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Alfietucker (United Kingdom)

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The Unsettled Dust
The Unsettled Dust
Price: 4.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, but with irritating typos, 24 Mar 2014
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Robert Aickman writes an elegant - sometimes rather self-consciously so - style of English, often quite precise and understated. Alas, this Kindle edition from Faber is sprinkled with inexplicable typos: the latest such typo I've come across is "Doubtless it would be *side* to lock one's doors in a village." I'm pretty sure "side" should have read something else, but cannot guess what. I have stumbled over maybe a dozen or more such typos (having now reached the penultimate story), which is not to mention missing inverted commas. What worries me even more is that an amazon reader's review of the *paperback* edition of The Wine-Dark Sea in the same series complains of similar typos: I'm beginning to think Faber's reputation for sloppy editing in recent publications is justified. A pity, because on the whole I've enjoyed reading this collection.


"Prime Minister, You Wanted to See Me?": A History of  "Week Ending"
"Prime Minister, You Wanted to See Me?": A History of "Week Ending"
by Ian Greaves
Edition: Paperback
Price: 20.27

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps useful for those intending to research BBC Radio 4's "Weekending", 23 Nov 2013
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As a child and young teenager I adored the weekly comedy show "Weekending", listening in during the late 1970s and early '80s when the actors involved were David Jason, Bill Wallis, David Tate and Sheila Steafel. I taped several programmes at the time, and loved listening and re-listening to several of them (anyone remember Ted Heath "The Phantom Advice Giver"? Or David Jason as the harrassed BBC play producer trying to stage Hamlet with stock costumes - "Where's the Ghost gone? Ah, there you are - does the Dalek suit fit you?"). I hoped to be reminded of those shows when I bought this book.

What it offers is a near-comprehensive list of all the shows and their content (I've spotted one or two missing sketches), and a fascinating set of essays about the various producers (one of whom was Douglas Adams, who in fact proves less than ideal: brevity was not his style, and he annoyed actors by telling them *exactly* how they were supposed to deliver their lines) and their teams from the programme's launch in 1970 until its axing in 1998. It's no substitute, though, for the actual shows: a pity that so many were written off as ephemeral, since I think some of the gags are still funny away from the immediate political context, particularly with the team I followed all those years ago. Well, as they say, the world doesn't stand still...


Tchaikovsky's Ballets: Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker (Clarendon Paperbacks)
Tchaikovsky's Ballets: Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker (Clarendon Paperbacks)
by Roland John Wiley
Edition: Paperback
Price: 50.76

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very readable guide to both Tchaikovsky's ballets and the history behind them, 23 Nov 2013
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This book offers a great deal more than its rather dull title promises. The product of ground-breaking and in many respects still unsurpassed research, not only does it go into great depth about the actual creation of Tchaikovsky's three ballets, giving equal detail to choreographical and musical matters, but also gives a very thorough and readable historical background to their creation: that is, of Moscow and ballet at the Bolshoi for Swan Lake's original production (its landmark revival at the Mariinsky also gets a chapter), and of St Petersburg and the Mariinsky, involving the choreographer Petipa, and the fascinating Ivan Vsevolozhsky, director of the Imperial Theatres. Vsevolozhsky was not only the instigator of both Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker (much as Diaghilev would later instigate Stravinsky's three ballets) but also himself a gifted artist who himself designed the costumes for both those ballets. In short, this is simply the most informative single volume one could hope to find on Tchaikovsky's mould-breaking and still celebrated ballets.


Radical: My Journey from Islamist Extremism to a Democratic Awakening
Radical: My Journey from Islamist Extremism to a Democratic Awakening
by Maajid Nawaz
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A compelling and revealing book - pity there's no index!, 25 Oct 2013
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I picked up this book almost by chance, while looking for books on multiculturalism in Britain. I read the blurb, which said it was about "a young Essex B-Boy recruited to an extreme Islamist group in London", who after "five years in a brutal Egyptian jail" and his release eventually "renounced political Islamism and now risks his life to undo everything he was once prepared to die for." Pretty torrid stuff, I thought, but I was interested; having been repulsed by terrorism in general and by the 9/11 and 7/7 events I wanted to try to understand what lay behind such atrocities.

This book, to my surprise, informed me and made me understand - for the first time - how certain young Muslims born and brought up in the UK may still revile the country of their birth and swear allegiance to Muslim nations. Of course foreign policy has a deal to do with this, as liberal politicians tirelessly explain: Maajid Nawaz recalls that one of the most compelling motivations he had for joining the radical Islamist group, Hizb al-Tahrir (or Hizb ut-Tahrir as it's more usually named in the media), was seeing videos of terrible atrocities carried out in former Yugoslavia by the Serbians against white Bosnian Muslims. His seeing people slaughtered and mutilated not because of the colour of their skin but simply because they were Muslim, and the fact Western Europe stood by and did virtually nothing to stop it, made him susceptible to Hizb al-Tahrir propaganda: that at best the West did not give a damn about Muslims, and at worst was at war with them to plunder their resources, even as Western nations hypocritically claimed to be liberating them from tyranny - witness Iraq.

Further, Hizb al-Tahrir fed (and probably still feeds) their followers a simplified history of Muslims in Europe, claiming that the last time they were secure was under the auspices of the Ottoman Empire which, they claimed, was ruled by Sharia law. Hizb al-Tahrir therefore aspired/aspires to create a Caliphate, a Muslim empire, by taking over the governance of Pakistan, Egypt and other Muslim nations and effectively remould them in their image/version of the Ottoman Empire where Muslims can again be safe and strong.

It was to this dream - to which ultimately all else was expendable - that Nawaz subscribed to. It was with this vision that he absorbed an "us versus them" mentality, in which "them" was the West, seen as the enemy to this dream. He did this even as he recognised he was abusing the trust of those well-disposed towards him. Nawaz recalls how he and his Hizb al-Tahrir associates ran rings around the student liaison officer at Newham College where he studied: "A friendly, affable, well-meaning guy, his politics were forged in an earlier era, a time when student protests were about sit-ins and strikes and occupying the Student Union. [...] We knowingly presented political demands disguised as religion and multiculturalism, and deliberately labeled any objection to our demands as racism and bigotry."

Despite all this, what is extraordinary about the entire narrative is how Nawaz's ultimate humanity is evident not simply as a retrospective gloss on all that happened, but was a constant flame, however guttering at times, inside him. He is able to observe decency in others who were not part of his cause or even Muslim. Recalling his life before joining Hizb al-Tahrir, he recalls a stranger - "a respectable-looking studious type of white guy" - who suddenly, randomly, interposed himself when a gang of C18 skinheads armed with knives, clubs and knuckledusters were about to attack Nawaz. (This being no fairy tale, the skinheads simply turned on the stranger and assaulted him instead.) Later, he recalls during his time at grammar school Mr Moth, a teacher who "was a lovely guy" and gay, who even in the face of Nawaz's homophobic jokes "continued to treat me not just with respect, but also with encouragement", helping Nawaz achieve the grades he needed to go to SOAS.

With such observations, it is not so surprising that Nawaz responded to the humanity of Amnesty International taking up his cause while he was jailed in Egypt (probably saving him from the horrible torture he heard day after day). Aged 27 and in jail, Nawaz reflected on his training, and all he had come to believe through Hizb al-Tahrir: "Islamism derived part of its power from its dehumanization of `the other'. [...] Throughout my teenage and young adult life I had been dehumanized and desensitized to violence. As I got sucked into the Islamist ideology, I in turn began to dehumanize others."

Amnesty International's intervention "challenged all that". He recalled all the "non-Muslims who actually cared about my well-being". Learning of the 7/7 bombings, he was now struck by the fact that the biggest demonstration against the Iraq War took place in London on 15 February 2003. He argued with a professional bomber, who claimed that because the government who had led Britain into invading Iraq had been democratically elected, British civilians were a legitimate target. Nawaz pointed out that democracy "is not the same as a referendum, and there was no referendum on Iraq"; further "By your argument, you should blow up Turkey before you detonate a bomb in London. Turkey's a member of NATO, which supported the war as well, Turkey's a democracy too, and the protests there were nothing on the scale of these in London, so surely by your logic the Turks must have been more supportive of the war than the British." (Yes, unfortunately that sentence is an example of the rather light editorial hand in this book!) The professional bomber's only response was "the Turkish people are Muslims, we can't be killing our own people."

The rest of the book concerns Nawaz's dawning realization of the appalling inhumanity of Hazb al-Tahrir's principles and his brave decision to leave it and virtually all the friends and colleagues he had built in the past 13 years. I don't need to outline all this (though I'll just add that on one hand Nawaz appears a little `star struck' by the likes of George W Bush and David Cameron; on the other, I found some of his reflections on the difference between the Islam he learned from Hazb al-Tahrir and from a cooler look at the history of the Ottoman empire thought provoking). The real meat of the book is Nawaz's journey in and out of Islamist extremism - hence why I have gone into some detail about what seems to me the meat of the book. It is an extraordinary journey, bravely recalled, and it seems to me that Riz Ahmed's summing up of the book as "The UK's answer to the autobiography of Malcolm X" is well-justified, particularly given the high profile Nawaz has had both as spokesman of Hazb al-Tahrir and now as head of the think tank Quilliam.

It's a pity, as I've intimated earlier, that the book wasn't more carefully edited for grammar and style before publication. Also Nawaz mentions many organisations not familiar to myself and I suspect many other potential readers (e.g. Aman al-Dawlah, Egypt's state security, which I had to double take when I saw the name as I thought it might have been the name of a person!). If only the publisher had prepared an index! As it is, I had to spend some time skimming back pages I'd read to find the first occurrence of a name to remind myself who someone was, or what organization was being referred to by a particular name.

That said, this has been an engrossing read. I'm really grateful for having found this book, and it has given me a handle not only on Islamist beliefs but also truly awakened my curiosity about the history of the more benign strain of Islam. (btw I'm dead impressed too, though it happened after I bought the book, that Nawaz has persuaded Tommy Robinson to relinquish his leadership of EDL.)


Elgar: Nursery Suite, Serenade in E Minor, Op. 20 & Bavarian Dances, Op. 27
Elgar: Nursery Suite, Serenade in E Minor, Op. 20 & Bavarian Dances, Op. 27
Price: 6.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A lovely album, but with one track foreshortened, 7 July 2012
I had this album when it was an LP available on 'Music for Pleasure', and it was a great favourite of mine. I'm delighted to find it's now available as a download, but unfortunately the final movement of the Serenade for Strings cuts off when it's barely half-way through (this appears to be a fault of whoever has produced this download rather than amazon's). I wish this could be fixed, and then this would definitely be a five star issue. The Nursery Suite is generally a swift and no-nonsense performance (and the better for that), save for the very 'Sad Doll' which is taken at a slower than usual speed, so deepening its melancholy and revealing more details of its orchestration. And the performances of the Serenade and particularly the Bavarian Dances are superbly idiomatic.


Poulenc;Gloria/Piano Conc.
Poulenc;Gloria/Piano Conc.

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful, light-footed Gloria with a ravishing soprano, 29 Feb 2012
The CBSO and Chorus were a fine bunch even before Simon Rattle appeared on the scene. Louis Frémaux made a number of fine recordings, including of Fauré's Requiem (with, as on this recording, Norma Burrowes) and of the Facade suites by Walton. Here is an absolutely lovely recording of Poulenc's Gloria, with a well-disciplined chorus, light-footed as is the orchestra. But what makes this an absolutely ravishing experience is the dulcet tones of Norma Burrowes, one of the loveliest sopranos working in the 1970s - something like Barbara Bonney but purer-toned and absolutely heart-touching in her expressiveness without any affectation. The Piano Concerto is an enjoyable if rather laid-back performance. Do get this disc for the Gloria - if only EMI would reissue it again...


What Remains: The Life & Work of Sally Mann [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
What Remains: The Life & Work of Sally Mann [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Sally Mann
Offered by RAREWAVES USA
Price: 12.16

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A genuine moving portrait of an artist - in more than one sense, 1 Jan 2010
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Sally Mann is most famous for her hauntingly beautiful photos of her children, and the main documentary touches on her work in that area (a half-hour documentary included as a bonus goes into yet more detail, not least the controversy stirred by her pictures and issues of censorship). But, as is soon very clear, she has moved on to other interests - first landscapes, and then images of mortality, some of them shocking in their initial impact (at least to me, and I suppose anyone else who finds the idea of photographing decomposing human corpses beyond the norms of art), but then in their cumulative effect genuinely moving.

We not only see Sally Mann at work but also her talking candidly - and to a remarkable degree articulately - about what inspires her, and how her interest in different subjects for her photography has evolved. The main film is also a touching portrait of her marriage to her husband, a one-time artist (and so sympathetic to her work) who now works as an attorney, but now suffering a gradually wasting condition in his muscles. Sally Man talks candidly about her feelings about her husband, and movingly talks about how they first met (when evidently he was someone of impressive physique, so making his wasting disease the more poignant).

Another interesting extra is a talk and Q&A session Sally Mann gives at a symposium, in which she speaks about the artist's responsibility not only to their art but also to their subject.

This is warmly recommended to anyone who is in the least bit interested in Mann's work, and indeed to anyone wishing to see a thought-provoking documentary about art, raising questions about what it can do in terms of human expression (something beyond mere representation).


Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions: A Biography of the Works through Mavra
Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions: A Biography of the Works through Mavra
by Richard Taruskin
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Not just a book about Stravinsky, 29 April 2008
This 2 volume work is possibly Taruskin's greatest work (forget about his multi-volume work on Western Music!). It combines the most wide-ranging scholarly research into Russian music (not just directly to do with Stravinsky) from the late nineteenth century up to Stravinsky's Mavra (composed 1922) with a very engaging and readable style. On the way we learn a great deal about the final years of Balakirev's 'mighty little heap' (or Kuchka) and Rimsky-Korsakov's uneasy relationship both with his former mentor and his friendly rival Tchaikovsky. About Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, including as close to the real story as we'll probably ever get to how Stravinsky came to get that watershed commission to write The Firebird. About the avant-garde in St Petersburg, and about several lesser-known but fascinating composers as Steinberg and Gnessin.

I've lived with this massive work for close on ten years now, and I still find it a fascinating treasure trove which I'm still in the process of learning from. In short, this is an essential book for anyone who has any interest in what happened between the hey-day of the likes of Rimsky-Korsakov, Balakirev and Glazunov, and the rise of Prokofiev and Stravinsky.


Violin Concertos (Perlman, Mehta/Zukerman)
Violin Concertos (Perlman, Mehta/Zukerman)
Offered by simply-well-priced
Price: 14.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A ravishing First Concerto, 1 Mar 2008
Here's a very fine programme at mid-price: Prokofiev's lovely First Concerto - airy and singing - coupled with the more celebrated Second Concerto with its lyrical slow movement and splendidly sardonic finale, coupled with the rarely heard but very worthwhile Sonata for Two Violins (rather similar to Ravel's sometimes abrasive Sonata for Violin and Cello).

My introduction to Prokofiev's First Violin Concerto was a live performance by these musicians - it was a ravishing experience. Perlman's playing is just perfect - dead in tune, singing and surmounting all the virtuoso hurdles like no one else in any other recording I've heard. My main criticism of the recording is that Perlman is rather favoured over the orchestra - it's a lovely listening experience even so, but when you hear other recordings you're aware of some solo detail from the orchestral players being merged somewhere in the background, almost to the point of not being audible (e.g. the rough canon involving a muted trumpet in the final movement).

Gil Shaham with André Previn on Deutsche Grammophon provide a good complement to this recording - you can hear more of Prokofiev's orchestral detail - but I would be devastated if Perlman's ever went out of circulation. Shaham and Previn give a better account of the Second Concerto (with it's songful central movement), but then Perlman joins Zukerman in the splendidly gritty yet expressive Sonata for Two Violins, an all too rarely heard work. So overall a strong recommendation.


Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions: A Biography of the Works Through Mavra
Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions: A Biography of the Works Through Mavra
by Richard Taruskin
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars So much more than a book about Stravinsky, 24 Feb 2008
This 2 volume work is possibly Taruskin's greatest work (forget about his multi-volume work on Western Music!). It combines the most wide-ranging scholarly research into Russian music (not just directly to do with Stravinsky) from the late nineteenth century up to Stravinsky's Mavra (composed 1922) with a very engaging and readable style. On the way we learn a great deal about the final years of Balakirev's 'mighty little heap' (or Kuchka) and Rimsky-Korsakov's uneasy relationship both with his former mentor and his friendly rival Tchaikovsky. About Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, including as close to the real story as we'll probably ever get to how Stravinsky came to get that watershed commission to write The Firebird. About the avant-garde in St Petersburg, and about several lesser-known but fascinating composers as Steinberg and Gnessin.

I've lived with this massive work for close on ten years now, and I still find it a fascinating treasure trove which I'm still in the process of learning from. In short, this is an essential book for anyone who has any interest in what happened between the hey-day of the likes of Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Musorgsky and Balakirev, and the rise of Prokofiev and Stravinsky.


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