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Barzakh
Barzakh
Price: £17.05

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional, 31 Oct 2007
This review is from: Barzakh (Audio CD)
I listened to this CD again the other night - I had forgotten how good it is.

Brahem is an absolute master of the Oud (Arabic lute). On this CD his compositions are beautiful and and musicianship is of the very highest standard.

There isn't really anything else to be said. Buy it.


Plays: "Ivanov", "The Seagull", "Uncle Vanya", "Three Sisters", "The Cherry Orchard" (Penguin Classics)
Plays: "Ivanov", "The Seagull", "Uncle Vanya", "Three Sisters", "The Cherry Orchard" (Penguin Classics)
by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First rate drama, 29 Oct 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
For anyone who doesn't know Chekhov, I recommend you get acquainted with his work immediately. His short stories are superb, and his five plays are masterpieces of theatre. It is such a shame that he died when he was only 44 - like Mozart, you really wonder what on earth he would have produced by the time he was 60.

As always with Chekhov, I am amazed at the fact he is able to create tension and high drama from absolutely nothing - boredom, loss of zest for life, inability to move on, hopeless incompetence, arrogance, etc etc. Characters are absolutely pared down to the minimum necessary to dissect a psychological state, atmosphere, general state of affairs etc., and the language is an exercise in economy - it functions only as a vehicle for creating dramatic effect. If the penguin translation is faithful, then there is little, if any, superfluous imagery, and nothing that digresses from the function of each moment of dramatic intensity.

The tone and themes of each play - as with his short stories - are always ambiguous: bittersweet, tragicomic, sad and joyful, generosity and miserliness, adultery vs sterile faithfulness etc. In this lack of commitment to a stable reality Chekhov was well ahead of his time and it is easy to see how his plays have exerted such an influence on the development of the modern play.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 13, 2011 12:00 AM GMT


Filles De Kilimanjaro
Filles De Kilimanjaro
Price: £5.19

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Typically brilliant, 4 Oct 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Filles De Kilimanjaro (Audio CD)
Filles de Kilimanjaro is one of Davis' best albums. It takes a bit of getting into, but it really is worth the effort. Hard to know where to start as the music sort of defies description, but the percussion of Tony Williams on this music is dazzling: not overbearing or thudding, but ever present, driving forward the bluesy, mellow improvisations. Bass and keyboards are very pared down, spare and relaxed, and the main action is between Williams, Shorter and Davis.

Struggling for words, I'd say it's the kind of music that only a band this good could get away with - the improvisations really push the shape of the music to its outer limits. But Davis, Williams, Hancock and Shorter are the best of their generation on their particular instruments and the end product is sparkling, joyous and groovy.


E. S. P.
E. S. P.

5.0 out of 5 stars Five stars, no argument, 1 Oct 2007
This review is from: E. S. P. (Audio CD)
This is a really good CD. Everything this quintet produced was magnificent, but this one has it all. The variety is astonishing and the playing is fascinating as it drifts between dazzling virtuosity, mellow duets and trios, and the majesty of the whole band playing together.

It feels like the band are playing within themselves - not going for the more eccentric and distant scales and modulations that they moved into from Nefertiti onwards. This makes ESP more accessible, but in my view it's all the more remarkable for the level of control and understated mellowness that characterises the whole set.


Middlesex
Middlesex
by Jeffrey Eugenides
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and original, 1 Oct 2007
This review is from: Middlesex (Paperback)
When I read books of this length - 500+ pages - I expect that there'll be bits that I find boring. To Eugenides immense credit, I never once found Middlesex anything other than entertaining.

Eugenides's writing is erudite, fluid and very pleasurable to read. He can get away with all sorts of unbelievable conceits because his characters are strong enough and his narrative voice sufficiently original to hold the reader suspended in his imaginary world.

As with all the best books, the plot is incidental or irrelevant, and it is the power of Eugenides's writing holds the fascination - "le plaisir du texte".

The book turnsslightly erratic towards the end, the narrative pace accelerating too much, so that the humorous detail and lazy indulgence of the opening and middle sections is sacrificed for a credible ending. To be fair, this is a common problem with picaresque novels, and the author can be forgiven a little shabbiness for the book's originality and audacity.


Apocalypse Now [1979] [DVD]
Apocalypse Now [1979] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Martin Sheen
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £6.84

10 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars overrated film, overrated director, 31 May 2007
This review is from: Apocalypse Now [1979] [DVD] (DVD)
I saw Apocalypse Now again on TV recently and thought I should give it another go, given that so many people think so highly of it. But no, sorry, it's not particularly good. Two stars because the camera work is OK, but it's a rambling, incoherent and pretty boring film altogether.

Actually this should come as no surprise - the Godfather (I and II) apart, Coppola's reputation as film-maker is mostly undeserved.


Red Road [DVD] [2006]
Red Road [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Kate Dickie
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £4.00

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb film-making, 31 May 2007
This review is from: Red Road [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
Red road is an excellent film, very tense, full of surprises and - above all - superbly filmed. The camera work is some of the best photography I've seen in a long time - some very arty shots, which are not at all pretentious, but give the film the understated, restrained atmosphere that other reviewers have referred to. Very, very good. Kate Dickie is fantastic.


A Clockwork Orange (Penguin Modern Classics)
A Clockwork Orange (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Anthony Burgess
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a mini masterpiece, 4 May 2007
A great little book, written in the first person by a violent teenager who goes to prison, is brainwashed into being good, then recovers his capacity to do evil and finally chooses to settle down. It is, of course, a meditation on the limits of human freedom, what it means to be good or bad and the role of social instiutions (family, school, prison, the church, politics) in shaping behaviour and giving moral meaning to human action.

If that sounds a bit heavy, fear not. It is very, very funny, highly imaginative and written in an invented teenage slang mainly based on russian. This makes things a little difficult at first, but you soon get used to it, and it adds vibrancy and conviction to Burgess's narrator - little Alex.

It's amazing to think that this book and the film provoked such outrage at the time of their release. The passage of time has softened the impact of the descriptions of muggings and rapes which compared to more recent offerings (e.g. American Psycho) hardly even register as problematic.


American Psycho
American Psycho
by Bret Easton Ellis
Edition: Paperback

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shocking, vile and very good, 22 Mar 2007
This review is from: American Psycho (Paperback)
Careful with this one. If you haven't got the stomach for graphic descriptions of the most depraved and senseless acts of violence, depravity and murder then, really, don't read it. Ellis leaves no stone unturned in describing the vile deeds of his (anti) hero, the serial killer Patrick Bateman, and the nasty and random brutality inflicted on his victims can be a challenging read.

But the book is not actually about the murders themselves. The reviewers who say that the book is about the failures of capitalism and consumer excess are absolutely correct, however pretentious that may sound - it's the bits in between the killings that are what the book is about. Or - to put it another way - the killings are an integral part of the world of labels, product endorsements, tv serials, chat shows, restaurants and conversations about restaurants, cocaine, GQ magazine, fitness routines at the gym, self-obsession, superficial lifestyles and empty personalities that Bateman lives in.

What he finds out is that endless killing has no more power to make his life meaningful than an endless choice of designer clothes, regional cuisines, CD or DVD technology or skin and haircare products. Consumer excess leads ultimately to disassociation, loss of values and absence of personality.


The Lady with the Little Dog and Other Stories, 1896-1904 (Penguin Classics)
The Lady with the Little Dog and Other Stories, 1896-1904 (Penguin Classics)
by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Slow down, write less, and concentrate on literary quality", 5 Mar 2007
"Slow down, write less, and concentrate on literary quality" is the advice a contemporary critic gave to Chekhov after the publication of one of his first short stories. He had certainly heeded this advice by the last years of his life, when the stories in this collection were written. These are compact, meditative stories in which mood, tone and emotion are highlighted, rather than traditional event-driven plots.

I bought the book because I liked the cover - an impressionist painting with a hint of expressionism. A very good choice which sums up the mood of the short tales in this volume. Most of them have no plot, beyond the trivial, normal concerns of the lives of ordinary people (falling in love, marriage, adultery, work, ambition etc) - Chekhov prefers to distort the significance of the external world and focus on the emotions of the characters involved: normally to the point of futility at the failure of life, the world, to conform to the perspective of the main character or narrator, or indeed any of the characters.

More often than not this conflict is worked out through the clash of Russian provincial life with the personal ambitions, the deepest wants of a particular character - e.g. to be a great actor or musician, to be free of petty corruption, to love freely. None of the dilemmas are resolved, although Chekhov hints at partial solutions, but always with the suggestion that these will simply lead to more problems. This is presumably why so many of the stories involve adultery (as a possibility or in fact) - unhappy people seeking answers in more meaningful relationships create more problems for themselves (psychological, emotional, imaginary, real) which in turn cast doubt on the meaning of the relationship.

Another area Chekhov likes to use is work and the Russian class system - petty bureaucrats, landowners, writers and artists, engineers, transport workers and peasants make numerous appearances. Chekhov exploits their way of life, values, concerns, habits and hypocrisies to examine, suggest, blur and tamper with the realist vision. Unlike Tolstoy, for instance, there is little Romantic depiction of the peasantry: stories like Peasants and My Life portray them as brutal, drunken, rapacious and stupid. However, Chekhov is much more critical of the petty mores, corruption, snobbery and empty-headed romanticism of the middle classes.

Chekhov's prose is cool, controlled and gentle - a superb stylist who paints bright and colourful pictures which both bring alive 19th century Russian life and provide a rich array of types and images for his allusive technique. There is none of the rambling bombast that can be characteristic of late 19th century writing. The stories are generally slow-paced and (purposely) repetitious - as befits a writer concerned to unpick the innermost thoughts and reflections of his characters, their struggle to come to terms with the personal significance of events and facts about the world, their frustrations as they fight to resolve the clashes between their own vision and the life of the village, town, nation or world in which they live.

A very enjoyable and enriching book - certainly an author/playwright I shall return to.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 23, 2009 2:27 PM BST


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