Profile for The Outsider > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by The Outsider
Top Reviewer Ranking: 7,549
Helpful Votes: 488

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
The Outsider "Muso" (London)

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
The Social Conquest of Earth
The Social Conquest of Earth
by Edward O. Wilson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 18.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ant-tastic!, 16 Mar 2013
Those who challenge EO Wilson's slow conversion to group selection over kin selection, obviously hate this erudite ode to eusociality, and rightly so. It demonstrates the wisdom of his careful and detailed demolition of kin selection as a limited and mostly irrelevant determinant of evolutionary behaviour. I would imagine it was Wilson's unchallengable mastery of the insect world - and his 40 year obsession to link the behaviour of man to insect - that finally swayed him to this new understanding.

Edward O. Wilson is a professor emeritus at Harvard University in entymology and a founder of evolutionary biology and psychology. He is one of the world's great intellectuals. He is as influential in his sphere as the Beatles were to mid-sities pop music. He writes with clarity and ease, and cares deeply about science. His long dissection of the group vs. kin selection rests on eusociality, the societies of insects and people, who rule the earth through group co-operation. One memorable idea is that, while a selfish individual might triumph over a co-operative one, a selfish group loses out to a co-operative group - all the time. Some of the detailed anecdotes about insect behaviour still astonish the non-scientists among us (me!)

I particularly loved the final chapters of this book, especially the one in which he evicerates religion. In this he makes Dawkins look hysteric without much effort. To Wilson, the natural world, with all its wonders, knocks the spots off the imaginary world of 'faith.' Be prepared to take another look at The Selfish Gene and other works based in kin selection. There is a better idea, and Wilson shows it to us.


Hope: A Tragedy
Hope: A Tragedy
by Shalom Auslander
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hello Stranger, 2 Mar 2013
This review is from: Hope: A Tragedy (Paperback)
The pseudonym is as telling as the tale. Poor Sol Kugel finds a dying Anne Frank in the attic of his new home in the sticks and is forced to confront his identity. Can a Jew toss the symbol of Jewish persecution out of his home, I mean, toss aside Jewish post Holocaust identity away? Hello Stranger, indeed!

But this is not a one joke, Woody Allen type story - this is, rather, an insane meditation on hope. For Auslander's character has been told by Professor Jove (God, the names!) that hope is the worst thing for mankind, as it always brings the prospect of better, which inevitably turns into something worse. 'Hope for the best, espect the worst' as Mel Brooks sang in The Twelve Chairs. And as the strange characters that pack this novel prove this reversal of expectations to be true - my favourites are the demented estate agent Eve (I know, more symbolism) and the ridiculous Pinkus (obviously, Steven Pinker). For example, Pinkus bemoans the response to in his latest book (clearly, The Better Angels of Our Nature)- people are complaining that they find the whole premise of human behaviour improving over the centuries incredible despite the fact filled examples in his latest book. He gives them hope, and they laugh out loud.

Auslander does flog this horse to death, but he does this with great humour, so the novel goes by at a clip. He writes very well, fills the story with great 'last words', which our hero eventually must confront in the story, and is clearly such a teacher in the righteous sense, that this tale has great punch. It is particularly good if you are Jewish, and must be a tad mystifying if you're not.

Almost 5 stars, maybe I'm a bit harsh. But if you fancy a challenging comedy of ideas, this one's for you.


Canada
Canada

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fake Country, 23 Feb 2013
This review is from: Canada (Kindle Edition)
Just as Cormac McCarthy uses Mexico to reveal the dark side of his American characters, Richard Ford heads in the other direction, to Canada to confront evil with the face of good. Indeed, both parts of Canada - the US story of the ordinary parents who fumble into bank robbery and pay a heavy price - and the Canadian story, in which our storyteller slips into a more pure kind of evil, illustrate the lost, lonely life where even banal people can plumb the depths. It is a hard story to like, which is why so many people reviewing the book disliked it, but finshed it.

And what could me more banal than the tale of Dell? Born to mismatched parents, his feckless father, chucked out of the service for trading in stolen meat, turns to crime. His reserved mother, a Jewish schoolteacher, willingly joins him, despite all reason. After they meet their fate, Dell is rescued by a friend of his mother, taken to Canada, and delivered into the hands of a deranged, racist and narcissist called Remlinger. Things go from bad to much worse, but Dell manages to grow up, straighten out his life and become the author of this story.

Ford is a very fine craftsmam and cannot write a bad novel. But this is not that great, not that profound, not that interesting, and frankly, a bit like Canada - it is, at times, trite, bland, and characterless. Perhaps I am unappreciative of the deeper themes explored, or have seen them done better, even by Ford himself.

All of the fake people - on the surface, so ordinary and bland - like Canada - are really dark characters, capable of anything. Not a patch on the Border, by the aforementioed McCarthy, with which it shares some thematic similarity.


The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution
The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution
by Faramerz Dabhoiwala
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Serious Sex, 18 Feb 2013
Don't be fooled by the title - there is nothing titilating about this scholarly history of the 'great change'. And I'm not talking about menapause here, but change resulting from the gradual loosening of how the church dicatated how people behaved when it came to sex.

The author is an Oxford based historian, and this beautifully researched and written volume is one of the best books of 2012. It can be read by the general reader and academics alike. The story unfolds elegantly and without too much (unfortunately, some) anachronistic feminist re-writing of history. The church ruled all our lives and sexuality, and as its awful influence receded from the Enlightenment to the last century, the world moved on. The events chronicled here are little discussed but well known, but this brilliant book spells out in great detail, how the onerous moral burden has been lifted.

Don't be put off - if you like history, and are interested in the subject, you will be rewarded by this incisive, intelligent and surprising account.


We Others: New and Selected Stories
We Others: New and Selected Stories
by Steven Millhauser
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.35

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonder-full, 5 Feb 2013
This collection removes any doubt about Millhauser - he is one the great short story stylists alive. Though he won the Pulitzer for the magical Martin Dressler, this is his metier. It's a greatest hits collection, leading off with powerful new material and finishing up with selections from Dangerous Laughter.

To the uninitiated, Millhauser writes in simple prose, but fills his stories with wonder, and is both childlike and amazing. His tales are almost science fiction, but not quite. Only a few, like the title story and a handful of others cross the line into fantasy and sci-fi, yet they all retain a magic, surreal quality. Millhauser is a late middle aged American man who has a rather unworldly world view, yet captivates readers from any age and background.

The Slap is an amazing tale of an unknown slapper who assaults strangers in public places. We Others is a ghost story that is unlike anything I've ever read. There is the Barnum Museum, so alike the tone and style of Martin Dressler, as is the wonderful The Next Thing.

Many have come to Millhauser from The Illusionist, a film loosely based on Eisenheim the Illusionist included here. It is nothing like the film - which was made into a romance. Instead, it focusses entirely on the magician, and is great in its own way. In a similar vein, The Knife Thrower explores similar themes to great effect. What is real? How are we complicit?

I have reviewed Dangerous Laughter in its own right - a wonderful collection of stories, featuring the excellent Tom and Jerryish Cat and Mouse, and the amazing Dangerous Laughter.

Millhauser is great, but I found it best NOT to read straight through, but to put him down for a few days, dip in and out. It's a rich blend, but delicious.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 26, 2013 6:30 PM BST


The Beatles: 1
The Beatles: 1
Offered by Formats
Price: 15.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Singular Genius, 19 Jan 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Beatles: 1 (Audio CD)
This collection represents the best of the Beatles. It charts their development from American parody to greatness and, sort of, back again at the tail end of their career. I'd like to point out why the 5 stars.

1. Development - there is no better way to capture the development of the Beatles than from their singles. The first traunch of tracks is relatively weak, but by 1965, they hit the heights. Nothing better than 1965-66 Beatles, best band in the world. Then they started to fight and quality became more iffy and parody.

2. Immediacy -probably the best singles band of all time, every track graps your attention immediately and holds you there- whether with a voice or guitar line.

3. Variety - once the train got going, there was no telling where it would go. No 2 songs sound the same, really amazing.

4. Production - except at the end, the Beatles had great production and arrangements, and George Martin was a genius.

5. Recording - the songs sound fabulous, so well recorded, it's frightening.

6. Lennon and McCartney - the quality of the songs, great till the end, and the singing - immaculate.

7. Ringo's drumming - much derided when I was a player, it is just fabulous on every track, full of taste, unusual, memorable.

8. The singing - yes its the Everly Brothers and the Byrds, but so what? Lovely vocal doubling in just the right places. especially McCartney's voice.

For me, the highs are from I Feel Fine to Lady Madonna. But there are few dud tracks (OK, Love Me Do, Yellow Submarine, John and Yoko, Long and Winding Road, perhaps) but on the whole, really fab four.

The one Beatles record to own.


Lego Wear Boys 13899 / Adam 622 - Gloves Gloves Grey (975 Dark Grey ) 134/140
Lego Wear Boys 13899 / Adam 622 - Gloves Gloves Grey (975 Dark Grey ) 134/140

5.0 out of 5 stars A good pair of gloves, 15 Jan 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
These gloves are soft, nice and warm and have the desired Lego/Ninjago branding to keep my son happy. A great buy.


LEGO Star Wars 10188 Death Star
LEGO Star Wars 10188 Death Star

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars best playset ever, 13 Jan 2013
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:5.0 out of 5 stars 
includes 25 awesome minifigs and model is cool and massive and huge bound manual and 4 numbered boxes and 7 numbered bags


LEGO Batman 7780 The Batboat: Hunt for Killer Croc
LEGO Batman 7780 The Batboat: Hunt for Killer Croc

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars super cool, 13 Jan 2013
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:5.0 out of 5 stars 
INCLUDES BATMAN WITH GREY SUIT AND FACE AND KILLER CROC WITH A COOL FACE. VECHILES INCLUDED KILLER CROCS SPEEDER AND BATBOAT


Character World Clone Wars Blast Towel
Character World Clone Wars Blast Towel

2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing purchase, 9 Jan 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
My son is a huge Star Wars fan so I got this towel for him as a Christmas stocking filler. He loves it.
However, I found the towel to be a disappointing purchase. Although it looks nice from a distance, the material is actually rather thin. Also, despite its lack of fluffiness, it is shedding fluff all over the bathroom and on my other clothes in the washing machine. I have now washed it three times and it's still shedding fluff.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20