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Zorba the Greek
Zorba the Greek
by Nikos Kazantzakis
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Abzorbing, 26 May 2011
This review is from: Zorba the Greek (Paperback)
An absolutely brilliant novel, as fresh and relevant today as it was when first printed in the '60s. It's main themes are head vs heart, contemplation vs instinct, abstinence vs indulgence, religion vs immorality. For me, Zorba's particularly simple philosophy reminded me of a few home truths, expressing complex ideas so succintly and clearly. Aside from the great philosophical debates, Zorba the Greek is so compelling for its human content, full of warmth and humanity. Outstanding.


Los Premios = The Winners (Narrativa (Punto de Lectura))
Los Premios = The Winners (Narrativa (Punto de Lectura))
by Julio Cortazar
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate prize, 27 Nov 2009
It is such a shame that this book has not been translated into English for non-Spanish readers, as it is deserving of global recognition. Strangely, only its title, Los Premios, has been translated, and poorly at that; Los Premios means The Prizes, whereas Los Premiados, would mean The Winners. I digress....
The story starts in one of the famous Buenos Aires cafes, The London, where the lucky winners of the state lottery have been asked to gather before being transported to their cruise ship to enjoy their prize, a transnational cruise. However, from the moment they arrive on the docks to embark on their eagerly-awaited cruise, it soon becomes apparent that the whole experience is not going to be plain sailing aboard the cruise ship 'Malcolm'........
This is one of the most fantastic books I have ever read, an absolute pearl. I would recommend it wholeheartedly for anyone with an interest in Latin American literature, or indeed anyone interested in Argentina and its neurotic society.


An Apology for Idlers (Penguin Great Ideas)
An Apology for Idlers (Penguin Great Ideas)
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 4.87

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why apologise?, 19 Nov 2009
A lovely collection of treatises on subjects ranging from age and youth to the Californian coast. Written with warmth and humour that is akin to John Steinbeck, although his style of prose is very different. I would recommend this book to aesthetes and idlers, not to those in a hurry.


Explorers of the New Century
Explorers of the New Century
by Magnus Mills
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.51

3.0 out of 5 stars a rediscovery of form, 22 Sep 2009
As a great enthusiast of Magnus Mills's early works, I had been left very disappointed by 'The Scheme for Full Emploment' and 'Maintenance of Headway'. Hence I decided to put Magnus Mills's 'Explorers of the New Century' in my last-chance-library.
Happily for me, 'Explorers..' proved a real tonic, brimming with all the literary hallmarks of Mills's earlier works; irony, absurdity and understatement.
What starts out as a parody of Scott and Amundsen's Antartic expeditions, the story gradually metamorphs into something altogether more sinister.
I enjoyed this little book immensely and thoroughly recommend it.


The Seven Madmen (Extraordinary Classics)
The Seven Madmen (Extraordinary Classics)
by Roberto Arlt
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Locura total, 4 Sep 2009
The Seven Madmen (or Los Siete Locos) is one of the most depressing, misanthropic and troubling novels that I have come across. It is the type of novel Dosdoyevsky might have written, had he been Argentine. Considered one of great classics of Argentine literature, Los Siete Locos reads less like a novel and more like a study of the Argentine psyche. The storyline of the novel is so totally peripheral to the study of its singularly melancholic, self-loathing and miserable characters, so much so that Arlt does not even bother to provide a conclusion to the novel. This he leaves to his next novel 'Lanzallamas' or 'Flamethrowers'. This is not a fun or entertaining book to read, it almost requires perseverence to make it to the end. However, I found it hugely rewarding.


The Maintenance of Headway
The Maintenance of Headway
by Magnus Mills
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars like waiting for a bus, 3 Sep 2009
I love Mills' deceptively simple deadpan style of writing, and this book contains some classic off-beat, surreal philosophical dialogue. However, I still found the Maintenance of Headway surprisingly dull, much like waiting for a bus that never turns up. Throughout the book one is left waiting for the mundanity of the bus drivers' lot to change into absurdity, which it never truly does. The Maintenance of Headway neither contains the humour of Restraint of Beasts, nor the foreboding of All Quiet on the Orient Express, nor the absurdity of the Scheme For Full Empoyment. All in all, this book came in well short of expectations.


The Bad Girl
The Bad Girl
by Mario Vargas Llosa
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Weakest offering yet., 2 Sep 2008
This review is from: The Bad Girl (Hardcover)
For me, this is definitely Vargas Llosa's weakest offering yet. Although entertaining enough, and written with his undeniable skill and style, this latest novel is well short of Vargas Llosa's normal high standards.
Essentially this novel is a story following the inextricably linked lives of the 2 main characters, across various continents and decades. Disappointingly, however, the underlying theme of the novel seems to be the author's desire to demonstrate his knowledge of all the countries in which he himself has lived over the various decades, rather than having any great story to tell. The story itself is threadbare, a poor man's Love in the Time of Cholera, and is essentially a ridiculous sequence of coincidental meetings between the writer and the nina mala. The novel crescendos to a farcical level, when the protagonist has a chance meeting with the nina's father in Peru.
Normally so insightful and probing, Vargas Llosa spends little time or care in examining or describing characters outside of the central plot.
Once I have overcome my disappointment, I will re-read some of his other works, so as not to leave a bitter taste in my mouth.


The Decapitated Chicken and Other Stories (Americas)
The Decapitated Chicken and Other Stories (Americas)
by Ilan Stavans
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Macabre brilliance, 12 Aug 2008
To understand Quiroga's work, it is worth looking at his CV:
Born in Salto, Uruguay, Quiroga had an incredibly miserable and unhappy life. His father, was killed in an accidental shooting when Quiroga was very young. Then his stepfather committed suicide in 1900. Subsequently, in 1902, Quiroga killed his best friend in a shooting accident. After a brief stay in Paris, He returned to South America, where he taught in several Argentine schools. After touring the wilds of Argentina as a photographer, he settled in Chaco Province in 1904, where he attempted to grow cotton. His attempt failed, and he returned to teaching in Buenos Aires. There married one of his pupils, Ana María Cires, in 1909. They had two children, a son, Darío, and a daughter, Eglé. Quiroga took the post of registration in the San Ignacio district of Misiones. He was joined by his wife and children, but after six unhappy years, Ana María committed suicide by poisoning herself. He then returned to Buenos Aires, where he worked in the consulate of his native country for the next nine years. Quiroga returned to San Ignacio in 1925. In 1927, he married a friend of his daughter's, María Elena Bravo. The marriage ultimately failed. Two years before his death, Quiroga was awarded an honorary consulship by the country of his birth. Quiroga killed himself by ingesting cyanide shortly after he learned that he had prostate cancer. Ultimately, both of Quiroga's children, Darío and Eglé, committed suicide as well.
As to his short stories, they are nothing short of brilliant: macabre and dark, but also hugely ironic and at times humourous. For me, Quiroga sits alongside the greatest short story tellers and shares much in style with Poe, Conrad, Kipling and Saki.


To Kill A Mockingbird
To Kill A Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: 4.89

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfection, 28 Dec 2007
I can quite understand why Harper Lee never wrote again after 'To Kill a Mockingbird', because in 'To Kill a Mockingbird' she had already attained perfection. To me, this novel is peerless, outshining even the greatest Steinbeck, Fitzgerald and Capote novels.
I have never been moved by any other book in the same way. To Kill a Mockingbird is so full of tenderness, humanity, and love that on several occasions I had to put the book down because I couldn't read through my tears. To Kill a Mockingbird's beauty is not saccharine sweet, or even sentimental, but it is noble and pure and human.
Although the book has a gripping plot, being the trial of a negro accused of the rape of a white woman, which exposes all the social and racial bigotry of the era, the real story is that of Scout and the inter-relationships within her family.
My favourite character was Atticus, and I wish I could be half the father that he is.


Post Office: A Novel
Post Office: A Novel
by Charles Bukowski
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A modern catch 22., 27 Dec 2007
This review is from: Post Office: A Novel (Paperback)
Although less compelling and lighter on the soul that Ham on Rye, Bukowski's Post Office is still an excellent read. The themes of this novel are the pointlessness and arbitrarinous of everyday life, the misanthropy of human nature, set against an ever-present backdrop of alcoholism and self abuse.
Post Office makes both sad and hilarious reading, similar in vein to Heller's classic, Catch 22. Whilst depressing and dark, this novel is full of black humour and a wonderful sense of the ridiculous. When reading Post Office sometimes it was difficult to know whether to laugh or to cry.


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