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Beau Brummell
Beau Brummell
by Ian Kelly
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.79

5.0 out of 5 stars A model biography, 12 Oct 2014
This review is from: Beau Brummell (Paperback)
There have been lots of books about Brummell, the 'first dandy', over the years, but most have been lightweight. Ian Kelly's book, by contrast, is impressively well-documented and researched but still very readable. The late Georgian world in which Brummell lived is brilliantly recreated and brought to life in all its mixed elegance and squalor, with some excellent illustrations.
A danger with so much detail is that it can overshadow the subject, who after all was a social butterfly first and last. It is a testimony to Kelly's skill that he avoids this risk. Brummell's meteoric rise and his pitiable decline and fall are still the main themes.
Kelly's most significant finding, from medical archives he unearthed in France, is that Brummell died of syphilis. (There are alarming pictures of the disease.) Brummell caught this, Kelly suggests, from a London courtesan or prostitute around the time of Waterloo in 1815. So the first dandy was not a closet gay or indeed entirely sexless, as so often thought.
This must surely be the definitive life of Brummell for the 21st century, a model biography to be read in conjunction with Ellen Moers' The Dandy from Brummell to Beeerbohm and Nigel Rodgers' The Dandy: Peacock or Enigma? the most recent book on the subject.


The Dandy
The Dandy
by Nigel Rodgers
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.16

4.0 out of 5 stars More to the dandy than meets the eye, 12 Jun 2014
This review is from: The Dandy (Hardcover)
What is a dandy?

What exactly is a dandy? Not a question to keep everyone awake at night perhaps, but it one this book sets out to answer. It does so with some flair, surveying dandies down the centuries. Rodgers lays down pretty stringent criteria at the start but then loosens up. So the fastidious Brummell, the `first Dandy' who wore only plain blue and white, is balanced by the flamboyant Byron, who loved fancy dress. In France the austere Baudelaire, all in black, is countered by Barbey d'Aurevilly, who looked absurdly theatrical. Both Barbey and Baudelaire credited the dandy with spiritual qualities, heroically fighting the age's materialism. There was more to some dandies than meets the eye, it seems.
Perhaps inevitably, some familiar names appear, including Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward. More original are figures such as Scrope Davies, a reckless gambler and friend of Byron who had to flee to the Continent to escape his creditors; and the writer Julian Maclaren-Ross, who with his sword stick, white suit and yellow `teddy-bear coat' kept the flame of dandyism alight in the darkest days of World War Two. Most recent and unusual was Sebastian Hoarsley. With top hat and pale features he gave dandyism a gothic touch Seemingly, what matters is more the attitudes of such individuals than their clothes, though there is plenty about tail coats, cravats, bow ties etc. There is also a droll Glossary at the end, explaining what's what in dandyism.
Not everyone will agree with every choice. Was Vladimir Nabokov really a dandy? He looks pretty scruffy in photos. The book concludes by hailing two quixotic groups as true dandies of today: the ultra-English Chaps, who wear only tweed; and the flamboyant Sapeurs, suits tailored in every colour of the rainbow, who try to live like dandies from 19th-century Paris on the banks of the Congo. The book should be seen as the complement and successor to Ellen Moers' classic 'The Dandy from Brummell to Beerbohm'. While less scholarly, it is more colourful (it is well illustrated, though a few more pictures would be welcome) and wider-ranging.


The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History
The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History
Price: £3.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but flawed account, 11 Jun 2014
The Nazis must have been the greatest art thieves of all time. The story of the tiny number of 'Monuments Men' - mostly soldiers and mostly, though not all, Americans - who battled heroically to save or rescue endangered paintings, sculptures, buildings etc is the stuff of thrillers. (Or, in this case, a film.) Robert Edsel has gathered a lot of information and tells his tale with great gusto and narrative speed. Unfortunately he also tells it in a hyped-up journalistic way that grates horribly after a time. Every chapter opens like the first lines of a newspaper article. Edsel claims to reveal his characters' inner thoughts and feelings in a way acceptable in a novel but not in a factual book.
There are also irritating historical mistakes: Stalin did not attend the Casablanca conference, for example, and Czechoslovakia did not 'capitulate' to the Nazis in December 1938. Despite all this, the book is still well worth reading. (I have not yet seen the film.)


LARGE Plain wood Tea or Meal Tray 64x40cm (25`x16`) decoupage Food tray waitress tray trays
LARGE Plain wood Tea or Meal Tray 64x40cm (25`x16`) decoupage Food tray waitress tray trays
Offered by Craft Sales Ltd
Price: £15.19

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unfinished, crudely mad - and impossible to return., 19 Jan 2014
I bought this tray as a Christmas present. It may be the least successful present I have ever bought, rejected instantly, but I see why. The tray looks fine on the website but in reality it is so crudely made that you worry about getting splinters from it. It is large and reasonably strong but it looks like an unsuccessful attempt by an amateur carpenter, not something anyone would want to buy. Avoid! I have contacted the company responsible but they have not replied.


The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting, and Why it Still Matters
The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting, and Why it Still Matters
by Philip Hensher
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Time for a Slow Writing Movement?, 2 Jan 2014
First, a warning: don't read this book in a crowded train or bus. Unexpected shafts of wit from the author - often in the footnotes - can cause uncontrollable laughter in the reader. But the book's theme is very serious: the sudden collapse of hand-written communication, after centuries - millennia - of letters and notes passing between individuals threatens to dehumanise us in important if unquantifiable ways. Addiction to tapping at our smart phones or even just typing away at a keyboard (as I of course currently am) has created less personal, less expressive forms of communication than writing by hand, no matter how bad your handwriting. Hensher starts by talking of friends whom he has known for years but whose handwriting he has never seen. Then he looks back - wisely only over the last couple of centuries, not back to Babylon or ancient Greece - and traces the varied schools or fashions in orthography that have dominated in the western world. One reason for the decline is lack of interest in teaching any particular form of handwriting at schools, probably reflecting social changes. (Interestingly, the French seem to have taught handwriting in schools until very recently.) But the main reason is technological. If technology exists to serve humanity - rather than vice-versa - then it is surely time to stake out a place for the handwritten note or card, so laboriously and SLOWLY written. Time for a Slow Writing Movement to echo the Slow Food Movement perhaps? Hensher has written a timely as well as entertaining book.


The Northern Clemency
The Northern Clemency
by Philip Hensher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Heavy going - a surprisingly dull read for a Hensher book., 21 Aug 2013
This review is from: The Northern Clemency (Paperback)
I read two earlier novels by Philip Hensher - Pleasured and The Mulberry Empire - with huge enjoyment. Though very different, they both offered a droll and very original view of the world. So I started to read The Northern Clemency with great(ish) expectations. The opening chapters, if competently written, seemed dull and pedestrian by comparison with his earlier books. Keep going, I told myself. Hensher is a masterly novelist, the narrative will suddenly accelerate and the leaden prose will turn to gold as he starts scintillating again. No such luck. What we get is a long, long journey (700 plus pages!) through the decades, mostly set in a suburban northern England depicted so greyly it is no surprise Hensher left it. This may well be a fictional homage to his northern roots - Hensher is a graduate of Oxford and now a man of the great metropolis (i.e. London) - but it lacked real interest. I will certainly look out for other books by Hensher for he is still a brilliant writer - most of the time. But not when he wrote this book.


1913: The World before the Great War
1913: The World before the Great War
by Charles Emmerson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.61

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful panorama of the world's great cities in the last year of peace, 21 Aug 2013
Emmerson' fine book does not, as Norman Stone's oddly misleading preview on the back suggests, explore why the First World War started, something hundreds of books have attempted without much success. It does something far more interesting. It offers a wonderfully informative panorama of some 20 great cities around the world, from London and Paris to Berlin, Vienna, New York, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Cairo, Durban, Melbourne, Bombay, Tokyo, Jerusalem, Constantinople... Emmerson's book is highly informative, indeed scholarly, but his style is very lively. He creates colourful portraits of each of his chosen cities, all booming just as the first Age of Globalisation was about to end in the first global war. He looks back years, even decades, to explain how each city had reached its 1913 state. (Only an occasional carelessness with numbers mars the book. He casually states that Edo/Tokyo was the world's biggest city in the 1850s; earlier, he had rightly listed London's then far greater population.) The omission of Glasgow, then definitely a world city both culturally and economically, is perhaps another fault, although Emmerson clearly cannot cover every metropolis. But these are minor blemishes on a wonderful panorama, a timely and, with hindsight, poignant survey of the world of the Belle Epoque just before 1914.


Buddhism: Key Ideas
Buddhism: Key Ideas
Price: £1.53

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good guide for non-Buddhists, 18 Aug 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a very good guide for anyone who knows little or nothing about Buddhism and wants to know more, but who also wants to avoid getting bogged down in its often obscure terminology (Avalokiteshvar and Dhammachakra, for example). Mel Thompson - who normally writes on western philosophy - has created a sort of ABC for the Middle Way, the path advocated by Buddhists. He succeeds in explaining very lucidly Buddhism's essential teachings in separate but linked sections, which are cross-referenced. This means they can be easily referred to as you read - essential for those who may know nothing of the subject. Thompson's triumph is to make this noble but sometimes misunderstood religion readily explicable to western readers, whether they are students of Buddhism or simply reading out of curiosity. The book is quite short but so clearly written that it does not need to be longer. It's well worth the modest price.


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