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Ms. M. Foley (London (UK))
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Conversations with Arthur Conan Doyle
Conversations with Arthur Conan Doyle
by Arthur Conan Doyle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh, wacky man!, 15 April 2010
Of all the books by Simon Parke in this series (there are three others at the time of writing this review), this 'conversation' is the most unusual. Simply because the subject turns out to be such a fascinating, excentric and unpredictable man.

I was intrigued by Arthur Conan Doyle, not knowing much beyond his literary claim to fame. Now I do know.

The book is a joy to read for its wealth of information about such a variety of things: his friendship with Houdini, views on Suffragettes fairies (yes, fairies!), and most wacky of all - belief in Spiritualism.

But never mind the ultimate questions of the human existence, and the even more ultimate lack of unswers; I was just as delighted to discover that Conan Doyle went to the Arctic on a whaling boat Hope as a ship's surgeon. Here's a glimpse of that experience, in his own words:

"The perpetual light, the glare of the white ice, the deep blue of the water, these are things which one remembers most clearly; and the dry, crisp, exhilarating air, which makes mere life the keenest of pleasures."

For all his interest in the afterlife, this was a man intensly in love with life on earth, and this litle book succeeds in showing him in all his multifaceted complexity.


Conversations with Leo Tolstoy
Conversations with Leo Tolstoy
by Leo Tolstoy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The last station, 14 April 2010
If you love Tolstoy's books, but want to know the man himself, his views, opinions, judgements, this book will not disappoint.

In fact, the whole of Tolstoy's spiritual and intellectual development is condensed between the covers of this small but perfectly formed book.

Parke is quite relentless in subjecting the great man to some very tough questioning, and rightly so. The Tolstoy that emerges from his 'conversations' is brilliant, cruel, worthy, honest, priggish, rightheous, proud, conceited, saintly, radical, a right plonker.. Anything but a two-dimentional character.

Tolstoy disapproved of almost everything (think of something that you enjoy and it's guaranteed that Tolstoy would disapprove!); created immortal literature, tried to change the world, took on the Russian State, The Church, the Army, even Shakespeare. For all his genious, this was a deeply tortured and unhappy man who spent a great deal of time figuring out how NOT to commit suicide.

Simon Parke was very brave to take him on, and I salute him for it!


Conversations with Van Gogh
Conversations with Van Gogh
by Vinent Van Gogh
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem of a book, 13 April 2010
I loved this book.

Simon Parke manages the impossible here - in one slim volume, the figure of van Gogh in all his messy and glorious humanity comes alive.

While Parke stands back, asks intelligent and sensitive questions, offers an occasional wry comment, and simply listens, the painter speaks about his life, family, art, beauty, love, God - in short, everything that matters.

It's a heartbreaking but inspiring story. But even if you thought you knew the story, it's the man behind the myth that we get to know and love. It made me want to be reckless and buy the new complete Letters of van Gogh (Thames & Hudson, in 6 volumes), but at £395 a set, common restraint prevailed.

Buy this instead, it's a little gem!


Conversations with Meister Eckhart
Conversations with Meister Eckhart
by Meister Eckhart
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's all more clear now, 13 April 2010
I tried to read Meister Eckhart writings before but never got very far. In fact I thought he was a Master of obfuscation.

Not any more - thanks to Parke's slim volume of 'conversations' with the great man, my cloud of unknowing (or rather uncomprehending) has lifted a little bit. I still have a long way to go, for example when one thing is asserted and then directly and cheerfully contradicted in the next paragraph. But then perhaps logic and mysticism were never easy bedfellows at the best of times.

The author's skillfull handling of the material is truly admirable - he makes the conversations seem totally natural, despite the chasm of centuries between his interlocutor and our times. And despite aspiring to be no more than a humble and invisible presenter, Parke's humanity, intelligence and humour all shine through.

It's a great introduction to Meister Eckhart thought. It made me want to read other books in this series by Parke, even if not immediately reach for big volume of Meister's own writings.


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