Profile for Silver Whistle > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Silver Whistle
Top Reviewer Ranking: 58,231
Helpful Votes: 79

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Silver Whistle (Scotland, UK)

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2
pixel
Cuachag Nan Craobh
Cuachag Nan Craobh
Price: £0.69

5.0 out of 5 stars Who needs Burns when you've got William Ross?, 9 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Cuachag Nan Craobh (MP3 Download)
A beautiful recording of the traditional song reworked in the late 18C by William Ross, schoolmaster of Gairloch, Ross-shire, who died of TB, aged 28, in 1790. I rate him higher than Burns, having discovered his work via Sorley MacLean's frequent references to him. Mairi's voice is exquisitely clear, as is the accompaniment. Amusingly, another version of the melody was later adapted for the ghastly cod-Jacobite 'Skye Boat Song'. But this is Ross's lyric: all "anguish, consumption and death" as MacLean summarised his love poems.


The Traveller's Guide to Classical Philosophy
The Traveller's Guide to Classical Philosophy
by J. C. A. Gaskin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £8.64

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A vade mecum and a rallying cry, 9 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This little book is more than a delightful introduction to Classical Philosophy, with amusing cartoons and engaging narration: it helped me through a very tough year of multiple family bereavements. Based as it is on John Gaskin's lectures to tour groups, it has a strong sense of place and context, and of the value of its subject in real-life terms. The closing chapters, 'NeoPlatonism: The Last Protest' and 'The End of Classical Antiquity' feel to me very much like a rallying cry, a call to (intellectual) arms. As a long-term admirer of the thoughtful and profoundly good Julianus Augustus (as the author respectfully calls him), I appreciated Gaskin's words about him; also the contrast drawn between Aristotle and Augustine. Gaskin says we live at the point of union "– or disunion" between their 2 worlds. Sometimes the wrong side wins, but we don't have to accept their power within our own lives. Despite the legacy of Augustine and his kind, we have our intellectual freedom again, and we can choose to live *as if they didn't win* – and in so doing deny them their power. 1650 years after the Emperor's death, we don't need to let any 'pale Galileans' have the last word.


Tchaikovsky: The Sleeping Beauty
Tchaikovsky: The Sleeping Beauty
Price: £15.38

5.0 out of 5 stars Bourne does it again! Gorgeous production!, 9 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a magical updating of 'Sleeping Beauty', with vampires and demons and gorgeous costumes! I saw it live in Glasgow, and enjoyed it tremendously. The late 19-early 20C scenes have more than a touch of pre-Revolutionary Russia (the King looks like Nikolai II), and Aurora's relationship with the gamekeeper/gardener is a tad Lady Chatterley! Carabosse/Caradoc is very well played (with wonderful outfits as both mother and son), and I love the feral, vampiric færies, especially Count Lilac.

But please can we have a DVD release of Matthew Bourne's 'Dorian Gray'?


Emperor and Author: The Writings of Julian 'The Apostate'
Emperor and Author: The Writings of Julian 'The Apostate'
by Nicholas John Baker-Brian
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £54.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent collection of essays!, 10 Sep 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is an excellent collection of essays on one of the most fascinating (and in my view, likeable) men to wear the purple. Julian is important as a writer - we have works by him across a wide range of genres: devotional, satirical, polemic, legal, even some personal letters... We can explore his ideas, his self-presentation, & c. through his own words. We can also explore how later writers and artists have engaged with and made use of his works. There is a particularly fascinating chapter (although I wish it had been illustrated in colour!) on Verrio's murals at Hampton Court, inspired by Julian's 'The Caesars'. I was impressed, too, with the analysis of Julian's sculpted portraits. I was glad to see the authenticity of the Musee de Cluny statue verified: I saw it recently, and it is a beautiful and oddly moving work. You can see the joins where the head and nose have been re-attached after some long-ago attack or damage.

In short, I recommend this volume heartily, though the price is steep (which would explain the use of b/w illustrations). A paperback would be a good idea, in terms of making it more accessible.


Last Pagan: Julian the Apostate and the Death of the Ancient World
Last Pagan: Julian the Apostate and the Death of the Ancient World
by Adrian Murdoch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.42

3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable light reading, but better works are out there..., 10 Sep 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
'The Last Pagan' is an enjoyable enough, though lightweight, canter through the life of Julian. What put me off at first was the Italian Renaissance cover, which looks nothing like Julian: surely a sculpture or coin portrait would have been better (and bearded)?

The text will give the general reader a decent enough overview of his reign, but I think Murdoch takes on trust a few things which I would question. Rather than being infatuated with Eusebia, I suspect Julian writing flatteringly of her was a way of keeping in with her husband - the cousin/brother-in-law who was responsible for making him an orphan and could easily have had him executed. He had to tread carefully until he was strong enough to make his own bid for the throne. Also, Murdoch takes on board Lascaratos and Voros's questionable theory about Julian's death, which depends on taking Philostorgios's (5C, surviving only in 9C summary) word over that of Ammianus and Libanios. It doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

If this book whets your appetite for the subject, I recommend Robert Browning's 'The Emperor Julian', Shaun Tougher's works, and, on religion, Rowland Smith's 'Julian's Gods' (which dismantles Bowersock effectively). And of course, nothing beats going back to source: Julian's Works are available in a bilingual Loeb edition, and are extremely enjoyable (some still very funny).


Julian the Apostate (Debates & Documents in Ancient History) (Debates and Documents in Ancient History)
Julian the Apostate (Debates & Documents in Ancient History) (Debates and Documents in Ancient History)
by Shaun Tougher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £25.27

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview of my favourite Emperor!, 10 Sep 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is an excellent introduction to and companion-overview of modern Julian studies. It's good for private study and also would make a useful course-book for anyone wishing to teach on the subject.

The main themes are covered effectively, with selections of relevant documents. Some professional reviews have noted that some texts are given in old translations, but this is not inherently a problem, unless there are significant inaccuracies (and I would trust the author to have looked into that!) The selections are a jumping-off point: if you have Greek (or Latin), you can find the whole books and check them yourself in the originals (Julian's 3 vol. Loeb 'Works' are definitely worth having).

What is also appealing is the format and use of illustrations. The Armitage cover is beautiful. Despite the portrait of Julian being based chiefly on the Capitoline Museum bust (which is actually a mis-inscribed Pindaros), the full image (in b/w within) is one of vivid characterisations and telling symbolism: a brave painting, too, in the context of Victorian Christianity, contrasting the aggressively squabbling clerics with Julian, serene at the feet of Athene and her owl. It's a perfect visualisation of Ammianus's remark that from experience, the Emperor knew that "no beasts are so lethal to humans as most Christians are to each other" (although it does miss his bouncy energy and talkativeness!). Like the texts between the covers, it asks: "Where do you stand?" Different readers will come to different conclusions, and that is at it should be. What matters is that the question is asked, as it leads on to questioning the inevitability of all that followed 26 June 363. Although we still live with the consequences of that day, we don't have to accept or like them.


This Time (Richard III in the 21st-century)
This Time (Richard III in the 21st-century)
Price: £2.39

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars "If you knew Mary-Sue...", 1 Sep 2013
Fantasy fiction involving real historical characters? - Fine. If it's overt fantasy, no-one will mistake it for reality (I hope). John M Ford's 'The Dragon Waiting' sets the standard for fantasy using this period. But this is dire... Had the author been a 14-year-old on a fanfic site, it might have been excusable (though still bad), but this is an adult self-publishing what is screamingly obviously a Mary-Sue self-insertion fic... Richard, save your self-respect, son: even that car-park was a better fate!


Emperors of Rome
Emperors of Rome
by David Potter
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pretty coffee-table fodder, but don't trust the text, 1 Sep 2013
This review is from: Emperors of Rome (Hardcover)
This is a visually appealing coffee-table book. The illustrations are beautiful, but do not trust the text. My litmus test is always how authors treat 'my' Emperor. I checked what Potter had to say about Julian: "schemer", "oddness", "eccentric", "religious fundamentalist" (an impossibility in a religion without fixed texts or doctrines, especially for a man who was a devotee of a number of gods and goddesses). Has he read Browning, Tougher, Rowland Smith? This will not do...


JULIAN.
JULIAN.
by Gore Vidal
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "One Brief Shining Moment...": a beautiful and heart-breaking depiction of a real-life hero, 20 Aug 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: JULIAN. (Paperback)
As a historian, I tend to be wary of historical fiction: too often I've been disappointed or ended up with my blood-pressure going through the roof in rage. 'Julian' is different. It's one of the most accurate historical novels I've read, and one of the best-written. It is, in short, enchanting.

Flavius Claudius Julianus, the Emperor Julian the Philosopher, comes across in the novel as he does from his own writings and most biographies: a charming young Greek philosophy geek turned warrior, the only Roman Emperor who could be described as loveable. The co-narrators Libanius and Priscus are like a Roman-era Waldorf and Statler (remember them in 'The Muppets'?), bickering over his memoirs. Maximus is a sort of Merlin, an egregious fake, but loyal at the end. The characters are portrayed with wit and understanding; Julian's (fictional) ex-girlfriend is delightfully drawn, and the scenes between him and his ailing, older wife Helena are genuinely moving.

But in the end, 'Julian' is a heart-breaking tragedy, all the more devastating because it is real, and because we are still living with the consequences (although Vidal's theory about who struck the fatal blow is necessarily speculative). I find it impossible to read the closing chapters without tears. With a novel about a documented historical character, whose fate is well-known, it can be difficult to maintain suspense or surprise, but with 'Julian', you find yourself hoping vainly that it will end differently each time you pick it up, begging him to recover, to save us from what lies ahead... All I can think of, is, "If only..." A light vanished from the world with "the little Greek", and we are still stumbling through the darkness, among what he called the 'charnel houses' of a dying god. Vidal echoes Arthurian legend at the close of the novel, with the loyal Gauls believing that Julian is sleeping under the mountains, guarded by the dragons of his family emblem, and will return. Imperator quondam, imperatorque futurus? "If only..."


Ordinary Hero
Ordinary Hero
by Andrew Chafin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.65

2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing fictionalisation: this Far from Ordinary Hero deserves better, 7 Nov 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Ordinary Hero (Paperback)
When I ordered this book, I had assumed it was a biography of the valiant young Police Chief who took on the might of the Baldwin-Felts agency and the mining companies in Matewan. It is, however, a 'vie romancée', a semi-fictionalised account. This would not necessarily be a problem in itself. Unfortunately, it is demonstrably historically inaccurate. Some of Chafin's fictionalisations involve well-documented real people: just a little online research overturns his sometimes lurid speculations. For example, he portrays Jessie, Sid's wife, as a dancing girl with a shady past, real name unknown: in fact, she was a local girl, Jessie Lee Maynard, who had married the town mayor (a divorcé) at the the age of 17 in 1911. Also, while Lon Savage has mentioned rumours of Sid's illegitimacy in non-fiction, we know more about his family from the census returns: that he was one of a large family, with older and younger siblings. There is no solid evidence to support the claim of illegitimacy (although I'm sure Tom Felts called him a little b______!). The name of Sid's stepson has also been changed. The two stars I give are for the photographs, which are excellent, but Sid deserves far better. Even the title is misleading. He was not at all 'ordinary': intelligent (though not well-educated), and quite exceptional in his courage and loyalty in defence of the mining community.


Page: 1 | 2