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Dafydd "dharmavadana"

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Sherlock - Series 1-2 [DVD]
Sherlock - Series 1-2 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Benedict Cumberbatch
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £9.97

6 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun, but oddly homophobic?, 14 April 2012
This review is from: Sherlock - Series 1-2 [DVD] (DVD)
Of course it's great fun and you can have a fine time spotting the Conan Doyle in-jokes, etc. The plots whip along, especially if you don't think about them too much - which is what most screenwriters these days seem to rely on. And the characters are great, the acting terrific. But why is Martin Freeman's Watson written as being so defensive all the time about whether he and Holmes are gay? Why are so many jokes salted in about that possibility? E.g. in The Hounds of Baskerville somebody refers to Watson as Holmes's 'live-in PA' - and the woman Watson's trying to chat up immediately stalks off. It just seems an unnecessary, and, under the surface, homophobic self-consciousness in an otherwise excellent piece of entertainment.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 9, 2013 12:26 PM BST

Red Shift
Red Shift
by Alan Garner
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing (warning: contains plot spoilers), 19 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Red Shift (Paperback)
I was haunted by Elidor as a boy and have enjoyed it along with other early Garners, as an adult. But Red Shift I'm not sure about. In part it's brilliant. It's certainly very daring to tackle themes which I take to include sexual jealousy, the teen fascination/fear of sex, and possibly male sexual insecurity - among many others - in a teen book (or any book, really), and at times the experimental style works. But at many points the actual events of the story are obscure and the ultra-pared-down dialogue-centred style is mannered and irritating. The novel is disturbing - both in a good way and a bad way. It delves into very deep emotional/psychological layers, but at the same time I did puzzle about the author's own attitude to sex and to the female gender.

There are three 'couples' in the novel: in modern times, Tom and Jan; in the English Civil War period Thomas and Madge; in Roman Britain Macey and the priestess. For different reasons, none of them have sex (until Tom and Jan do, disastrously, at the end). Macey is some kind of special person possessed by a berserker god and seems uninterested in the priestess sexually (which is his salvation). Thomas, it is suggested, is impotent. Tom and Jan are avoiding sex with each other. They both seem to think it would somehow pollute their relationship, but Tom perhaps is hung up about it (while Jan, it turns out, has in fact had an enjoyable and healthy sexual experience abroad outside her relationship with Tom). And all three main female characters are raped: Jan, finally, by Tom; Madge by another Thomas who was an early rival with her husband Thomas; the priestess repeatedly by Roman soldiers who keep her 'ham strung' in their camp - the fact that Macey has not joined in saves him from her eventual revenge. The only healthy sexual relationship in the book is between Jan and her lover, and that spells disaster for her central relationship with Tom. The book is very violent, and sex and violence seem conjoined.

It all certainly makes you think - but I kept wondering if there was some sort of misogyny going on here, and a mistrust of sex. Of course, Garner's very point may be about something destructive in male sexuality, but the book could almost be read as saying that a healthy sexual relationship between a man/boy and woman/girl who are in love is not possible; while Platonic love we can get away with. Plus, although we are obviously meant to deplore the raping, there is so much of it...

There was a moment when I was reading The Owl Service when I also began, I thought, to detect a certain attitude to the female sex. One of the heroes, Gwyn, keeps calling the heroine Alison, 'girl'. At times it reaches crescendoes - 'girl' at the end of almost every sentence as he speaks to her. The word draws attention of course to Alison's gender and sexuality and seems to carry a sort of strange distancing with it. Gwyn also has an oddly violent and stressful relationship with his mother! Much as I admire Alan Garner in many ways, all this does make me wonder what's afoot. I'd be interested to know what others think.

Tom Fleck
Tom Fleck
by Harry Nicholson
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book to brighten the heart, 24 Sept. 2011
This review is from: Tom Fleck (Paperback)
I very much enjoyed reading this book, to the extent that it really did brighten my outlook on the world and even make me look at it differently. Harry Nicholson performs a rare feat in being able to bring his early 16th Century world alive not only with physical detail, but by convincingly portraying the mindset of the ordinary people of the time: in many ways not so different from us, with similar concerns and drives, and with a sometimes rowdy sense of humour, but also closer to nature ( I know that sounds corny but there's really no other phrase) than most of us could ever be, because they literally live in it. Nicholson's hero Tom knows the ways of animals and the uses of plants with a vivid, earthed awareness that is simply out of reach of most 21st Century Westerners. Along with that goes a naturally pagan outlook that might seem equally baffling to us in our Monotheistic, post-Monotheistic or Materialist world, but makes total sense for characters who almost literally sleep on the earth and for whom the pronouncements of priests are more or less irrelevant. As I read, I was totally convinced by such a viewpoint and whatever I saw of the natural world in my own daily round came to life a little bit more for me. I have to say it felt a lot healthier and more expansive than my usual boxed-in awareness.

In general, as with all the best historical novels, I was right there in the period of the story, and the author has obviously deployed wide-ranging knowledge and detailed research with great skill. The tale is a fairly simple but very engaging one, with a brilliantly described (from the soldier's-eye view) Battle of Flodden as its centrepiece. The characters are vivid, if not over-complex, and the author's love of them is endearingly evident.

In fact, there's a beautifully old-fashioned feel about this novel all round, which I don't mean as a back-handed compliment. There's something refreshing about reading a novel in which the author obviously wants the best for his characters; in which many of them behave towards each other with dignity and decency; in which even the worst is redeemable; and in which history, ancestry and nature are honoured. All that makes Tom Fleck a much more challenging book than might first appear. Because, again like the best historical fiction, it makes us ask the deepest questions about our own world.

The Good German [DVD] [2006]
The Good German [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ George Clooney
Price: £2.49

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Good German, Bad Film, 2 Sept. 2011
This review is from: The Good German [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
The story's not only all over the place, it's clumsily told. Voice-overs appear out of nowhere to tip the audience off about plot points that a good thriller would have allowed action to reveal. Cluny's reporter regales other characters with conclusions that he couldn't possibly have drawn from the available evidence. Confrontations are contrived rather than developing naturally out of the story-structure. The whole thing smacks of an all-too-common philosophy: 'run the story fast enough and the audience won't see the holes'. As pastiche, or 'homage' I just found it irritating - lots of peculiar camera angles for no other reason than that Orson Wells used them, so much shadow it becomes a joke, a climax pointlessly staged during a parade, and a Dakota on a runway... and you know the only reason for that. All it did for me was to illustrate how brilliant many of those real old film noirs and forties thrillers are. And that Cate Blanchett can rise above anything - almost.

Grace Williams Says It Loud
Grace Williams Says It Loud
by Emma Henderson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Over-hyped, 4 Jun. 2011
I'm not saying it's altogether a bad book, and it is a brave subject, but my guess is it's the subject-matter and the touching 'back story' of the writer's giving a 'voice' to her dead sister that made the publishers back this novel. Henderson reads like a writer who could produce decent prose if she would only calm down and stop trying to impress, but as it is her coinages, 'poeticisms' and general attempts at linguistic inventiveness are deeply irritating - to the point where I started to speed-read the book so that I would not be assaulted by such things.

'Two hungry English girls, giggling in the gondola... loudly and lewdly' (pages 10-11 of the paperback edition): Do we need alliteration thrust in our faces? Why? Page 11: 'Mashed potato. Let's take her photato. What shall we do with the crumpled baby, early in the morning?' Now what? Finnegan's Wake? Did the novel start life as a verse epic? Or a children's book?

Page 38: 'It's the new space age, Grace. Space race...' Page 43: 'Bubble-headed boobies, plucked eggheads, silly billies, mates, noodles. Loony boys zooming.' Page 51: 'What had I done? Spat? Nattered? Shat?' Page 83: '..rough-scudding our heels on the warm paving stone': the need for 'rough'? Page 106:'straps.. which Dr Young buckled across my arms and over my chest, breathy-sharp': the meaning of 'breathy-sharp' in this context, or any? Page 133: 'the peasy-green easy chair'; 'as he... grabbed a stick and dab-thwackled on our crappy arses'. 'Dab-thwackled'?!!! There's a self-conscious horror like this on almost every other page. If there's an artistic reason for it, none is apparent. If it's part of Grace's 'voice', why is she so normally eloquent elsewhere? It reads like a creative writing student trying desperaretely to get the attention of the tutor - and any decent tutor would have got out the blue pencil at page 1. I can't understand how the publisher's editors let these cringe-inducers go by - unless the editors have all been made redundant. It's writing that draws attention not to the characters or the story, but to the writer, and Emma Henderson should have been warned off it. Her Creative Writing tutors had the chance, her editors had the chance.. what stopped them?
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 2, 2012 12:07 PM BST

Writing Your Way
Writing Your Way
by Manjusvara
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Wise and inspiring, 15 Dec. 2010
This review is from: Writing Your Way (Paperback)
Although this is really a book for those beginning to write, I found it very useful and inspiring even though I've been writing for many years. There are enormously clever exercises for 'kick-starting' the imagination and the writing process, and getting past those wretched internal voices of inappropriate criticism and self-doubt, techniques which anyone at any level of experience should find helpful. Along the way Manjusvara delivers gems of wisdom about the writing process, and a writer's life, in almost every paragraph. If you believe that writing can be not only a craft but a path, this is a book you'll want to keep by you.

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