Shop now Shop now Shop now See more Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now DIYED Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Shop now Shop now Shop now
Profile for Jon Chambers > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Jon Chambers
Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,939
Helpful Votes: 2133

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Jon Chambers (Birmingham, England)
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
Vivaldi: Arie per tenore
Vivaldi: Arie per tenore
Price: £13.53

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rare Vivaldi, 29 Dec. 2011
One great annoyance that Vivaldi devotees must endure is the inevitability of duplication when seeking unusual works. Alongside the rarely heard material on offer here are arias from well-known and readily available operas like Tito Manlio and Farnace, while the Concerto in C RV110 features on the newly released Brilliant CD, 8 Concerti Solenni, for instance. But the great value of this recording is that it offers many arias from so-called 'lost' operas, such as Artabano and La Constanza trionfante degli amore. Put simply, much of the music found here is difficult to obtain by any other means.

What you won't find on this CD, of course, is any 'coherent' opera. There's no sense of unfolding narrative, no recitative and no vocal contrast (although the two outer arias from Dorilla both feature a chorus alongside Topi Lehtipuu's tenor). But what we get instead is some fine music: appealing ritornelli, arresting melodic and rhythmic invention, fine artists and an exemplary recording. It's easy to understand how these arias survived from otherwise lost operas - Vivaldi detached them as favourites with the aim of re-using them in later dramatic works. If, like me, you are more attracted by Vivaldi's music than in musical drama, per se, and can quite happily live without recitative, you may well find that there is sufficient variety in this lively and inspired sequence to justify such a collection. Major and minor tonalities alternate throughout, while musical textures vary from the minimal, almost chamber sonata accompaniment of harpsichord and cello in Cessa tiranno amor from L'incoronazione di Dario to the heavy pomp and brass of Alle minacce di fiera in Farnace. Particularly impressive are Diego Fasolis and I Barocchisti, whose subtle and sensitive input lends yet another layer of interest.

Some of the operas that survive today as fragments were apparently highly regarded by Vivaldi, like Dorilla in Tempe, three of whose arias at least have been rescued for posterity on this CD. There are two more such collections in the Naive catalogue, arias for bass and soprano respectively. On the strength of this one for tenor, it's time to investigate both of them.


The Artist [DVD]
The Artist [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jean Dujardin
Offered by A2Z Entertains
Price: £3.75

111 of 128 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Silent sensation, 24 Dec. 2011
This review is from: The Artist [DVD] (DVD)
As a trainee projectionist at a small-town French cinema, I naturally get to see quite a few films. Occasionally, they are screened before their UK release. And very occasionally, as here, they are brilliant. In short, it's one of my two recommendations of the year. (The other, incidentally, is Intouchables, another superb film which also suggests that the glory days of French cinema are not all in the past.)

It is vital not to give too much away. Suffice it to say that the plot revolves around the male lead, a silent movie icon (played by Jean Dujardin) and his efforts to cope with dwindling fame brought about by the Hollywood vogue for 'talkies' at the end of the Twenties. Sound is completely alien to his kind of cinema and, of course, being a silent film itself, The Actor shows the world from his perspective. But The Actor isn't completely mute, as we hear on just a couple of occasions. One instance comes right at the end and explains ... well, something quite important.

I'd never heard of the principal actors. Both are utterly captivating. Director Michel Hazanavicius (incidentally, the husband of the female lead, Berenice Bejo) has apparently wanted to make a silent movie for ages. The long gestation period shows in this thoughtful, clever homage to Hollywood's silent era. Implausibly, a modern film without (much) sound or colour maintains viewer interest throughout. It is witty, impossibly romantic, intriguing and, above all, a must-see for anyone who's losing their love of cinema. What should be nothing more than an interesting idea or a bit of a cliché (note the fire, dog and policeman episode), is in fact the absolute opposite: fresh and original. And one of the best films of the year.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 19, 2012 6:52 PM BST


Twelfth Night (Arden Shakespeare: Third Series)
Twelfth Night (Arden Shakespeare: Third Series)
by William Shakespeare
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Authoritative, 21 Dec. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
With so many excellent alternatives around, choosing between rival Shakespeare editions is usually no easy matter. In the case of Twelfth Night, however, Kier Elam's Arden is a clear winner.

Elam's substantial (150 page) introduction is stimulating and informed throughout. He talks of an 'interpretative compulsion' about the play ('one of Shakespeare's most enigmatic') that keeps its characters and readers on a continual search for meaning. But meaning is complicated by Twelfth Night's characteristically riddling mode ('Nothing that is so is so' etc.), its emphasis on secrecy and its own problems with interpretation (notably Malvolio's puzzling over the notorious crux 'M.A.O.I.'), which, taken together, threaten to make fools of us all. Despite critics' sustained and occasionally ingenious attempts to reveal meaning, Elam reminds us of Montaigne's salutary warning about the dangers of over-speculation, of interpreting interpretations rather than the original text, with the result that finding true meaning becomes an ever more distant prospect.

On the play's central concerns, identity, gender and language, Elam is equally illuminating. He observes that characters' names are often contained within those of others (Olivia and Viola within Malvolio, for example). Thus, nomenclature provides a key to the ever shifting and deceptive nature of identity. And of course, in Sebastian and 'Cesario', the play features twins and cross-dressing, where Sebastian is 'not merely a twin but a doppelganger', and 'Cesario ... a point of converging identity between Viola and Sebastian'. Viola's cross-dressing, meanwhile, disrupts gender difference and challenges routine assumptions about simple binary oppositions. He quotes Marjorie Gerber, who asks whether male/female categorisation is biological or cultural, then extends the discussion by quoting Malvolio's description of Cesario as neither man nor boy, with the result that he becomes 'an unclassifiable liminal figure' challenging boundaries of age as well as gender.

Plentiful illustrations explain and expand on Twelfth Night's allusions to material culture, while the play's homoeroticism (one reason why it has lately regained critical prominence) receives frank acknowledgement - it is 'an open secret' in performance, says Elam, and he draws attention to Louis Posner's 2001 RSC production to substantiate the claim.

In this and much else, Elam is sophisticated, comprehensive and authoritative. He is also more up-to-date than his rivals.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 10, 2016 11:44 AM BST


Shakespeare And Literary Theory (Oxford Shakespeare Topics)
Shakespeare And Literary Theory (Oxford Shakespeare Topics)
by Jonathan Gil Harris
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cerebrally challenging, 12 Dec. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There must be a lot of people out there - even some prominent Shakespeare scholars - with suspicions about the value of applying modern literary theories to works of the English Renaissance. At times, it is difficult to resist such suspicion or to see exactly whose ingenuity we are supposed to be appreciating - Shakespeare's or the critic's. Jonathan Gil Harris addresses such concerns head on: 'to what extent', he asks, 'do the desires of the reader ... produce the meaning attributed to the text?' But in Shakespeare and Literary Theory he is a very persuasive advocate of back-projecting critical modernism onto Shakespeare. Especially so, he argues, given that Shakespeare's work often anticipates modern critical preoccupations - with language and identity, for instance.

The book is no light, bed-time read. It requires concentration and stamina to engage with what are often challenging ideas. If Gil Harris himself occasionally finds Lacan 'extraordinarily difficult', for example, what chance have we got? Fortunately, he does not assume any great familiarity on our part with key terms like diachronic, reification and prosopopeia, and defines them on first use. And although several pages will probably require careful re-reading, one of Gil Harris' great strengths is that he frequently summarises, and constantly compares and contrasts each new theory with those that have already been discussed. Here's an example: 'for Freud, then, as for structuralists and deconstructionalists, opposites are connected and contain the trace of each other.'

Gil Harris isn't averse to punning or to humour, but his main aim throughout is to convey difficult ideas with maximum clarity and this he does with great skill and eloquence. His book introduces twelve schools of literary theory altogether and, given that it has no real rival, those wanting to extend their knowledge of them need look no further.


Richard II: The Oxford Shakespeare (Oxford World's Classics)
Richard II: The Oxford Shakespeare (Oxford World's Classics)
by William Shakespeare
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.99

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Up to the minute, 28 Nov. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Having the last word is often an advantage and this Oxford edition of Richard II, coming after its main rivals (Cambridge, 1984) and Arden (Arden, 2002), is consequently able to draw upon more recent research and performance. Its mention of a 2009 Vancouver production of the play (in the Commentary) and its discussion of recent books and articles (in the Introduction) make this volume very much up-to-the-minute. (Interestingly, one such book mentioned, by James Siemon, includes an ingenious interpretation of the allegorical 'garden scene', in which 'bushy' and 'green' excrescences are cut off! Two of Richard's favourites, Bushy and Green, of course, meet a similar fate under Bolingbroke.)

This Introduction is especially strong on the study of history and on Shakespeare's contribution to it. Shakespeare's Richard II is often noted for its conservatism - citizens are called 'subjects' throughout and commoners are much less conspicuous than in source texts. To the Oxford authors, however, Shakespeare's play is radical. As well as being encouraged to judge sceptically for themselves, spectators are made to feel involved in England's past and, from their vantage-point in the playhouse, part of a political community. (But to suggest that the play 'makes the audience a party to the regicide' is, perhaps, to overstate the extent of audience involvement.)

Section headings on, for example, language, character and stage history, make for a more conventional approach than some, but there is rewarding material in each: how the play's supposed 'stylistic unity' needs careful qualification; and how John Barton's 1973 RSC production, although 'one of the defining productions of the play of the twentieth century', continues a long tradition of rewriting and adapting - initiated by the same Nahum Tate that gave King Lear a happy ending. Several pages are devoted to Barton's often controversial interpretation which, like the Introduction itself, is concerned with how the dual identity of individual and role creates 'twinning'.

In the Commentary, the authors provide accessible notes. With refreshing candour, they occasionally show that some of Richard's more extravagant metaphors are beyond the comprehension even of scholars - as with the well and two buckets image (in IV.1), described as 'somewhat confused'.


Shakespeare And The Arts Of Language (Oxford Shakespeare Topics)
Shakespeare And The Arts Of Language (Oxford Shakespeare Topics)
by Russ McDonald
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.08

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Scuse the pun, 19 Nov. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There is something rather quaint, nowadays, about focusing on Shakespeare's language. Attending to such things as rhetoric and metre seems a bit passé. Aware of this, Russ McDonald defends his study of Shakespeare's verbal arts by claiming that language is central to an understanding and appreciation of his work. Refreshingly, he also takes pains to emphasise that the clever use of such language features gives rise to reading pleasure. The process of unlocking metaphors is not arid and academic, in his view, but fundamentally rewarding.

This is by no means the same old guide to Shakespeare's language in new clothing. Although it occasionally elucidates those technical terms so beloved of Greek rhetoricians and Elizabethan theorists, and although it is often in broad agreement with the conventional view of the playwright's development (that alliterative patterns gradually become more subtle, and that end-stopped lines increasingly give way to enjambment, etc.), this study presents an illuminating discussion of language, and it enhances and complements recent trends in various disciplines.

Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in the chapter on puns: 'Double Talk'. Far from constituting Shakespeare's Achilles heel, as Dr Johnson so famously argued, the much-maligned pun is seen as an integral part of his fascination for doubles - in fact, for 'likeness in difference' in all its manifestations, where puns take their place alongside twins, sets of brothers (Old Hamlet/Claudius; Edgar/Edmund), double plots, parallel circumstances etc. However annoying they might be to some, puns have a function, McDonald argues. Socially, they provide a subversive but safe means for characters to defy their superiors, by deliberately misconstruing and redirecting meaning; politically, and more seriously, wordplay becomes the battlefield on which substitution of meaning anticipates the substitution of monarch; and structurally, they embody what he calls 'the unreliability of the verbal sign'. To MacDonald, the pun is nothing less than a trope that allows for intellectual sparring, demonstrates the vulnerability of language and equips Shakespeare with the mental gymnasium he needs in order to exercise his imagination.

A thoroughly convincing and highly readable contribution to the field of Shakespeare's language that extends beyond language and mere labels. For McDonald, 'Words are considerably more than words'. Ideal both for the relative novice (who doesn't mind having obscure meanings glossed in quotations and alliteration highlighted typographically) and for the more serious student. Vital reading.


Shakespeare: An Ungentle Life (Arden Shakespeare)
Shakespeare: An Ungentle Life (Arden Shakespeare)
by Katherine Duncan-Jones
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This side idolatry, 24 Oct. 2011
Katherine Duncan-Jones is a controversial but very engaging Shakespearean. We sense that she doesn't have much time for those bardolaters who present the man as anything other than the evidence strongly suggests he might have been: materialistic, miserly, homosexually inclined, misogynistic and, of course, a jack-of-all-trade genius who could please whatever audience he wanted. The thrust of Duncan-Jones' study is that Shakespeare was probably all of the above. So, like Jonson's Folio judgement on Shakespeare, Duncan-Jones is very much 'this side idolatry'.

If you know either of Duncan-Jones' editions in the Arden series (Shakespeare's Sonnets and, co-authored with HJ Woodhuysen, Poems) you might expect there to be insights and ingenuity aplenty. You would not be disappointed. Among other things, KD-J considers that the dialogue between Touchstone and William in AYL dramatises Shakespeare self-communing: the two characters represent the court entertainer Shakespeare had become and his younger self, helping to make AYL the author's 'most explicitly personal play'. Shakespeare's stance on religion (that provoker of much heated debate): 'indolence'. His non-attendance at church may well be explained, she argues, by his dislike of being bored by a tedious sermon while having to avoid creditors and pot-holes on the mile-long and muddy trudge from Henley Street/New Place to Holy Trinity.

Most shocking (and compelling) of all is the suggestion that Shakespeare, before or during his lodging in the licentious Turnbull Street, either contracted syphilis or believed he had. The dark palette of his later plays and Sonnets complements his shabby and sordid abode, while his partnership with the unsavoury George Wilkins during this period puts Shakespeare's 'misogynistic' works (like Sonnets and Troilus) in firmer context. While the former kicked the bodies of prostitutes, the latter blackened the image of women in print.

This series of autobiographical sketches presents very much the other side of the coin to that we have become used to seeing. According to Duncan-Jones, the swan of Avon may well have been very far removed from the 'gentle master Shakespeare' of our national mythologizing.


The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios
The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios
by Eric Rasmussen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Collector's item?, 24 Oct. 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Eric Rasmussen is, undeniably, an internationally renowned authority on Renaissance drama. He has an impressive portfolio of editions of plays by Marlowe and Shakespeare behind him. In this book, he is writing about an aspect of Shakespeare studies that is focused on the physical remains of the first edition of his collected works, known as the First Folio of 1623, and on the occasionally colourful histories of several individual copies. Rasmussen and his team have spent several years scrutinising almost every surviving Folio, duly recording them in minute, painstakingly obsessive detail.

This is a book that is aimed at a wider audience than its narrow specialism might warrant (otherwise, we would expect it to have appeared under a scholarly imprint, been published in hardback and priced beyond the range of most pockets). But although some of the stories of theft in these pages may have a wide appeal, and although Rasmussen's tone is admirably accessible throughout (even though 'amazing' and 'wow' may perhaps sound a touch too popularising), it seems unlikely that this book will find huge success. Or, indeed, that it (like the Folio) will undergo four editions, with the first being so sought-after.

I enjoyed reading about Ben Jonson's eyelash, and about Jacobean printing-house procedures. Even so, it's difficult to resist the conclusion that this is a book that is essentially, if not exclusively, a book for bibliophiles and collectors.


Shakespeare's Sonnets (Oxford Shakespeare Topics)
Shakespeare's Sonnets (Oxford Shakespeare Topics)
by Stanley W. Wells
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sonnet survey, 4 Oct. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
An impressively wide-ranging and rounded survey of Shakespeare's sonnets, this guide doesn't confine itself to purely academic routines. Its last two sections, for example, are on writing that has been inspired by the poems and on CD and video recordings of them. (And as Simon Callow might tell you, the authors don't pull any punches when they find something amiss - his recording gives 'the overall effect of an elocutionary exercise'. Ouch!) Edmonson and Wells are refreshingly up-to-date on all things sonnet-related: about American appropriations of the poems in modern theatre, for instance, and about the difference made by experiencing the sonnets on CD as opposed to audio cassette, with the former, they suggest, more likely to encourage hopping around within the sequence (or 'collection', their preferred term).

But for me - as probably for most potential readers, including students - the main value of the book lies in its core, in which the sonnets' form, artistry, themes and theatricality are dealt with. It explores the poems' variety of structures and effects, provides exemplars of close reading, analyses links between sonnets, and provides an illuminating series of parallels with Shakespearean drama. Further sections evaluate the work of critics and editors (chiefly Kerrigan, Duncan-Jones and Burrow). But although the poems' homoeroticism has recently been explored in considerable detail, the name of Joseph Pequigney is conspicuously absent, as indeed is that of Bruce Smith, and those sections of the book that deal with the sexuality of poems and poet would have been strengthened by a wider discussion that included their views.

This is a book, however, that is thorough and elegantly written. It is one that also tries to do justice to the sonnets' complexity and to the infinite plurality of response to them, and it might be worth quoting its closing sentence in full: 'If we think we have exhausted their inexhaustibility, it is we ourselves who are exhausted; if we think we have finished reading them, then it is time we turned to other writers to unfinish them for us.' Turning to Edmonson and Wells in the first instance, however, would be an informed choice.


David Attenborough New Life Stories
David Attenborough New Life Stories
by David Attenborough
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £16.34

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brief lives, 21 Sept. 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
At least some of these 'New' Life Stories have been heard before. In his TV series Birds, for instance, Attenborough has already told us about the time when he forgot that his expletives were being monitored by the sound-recordist. Equally well-known is the tale of how the secret of Precambrian life was discovered in local rocks by a boy who went to his old Leicester school. But no matter. The stories are absorbing.

In this 20 episode series, we learn about the bizarre 17 year cycle of cicadas - the precise mechanics of which remain unknown. Mystery also plays a part in 'Identities', as Attenborough asks how penguins can immediately identify the cry of their offspring from the shrieks of a thousand others, and wonders if starlings can identify individuals among flocks of ten thousand and herring recognise each other among shoals of millions. In fact, like most of us, he rather likes the idea that science hasn't yet explained everything in the natural world. Even though the Loch Ness Monster has now been disproved, he speculates on the possibility that giant humanoids like the 'abominable snowman' may still lurk somewhere.

If there is a common thread tying this series together, it is the unexplained. There are unanswered questions posed at every turn by natural phenomena. Speculation is all we have to go by, and speculation, of course, is something that Attenborough does so well, along with wearing his learning lightly and communicating effortlessly.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20