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Tom "ediblesponge" (UK)

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The Last Man Who Knew Everything
The Last Man Who Knew Everything
by Andrew Robinson
Edition: Paperback

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gentleman and a Genius., 16 Jan. 2010
Holding a great interest in the 18th and early 19th century, and also a long fascination with extraordinary individuals, it was with great joy that I stumbled upon this book, and with great expectation that I read it. I can say very honestly that I wasn't disappointed.

The fascinating character of Young forms an instant solid basis for any biography, but it is my belief that in his writing, Andrew Robinson has done more than work solely upon this. Where Young's achievements and works are discussed, the assumption of little prior specialist knowledge and providence of it (in areas such as Optics, Physics, Boat Construction and Egyptology) is highly informative, whilst not in any way patronising.

The amount of research which has gone into the book is evident through the author's fluent understandings of both the historical and social contexts, and the abstracts which he provides where needed of relevant areas in optics and other fascinating, but specialist areas.

In this way, the biography does not fail to deliver a fascinating personal depiction of Young as an actual man (in spite of the difficulties often presented by Young's modesty and oft pursuit of anonymity), particularly in the earlier chapters, as well as a charismatic portrayal of his works and achievements, presented in all the context which is required for them to be fully appreciated.

After finishing the book, engrossed in fascination which had turned to admiration, I wrote an account of my impressions of Young in the back of the book, and I think it will be useful to reproduce it here:

"A genius, a polymath and a master of all fields which attracted his attention, Young held an endless intellect and boundless aptitude rarely found in those of our species, and not one bit was he smitten with the terrible egoism which claims so many of us, but was an eternally humble and modest figure; a Gentleman and a Genius."

Suffice to say, I would recommend the book highly!

Blue of Noon
Blue of Noon
by Georges Bataille
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Literature, Eroticism, Psychology and Philosophy., 11 Feb. 2009
This review is from: Blue of Noon (Paperback)
This is the second book by Bataille which I have read, following on from Story of the Eye. In relation to that book, this one seems to pursue a more rounded approach. Whereas 'Story of the Eye' on it's first printing was initially read solely as eroticism, I would find it impossible that anyone could do so with Blue of Noon, which is a much deeper and more profoundly effecting psychological masterpiece (not that 'Story of the Eye' is not; it is after reflection).

The book is well balanced, although in the style of Bataille, it does occasionally jump around a bit, but is thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless. In truth, one could probably list this as a positive aspect of the book, leading to a slightly chaotic or disassociated effect which is encapsulating, as i'm sure was Bataille's intention.

I think that the highlight of the book, for me, was the Second Chapter ('Motherly Feet'), which contains the truly most stunningly beautiful depiction of sorrow, melancholy, and utter desparitude, which I have yet read; it was captivating entirely, and seemed to last for much more than the 36 pages which it did, wonderfully.

Philosophically and Psychologically, the book's crescendo scene in the cemetery in an overwhelming confrontation of the age-old relationship between Eros and Thanatos; love and war, life and death. In relation to Bataille's theories on the relationship between literature and evil, and the equal abilities of both to potentially overwhelm our humanity (put very briefly), this is a tour de force of his theory; a most poignant confrontation of the extremes of human experience by the very man who spent his life outlining them. Hence, his delivery in this context is as good as anyone's ever could be.

Again, Blue of Noon has been a book by Bataille which I naturally read in one sitting, as soon as it left it's envelope; such is the nature of his writing, and the extent of it's powers of captivation.

Conclusively, I would happily recommend it as literature, as eroticism and even as psychology or philosophy; for any reflective mind, there is something here.

Story of the Eye: By Lord Auch (Penguin Modern Classics)
Story of the Eye: By Lord Auch (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Georges Bataille
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A captivating and enjoyable read, 28 Jan. 2009
I found the book to be highly captivating, largely due to the writing style, which is fast and informative, making it very hard to lose attention! As a result of this, i read the entire book in one go, and i know that there aren't reams and reams of pages, but i rarely do that at all.
Several people have commented that some parts are brief, but whilst i did sometimes notice this, i found that it was still pretty coherent, and simply required that the reader had been paying attention, which caused the book also, to leave just the right amount to the imagination.
The accompanying essays are also of high quality, and Bataille's 'Coincidences' section, i found to be very useful, as i read the book, not just as literature, but also out of interest, concerning the Psychology of the matter. Bataille's recollections of his youth are highly illuminating, regarding the text.

Overall, a highly enjoyable and interesting read, written in an easily accessible and conscious style, which i would happily recommend!

...In fact, might even go and read it again!

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