy. Nevertheless, the circularity and integration of the two narratives is clever, and Arena's prose both imaginative and memorable.


Kiss Of The Spider Woman (Arena Books)
Kiss Of The Spider Woman (Arena Books)
by Manuel Puig
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic, 20 May 2013
This book has a lot going on in its slender size. On the surface it is nothing more than the story of two prison inmates (Molina and Valentin) in an Argentinian jail. However, Puig uses the simple setting as a base with which to explore multiples - in plot, narration, form and metaphor. It's a book that richly rewards your attention, but without at any time being overbearing.

The main plot is the passing of time between Molina and Valentin as they get to know each other - culminating in them becoming brief lovers. The counterplot concerns Molina (a gay window dresser) betraying Valentin (an uptight revolutionary) in exchange for early release. A further five plots exist in the re-telling of movies to pass the time. These are all told by Molina and serve as extended metaphors (and forewarnings) for the reader. There are also copious footnotes by Puig on the nature, and reasons for homosexuality. On top of this the author also peppers the text with streams of consciousness that at times are linked to the proceeding passages and at others have nothing to do with them. The book finishes with yet another form of address - that of a diary excerpt kept by a police official on Molinas movements. Oh and Puig doesn't write this book like any other piece of fiction - it reads almost entirely like a play - first one person talking and then the other. While all of the above may leave a reader fearing to pick this book up, I would advise that they do exactly that. There is definitely a lot going on, but it's all managed expertly by the author and at no point did I feel overwhelmed or confused - in fact I rather enjoyed the effort that Puig was forcing me to exert. Each new trick or twist richly rewards the effort.

The overall style is fairly simple, and it could be argued that actually, in real terms, not a lot happens. However, as a reading experience, there are few that I have come across that compare to it and fewer still that have left me with such a sense of satisfaction. When Puig is clever, you acknowledge the brilliance rather than condemn him as pretentious - and I think that's a very difficult job for an author to execute. In fact the only thing I can complain about is the cover of the version I was reading. It looked laughably bad - almost as if I were reading a trashy Mills & Boon effort. If only my fellow commuters wouldn't be so quick to judge, for they are turning their nose up at a new favourite of mine.


I, the Supreme (Latin American Literature Series)
I, the Supreme (Latin American Literature Series)
by Augusto Roa Bastos
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

1.0 out of 5 stars Absurdly over-rated novel, 12 May 2013
"I, The Supreme" has been on my wishlist for years - as a huge fan of Latin American dictator novels (The Autumn of The Patriarch, The President, The Feast of the Goat), I deliberately held back what many considered the greatest in the genre, Roa Bastos's fictionalised biography of Rodriguez de Francia's last days after 30 years of absolute rule over Paraguay. What an absolute waste of time that was. This book is perhaps the hardest to get through I have ever read, with virtually no reward for my efforts.

Why?

Mainly because the language is so dense; Francia's ravings on the nature of power are transposed into how power affects language, and so Francia the narrator 'controls' language by inverting it or inventing it, creating wholly new words or phrases that frequently make little sense.

Or perhaps because characters or historical anecdotes are drawn in without context. Unless you are expert in nineteenth-century Paraguayan history (and surely few people can claim that accolade), many of the passages will wash over you. It does not help that they are presented out of sequence and by different narrators - sometimes by the dictator himself, or from his official notebook; at other times by his secretary, or from the historical archives.

Or perhaps because there is no 'story' here to latch on to. There is no real beginning, middle and end; no passages that excite the imagination or create a sense of fantasy; no dialogue that immerses the reader. There is just musing, disjointed anecdotes and unhinged philosophy.

Overall, this is hugely boring. Picture having to put the same amount of effort as reading Joyce or Faulkner, only to emerge utterly confused, and frankly annoyed at how little you've remembered or understood. I feel compelled to write in capitals: DO NOT READ THIS.


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