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Caterkiller (Darlington, UK)

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The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel / the Novel as History
The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel / the Novel as History
by Norman Mailer
Edition: Paperback

3 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Ego Has Landed, 6 Feb. 2008
Ostensibly this book is about a demonstration in the car park of the Pentagon against the Vietnam war. It includes the usual suspects: hippies, anarchists and what remains of the American Left after ten unbroken years of capitalist-driven wealth and McCarthyism. Who can possibly save America from itself? Why, Norman Mailer of course. The literary super-brat of American letters. He fearlessly confronts the state troopers, gets himself arrested, arraigned, imprisoned and in doing so strikes a blow for freedom across the globe! Mailer really wastes this opportunity; he had a chance to document a key event in American history (though the size of the march was about one-tenth of the London Anti-Iraq protests) but instead of talking to the marchers, the state officials etc. he prefers to self-indulgently document his hangovers, the food in his hotel and the mutual admiration society which exists between the New York literati: trust-fund Leftists and (God help us) poets. I love most of Mailer's writing: this is ego-driven garbage.


The Bonfire of the Vanities (Picador Books)
The Bonfire of the Vanities (Picador Books)
by Tom Wolfe
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Black or white, you're scum, 27 Jan. 2008
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This book destroys the pretence of modern America: a place to make you're dreams come true? a land where anyone can become President? If you're white and live in uptown Manhatten you are a one-dimensional ego-maniac, probably with a God-complex who regards anyone below your social status as vermin. You have no friends, only competitors. If you're black you are on the take, whether committing a car-jacking or white-collar fraud but you're protected by the white politicians desperate for black votes. If you can read you're regarded as some sort of evolutionary miracle.
Tom Wolfe has created a book where no-one comes out alive, the friends of Sherman McCoy, the former Master of the Universe, turn on him, the white DA tries to destroy him and the Reverand Bacon sails on protected by the colour of his skin. This book is a revelation: no heroes, just villains.


Alistair Cooke's American Journey: Life on the Home Front in the Second World War
Alistair Cooke's American Journey: Life on the Home Front in the Second World War
by Alistair Cooke
Edition: Paperback

2 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fails to get under the skin of America, 18 Jan. 2008
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The subject matter for this book would have worked much better as a historical or economic study than as a travelogue. Cooke's journey covers most states of the union: East Coast, West Coast, Deep South and Industrial Mid-West but apart from breif and rather samey descriptions of the impact of war on the availability of various commodities does not tell us very much. Whenever Cooke stops to meet real people their opinions are either represented as those of uneducated bigots or abbreviated to a couple of sentences, giving the impression of Cooke being a rather snobbish New Yorker visiting the hicks. Cooke's style of writing is unremittingly irritating: he uses an overly flowery style and glories in his wide vocabularly. This writing style may benefit books where the subject matter is more worthy such as Venice or Paris but when used to describe a Washington State lumber yard this reinforces the view that Cooke is there to view and then patronise, not to analyse.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 2, 2014 7:07 PM GMT


The Country Life
The Country Life
by Rachel Cusk
Edition: Paperback

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Confused concept, muddled execution, 13 Jan. 2008
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This review is from: The Country Life (Paperback)
This is pretty disappointing from Rachel Cusk. Her later novel, "The Temporary" is one of my favourite books but this is a missed opportunity. It tries to satirise a city-dweller having a midlife crisis by moving to the country but it just doesn't work. Despite being an intellectual high flier the central character of Stella seems to be struck down with dyspraxia as soon as she leaves Notting Hill and too many open goals are ignored (if you are going to write about the country at least put the boot into the Morris dancers!). Too many of the characters have back-stories which are hinted at but not explored and the open-ending may have worked better in a literary novel tackling deeper issues (such as Ishiguro's "Never let Me Go") but here it just seems like the author gave up.


Gambling: A Story of Triumph and Disaster
Gambling: A Story of Triumph and Disaster
by Mike Atherton
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bright lights, pots of cash, but where's the glamour?, 27 Dec. 2007
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One thing shines out through Mike's book: the sheer lack of glamour in the world of gambling. It may comprise the Sport of Kings plus the showgirl-stuffed parallel universe of Las Vegas but there is no fun to be had for the diehard (i.e. successful) gambler. Success is driven by spreadsheets, risk models, probabilities and the type of research and supernumerate skills which the regular punter does not possess. After visiting the Cheltenham festival and Vegas and discussing every type of gambling (including stock-market derivatives) Mike focusses on those whose lives have been destroyed by their addiction and have lost houses and relationships as a result. The message of this terrific read is not "Do not Gamble" but the fact that every casino in Vegas can afford it's own fine art collection and award winning restaurant should be warning enough to the unwary punter.


Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson
Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson
by Geoffrey Ward
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Racism+prodigious spending = disaster, 2 Dec. 2007
Before reading this I had never heard of Jack Johnson. As far as I was concerned the era of black heavyweights began with Joe Louis. Johnson was what might be called "a character"; in the modern era this would be endearing but in the 1910's this was dangerous for any black person. Any vaguely arrogant comment by Johnson was magnified and misrepresented whereas his white opponents and their managers could get away with using language even Goebells would have balked it. When push came to shove though, Johnson was head and shoulders above any other fighter at the time and was therefore avoided by his white opponents who argued the case that mixed race bouts should not be allowed (the real reason being that they would probably lose). Johnson sowed the seeds of his own destruction, however. A spendthrift (he famously spent the prize money from one of his bouts in under 48 hours) and a proclivity for white women of ill-repute unleashed a tidal-wave of racist victimisation which led to jail and his own impoverishment.
It is difficult to think of a modern day sports icon with a story like this, only the self-destructive Tyson and Gascoigne come close. Get this book and immerse yourself in the life of a true American legend.


The Remorseful Day (Inspector Morse Mysteries)
The Remorseful Day (Inspector Morse Mysteries)
by Colin Dexter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.68

1 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Thank goodness he's dead, 29 Nov. 2007
This has to be one of the worst police-procedure-detective novels I have read for some time. It attempts to straddle genres between a country-pubs and vicars on bicycles Miss Marple style mystery and a PD James detective novel; it fails to be a success at either. Morse is completely unlikeable: hard drinking, disrespectful and a complete misanthrope. After the series "Life on Mars", the "Remorseful Day" reads like a satire of past-it 1970's cops. The dialogue is risably bad and after a multiple-murder opening spell the second half of the book slows down dramatically as the rather narrow field of suspects are exonerated. It is rather a relief that Morse dies, in this book the suspects are much more likeable.


Apples
Apples
by Richard Milward
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The UK's "Less than Zero", 22 Nov. 2007
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This review is from: Apples (Paperback)
There are certainly parallels to be drawn with Bret Easton-Ellis's trustafarian classic: disaffected and dehumanised youths whose only passion is cheap alcohol, low-quality drugs and free-and-easy sexual relationships. "Apples" is better: it is much easier to sympathise with the spawn of low wage-hard drinking households than the offspring of Beverly Hills. The characters are more than just souless vessels, however, they do homework and occassionally think about the future but their ambitions get dragged down into the mire of binge-drinking and teenage pregnancy. Some of "Apples" is breath-taking, just when you think you are used to a character's voice the author switches the narrator to a butterfly, a street-lamp or an in-utero baby. One thing is certain, it won't do much for Middlesbrough's house prices but if there are any teenage girls reading this check out page 176, and you will always insist on "no glove, no love".


Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life
Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life
by Jon Lee Anderson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.90

6 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A committed revolutionary, but Che is no hero, 16 Oct. 2007
Why is Che Geuvara considered a revolutionary hero? It is not down to his achievements; he fought bravely alongside Castro is Cuba but then largely destroyed the Cuban economy by his policies of collectivisation, isolated Cuba from its main ally, the USSR, and led disastrous adventures into the Congo and Bolivia. He is probably considered a hero as a result of his motives rather than his results; he had a driving urge to help the impoverished, and believed that revolution and sweeping away existing political structures was the best way to achieve this. He was wrong. Most people, no matter how impoverished, simply want a better life; they do not care about the workers' control of capital or the difference between Maoism, Marxism and Trotskyism hence Che's failure in Bolivia, and , economically, Cuba. Che's legend endures because he died young, therefore his works, like those of Jim Morrison, are elevated and mythologised out of all proportion. As this riveting book makes clear Guevara and Castro had a real opportunity to change Cuba for the better; the fact that even today hundreds die trying to escape the island shows the magnitude of their failure.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 21, 2009 7:34 PM BST


Kitchen Confidential
Kitchen Confidential
by Anthony Bourdain
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Captures the real passion needed to be a chef, 12 Sept. 2007
This review is from: Kitchen Confidential (Paperback)
This is one of my favourite books. It captures a passion for food that most of us will never have, an appreciation of ingredients and technique and a compulsive attention to detail which only those at the top of the profession would ever understand or possess. The lessons are stark: if you buy a restaurant it will more often than not go bust, if you work in kitchen you will end up a nervous wreck, this job is not like organising a big dinner party every night. There is a telepathy required between kitchen staff to make the whole thing come together which can only be learnt through working 90 hour weeks. Why do people still want to own their own restaurant? (and I'm not talking about pierce-carton-and-microwave fun-pubs here), it is probably because they have no comprehension of what is required to be a success in this trade. After reading this they will.


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