Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Learn more Click Here Shop Kindle Amazon Music Unlimited for Family Shop now Shop Women's Shop Men's
Profile for Blackbeard > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Blackbeard
Top Reviewer Ranking: 444,034
Helpful Votes: 283

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Blackbeard

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10
pixel
The Wanderer (Condor Books)
The Wanderer (Condor Books)
by Knut Hamsun
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple and beautiful, 1 Mar. 2012
It didn't mention who the translators of this book were on this page, but the copy I have is from The Noonday Press (1975) and is translated by Oliver and Gunnvor Stallybras. There are two books here, called Under the Autumn Star & On Muted Strings, but they are intimately related, so it's appropriate that they have been put together into one book.
The story follows Knut Pedersen (Hamsun) as he wanders around the Norwegian countryside, finding work doing anything available. His character is mysterious and deep, and it seems that all his wandering and working is only a whim - a chance to observe life in different situations. He partners up with different characters who are far below his intellectual level, but he tolerates them as if he doesn't have any choice in the matter. He also falls for the women in the manors where he finds work, but he never even hints to them that he may be something more than his station suggests, and generally behaves in a delightfully unpredictable manner. He is constantly drawn to the Norwegian nature (which is not surprising if one has ever been there), and to solitude, but he also seems to enjoy the company of those both "above" and "below" him. The first story feels a lot like Hemingway, who I love and admire, and now I finally know where he got perhaps his greatest influence. The second does as well, but it also feels different, and is not what I was expecting. The prose is truthful and beautiful, and simply exudes greatness in both these respects. It gives a good picture of what life must have been like in the Norwegian countryside in this period, which is not entirely unlike the Russian landowner environment of the classical era. It also brings one closer to the strange (for lack of a better word) mindset of the Norwegians, which I have often reflected upon, and to which I find singular in nature. I would recommend this to anyone who likes realistic fiction at its best.


Germinal (Penguin Classics)
Germinal (Penguin Classics)
by Émile Zola
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pardon my French, but..., 18 Feb. 2012
...this is not a very good book. I was hoping to find another great author from the best period of literature but I came away disappointed and will most likely never try this author again. First off, he was one of those "moral" writers, like Dickens, although without Dickens' talent and mastery of language (it may be that the original is better written and more powerful but I doubt it). Secondly, this book is based off of research, which is uninteresting to me and denotes a lack of imagination. Thirdly, and most important of all, it is poorly written. If I was a literature professor, I would give this book to my students only to show them that this is not the way to write a book. The characters are poorly drawn and unsympathetic, the plot is boring and drags on, and there is too much focus on secondary characters that don't have anything to add to the story. The "passion" with which he instills some of his characters is unconvincing and sometimes even ludicrous, the behaviour of most of the characters seems unfitting and is often disgusting (although we are talking about, ahem!... what do I know?) and the "horror" of certain situations is also unconvincing and misplaced. I found certain things much more horrifying than what was actually supposed to be horrifying is what I mean. In short, I don't know why this author is supposed to be good, because he isn't. I don't remember much of Balzac but I know that he was better, and Stendhal was much better. Dickens was also much better, if you're looking for a moral writer, and if you're just looking for the period, go to Russia. Perhaps I should add that there is a long introduction which is very informative and actually contains a disclaimer at the beginning that warns about the plot being given away in it, which was a pleasant surprise.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 10, 2012 7:41 PM BST


An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
by David Hume
Edition: Paperback
Price: £1.77

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Refutation of reason, 8 Feb. 2012
I couldn't find the book that I have, which is a Gateway edition, from 1956, with 173 pages and an introduction by Russell Kirk. I mention this because when I was searching for the book there were editions that went from as few as 96 pages to as many as over 300.
It was a bit difficult to read for the fact that it either overuses or uses an antedated comma "usage", for lack of a better way to describe it, which disrupts the flow of the text to a certain degree. I suppose I realized at some point while reading this that it was the first native English speaking philosopher I have read, and for some reason was one of the most difficult to read. Having said that however, the language is not very advanced, and the only philosophical term he uses (frequently) that one might not know, is "a priori", which basically means "without experience". It is essential to know this term because it is the main focus of the whole book. He argues that nothing can be known a priori, which essentially means that nothing can be known without experience, and is another way of saying that there is no such thing as reason. But he doesn't really come right out and say this, and later on in the book he even uses the word "reason" several times in the normal sense, which is somewhat confusing. He never explains what he considers reason to be, and I kept wondering if he meant that what we consider reason to be is only recognizing patterns through experience. I think he could have made this more clear, but overall it was a very interesting book because he makes a good argument and it is one I have never considered before. Another focus later on in the book is on miracles. It's kind of funny because one has the feeling that he is leading up to saying that the whole bible is nonsense and shouldn't be believed, but he never really comes right out and says this either, so it is merely implied. Not many philosophers are exciting to read, and Hume was no exception, but he was a good thinker and I'm glad I discovered him.


No Title Available

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, 25 Jan. 2012
4.5 stars. I couldn't find the copy of the book I have, which is apparently an original hardback from 1966, but I suppose it doesn't matter regarding the review.
I was really surprised by this book. The only things I had previously read by the author were the whole Lonesome Dove series and Boone's Lick. The way it started made me think it was rather amateurishly (hope that's a word) written, and when I looked at the publishing date I saw that it was indeed one of his earlier books, but that feeling quickly left me and I really got into the story. It's about a small town in Texas, back in the fifties I think, mostly focussed around one high school senior, but there are plenty of (original, well-drawn) characters. There really is not much plot, and it basically just gives a good picture about how life in such a place and time would have been. It seems like a "wholesome" story in the way it's told, but there are plenty of things that aren't quite wholesome in it, including drinking, fighting, "underage" sex, adultery, bestiality, and general "depraved" behaviour. Nonetheless, it was a very enjoyable story with sympathetic characters and "real" (sorry for all the quotation marks) problems, and it has made me want to eventually read all of the author's books. Highly recommended.


Ham On Rye
Ham On Rye
by Charles Bukowski
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decadent humour, 12 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Ham On Rye (Paperback)
I have seen this book recommended quite a bit so I decided to give it a shot. I was neither pleased nor disappointed with it, hence the three stars, but the more I think about it the more I don't really like it. It's obviously an autobiographical story (so much so that I wonder why he just didn't use his own name), which I don't have a problem with, but the main character (or Bukowski) is just not someone I find very appealing. I think he and I actually have quite a bit in common, from being anti-social and non-conformist to not really seeing the point in doing Anything, but I didn't like his vulgarity or his attitude, and I ultimately found him to be a bum/loser, without the least amount of charm. He definitely wasn't an idiot, and there are even a few words of wisdom thrown in here and there, but if one's seemingly ultimate goal is to get drunk by oneself in a cave somewhere... you be the judge. The story traces him from his first memories all the way through college (none of which seemed very pleasant to experience), and from what I've read one can follow him from there in his other books, but I don't know if I would want to. The style reminded me of a cross between someone like Kurt Vonnegut or Joseph Heller and Chuck Palahniuk. I imagine Bukowski had a huge influence on the latter, so if you like these writers you might want to check this out. I would most likely read something else by him if it were given to me but I doubt I would buy any more of his books.


The Master And Margarita
The Master And Margarita
by Mikhail Bulgakov
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A breath of fresh air, 14 Dec. 2011
This book was exactly what I needed right now, after wondering for some time whether I was becoming too critical to be able to enjoy anything thoroughly. But almost from the first word, I knew I was dealing with a master, and the second reading was just as good and just as surprising as the first. I don't know what they put in the water in Russia, but that country has produced talented writers like no other. Bulgakov was unfortunately the last (at least as far as I know), but he had everything his predecessors had before him. This novel is good in so many ways that it's difficult to find fault with it. I did grow a bit worried, however, at the beginning of book two, when the focus is on Margarita, which made me think of the enormous difference between books one and two of Dead Souls by Gogol. The main thing that bothered me was that he constantly wrote "Margarita" instead of "she" or "her", when she was the only character in focus. This could not have been the fault of the translators (who did an excellent job as far as I could tell), so it must have been him. I didn't really care for the increasing fantastical element that especially pervades book two and mainly the chapter, "The Great Ball at Satan's", but the writing became better as the second book progressed, and by the end it was back on track. The side story about Pontius Pilate is possibly one of the most beautiful things I have ever read - especially the initial chapter where he meets "Yeshua". It was possibly the most realistic and definitely the most entertaining story I have ever read about Jesus, and it fit so well with the rest of the story. The antics of Koroviev and Behemoth were always entertaining, and the irony and ridiculous humour pervading the book were top notch and made me laugh out loud several times. This book, despite its fantastical elements and somewhat confusing plot, deserves a place at the top of world literature.


Candide, or Optimism (B&n Classics Hardcover)
Candide, or Optimism (B&n Classics Hardcover)
by Voltaire
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Candide, 23 Nov. 2011
This book, which is probably the most well-known by Voltaire, is basically one big satire ridiculing the philosophy of Leibniz. He does a pretty good job of it, showing, through humorous situations and characters, why this is probably not the best of all possible worlds. The style reads more like a fairytale, and it is actually quite a strange story, which makes it difficult to take anything very seriously, no matter how profound whatever points he was trying to get across might be. The illustrations are also very strange, and almost disturbing, but perhaps that was the intention. The chapters are short and easy to read, and there are plenty of notes for those who are not aware of the references to specific people and events. I would say that it is an entertaining read, but I don't consider it a masterpiece or a work of genius by any stretch of the imagination.


THE SORROWS OF YOUNG WERTHER [The Sorrows of Young Werther ] BY Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von(Author)Paperback 16-Jun-1990
THE SORROWS OF YOUNG WERTHER [The Sorrows of Young Werther ] BY Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von(Author)Paperback 16-Jun-1990
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A very good first effort, 17 Nov. 2011
This book contains the novel in the title, plus a short story called "Novella" here, although I believe it has a different name (based on my recollection of "Conversations with Goethe") in other places. There is also a foreword by W.H. Auden that I felt was way off the mark.
Werther is a well-written, tragic love story, but it has its flaws. One can see that he was very young when he wrote this, but it is easy to be critical, and despite his youth there are many great insights into the human psyche. I didn't like the protagonist very much, but that was more due to his constant "weeping" and over-sensitive nature than to his actions. He falls in love with an "angel", and is literally destroyed by it. I think it is difficult not to sympathize with such a case, which is most likely why it became so popular, but the passion with which the protagonist expresses himself is also very eloquent and poetic. I think the author would have made quite a few changes if he had gone back to it later in life, because there are several incongruities and other things that just didn't feel properly edited. But as I said, it is easy to be critical, and this is well worth reading.
"Novella" is a very strange short story, set in medieval(?) times, about a princess, a fire and an escaped lion, among other things. It was written not long before Goethe's death, and has absolutely nothing in common with Werther. It seems to be a parable, although I'm not sure what it is supposed to represent exactly, and it also seems to be deeply religious. It creates quite a striking scene in any case, and is also well worth reading, but I'm still not sure (after reading it for the third time) whether I like it or not.
I suppose this is a good place to start with Goethe, if you haven't read anything else by him, but I don't feel that either Werther or Novella is representative for his style.


A History of Western Philosophy: Hobbes to Hume, Volume III: Hobbes to Hume v. 3
A History of Western Philosophy: Hobbes to Hume, Volume III: Hobbes to Hume v. 3
by W. Jones
Edition: Paperback
Price: £77.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Light at the end of the tunnel, 11 Nov. 2011
I picked up this book in Norway of all places, and it is the only volume I own. It covers the Renaissance, the Reformation, and focusses on Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley and Hume. There is very little of what I consider philosophy in most of the book, but it shows well the development of thought throughout the period. The author, W.T. Jones (who is the only author in the book I have - another was mentioned when I clicked on the link) does a good job of remaining objective and of describing different passages of sometimes difficult, original texts in other words. I think this book would be very helpful to any philosophy students studying the period, and also helpful to those who are trying to decide whether or not they wish to study any of the various philosophers in greater detail, as there is enough original text by each to give one an idea of how they wrote and thought. Personally, it was interesting to read about the development, but ultimately unrewarding until David Hume became the focus of attention. I was predisposed to like him immediately, once I read the following passage, recorded by Boswell, just before Hume's death:

"He then said the Morality of every Religion was bad, and, I really thought, was not jocular when he said 'that when he heard a man was religious, he concluded he was a rascal, though he had known some instances of very good men being religious'".

The section on Hume is much larger than any of the other sections, and there are also many more passages of his original texts than any of the others. He is the only writer in the book that I would like to read more of, but that is because he seems to me the most sensible and interesting, and doesn't mean that others might not find the other thinkers as good or better.


The System Of The World (Baroque Cycle 3)
The System Of The World (Baroque Cycle 3)
by Neal Stephenson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Number two, again, 24 Oct. 2011
I have finally finished re-reading this book, and I am happy to say that I will never attempt to do so again. The third volume of this trilogy is again divided into three books, and I don't think I'm being unreasonable by saying that absolutely nothing happens in the first one. Daniel Waterhouse basically sits in a carriage or walks around London and "notices" every small detail about the geography of the city (and anywhere else he goes), which only shows that the author did a lot of research, but which does nothing for the story, if this can even be called a story. The uppermost thought in my mind as I was reading this was that Neal Stephenson has to be one of the most eloquent nerds on the planet. Or maybe I should use verbose instead of eloquent, because he just goes on and on about nothing, and half of the words he uses need to be looked up (I didn't look them up because I don't care what they mean). He uses "too" several times again in an inappropriate manner, but the worst one in this book is "wee". There is nothing small or little here, only "wee". Personally, I think anyone who isn't Scottish sounds stupid if they use it, but this was just ridiculous. He must have used it fifty times in as many pages. He uses all kinds of alternate spellings with words, like "musick", "smoak", or "a-maze", which I suppose is supposed to give it a more archaic feel, but it didn't do anything for me - nor did the use of "stone's throw", "bow shot", musket shot", "hand's breadth", etc. for measuring distances. There were almost too many things to mention about the writing that annoyed me, so I won't say anything more about it, apart from the dialogue and "action" scenes, the latter of which were not much better than a Robert Ludlum novel. One example of dialogue I can give is when Leibniz, a well-respected philosopher (among other things), hears something he can't believe, and says, "Say what!?" I may be wrong that this is a modern American colloquialism, but it still sounded absurd. It seemed that the reader was always supposed to stand in awe of certain people, like royalty, or Isaac Newton (who appears as Saruman in this series), but none of them ever say anything to deserve such awe (for the obvious reason that the author was incapable of portraying such persons). The plot was too loose (partly because of interceding, endless description), and the ending was just as boring as the rest. I don't remember disliking anything that this author wrote before I re-read this series, but now I am afraid to re-read anything else by him. One reason I think this didn't work for me could be that this is based on real life, and this is more of a colourful text book than a novel. The detail in his science fiction books is interesting because he is making it up - creating a fantasy world, whereas here he is merely reproducing what he found fascinating. He should have left this as one book instead of a trilogy.


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