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Alexander Lindsay
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just doesn't click, 21 Oct. 2012
Having listened to Bat For Lashes' previous two albums and having been very impressed by her debut and less impressed by her follow-up it wasn't going to be easy to predict exactly where this one was going to go. The album starts out well, a strong offering with "Lillies" infused with the level of energy and passion at which Natasha Khan operates best but also containing a strong hook and a lulling rhythmic base-line. The lyrics don't penetrate though, at least they haven't on the first few listens, this is a problem with almost all the tracks on the album in fact. The lyrics consistently lack incision and spark. The second track plods musically but is partly redeemed via its concept of a woman who has been damaged by previous negative experiences, in terms of a lyrical concept it's the only track which stands out. After the second track the rest of the album is nonessential, background music with the sole exception of Laura. Laura is the only song containing any sense of yearning or immediacy and it stands out amidst the mediocrity.
Natasha Khan made a fantastic album with Fur and Gold but following that she's struggled to make an impression. She still produces the odd song which shows what could be, or what was, but on the whole this album just doesn't add up to much of anything. It's too cerebral, it feels forced somehow. There just isn't the originality or energy which characterised her initial offering. It ultimately washes away without making its mark, it's very similar to her second effort in that respect.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 15, 2012 6:14 PM GMT


1Q84: Books 1, 2 and 3
1Q84: Books 1, 2 and 3
by Haruki Murakami
Edition: Paperback

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Uninspiring, 9 Oct. 2012
This review is from: 1Q84: Books 1, 2 and 3 (Paperback)
This was my first experience of Murakami. I happened to see an article in a national newspaper reporting on the excitement and borderline hysteria surrounding this veteran Japanese author and I decided to weigh in on the action, albeit it late on. It took me a while to get around to picking the novel up, with it being of such great heft, but once I did I got through it in around a week or so, the book is certainly very readable. It bounces along, it has its own eccentric way of communicating its story and its characters. There are a myriad of reflections and ideas which constantly permeate the narrative. There is enough to keep a reader involved, albeit not always engaged.
And that was the problem with these books, they just weren't that engaging, essentially because they weren't all that good. Now I'm not here to pass judgement on Murakami's overall bibliography but based on this long book it strikes me that the man just isn't a particularly exciting or interesting writer. He's not much above a Dan Brown or David Nichollsesque author in the sense that he understands how to make a reader want to turn the page but he doesn't have the talent to sear the contents of his pages into the reader's memory and experience. The characters are flat and unrealistic and at times downright cartoonish. I've never read any novels centring around Middle-Earth or the Harry Potter Universe but some of the descriptions, particularly of Ushikawa, would certainly not be out of place there. All of the sex scenes were horrendously cringe-worthy and should have been cut without question. They were seedy, clunky and completely unerotic. Aomame felt like an ill-judged, half-baked characterisation of one of the author's previously surpressed fantasies, and Tengo was a pale, two-dimensional figure. Attempts at the surreal felt laboured and childish, the David Lynch of the literary world this author certainly is not.
The constant referencing of other authors and the almost, in fact scrap that, the outright boastfulness of the author's attempts to self-indulgently unveil the extent of his knowledge and learning in the areas of history, metaphysics, quantum physics, biology not to mention the craft of writing itself felt out of place and crude. As an aspiring writer I almost found these books an invaluable resource as to how not to write at times more than as an inspiration for my own work. Constant metaphors, some inexplicably trite and inappropriate, popped up throughout the text like literary sledge-hammers, yes the irony is not lost on me, they were repetitive and often unnecessary.
Despite all of this though there was a commendable honesty to the story. It felt as if the author was trying to reach inside himself and share something with his audience, it was just done in an often awkward and extremely clumsy manner. Some blame the translation but I wonder; I've read many translated works and have often been captivated by the brilliance of the writing, saying that a work is lost in translation is of course a plausible statement to make, one which I cannot outright refute, not being able to read a single Japanese character, but it is more often than not an excuse to defend a poor novel.
In summary a weak work although not without its own peculiar charm.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 12, 2015 1:20 PM GMT


Room
Room
by Emma Donoghue
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

3.0 out of 5 stars A novel of unfulfilled good intentions., 11 July 2012
This review is from: Room (Paperback)
I have just finished reading this novel and I was very keen to see the reflections of other reviewers who have also read this book. It expectedly seems to have divided opinion, although the majority of it is admittedly positive and I can see why. On the surface this is an easy book to like, it's written in the tradition of Mark Twain and JD Salinger, two of the most successful and iconic voices of childhood and adolescence. It takes on difficult, perhaps brave, subject matter and it is intensely focussed on maintaining the "humanity" of its characters. Donoghue lets us know that Jack and Ma are human beings who deserve our empathy and are not just two-dimensional victims requiring our default and disconnected sympathy. Of course Donoghue has very little choice in taking this approach, anything other would be too obviously crass and exploitative, not to mention dull, yet I believe the author deserves credit for committing to her characters as people and not making them faceless sympathy sponges.
The story is also original enough and is full of potential, Donoghue has the bravery to not just tackle difficult subject matter but to also have this set in a single room (for a large part of the book at least) and then, to mention her most significant challenge, she attempts to tell her entire story via the first person narrative of a five year old child. If Donoghue could make this work then she would've written a masterpiece and there are plenty of reviewers who believe that she did just that, I, for my part, am not among them.
This book has its moments. Giving a child a voice is important in my view, society often struggles to recognise the emotions and psychologies of its younger members. It's not so long ago that children were extremely marginalised and ignored as general practice by families, teachers, etc, their elder counterparts preferring to have them seen rather than heard. Children may be ignorant of many things but that does not make their voices meaningless, Donoghue addresses this fact and, symbolically at least, helps to open up a connection between child and adult via her novel. It's the quality of this connection that must be called into question, however. Other reviewers have said that the child's voice just doesn't hold up as authentic and I must agree. The character of Jack requires a gargantuan suspension of disbelief which means that we really are only left with a symbol, or an extremely distorted representation, of the reality of a five year old child. His language is too complex and his deeds, one deed in particular, feel far beyond his years, Donoghue has created something human in Jack but she hasn't created a fully consistent and credible character, just a fusion of adult and child, with the child part actually less aparent than the adult in many instances. I have to conclude that Donoghue fails to realise Jack in the sort of realistic form that would really make this story worthwhile and the novel fails to be anything more than a curiosity as a result of this.
There are compelling aspects to the novel, there are also extremely tedious parts, particularly the final third. I understand what Donoghue was attempting towards the end of the novel, she was counting on the fact that the reader would be so deeply wedded to the characters that they would be desperate to see them negotiate the outside world successfully, for me, it was a miscalculation. Everything Donoghue had to offer in this novel came with the first part of the narrative, namely the part set in Room. Having the excitement of the part that follows this is fine as a short burst of interest but it undermines the psychological and otherworldy character that Room represented and the Room really is the central character of this book, more so than Jack even. Donoghue has nothing interesting to say about the outside world, nor does she have any interesting characters to offer us in the shape of Jack's family, the fact that she spends so much time writing about these things demonstrates, to me at least, that Donoghue had lost focus in terms of trying to write something meaningful and instead chose to go through the motions of storytelling, hoping that the inspiration that had driven her to make this brave attempt in the first place would carry her through. It doesn't and the novel limps to its conclusion.
Could Room have been something more? Perhaps, I feel that it would take an author of greater insight to find that story however. Donoghue only scratches the surface and on this offering I'm left with the impression that that is all she is really capable of. Unlike some reviewers, however, I wish to stress that I believe Donoghue had all the right intentions for this book, I just don't think she was up to realising them.


The Rules of Attraction
The Rules of Attraction
by Bret Easton Ellis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Either you relate or you don't: no inbetween, 30 Dec. 2011
You have to admire Ellis' ambition here. He's writing a novel that will frustrate many and offend even more. In this second novel he broadens out his focus from the principle character narrative, ie Less Than Zero, allowing the collective thoughts and feelings of 80s youth America to speak a choral verse of nihilism.
Some will struggle with the lack of plot, as is evidenced with some of the reviews on this site, but the plot is not central to this book. This book is about feelings and experiences and the fact that the former seem so shallow and that the latter are so repetive serves to highlight the desensitising and corrupting effect of society on these far too cyncical, far too world-weary youths. They don't know what to do except to screw around, take drugs and party, because they're confused, because they feel betrayed in some way, because they don't blame anybody else for letting them down and they don't blame themselves for letting others down. They've learnt to expect very little because they themselves have been given very little of value. They live in a society in which stability has broken down and the characters we get the closest look at are the ones who have suffered deepest as a result of that instability.
They desensitise themselves to the fact that they exist, because deep down they don't want to.
It's brutal, it's cold and it's often difficult to read. But the scariest thing is is that it feels very honest.


One Day
One Day
by David Nicholls
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.84

3.0 out of 5 stars A genre book with energy, 18 Dec. 2011
This review is from: One Day (Paperback)
With so many reviews created for this novel already, mine is probably rather superfluous but this was a unique enough experience for me to beg your indulgence anyway (if anyone is reading).

First of all the good stuff: Well this book was extremely easy to read. As many other reviewers have said it was very much a page-turner. This is partly down to the relaxed and flowing writing style that Nicholls employs and is also due to his clever device of shining a light on his two main characters' fortunes from year to year (each chapter representing another year in their lives). It is unashamedly a love story and throughout these two characters' lives the "will they or won't they" dynamic is constantly used to hook the reader and provide thrust and direction to the narrative. This is done very well but, as this and as the cover suggests, this really does have to be put into the bracket of genre fiction.

Now to the bad: One Day is very well written, very well plotted, but ultimately only partially-disguised, chick-lit (chick-lit is where the emphasis lies in this sentence). It's a book that is bound by literary conventions that lacks the honesty and the quality to transcend the genre and aim for a genuinely fresh and original take on romance. There are a few references to Wuthering Heights throughout the book, a personal favourite of mine, which is an example of a love story which is anything but conventional and predictable. In comparison to that this book is a shallow, ineffectual and lightweight enterprise. Nicholls is neither incisive nor talented enough, on this showing, to really get stuck into a plot and to bring his narrative fully alive in the way Emily Bronte and others of her ilk are able to do. He comparatively plods from cliché to cliché but is nimble enough so that you may not realise how predictable this journey is until you come to the end of a chapter and reflect on it a little while. And that's what separates this book from great fiction, it just doesn't bear deep scrutiny. It didn't feel alive enough, or original enough or powerful enough to make any sort of impact on me as a reader.

Therefore, what I would ultimately say is, is that for the chick-lit, or page-turner fiction-lovers out there, this is perfection. It's a genre book with energy. For those who are expecting Cathy and Heathcliff or anything approaching that, this catergorically is not it. I cannot stress that fact enough.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 9, 2012 3:52 PM BST


Crash
Crash
by J. G. Ballard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Burroughs without the balls, 27 Feb. 2009
This review is from: Crash (Paperback)
At the beginning of this novel I felt as if I was embarking upon a William Burroughs effort that had been filtered, edited and contrived; sadly that impression didn't change much as the novel went on. Everything that Ballard seemed to be attempting on a stylistic, expressive level had been done before with more poignancy, skill and power in novels such as "Naked Lunch". So the only original aspect of this novel was in the story. Now that could perhaps be forgiven if the story were of a high calibre, and at times there were suggestions that it might be, but ultimately I don't think Ballard really cared as much about the story as the way he was representing it and as a result he made it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to be carried away solely be the plot, which is a shame because I feel as if there was a lot of promise in terms of potential plot and character development that was ultimately only half-explored.

So you are again left with the style, the technique: sex, car crashes, madness, death, all are conveyed in a very stylistic way and, as I said before, the style was second-rate, Burroughs already had it down over a decade earlier.


Revolutionary Road
Revolutionary Road
by Richard Yates
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.83

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most important book I've ever read., 23 Nov. 2008
This review is from: Revolutionary Road (Paperback)
Never have I read a book that has gone deeper into the human psyche. It reveals stark, unvarnished truths; it observes without condemnation; it is unflinching, poignant and powerful in its delivery; it is inspirational in its style. If a better book has been written then I'm yet to discover it. A must read for all who seek knowledge and understanding about the most complicated creatures in existence: ourselves.


Vauxhall And I
Vauxhall And I
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.58

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Second only to Meat is Murder, 7 April 2008
This review is from: Vauxhall And I (Audio CD)
This is without a shadow of a doubt Morrissey's finest solo album and is in fact one of the greatest albums of his whole career. Fans often regard Morrissey's solo career as somewhat inferior to his work with the Smiths but Meat is Murder aside which is probably the greatest album ever released (subjective of course), I believe this to be Morrissey's finest work. Lyrically it's unbeatable, it's rich with feeling, its upfront, self-confessional honesty is inspiring, he reaches heights artistically and emotionally that he has proved incapable of reaching subsequently. If Morrissey was the inspired youth whilst with the Smiths by the time he releases this album he has become the inspired adult it's simply sublime.

Music, like all art, is a medium of communication and never has communication been more pure and enlightening, the humanity of this album is so rich and entrenched that it seeps into the soul of the listener and will never be forgotten. Morrissey and Marr were true geniuses when they worked together but with this album Morrissey proves that he has a genius all of his own. Simply and truly a record of immense greatness.


You Are The Quarry
You Are The Quarry
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £3.95

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lot's of sound but very little depth., 7 April 2008
This review is from: You Are The Quarry (Audio CD)
This album seems to have become something of a bandwagon record. People happily jump on it and in unison proclaim this to be a definite resurgence in Morrissey's solo career. I'm afraid I have to disagree, although certainly energetic and bolshy this is possibly the most shallow studio album that Morrissey has released.

Most Morrissey albums grow on the listener, Viva Hate and Vauxhall and I being the two best examples, but this album works the other way. You listen to it and initially get the impression that you have been exposed to a strong album, but with repeat listenings, whilst you're ready to engage with the intricacies that accompany the vast majority of Morrissey's work, you become aware of the fact that there is very little underneath the album's pomp and show. The first track America is Not the World is a perfect example of this, on the surface it seems edgy, incisive and challenging but when you reflect on the lyrical content it's actually quite pedestrian as an exposé of American values adding nothing subject-wise and not proving particularly insightful. Musically also there's lots of sound but very little depth, the complete antithesis to an earlier Morrissey album which many would regard as inferior; namely, Kill Uncle.

Come Back to Camden, This World is Full of Crashing Bores, How Could Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel are all further examples of the lack of subtlety and lack of depth that this album showcases. Lyrically I Have Forgiven Jesus is without a doubt the most innovative and interesting song on the album, adding the spark of originality that otherwise this album desperately lacks.

To sum up a perfectly fine album on the surface but musically and lyrically pedestrian when compared to some of his vastly more individual and interesting works, see Viva Hate, Vauxhall and I, Kill Uncle or even Ringleader of the Tormentors for insight into the unique and creative genius that is the upfront genuine Morrissey. For too much of this album what we are seeing is Morrissey shamelessly parodying himself, simplifying and selling himself to make up for the financial failure and rejection of his two previous albums.


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