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Consider The Lobster: Essays and Arguments
Consider The Lobster: Essays and Arguments
by David Foster Wallace
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not great 'essays', 4 Feb. 2014
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I haven't read a great deal of DFW's works. I tried tackling 'Infinite Jest' but it's taking me a long time to get through it (I think the 'Jest' is on us for reading it). However, this was my first introduction to this quite intriguing figure, a man who, sadly, took his life in 2008. This is not a standard book of essays in the same way that, say, Hitchens or Orwell would write essays. There are only a handful of essays ranging from the short to the very long and I feel that such a funny intellect as DFW would have been better spent covering more topics: I never felt I was getting my money's worth. A trend in DFW's works is his love of tennis: B-O-R-I-N-G. 'Infinite Jest' is littered with tennis stuff: to someone like me, that is just not going to cut it. One of the essays is about tennis and I nearly fell asleep reading it. The longest essay ('Up Simba') is interesting as it looks at an American political campaign (I think it was John McCain's early one) in a sort of Hunter S. Thompson manner. The first essay (essentially a look into the AVN - porn - awards) is laugh out loud funny and showcases the brilliant comedic talent of DFW. His review of Joseph Frank's 'Dostoevsky' will make you want to read the old Russian master's works - such is his wonderful praise. But these two essays ('Big Red One' and 'Joseph Frank's "Dostoevsky"') were, for me, the only real interesting essays - the others were dreadfully mundane. Another caveat: DFW is notorious for his use of footnotes, some are very funny, but they often get very tiring and are overused. A very idiosyncratic author. I'd recommend 'Infinite Jest' (if you enjoy a challenge) but I'd steer clear of this book if it's your first go at DFW.


New Science: Principles of the New Science Concerning the Common Nature of Nations (Penguin Classics)
New Science: Principles of the New Science Concerning the Common Nature of Nations (Penguin Classics)
by Giambattista Vico
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Influenced Joyce greatly; an 'alternative' history, 17 Dec. 2013
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James Joyce used Vico's theory of 'ricorso' to structure the unreadable Finnegan's Wake. Being a history undergraduate I am, naturally, critical of the theory of 'ricorso' (a revolving or repetition in history) due to the fact that any teleological argument in history is both fallacious and better left to romantic non-historians. Vico was an obscure figure in his own lifetime; a teacher of rhetoric in Naples (not a high paying or illustrious job, strangely, despite the grandiosity of the title). He was a great admirer of Newton (I think he even dedicated this book to him... with no reply - prick!).
Now for the book itself. Vico focuses purely on ancient history. So, if you don't like ancient history - do not buy the book. He separates ancient history into various 'ages' and argues that they essentially come round and then go away again like a sort of vicious cycle. But the book is more than a mere theory. It is, for a Latinist, a wet-dream of philology and using the evolution of language to attempt to get inside the mind of the ancients (for instance, he argues that 'urbs' - the Latin word for 'city' - came from a part of the tool used for demarcating the boundaries of Rome; he also shows that Jupiter comes from the words 'Iov Pater' - sky father - and uses this to show the pagan influences of language etc.) His arguments are convincing enough and very interesting; indeed, it's one of the few books where on every page something interesting imbeds itself into your mind without being obscure or unnecessary. His destruction of Homer (if I may call it that) is worth the price of admission; it isn't that he hates Homer or anything, it's that he is trying to show that the society of Homer, far from being a utopia of sorts as classicists would romantically believe, was actually highly violent and ignoble.

I have only scratched the surface of this wonderful book in my review. Suffice to say if you are a classicist or ancient historian then this book is worth your money. Also, I think Vico deserves more attention than his contemporaries or posterity has granted him. He's a bit of a Cassandra figure: uttering prophecies which no one bothers to listen to until it's too late. Even if what he says isn't necessarily 'true' in the post-modern sense of the word, it will make for some fascinating, eyebrow-raising reading.


Plautus: Rudens (BCP Latin Texts)
Plautus: Rudens (BCP Latin Texts)
by Plautus
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good edition, complete and helpful, 14 Dec. 2013
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Plautus is a great dramatist. His works were the oldest in Latin literature from antiquity that we have had passed down to us. The play is funny and at times cheeky - just what we like about the dirty ol' ancients! This edition comes with a good commentary and a helpful introduction to Plautus and the distinct, vernacular of everyday Golden Age Latin. I have one complaint and this is in no way aimed at the book: the editor. I attended the Royal Belfast Academical Institution in Northern Ireland. The editor used to teach Latin there. I heard plenty of stories from his successors about the frankly brutal methods of inculcating Latin in his pupils. Many people don't think about the writers/editors of books as being anything but a protean voice from the deep to guide you on your path to understanding the past. For me this isn't the case. I think it is an interesting observation. Nevertheless, buy this book. For those of you who are interested, Terence is also a similarly fun playwright - but why did these guys have to steal all their plots from the New Comedy of Menander? Surely they could have come up with their own plots? A bit like Shakespeare!


Horace Opera (Oxford Classical Texts)
Horace Opera (Oxford Classical Texts)
by H. W. Garrod
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Vital for any Latinist, 14 Dec. 2013
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The Oxford Classical Texts series easily rivals the Bristol Classical Press's series of Latin and Greek texts. Where else can you find the entire corpus of Horace in one book and in such a beautiful edition. Indeed, the cover which you see here is but a paper cover to the lovely, black bound edition underneath. Despite it being vital for any scholar I have only a few criticisms. All editions in this series, Latin and Greek, are in no way helpful to the young tiro: there is no commentary. Indeed, these editions were mainly published at the turn of the twentieth century! Further, the preface, far from introducing a novice to a short biography or notes on metre etc. is simply written in LATIN and is full of scholarly acuities on the comparison of codices; an apologia, of course, from the editor in how he created the critical edition of all of Horace's works. Another criticism is the price: £15 + for a book is a bit much, although worth it when you consider that you are getting ALL of his works in one place. I bought my edition from a trader and (I love finding this in books) saw an inscription from the previous owner (name etc.) from the early twentieth century! Another pro from buying from a trader is the fact that, with my edition of Caesar's "De Bello Gallico", the book cost me around £5 altogether and was brand new! Buy, buy, buy!


Byron In Love
Byron In Love
by Edna O'Brien
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening, 14 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: Byron In Love (Paperback)
Firstly, do not read SirSwindon's review. To give one star to anyone's work is simply rude; writing takes a lot of skill and ability and Edna O'Brien has both of these qualities. The author is a novelist: this book reads like a good novel and was, in some parts, quite enlightening. 'Byron in Love' is also short, running to just over 200 pages which, for biographies, is pleasing. I am tired of reading twenty odd pages about family history and lineage(one thinks of Juvenal's "Quid stemmata faciunt" - "what are family trees good for?"); O'Brien mentions it in passing and quickly gets to the important stuff. As for the lack of citations, this review earns only 4 stars due to the fact that sources, although 'quoted' in 'quotation marks', are not cited: some sources I had never heard of before leading me to wonder as to their authenticity (if you want the best biography of Byron I would highly recommend Fiona McCarthy's, it is far more substantial and has plenty of citations). There are deficits to novelists writing biographies; it isn't that they sacrifice truth for interesting content but that they aren't necessarily 'accredited' (the same could be said for Graham Greene's fascinating biography of the no-less talented and equally scandalous John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester in "Lord Rochester's Monkey" - which, like McCarthy's Byron bio, can be found here on Amazon). Buy this book - it is worth your while and, if you don't know much about Byron, is a good introduction. But I would caution you to supplement your reading with McCarthy's book and, of course, read his bloody poetry! Byron was James Joyce's favourite poet and if the greatest prose stylist of all time isn't a good enough judge, then who is?


The Secret Life Of Oscar Wilde
The Secret Life Of Oscar Wilde
by Neil McKenna
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The truth is rarely pure and never simple", 23 Oct. 2013
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Having read Ellman's magisterial biography on Wilde (highly recommended, especially his biographies on two other Irish literary greats: Joyce and Yeats) I was reluctant to delve into another reading on the life of Oscar Wilde, so well written and informed was Ellman. However, Neil McKenna succeeds not just in providing an awe-inspiring amount of context relating to homosexuality in Victorian England but also how homosexuality underpinned everything Wilde wrote or did - something Ellman was not keen to stress. His fresh perspectives on "Dorian Gray" and everything which followed it (including a very perceptive insight into the homosexual connotations of words such as "worship" which meant fellatio in homosexual argot)provide one of the most riveting and entertaining biographies I have ever read. This is not a flimsy biography either, McKenna backs his ideas up with wonderful references to a wider Victorian context or here and there to a line from Wilde's work and there is extensive use of notes and a bibliography in the back. Indeed, McKenna draws on sources Ellman may not have had the usage of (around twenty years separates their respective books and, unfortunately, the death of Ellman before he could revise his biography). Other reviewers may have found fault with McKenna's (a professed homosexual himself) use of homosexual terminology and colloquialisms - but these are stuffy, ironically, Victorian reservations. This book, then, is a must buy if you love Oscar Wilde's work. Do not read it in isolation, Ellman should be read (ideally, first). But buy this book; Oscar may not necessarily be the perfect Christ-like, Socratic figure many would have you believe (indeed, he wilfully stated, as McKenna makes clear, that he sought to lead young men - not children or young teens - towards a 'higher philosophy' via sex and used rent-boys and lower class men for pleasure whilst fully engaged in a marriage he knew to be a sham). It is a book that might make prissy conservatives shudder but for the more enlightened liberals amongst us this book is a fresh and important insight which gives new light and shade to the genius of Oscar Wilde.


The Rachel Papers (Vintage Classics)
The Rachel Papers (Vintage Classics)
by Martin Amis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious & true to life, 7 Sept. 2013
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I don't see why other reviewers have such a problem with this book. I am twenty years old: the character in the novel is 19, verging on 20. His experiences in the book (with women, life and university) are similar to my own. This made the book more personal to me and therefore I found it to be all the more enjoyable. Amis perfectly captures the awkward stage of a full grown teenager broaching the threshold of adulthood. Hilarious, charming and sometimes good and dirty! Think no further, buy this book!


No Title Available

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, not authentic but not bad, 5 April 2013
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Can't complain, the coil is a little bit bigger than I anticipated. Still, wearing it to the Iron Man 3 premiere! ;)
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 5, 2013 9:48 PM BST


Robert Downey Jnr: The Biography
Robert Downey Jnr: The Biography
by Martin Howden
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Better than what others make it out to be, 6 Mar. 2013
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I don't understand the one star reviews? This book is not magnificent, it wasn't written by Boswell or Bragg but it is still a good biography. Why? It focuses on RDJ's career, battle with drug addiction, and is peppered with RDJ's hilarious wit and humour. Oh and also we see a bisexual aspect to his life (read the book to find out). It isn't highly wrought and finely detailed, I admit that, but it is informative. Another reviewer said that it was highly inaccurate, maybe I haven't done wider reading (i.e. Ben Falk's book or Wikipedia) but it seems pretty damn accurate to me.

Worth a buy for those interested in this enigmatic and hilarious actor. Also highly recommended for those who have never seen any of RDJ's early work such as "Chaplin" (1993). Still, bring on the (alleged) auto-biography!


Tacitus: Annals XV: Bk. 15 (BCP Latin Texts)
Tacitus: Annals XV: Bk. 15 (BCP Latin Texts)
by N. Miller
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great, but..., 12 Feb. 2013
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Firstly, Tacitus is excellent! Undoubtedly the best Roman historian and to read his Latin is a challenge like no other! But, this edition perplexed me. Why? When I opened my Amazon package I was met with "Tacitus: Annals I". My first thought was, "They've given me the wrong bloody book!" When I opened it I saw "Book XV" and its text. This would have got the full five if the book jacket wasn't so misleading. A trifle, yes, but as all bibliophiles know a book's condition is everything! Still, for those who haven't tackled Tacitus this is a great edition with good notes, clear text and a strong vocabulary.


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