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Dominic Berlemann "luhdieu72" (Outpost of Progress)

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H. P. Lovecraft: Tales (Library of America)
H. P. Lovecraft: Tales (Library of America)
by H P Lovecraft
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £23.12

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poe's successor finally joins America's literary élite, 14 July 2007
Without doubt, it is a brave and controversial decision by the American Library to include H.P. Lovecraft to its core of great American writers. Condsidering the blatant misanthropy, alleged latent misogyny and highly disputed artistic value of the tales collected in this volume, one must say that it may leave readers with mixed emotions about the project. Multiethnic communities such as he encountered in New York City obviously filled Lovecraft with fear, and his fiction mirrors this biographical process, allowing a deep insight into the man's haunted psyche. However, there's an undeniable air of magic about the stories, which owes itself mainly to the dream-like distortion of human perception displayed in the tales and the highly artificial pseudo-Victorian language masterfully (if not flawlessly) employed by Lovecraft. Yet one should bear in mind that Lovecraftian scepticism doesn't lend itself to primitive xenophobia alone, but primarily to the problem of the (hypersensitive and highly gifted) individual trying to establish a firm identity within a society offering lots of different approaches to that. This is what makes Lovecraft an important writer to present-day readers, and it's not over the top to claim that there's a bond of tradition between Poe, Lovecraft and Bret Easton Ellis, all of which wrote about the state of the American Dream in their time and the untold numbers of failures connected with that ever-fascinating cultural pattern. For those who wish to familiarize themselves with Lovecraft's artistic vision of modern urbanized society, this volume provides an excellent opportunity to do so. If you're looking for intriguing female characters or realistic depiction of love relationships, however, go somewhere else.

The Road
The Road
by Cormac McCarthy
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark and masterful vision of post-apocalyptic America with strong Christian undertones, 14 July 2007
This review is from: The Road (Paperback)
This outstanding work deals with a man and his son who are trying to survive in an America struck by some unnamed catastrophe of biblical proportions. Almost everybody has perished, the man's wife, traumatized by the events has commited suicide, fauna and flora are nearly extinguished and the chances of survival are minimal. The few remaining humans forage this barren world for food, and in the face of starvation resort to unspeakable forms of cannibalism (which is a recurrent motif in McCarthy's fiction). McCarthy portrays this infernal scenario in a beautifully spartanic and extremely dense language saturated with a trainload of biblical references. The strength of this highly impressive novel lies in McCarthy's ability to convey his Christian and existentialist philosophy in a context devoid of unnecessarily detailed plot or complexity. The emotional impact of the developing father - son relationship against the backdrop of the father's deteriorating health are deeply moving and the final pages of the book bring the tears to your eyes. The intelligent father's almost scientific scepticism turns into misanthropic paranoia under the horrific circumstances and every meeting with other people becomes an extremely stressful event dominated by outbursts of violence. The son in his childlike innocence ponders a more cooperative approach to the situation, but he always follows his father as long as he is alive. Yet despite all the dark melancholia and senseless brutality the son finally finds a more promising way of dealing with the challenges of this nightmarish world: he joins a group of people trying to survive by way of supporting one another. It's not an all-male group either and therefore it seems to offer the theoretical opportunity of continuing the biological reproduction of the human race. By that McCarthy demonstrates that only philanthropic faith-inspired optimism can lead to a peaceful coexistence of men, however harsh living conditions may be. So in the end, there is hope, if only a dim one. If you buy this book, you'll not regret it.

Among the Dead Cities: Is the Targeting of Civilians in War Ever Justified?
Among the Dead Cities: Is the Targeting of Civilians in War Ever Justified?
by A. C. Grayling
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Allied WWII air warfare reconsidered from post 9-11 point of view, 14 July 2007
It's almost impossible to reevaluate the most decisive events of WWII without getting emotionally overexcited in one way or the other. The issues at stake are complex and demand the ability to observe developments from several perspectives simultaneously.

Grayling's book is refreshingly clear and he doesn't resort to the outbursts of rage shown partucularly by people such as German historian Joerg Friedrich. The message is: although the Allied bombing campaigns against the civilian population of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were juridically no war crimes and took place in the wider context of a just war against Hitler's bestial tyranny and Japan's cruel expansionism, they were morally inacceptable since they amounted to sheer instruments of terror with little (if any) real military effect.

Grayling especially condemns Bomber Command's nighttime area bombing of German cities in the final stages of the war when, according to Grayling, the outcome of this uniquely brutal global conflict was no longer in doubt. Yet he also makes crystal-clear that he doesn't want to diminish Allied aircrews' massive and brave contribution to overthrowing fascism. The alternative for Bomber Harris' strategy of bombing entire cities to rubble no matter how many civilian lives would be lost would have been to follow the American example of attacking infrastructure serving a highly military purpose (which the USAAF did in day-time raids predominantly). This approach, Grayling argues, would not only have exerted the same strain on Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe to align many of its resources to defending the Reich as the actual campaign did, but it would have also accelerated the downfall of the military-industrial complex providing the Wehrmacht and Goering's Luftwaffe with the means of waging war. Therefore, the war could have been shortened significantly and many lives on all sides could have been saved - and some rather unique architecture as well.

Grayling's book is an interesting and compelling read, his sense of fairness is almost proverbially English and the central thesis of the book certainly deserves closer inspection, especially in light of the current debate on the war on terror (which itself generates terror amongst ordinary people whose involvement in terrorism is at least uncertain). However, he will certainly not convince all the experts, escpecially the military historians, who tend to reduce historic events just to the actual battle action.
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