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A reader (brighton, UK)

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Doctor Who: The Evil of the Daleks[1967] (Original BBC Television Soundtrack)
Doctor Who: The Evil of the Daleks[1967] (Original BBC Television Soundtrack)
by Frazer Hines
Edition: Audio CD

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 12 Jun. 2007
Despite, bar a single episode, only surviving on audio I'd put this as one of my all-time favourite Whos. Patrick Troughton puts in, as ever, a stupendous performance but the motivations of non-regulars such as Waterfield, Maxtible and even the adventure's first casualty are complex and thoughtful; unlike later years, there are no 'throwaway' characters and cardboard cut-outs here. Instead we have a rich tapestry of competing viewpoints and agendas, behind which lurk the quietly scheming Daleks (I always prefer the adventures where the Daleks are wily and in the background to where they just act like talking tanks).

It's also a very pacy story - the narrative never lets up and maintains your attention by shifting, logically, between three different, imaginatively rendered locations - mid-20th century and mid-19th century England and Skaro. By the time we're confronted by the Emperor Dalek it's achieved a very epic feel without sacrificing the smaller human dramas it so carefully sets up. Highly, highly recommended.

Doctor Who - Carnival of Monsters [VHS]
Doctor Who - Carnival of Monsters [VHS]
Offered by rdowns33
Price: £14.93

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars my love affair with drashigs, 12 Jun. 2007
You won't find this topping many polls. It doesn't have daleks, a god-like foe or a particularly sophisticated take on politics. Why, out of all my huge Doctor Who collection, is it one of my absolute favourites?

Because it's a cracking good story. The central premise of a portable, microscopic zoo is highly innovative, the pace never lets up and the writing is never less than intelligent. It's laugh-out-loud funny (especially the stiff-upper-lip scenes on the boat attacked by a plesiosaur), the dialogue sparkles, and the regulars do very well (watch out also for an early appearance by Ian Marter, later to play companion Harry Sullivan). The Drashigs are also fantastic monsters - I love the way they rise up out of the marshes and their creepy shrieking noise! Of course it's not perfect - the slave subplot is never resolved - but it's damn good fun. Highly recommended.

Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger
Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger
by Nigel Slater
Edition: Hardcover

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fairy drops, flapjacks and loss, 12 Jun. 2007
I borrowed this whilst staying with a friend and eventually she gave it to me as I couldn't stop reading it! It's heart-breaking in places and, I agree, laugh-out-loud funny. Baking a family Christmas cake for his mother is something that just 'has to be done ... Like cleaning the loo or polishing the shoes.' And with his mother's Angel Delight obsession Slater asserts 'Butterscotch and Banana were the only truly acceptable flavours to us. We ate the others to humour her.'

The food is almost incidental - this is the honest story of a boy's relationship with two eccentric, snobby but still extremely admirable and loving parents who give their child everything (except chocolate marshmallows). The big emotional events happen offstage and you have to read between the lines of a narrator inhabiting a child's perspective but that makes them all the more potent when you realize what's going on.

Regarding Slater's representation of his stepmother, I personally thought it was written from a child's perspective which is inevitably unfair and he accurately recalled how he felt. I agree he comes across as spiteful and spoilt sometimes, but I like the fact he didn't sugar-coat his narrative. The grubby descriptions of sexuality I also thought were him precisely recalling events in all their horror rather than trying to titillate.

The only problem I have with it is that I lost interest in the last 30 pages or so when the story of his mother, father and stepmother comes to an end. It carries on a bit longer than it should by going into his first experiences at a hotel which were probably best saved for another book.

All in all, though, this is a real gem of a book. The tiny chapters also make it very easy to pick up and read at intervals. Brilliant.

Green Sees Things in Waves
Green Sees Things in Waves
by August Kleinzahler
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars intimately moving, 8 Feb. 2007
A classic volume from arguably the most exciting of contemporary poets now writing in English. Kleinzahler here retains all his trademark panache, wit and spooky blending of street and science talk but really hits home with a set of poems especially interested in the vulnerability of the human heart.

The title poem is justly one of his most famous - a highly inventive inhabitation of an acid-blown mind on the edge but it is one of a number of emotionally potent pieces here: the cinematic 'Snow on North Jersey', 'A Flock of Blackbirds', 'Watching Young Couples...', the surreal 'The Dog Stoltz', and particularly 'Sunday Morning', the simple, but visceral rendering of a homeless man's attachment to his dog that smells of 'bones, urine, soup' all shine in their tenderness and generosity. Highly recommended.

Selected Stories (Oxford World's Classics)
Selected Stories (Oxford World's Classics)
by Katherine Mansfield
Edition: Paperback

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars highly recommended, 4 Feb. 2007
Katherine Mansfield's quietly devastating prose and absolute commitment to craft remain two of the most potent twentieth century contributions to the difficult genre of the short story. This well-chosen selection demonstrates why.

Rich in colour, atmosphere and poetry, these tales most frequently turn on questions of loss and self-realization. Mansfield often takes as her subjects the resonant emptiness of lives framed by the tightest of parameters - a lonely woman's complete attachment and identification with her canary, a man's dependence on the memory of his dead son - and times where cherished certainties fall away in moments of revelation.

Perhaps the most famous of the latter type is 'Bliss' where the abrupt emptying of juvenile hostess Bertha Mason's boundless, yet ultimately restricting, exhiliration comes as an ambiguous opportunity for both delayed misery and growth. Elsewhere, tiny phrases in conversation unravel inescapable disparities in relationships; the complex emotional tensions of Mansfield's characters lie, as in Chekhov, primarily beneath the glittering surface of her clipped and confident style.

Intricately crafted, the nuanced dimensions of these stories haunt the reader, echoing in your mind long after you've put the book down. I find them compulsively re-readable.

This selection contains all of Mansfield's most famous tales including 'Bliss', 'The Canary', 'The Fly', 'The Daughters of the Late Colonel', 'A Dill Pickle', 'A Cup of Tea' and a recently available, unedited version of 'Je Ne Parle Pas Francais' which restores the full depth of its narrator's deliciously depraved senses of self and sensuality. A must-read.

The Swimming-Pool Library
The Swimming-Pool Library
by Alan Hollinghurst
Edition: Paperback

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars just brilliant!, 21 Nov. 2006
Wow. This is a literary but very erotic book which takes for its subject a hidden English sexual subculture which doesn't often register in mainstream life. I would recommend it to people of all sexualities.

The main focus is on metropolitan gay life in the early 1980s, before AIDS, and the novel's protagonist William Beckwith is suitably hedonistic and frequently debauched. He's not always likeable but the sensuous and sensual character of Hollinghurst's prose keeps you reading as you enter seedy flats, exclusive gentlemen's clubs and darkened caverns.

Hollinghurst's graceful, elegant prose is the work of a mind which has digested a library-load of English prose. Despite its forays into underground porn cinemas and gay cottaging, this is a book which is deeply aware of tradition and the relationship between history and the present; the dead haunt every page.

Highly recommended.

Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human
Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human
by Harold Bloom
Edition: Paperback

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars disappointing, 21 Nov. 2006
Whereas Bloom's earlier work on Shakespeare focuses on his literary centrality, originality and creativity, this is a collection of rather thin and often rambling essays. As a big Harold Bloom fan I must confess I found this rather disappointing.

The section on Henry IV, for example, centres on Bloom's personal identification with Falstaff to the extent that he asserts that Falstaff 'betrays and harms no one' in the plays. To anyone who has actually read Act V of the first play this is a little ridiculous; it might be interesting if Bloom went into more detail and offered a quirky, deliberate misinterpretation but it soon becomes apparent that it's simply a case of 'Falstaff can't be that bad because he is like me'.

The section on Hamlet similarly gets bogged down in a hypothesis about authorship that lacks both original research and argumentation.

I could never give a Harold Bloom book less than 3 stars because his style remains compulsively readable and enjoyable. He's still the best of all the contemporary literary critics for my money. My advice to the novice is to start with almost any other Bloom book instead!

How to Read and Why
How to Read and Why
by Harold Bloom
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars fruits of a lifetime's reading, 21 Nov. 2006
This review is from: How to Read and Why (Paperback)
Forget the didactic title. This is a highly entertaining guide to many of the highlights of Western literature by one of the most widely read and engaging of contemporary literary critics.

The book is divided into sections on the short story, poetry, drama and the novel. Of these, the first is particularly illuminating with Bloom outlining the two main strands of short story in the twentieth century (Chekhovian and Borgesian) with trademark zest and flair. It had me running back to compare writers as diverse as Turgenev, Hemingway and Calvino. The section on poetry is also highly interesting and reinvigorated my enthusiasm for Romantic poetry.

If it has a flaw, it's that the section on novels is rather weaker than the first two: the analysis of Great Expectations in particular is rather bland and unrevealing and lacks Bloom's enthusiastic, personal insight which makes his work so readable.

Things pick up in the drama section with intriguing notes on Ibsen and especially Oscar Wilde who remains one of Bloom's favourites.

All in all, well worth a look.

Emergency Kit: Poems for Strange Times
Emergency Kit: Poems for Strange Times
by Jo Shapcott
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars essential poetry kit, 15 Nov. 2006
I have many poetry anthologies on my shelves but this is the one I return to most often. The editors have worked hard to select the most imaginative, inventive and often downright weird poems of the often downright weird twentieth century. Much of the work here could be characterized as surreal or postmodern but the editors have carefully chosen only the more accessible work of giants such as Charles Simic, Frank O'Hara, Elizabeth Bishop and Paul Muldoon (though my own personal favourite is Don Paterson's 'A Private Bottling'). Well worth your time.

Complete Poems
Complete Poems
by Elizabeth Bishop
Edition: Paperback

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars astonishing poetry, 15 Nov. 2006
This review is from: Complete Poems (Paperback)
For many, Bishop is the quintessential American poet of the twentieth century. Subtle, crafted and frequently surreal, her poems tend to centre on loss, travel and the way we understand ourselves through the physical world around us. Her exquisite acts of describing islands, animals, ports and quietly untidy human habitations on the fringes show a thinking, exhiliratingly alert mind in action. This is oblique and layered poetry which reveals more on each re-reading. Her sestinas and villanelle 'One Art' are also the best in the business. This edition contains all her best known poems including 'The Bight', 'Crusoe in England', 'The Armadillo', 'Sandpiper', 'The Map' and 'The Fish'. Give it a try: these beautiful poems will stay with you long afterwards.

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