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Guardian of the Scales "Anubis"

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Cold Comfort Farm (Penguin Classics)
Cold Comfort Farm (Penguin Classics)
by Stella Gibbons
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

6 of 46 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Nauseating, 10 Jun 2008
Seeing all the positive reviews of this book, I can't resist contributing my own dissenting voice to warn the unwary. I found this book completely insufferable, the central character is a smug, self-important, patronising busybody and the tone is sickly sweet. The reader is supposed to be entranced by her efficient common sense and good heart, allied to what apparently passed for wit in certain circles in the 1930's. Personally, I would make her a candidate for the most annoying heroine in the history of literature.There is a definite Jane Austen influence, so maybe if you like Jane Austen, you might get something out of this.

There's another review of this book likening it to the work of Evelyn Waugh. Ha!Ha! That is obviously a cruel joke at the prospective purchaser's expense. This is like the opposite of Waugh's sharp, cynical, mordant prose.
I was enticed to read this book by its status as a comic classic but it was just way too self-satisfied to be funny. Definitely one for the bonfire.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 3, 2010 10:34 AM BST

The Brothers Karamazov (Penguin Classics)
The Brothers Karamazov (Penguin Classics)
by Fjodor M. Dostojewskij
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Massive in every sense, especially the literal., 2 Jun 2008
Dostoeyvsky's last novel is a huge doorstopper of a tome and probably his most ambitious work. The theme of religion looms large with Dostoyevsky confronting the chaos and despair that comes from the absence of God. Ivan Karamazov says: "without God, all is permitted" and this becomes one of the key preoccupations of the book.

Dostoevsky goes into typically tortuous detail on the motivations of his characters, nothing is as simple as it seems, and all actions are subjected to the most intense scrutiny. Dmitry Karamazov in particular is a hugely contradictory character in the classic Dostoyevskian mode, capable of great tenderness and utter selfishness, conscience-ridden but often utterly amoral, passion-crazed and self-destructive. Alyosha Karamazov, on the other hand, is another embodiment of the "holy fool" type character beloved of Dostoyevsky.

Alyosha aside, however, Dostoyevsky goes out of his way to depict the duality of his characters natures, showing their enormous capacity for good alongside a similar disposition towards evil and, while this may serve to illustrate Dostoyevsky's view of human nature, it does lead to much unfathomable erraticism in their behaviour. The mood changes many of the characters undergo are little short of psychotic. "Frenziedly" and "hysterically" are two much overused adverbs in this novel. Dostoyevsky's characters seem always on the edge of hysteria, perhaps reflecting his own character. I found this occasionally trying, especially towards the beginning, but as the novel progresses it gains a momentum of its own and interest centres on the themes of redemption, guilt, suffering, to name but a few.

In general, this novel is of a more optimistic tone than Dostoyevsky's earlier work such as "Crime and Punishment". This is especially evident in the scenes involving little Illyusha and his classmates, as they fall under the influence of Alyosha. This subplot provides the most moving scenes in the book.

"The Brothers Karamazov" is a huge, meandering study of human psychology and what has become known as Existentialism. It is sometimes moving, sometimes provocative and sometimes, in my view, unfocused. It may well be, as has been said, one of the great novels of world literature but it is probably most likely to be appreciated by those who enjoyed Dostoyevsky's other works. It is less accessible than "Crime and Punishment", but more rounded in its view of humanity.
I have not read any other translations than this one, by David McDuff, so I can't compare but the language here often struck me as odd. To give the only example I can recall offhand, the phrase "like a blow of a knife" is used somewhere near the end. This, and other phrases used in this translation, I found somewhat jarring.

The Portable Faulkner (Penguin Classics)
The Portable Faulkner (Penguin Classics)
by William Faulkner
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.66

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book, 29 May 2008
William Faulkner was one of the most original and authentic literary voices of the 20th century. Everything he writes seems imbued with a sense of gravitas and a deep humanity. He was undoubtedly a product of his time and place, i.e. post slavery and post civil war Deep South, but his narrative voice is timeless, the lyricism and solemn authority of his style verging on the biblical, despite the fact that he frequently employs deeply and authentically colloquial language.

This collection is as good as can be expected for a one volume overview. It was originally published in the forties and played a role in gaining Faulkner the somewhat belated public recognition that would culminate in a Nobel prize for literature.

Included in its entirety is Faulkner's masterpiece among masterpieces, "The Sound and the Fury", often considered a difficult book, but the rhythm of the language is compelling in its own right, and once the meaning of the book becomes clear, one realizes that there is nothing superfluous, and the riddles of the early sections of the book are resolved. The characters are passionate, tragic and enigmatic and the atmosphere is overwhelmingly intense.

Another major work thankfully included here is "The Bear", a novella taken from "Go Down, Moses" a collection of interlinked tales.
There are also some excerpts from Faulkner's great novels and some short stories, which often show Faulkner's pleasantly whimsical humour, as in "Shingles for the Lord".

There's plenty missing, of course, but this provides a great introduction to the genius that was William Faulkner. Then you can go onto "As I Lay Dying", "Light in August", "Go Down, Moses", "The Reivers" etc.

It is difficult to think of writers with whom Faulkner can be validly compared; he is often mentioned in the same breath as his contemporary Hemingway, but the two writers have nothing in common, indeed they are almost polar opposites, and Faulkner was critical of what he termed Hemingway's lack of courage as a writer. Perhaps Melville would be a more accurate comparison, in terms of ambition and vision.

I own this book in a more durable hardback edition, which I would recommend over this Penguin paperback as you may find yourself returning to this book repeatedly to experience anew the majesty and power of Mr. Faulkner, a unique voice in the history of literature.

Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: The Soul of A Man [DVD]
Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: The Soul of A Man [DVD]
Dvd ~ Wim Wenders
Offered by Red-Jet Movies Music & More
Price: 16.95

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat disappointing, 18 May 2008
This film, directed by Wim Wenders, tells the life stories of early blues legends Blind Willie Johnson and Skip James and of 60's blues musician J.B. Lenoir, the latter hitherto little known, I believe. A lot of time is given to Lenoir and this is the problem, for me. I had never heard of him before and didn't find him very interesting. I really wanted to find out about Johnson but only the first 12 minutes approx. of the film are devoted to his life. Wenders seemed to use Johnson and James as bait to get people to listen to Lenoir and, for me, it's just not worth it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 2, 2012 6:17 PM BST

The Early Blues Roots Of Bob Dylan
The Early Blues Roots Of Bob Dylan
Price: 7.51

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great introduction to the Blues, 4 May 2008
This CD contains twenty blues songs, mostly from the 30's, I think, that are known to have influenced Bob Dylan and in many cases were covered by him. It's a great collection of songs, and has whetted my appetite for a deeper exploration of blues music.
Included are the originals of several songs covered on Dylan's first album: "Fixin' to Die" (Bukka White), "See that My Grave is kept Clean (Blind Lemon Jefferson)" and "Jesus gonna make up my Dyin' Bed" (Blind Willie Johnson- "In my Time of Dyin'" is kindof a cover of this.)
The good-humoured nonsense of the Basement Tapes is also prefigured by songs here such as "Railroad Bill" by Will Bennett or "Step it up and Go" by Blind Boy Fuller and the stark parables of John Wesley Harding show Dylan's acquaintance with songs like "Stack o'Lee" by Mississippi John Hurt. There's also a song by Blind Willie McTell allowing us to test the truth of Dylan's assertion regarding his singing.
Other songs I can't discern any similarity to Dylan's writing, but I found all enjoyable, particularly "Po' Boy" by Bukka White.
Unlike many of these type of cds, this can be enjoyed from start to finish and these songs stand easily on their own merits, not just of interest to Bob Dylan fans. It's quite cheap, too, and is more than worth the price. In fact it's worth the price for "Po' Boy" alone. The sound quality is also above average for old recordings of this type.
Notable omissions are: anything by Robert Johnson, and Charlie Patton's "High Water Everywhere."

Notes from the Underground (Dover Thrift Editions)
Notes from the Underground (Dover Thrift Editions)
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Edition: Paperback
Price: 2.34

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique, unforgettable, 22 April 2008
This novel( or novella, it's only one hundred pages long in this Dover thrift edition) tells the story of an angry and isolated young man, the narrator, who bears a grudge against society in general and is plagued by feelings of inadequacy alternating with delusions of grandeur. He works as a lowly clerk in the civil service and is without prospects of advancement or friends, therefore he pours all of his frustrations onto the page in a torrent of words that does tell a simple story but also includes much musing on the human condition. The narrator is very convincing, and I couldn't help wondering how much of Dostoyevsky's own personality was in him. This book is very relevant to comtemporary society, as social fragmentation throws up ever more socially discontented people. In fact, what surprised me was that such a character as this existed or could be conceived of in mid-Nineteeenth Century Russia, as I had thought it to be a product of more economically advanced societies. Therein lies the author's genius, I suppose. In any case, this book bears the hallmark of deep and painful self-analysis, and refrains from offering easy answers. Once read, it will not be easily forgotten.

Live At Massey Hall 1971
Live At Massey Hall 1971
Price: 7.49

7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great performance, but..., 12 April 2008
Great acoustic performance covering the early part of Young's career, even a couple of old Buffalo Springfield songs bookending the show. Rare track "Bad Fog of Loneliness" is here too. It's not one one of his best, but it's not bad. "Dance, Dance, Dance" is musically identical to the later "Love is a Rose" but lyrically unrelated. Highlights are opener "On the Way Home" and the (then unreleased)"A Man Needs a Maid/ Heart of Gold" suite. But while the performance is irreproachable, Young's between song monologues become irritating around the second listen. They're not easy to skip, either, because they're part of the same track as the songs they precede. Young speaks haltingly and mumblingly( affectedly so, it seems to me), trailing off in the middle of sentences and telling rambling, pointless stories.That may sound like a petty complaint, but for me it seriously lessens the pleasures of the music.

Jackson Shirley : Sundial
Jackson Shirley : Sundial
by Shirley Jackson
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not her best, but still good, 30 Mar 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This novel tells of a disparate group of people living under one roof who become convinced that the world is going to end. Typically for Jackson, these people live in isolation from society and, also typically, the character at the centre of the story, Aunt Fanny, is an eccentric spinster whose repression and isolation give rise to certain psychological oddities. But Fanny lacks the deep humanity of other Jackson protagonists and Jackson gives free rein to her cynicism about humanity and society in her handling of the characters in The Sundial, none of whom are designed to enlist our sympathy. This makes this book a pleasant and often quite funny read, but it lacks the substance of some of her other books. Still, Jackson is never less than insightful and interesting, so if you like her work this is well worth reading.

The Collection
The Collection
Price: 14.50

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great music + cheap, 11 Mar 2008
This review is from: The Collection (Audio CD)
What a great catalogue these guys had. It's great to see how they developed as they went along through their five studio albums, the last two of which are probably the best, though all are good. The DVD is their reunion concert from New York 1980, and it's also excellent.Quibbles? What about some liner notes?, and there are some S&G non-album tracks like "A Church is Burning" that would have made good bonus tracks, especially with the albums being so short, and my "box-set" came in a crappy cardboard sleeve, instead of the box shown. But that won't stop me giving this five stars, because the music is sublime, and it's surprisingly cheap. A must for anyone with an appreciation for good pop music.

The Ka of Gifford Hillary (A Black Magic Story)
The Ka of Gifford Hillary (A Black Magic Story)
by Dennis Wheatley
Edition: Paperback

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars gripping potboiler, 27 Feb 2008
Dennis Wheatley was a hugely popular writer during his long career from the 1930's to the 70's but is now almost forgotten. For me, though, he wrote some effortlessly gripping novels, of which this is a good example. The protagonist is to all intents and purposes dead for most of the novel, but his incorporeal soul, or ka, remains earthbound and gets up to all sorts of mischief in his efforts to alert the living to his predicament. As usual, Wheatley works interesting occult ideas into the story, and the plot is well worked out and fast-paced, though as it was written at the height of the cold war there is an occasionally intrusive propaganda element, various disparaging remarks about left wing politics, and a somewhat idealised depiction of Upper-class English manhood.

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