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Susan Martin "donaghadee"

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The Story of Music
The Story of Music
by Howard Goodall
Edition: Hardcover

45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathless, 25 Jan. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Story of Music (Hardcover)
"We press 'play' and a million styles, sounds, aural colours, echoes and voices breeze in towards us as if at an opened window. We are like children with a thousand games at our fingertips. We have, at last, reached a point where there are no right or wrong decisions about what music we may or may not enjoy - just one gratifyingly simple instruction: 'play'".

So ends Howard Goodall's breathless account of 42,000 years of music in 324 pages.

I love music - I have hundreds of CDs by hundreds of artists from Dolly (Parton, ofcourse) to Dvorak to Dizzie Gillespie. It is one of the most important things in my life, but I can't read music, have no formal 'appreciation' skills, I can't (so I've been told) even sing in tune: I just know what I like. And that is music which moves me. And all good music does.

However, there comes a point when you want to know how the story of music hangs together. You want to know why certain sounds and rhythms affect you and how we got to a point where Emile Sande, Dizzee Rascal and Elgar's Nimrod among other musical forms can sit happily on the same bill as they did at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in the summer of 2012.

I think Howard has done this in spades and at just the right pitch (all puns intended). He has clearly picked me as his audience and is determined to give me the whole story, with just enough theory to stretch me and plenty of modern examples of form and melody to let me get his point even without the luxury of an accompanying CD or TV programme. For example, "Syncopation is LIKE talkING with THE emPHAsis on THE wrong words TO creATE a jerKY sound." He uses well known tracks by Adele and Beyonce to illustrate how this works and why it's important.

He begins his story in 41,000BC - 'The Age of Discovery' with the discovery of an ancient flute in Slovenia and a discourse on how music was not just for the soul but for our language development, even for our very survival. From there we romp through various ages, "Discovery", "Penitence", "Invention" among them which describe how music developed through these ages to the present day, sometimes in sync with the other great shifts in human development like industrialisation and religious reform, sometimes not. He covers the importance of musical notation and tuning, the invention of key instruments, the influence of the great composers and their quite often forgotten mentors, globalisation and so much more besides........I'm risking sounding as breathless as Howard does: anxious to get it all in, and in the most straightforward way possible.

The best I can do is to say that if you are like me: you love music, but "don't really know that much about it", read this book and use it as a springboard to more reading and listening. With 42,000 years of material, the emphasis is on what is wrongly called 'Classical' music (I know why this is wrong now), but I hope to see Howard's more of fantastic pedagogy on the "Popular Ages" soon. Oh, and I can't wait to see the TV series.

by John Lanchester
Edition: Hardcover

274 of 301 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is not the way we live now, 28 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Capital (Hardcover)
Perhaps John Lanchester has fallen prey to the hyperbole of his well meaning journalist colleagues: I had great expectations from the press for this novel and its reported ambition to pull together all the threads that make London what it is today: to be "The Way We Live Now" for the 21st century.

The premise is genius - take a south London street and its occupants from the old school banker heading for a fall, along with everyone else, to the old lady, the last of the ordinary pre-professional class who is dying, and use it as a prism to view London the city and the City of London. I recognised the street - hell, I live in a south London street between a retired electrician and his wife, who do indeed still have lino in the kitchen, and a banker who's putting in a loft conversion - and I recognised every single one of the characters from the banker's wife to the Polish builder. The plot bounces along, the writing is clean and well structured and it does manage to link all the disparate characters together in a way that doesn't jar. I want to love it and yet.....and yet......

The thing is: I know all this, and you do too. You know the characters if you've had a drink in a City bar, have employed a Polish builder, watched a episode of Gavin and Stacey, taken a trip to Harvey Nicks, watched Peston on the news and have heard of Banksy. I wanted more heft, more nuance, more insight, characters who were flesh and blood, not illustrations of a type. In short, I wanted more than a confirmation of what I can see around me every day. Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner.

"Capital" is worth the read, but wait for the paperback and a long flight. It may be the way we live now, but it won't be "The Way We Live Now" in a hundred years.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 24, 2013 4:49 PM BST

Eat Up!: Seeking out the Best of British Home Cooking
Eat Up!: Seeking out the Best of British Home Cooking
by Charles Campion
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lazy....unengaging.....uninformative.....don't buy, 9 Aug. 2010
As a foodie, I'm a sucker for any writing on food. And boy am I a sucker for having bought this book.

The book purports to report how and what the best home cooks are doing in Britain today. There is no analysis, no research, no opinion, and absolutely no insight. Charles Campion has a few nice dinners around the country and tells us a little bit about the people who cooked it and a few sketchy recipes. That's it. Charles says this is the book he has most enjoyed writing. Presumably because he didn't have to do much beyond pass the desultory scribbles on his napkin to his publisher. Who then padded it out by making the writing big.

Inane, lazy and a complete waste of money. Don't buy.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 25, 2013 1:14 PM BST

The Flavour Thesaurus
The Flavour Thesaurus
by Niki Segnit
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.91

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy one 3, 9 Aug. 2010
This review is from: The Flavour Thesaurus (Hardcover)
I bought this book as soon as it came out partly because of some outstanding reviews, but mainly because I couldn't believe that no one has tackled why certain flavours go together before. So obvious.....doh!

I showed my new purchase to a foodie friend of mine over dinner. He salivated over it to the detriment of the meal we were eating. The conversation wasn't so hot either. To make a point, I left it with him. And then I left him. One copy down.

I showed my next copy to my sister in law and it hasn't been seen since. Two copies down.

My third and final copy hasn't left my handbag. What a joy to have something like this to dip into. Niki Segnit has come up with perhaps the most innovative approach to food writing since Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking. But where as Harold's opus demands scholarly concentration, The Flavour Thesaurus, is full of humour and life. This is what she has to say on the combination of celery and shellfish:

"Waking from a coma in season 6 of The Sopranos, the first thing Tony asks for is a lobster roll from the Pearl Oyster Bar in the West Village. If you've ever wondered why mobsters are fat, you might like to note that these include melted butter AND mayonnaise. Mix lobster meat, a little finely chopped celery, a squeeze of lemon and seasoning, and leave in the fridge while you open out hot dog buns like books and brown the insides in a pan of melted butter. Stuff the lobster mix into the bun. Eat lying back on a sun lounger, thinking of New England."

So although the basic premise is the matching of pairs of flavours, there is just so, so much more. Food history, recipes, delicious morsels from other great food writers and cultural references from Chekov to the Rolling Stones, make this a life affirming treasury for the confirmed foodie or anyone who has a passing interest in why we eat what we do. Segnit has a charming, intimate style - you just know she'd be a brilliant dinner companion - she manages to combine her hard won research with a sparklingly light anecdote or knowing opinion.

Utterly terrific. Just remember to buy more than one copy.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 9, 2010 4:59 PM BST

The Old Romantic
The Old Romantic
by Louise Dean
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, funny, thought provoking, 8 Aug. 2010
This review is from: The Old Romantic (Paperback)
There is an old joke, the body of which I've long forgotten, but the punch line remains with me constantly: "The only thing in life you HAVE to do is die".

It's a premise which Ken, the protagonist in this excellent new novel, is taking extremely seriously. He volunteers at the local funeral parlour run by the larger than life Audrey, project manages his own send off down to the handles on the coffin. However, arranging the devoted family around his death bed proves to be a just a little bit more problematic, particularly as he hasn't seen one of his sons for over 20 years. It's the cue for a parade of what at first sight seem to be comic grotesques in the vein of a Mike Leigh film, which Dean artfully moulds into compelling characters. There are a number of incidents which had me snorting with suppressed laughter which then turned into cheek burning, toe curling embarrassment as I recalled how my own family dealt with the key themes of class, changing values and dysfunctional family relationships. This is the real joy of the novel: Louise Dean uses her trademark knowing observations on the absurdity of the quotidien to make you examine your own relationships and values. I don't want to give away the resolution to Ken's painstakingly planned death, but I think others will enjoy the unexpected and unexpectedly uplifting denouement as much as I did.

I devoured this book in a single sitting and then returned again and again to the brilliant set pieces. I suspect that long after the details fade, like the long forgotten joke, this novel will continue to make me think about what's really important in life.

Highly recommended.

Becoming Strangers
Becoming Strangers
by Louise Dean
Edition: Paperback

25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, unexpected and compelling...I want more!, 1 Mar. 2004
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Becoming Strangers (Paperback)
It's hard to ignore a book when the first lines read "Before he had cancer he'd been bored by life. Since he'd taken dying seriously, he'd been busy". It's an opening to rank with Tolstoy's "All happy families resemble one another.." and Jane Austen's "It's a truth generally acknowledged...."
I found this story utterly compelling and unexpected. Compelling because I couldn't put the thing down and unexpected because I didn't think I'd care so much about 2 outwardly mundane couples at the beginning of the end of their lives together. Even more unexpected because just as you think you know where you are, Dean drops a startling and, once you've recovered from the shock, extemely funny line. All of which forces you to reconsider your reactions to both the tale unfolding on the page and the story of your own life.
The synopsis does no favours to this brilliant novel: in following the story of the elderly George and Dorothy from Bexhill-on-Sea and middle-aged Annemieke and Jan from Belgium on their once in a life time holiday in the Carribbean, you will reflect on your own life and that of your parents and grandparents with a new and searching light.
Read it, and then tell your friends. Is there more from where this came from?

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