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M. Walker (Lampeter, Wales)
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The Fear Is Excruciating, But Therein Lies The Answer
The Fear Is Excruciating, But Therein Lies The Answer
Price: £5.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The wrong ingredients..., 12 Jun 2010
Having previously enjoyed 'at the soundless dawn' and 'every red heart shines toward the red sun', I had high hopes. Unfortunately, this album doesn't really live up to the achievements of their previous work. Red Sparowes seem to have lost some of the darkness and foreboding that is so well expressed in their early work, and their sound seems far less...epic. There are parts of this album that sound very much like This Will Destroy You, which isn't necessarily a good thing.

The main problem with this album seems to be that they have strayed some way from the formula that has made their music so appealing. There seems to be less narrative cohesion across the album (which is what makes 'every red heart..'work so well), and although the tracks are shorter in length they appear more laboured, and are not as distinctive and brooding as I would expect from this band. Red Sparowes are also the undisputed champions of using emotional sentences, Capitalising Every Word, And Making a Title. Whilst this works in the narrative context of their previous albums it seems very contrived now, and it comes across as a rather self-conscious and unnecessary post rock affectation. Overall, this album is a bit dissapointing, although there are good moments such as 'a hail of bombs'. This album is neither a positive progression for Red Sparowes, nor a complete disaster.


A Book of Silence
A Book of Silence
by Sara Maitland
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An opportunity missed, 4 Nov 2009
This review is from: A Book of Silence (Paperback)
It seems a shame that a subject so full of potential and nuance as silence, has really gone begging in this work. My reasons for disliking this book are fundamentally to do with her complete lack of intellectual rigour. Her life - and exploration - of silence is almost entirely based on a self-serving, high-maintenance mix of spirituality and creativity. Her explorations of different types of silence are at times interesting and relevant, but as with much of her writing in this book, it frequently becomes digressive to the point of painful prolixity. She also constantly employs her own version of faux-academic discussion, which she is incapable of reinforcing with even a modicum of acuity.

I think that in order to explore silence throughly, it would take someone less coloured by their religion, and way more honest. Be warned: her catholicism is the locus for much of her silent debate, and it ultimately limits her breadth of investigation. Also, her middle class, name-dropping attitude is grating at points, and is dishonestly washed over. Her biggest weak points are her conceptions of nature, and her treatment (or lack) of natural silence, or silence in nature. Despite acknowledging the prevelance of Romantic concepts of nature, she nevertheless relentlessly employs them. Calling places 'desolate', 'empty', and 'nothing' is not acceptable. In the last few pages she unwittingly exposes her lack of knowledge and rigour, and sums up her style of silence. She appropriates one of 'her' local Barn Owls as being genuinely silent, and literally more so than a 'twit-twooing' tawny owl. The notion of comandeering asects of nature for her own ends (which she often does), is deplorable enough; yet she also didn't realise that Barn Owls make loud screeching noises, far worse than a Tawny.

Finally, she neglects to be honest enough to acknowledge that the silence she seeks, is only made possible by the very things she uses silence to get away from: i.e. the 'noisy', 21st century world. A Book of Silence is a messy disappointment, and no advancement on a potentially fascinating subject.


River Map
River Map
by Jim Perrin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £4.95

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overwrought prose, but nice pictures, 18 May 2009
This review is from: River Map (Hardcover)
The synopsis and 5 star review of this book are certainly accurate, but in this review I must stress a different point of view.

This is most certainly a book about a spiritual journey, and a philosophical one inspired by writers, poets and philosophers. It is also a book purportedly about nature, or it has been descibed as nature writing. This is only true so far as it seeks to conform to an idea of a literary tradition. In truth this book, and Perrin's style, are deeply problematic. I found that it was far too personal, it dwelt too long on one man's narrow and compromised view of nature, and the way he placed those views onto it. There is also an assumption of spirituality and nature that is, philosophically, less than rigorous.

Overall, I found that the reasons the previous reviewer liked the book, are also more than capable of being its major stumbling blocks. If you want a safe nature text that relies heavily on literary quotations; that tries to live up to the worn-out philosophies of Thoreau; one that assumes religion and nature are symbiotic, then by all means buy it.

If you want a mature, rigorous, impartial, and studied nature book, then look elsewhere (Kathleen Jamie's 'Findings' is probably the best place).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 15, 2012 10:42 PM GMT


Railway Photography
Railway Photography
by Brian Solomon
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Value, 6 May 2009
This review is from: Railway Photography (Hardcover)
This is a surprising book. It is full of really good photos, and a lot of good technical, real-world advice, as well as advice for submitting photos for publication. The downsides: it is a little old, so is aimed at film cameras, with out-of-date info on digital cameras; it is primarily american, so won't appeal to British rail photographers. But if you want to take more artistic photographs, without chapters on how to use photoshop, then it is a great buy.

I behold art and evocation above perceived technical competence (or getting a good picture before photoshop!), and if that is what you want to achieve in your photography, then this is a good buy.


Ecocriticism (The New Critical Idiom)
Ecocriticism (The New Critical Idiom)
by Greg Garrard
Edition: Paperback

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Concise Handbook, 27 May 2008
This is the perfect introduction to a burgeoning field of literary criticism that concerns itself with the interaction of literature and the environment. This is an academic book that is refreshingly easy to read and comprehend, without comprimising a high level of academic discussion: Garrard has pitched this just right. There is a good introduction to various ideological 'positions' of environmental theory, and some subtle suggestions as to the direction this field of criticism might take in the future. This book also posits a gentle yet powerful commentary on some of the central conceptual issues facing this area of criticism. This book is capable of being both informative and astute.

I would reccomend this to any student wishing to know more about how literature negotiates ideas of nature and environment, and i think it is also a book that anyone could read to discover more about the relationships between culture and nature, and what exactly that might mean!


Wild: An Elemental Journey
Wild: An Elemental Journey
by Jay Griffiths
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars After the fire..., 27 May 2008
This book does generally live up to its reviews. It is instinctive, visceral, and beautiful. It is also wild in every sense. It is a mix of travel writing, nature writing, anthropology, and nature philosophy. Her explorations are thoroughly hands-on and heartfelt, and i particularly like the way she shows how western religious attitudes are so damaging to the natural environment and indigenous people. Because she is so open and honest about her travels and encounters, and so vocal about her beliefs, it is not surprising that many people have commented on the feeling of activism that runs through the book.

Her style of writing is a mix of eloquence and honesty, and it can be very seductive. But it is not without its problems. Her political invective can sometimes feel a little over-done and personal. There are also frequent disparities between the language she uses and the ideologies she espouses. At one turn she will talk of nature as a dispassionate and unfeeling entity, and in the next sentence will extol the thinking and speaking powers of nature in flights of pathetic fallacy that go beyond the empathic points she makes. This made me lose trust in her convictions a little, and made me suspicious of her passion, because it sometimes gets used to hide her theoretical inadequacies. My last criticism would be that the issues she highlights with such alacrity in the first chapter, are basically repeated in the following chapters with a different natural element and location as the metophorical back-beat to her musings.

Despite all this, it is an enjoyable read, with some very valid points to make about nature, wildness, and environment. It should be treated with a little caution however, as once you have recovered from her salvos of passionate indignation, you are often left with a smouldering wreckage of problematic language and ideas.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 3, 2012 6:47 PM BST


The French Lieutenant's Woman (Vintage Classics)
The French Lieutenant's Woman (Vintage Classics)
by John Fowles
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.79

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A finely tuned twentieth century classic, 3 May 2007
This is by far the most finely crafted novel by John Fowles i have read. He generally enjoys long - but no less than erudite - passages of analysis and description, but this is the one that strikes a very good balance between craft and content. The novel begins as a traditional Victorian novel of manners, but it very soon becomes apparent that this method is (as the blurb on the back says) actually being mocked very artistically by the author. Classical realist descriptions are often interposed with references to the time the narrator is narrating from; 1969. The author never lets you fall into the trap usually set by an omniscient narrator, and reminds you of your position as a reader. This comes most starkly into focus when the narrator begins to 'converse' with the reader on what should happen with the various characters. The final, and very well crafted piece of metafiction comes when the author appears in the same train carriage as a character, and expresses his desire to have alternative endings. This is an appropriate contrast to the more clumsier proponents of metafiction, such as Paul Auster. The metafiction aside, he also manages to engage in meaningful social and political commentary, as well as providing a passionate and convincing love story.

In short, this is a novel that is not only a highly capable and complex piece of art, but one that is thoroughly readable as a modern British classic.


The Ebony Tower (Contemporary Classics)
The Ebony Tower (Contemporary Classics)
by John Fowles
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Falling from the Ebony Tower..., 18 May 2006
The Enigma may well be the most famous story in this collection, but it would be unwise to overlook The Ebony Tower and, indeed, Eliduc, which should be read in connection with this. Aside from the strong scent of eroticism that permeates the story, this novella is mainly concerned with the nature of art, and the individual. Williams and Breasley are both artists who represent a different school of art, and a different historical and intellectual context. The action involves a conceptual clash of these ideas, set amongst the fecund and atavistic French forest. Parellels with the nature of art can be seen in the battles between body and mind (Williams and Anne), and representation and abstraction (Williams and Breasley). There are also a number of close parallels and implicit references to Eliduc, the following short story, but it is by no means a parody. With all of these elements based around a tight, measured prose, and an unchallenging structure, it makes for a highly engaging - and introspective read. One that makes you ask as many questions of yourself, as of art and the novel.


Those Who Tell the Truth
Those Who Tell the Truth
Price: £11.93

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars explosions in your spleen, implosions in your heart, 22 Feb 2006
This album is for me (like their other albums) a lesson in simple yet massively effective post rock. I liked mogwai, then i found godspeed you and silver mt. zion. They are all still exceptionally good, but i like explosions more. This album shows a bit of rawness like the first, but is consummate in its ability to destruct your nerve endings with fierce crescendo's, or extrapolate your soul with vagrant, reverberating guitar. The songs are typically long (7-11 minutes) by post rock standards, but they pass quickly and it leaves you with an inert sense of longing that you can only satiate by...listening to it again.


The Hot Rock
The Hot Rock

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars double-good and bloody marvellous, 31 Mar 2005
This review is from: The Hot Rock (Audio CD)
This is one of the most under-rated and under exposed albums in rock/punk/pop(?) (in the UK at least), yet it's such a classic. There is not one duff track and the songs are diverse, highly original and addictive. The bass wiggles and pounds, and the drumming is immense, and the overlapping singing is inspired. End of you is just grand, and by the time you reach a Quarter to Three, you will honour this album as a great.


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