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H. Callaghan "Alice in Wonderland" (London, UK)
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Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil: A Savannah Story
Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil: A Savannah Story
by John Berendt
Edition: Paperback

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quirky, Lurid, Vivid, and Thoughtful, 23 May 2000
Apparently, this book has been so influential that it has significantly increased the tourist traffic through Savannah. After reading it, it is easy to understand why - even I found myself itching with the urge to visit the place at some point, if for no other reason than to see if half the stories told about it were true.
Part travelogue, part true-crime thriller - with copious supernatural elements also thrown into the mix - the book defies simple description, and the author uses precise, non-sensational, almost diffident language to describe a superabundance of eccentric, larger-than-life characters and bizarre and mannered social rituals.
The story has, as its loose focus, the relationship between local millionaire Jim Williams and his handyman/lover, Danny - a relationship that ends in Williams shooting the younger man dead. Was it murder, or self-defence? Berendt does not pretend to offer any answers, instead settling for telling the few facts that he can actually attest to (and, added to which, of course, is a good dollop of the entertaining hearsay of the Savannah-ites he meets), and leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions.
Trial and retrial follow on, and behind the courtroom scenes one senses a world of political manoeuvring, old enemies, and the genteel but ultra-conservative morality of the Old South. Williams, enigmatic and cunning on one hand (he privately discusses deliberately changing his testimony with the author before a meeting with his lawyer), on the other possessing a deeply gullible streak (he plays Psychic Dice and engages a voodoo priestess to assist at his trial) is a compelling character, who has been known to hang Nazi banners from his window ledge to foil rude film-makers attempting to shoot Civil War movies in his neighbourhood. His lover, Danny, the beautiful hustler with an emotional age of nine, is hardly any less eccentric, growing sulky and violent when women he has only just met refuse his offers of marriage.
But it is also the story of the city itself, and its inhabitants take centre stage. Inhabitants such as the charming but amoral entrepreneurial neighbour who runs a constant gamut of lawsuits for passing bad checks and failing to pay his bills, (and who we first meet when an aggrieved elderly woman throws a brick through his window), and the bawdy, wonderful Lady Chablis, transsexual entertainer, who crashes the black Debutantes' Ball when the author rashly refuses to take her as his date. The verismultitude of characters is striking, and they are wonderfully, sharply drawn.
The title, "Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil", refers to the graveyard where the voodoo priestess conjures the spirits of the dead to beg their assistance in Williams' case (and also to nag her dead lover/voodoo mentor for winning lottery numbers). This balance of the poignant and the hilarious, the tragic and the comic, is what characterises this story and what ultimately makes it such an enjoyable, and yet haunting read.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 17, 2014 8:38 PM BST


South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut [VHS] [1999]
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut [VHS] [1999]
VHS
Offered by Discountdiscs-UK : Dispatched daily from the UK.
Price: £18.91

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, filthy fun, 9 Mar. 2000
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"South Park; Bigger, Longer and Uncut" works on two levels, on the first one, it's wonderfully rude, inventive, filthy fun, on the other it's a brilliant satire on parents protest groups, the hypocrisy of censorship bodies, and an essay on personal responsibility.
For a primitively animated feature length cartoon musical, it has some excellent character arcs and the songs are wonderful - genuinely witty.
The movie revolves around the quest of the four children (three alive, one dead)(three guesses as to who the dead one is) to prevent the executions of Terence and Philip, who have been accused of corrupting youth (or at least making them talk with "potty mouths".) This so annoys the Canadians that war between Canada and the USA breaks out. Apparently, when Terence and Philip's blood touches the Earth, it will be the sign that Satan (and his abusive, exploitative boyfriend Saddam Hussein) is to take over the earth.
In addition, Stan must win back the affections of Wendy by "finding the clitoris", Kyle must stand up to his overbearing mother, Cartman is desperate to get his "V-chip" removed (it gives him electronic shocks whenever he swears, meaning that he spends most of this movie in physical agony), and Kenny, meanwhile, hands out relationship advice to the Devil.
On top of all this, the parody of musical, film, war, and anime cliches continues at a breathless, breakneck pace, the kids are unbelievably innocent, cute, and likeable, compared to the cynical, hypocritical shenanigans going on all around them, and the film never misses a beat.
And I *loved* Mole.


Bronze Age Copper Mining in Britain and Ireland (Shire Archaeology)
Bronze Age Copper Mining in Britain and Ireland (Shire Archaeology)
by William O'Brien
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sturdy review of the major sites but not much else, 4 Feb. 2000
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This is a good, short overview of the major copper mining sites for the Bronze Age, (with fascinating info on the potential yields of such mines considering the mining methods used) and the history of copper mine archaeology itself, but very little else - no attempt is really made to discuss the context such mining would have taken place in, and to be honest, it probably would have been beyond the scope of such a small volume. If you're wanting type sites, then this will do, but you would be better reading something a bit broader if you want to get to grips with the social aspects of bronze metallurgy.


A History Of Warfare
A History Of Warfare
by John Keegan
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive academic text that should interest anybody, 4 Feb. 2000
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This review is from: A History Of Warfare (Paperback)
Extremely literate, well-constructed consideration of the history of warfare, which advances the argument that contrary to von Clausewitz's mis-quote, "War is the continuation of policy by other means", that war is actually culturally determined, often irrational, and the subsuming of it as an almost legal means of the advancement of global policy is not only undesirable but potentially terrifying.
Also fascinating were the insights into Oriental idioms of warfare, the role of technology in battle, and the consideration of the anthropology of war amongst so-called "primitive" peoples. Keegan speaks about "primitive" war without really examining the ideology behind calling the peoples involved "primitive", which is probably my single quibble.
In all respects, however, the scholarship has the vast breadth that a history of world warfare requires and the style is readable while being eminently authoritative.
I think any thoughtful person would find this book interesting.


The End of the Bronze Age: Changes in Warfare and the Catastrophe Ca.1200 B.C.
The End of the Bronze Age: Changes in Warfare and the Catastrophe Ca.1200 B.C.
by Robert Drews
Edition: Paperback
Price: £20.95

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing cultural argument, but quite annoying to read, 3 Feb. 2000
Interesting insight into the nature of the "Catastrophe" that appears to afflict Bronze Age civilisation around 1200BC in the Mediterranean area, in which it is argued that the changing technology of war played a leading part, as opposed to other factors previously argued, such as environmental causes or "migrational movements".
Drews deals in quite detailed, minute arguments, drawing examples from contemporary texts and art evidence. Quite a specialist book, though, and very much one that doesn't cross the boundaries of its particular field, which is a good or a bad thing depending on your point of view.
One annoying habit though - the author won't translate phrases and quotes for those of us who are not multi-lingual, which means he will be backing up a point with a reference which is inaccessible without a dictionary. Lengthy footnotes would then discuss this untranslated phrase in great detail, which was beyond irritating to this reader. Surely it wouldn't have hurt to print both the original and the translation phrase in this case.?


No Title Available

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but could have been better..., 19 Jan. 2000
I enjoyed this book, but there was something faintly unsatisfying about it - one felt no nearer knowing the woman it was about after reading it. More than anything, it has an almost apologetic tone which is quite at odds with the message it clearly wants to convey - that Alison Hargreaves was a world class athlete in a spectacularly dangerous and demanding sport, and indulging in this sport was an escape from her unhappy marriage. The authors tender the belief that it was the fear of failing her two children as a single mum that made her undertake her last fatal trip to K2.
I think that probably the sensitive issues surrounding Hargreaves' tragic death, and the resultant media circus, make it difficult for the authors to really delve into her character - her family are all still living. Nevertheless, the writing style is also pedestrian and uninvolving - except when Hargreaves' adventures on the mountains are being discussed, when the writers seem to shake off their malaise and come alive. Some of the descriptions of the climbs are wonderful, with an almost cinematic feel, such as the ascent of Everest and K2, whereas the discussion of her marriage, her childhood, and her emotional life is comparatively flat and second-rate. This is disappointing as should have been fascinating, and is instead merely banal and one-sided, with the husband painted as a selfish villain - which may be true but a bit more in-depth analysis of his character, and hers, would have been welcome.
I would recommend reading it, but would wait for the paperback to come out first...


The Victorian Underworld
The Victorian Underworld
by Donald Thomas
Edition: Paperback

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Look At Little-Known Victoriana..., 12 Jan. 2000
This book was a fascinating insight into a vanished world, complete with not only the safecrackers and prostitutes (the staples of criminal Victoriana) but also featuring a thousand and one trades of ill-repute, all with exotic sounding names, that simply do not exist anymore - running patterers, costers, etc. The section on the Great Train Robbery is absolutely riveting, and more appealing, in many ways, than the bowdlerised film version starring Sean Connery.
The sweeping variety of scams and con tricks featured generally in the book is also breathtaking, and the history of the debate on obscene publications in an eye-opening insight into this same debate today. Anyone interested in the period, particularly any novelists who need research, would do well to consult this. Very attractive cover too. I enjoyed this immensely.


The Fifth Elephant (Discworld Novels)
The Fifth Elephant (Discworld Novels)
by Sir Terry Pratchett
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Light, fluffy fun..., 11 Jan. 2000
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I enjoy Pratchett, I enjoy the City Watch novels and this one was no exception. Though Pratchett does occasionally miss the mark (as in "Soul Music") on this occasion I found him to be well on form.
I devoured this in a single sitting with a bottle of wine - the best way to appreciate Pratchett, I find


The Unruly Queen: The Life of Queen Caroline
The Unruly Queen: The Life of Queen Caroline
by Flora Fraser
Edition: Paperback

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Though Partisan, 10 Jan. 2000
I enjoyed this biography a great deal. Caroline is a fascinating and eccentric character, and the contention that she was a very wronged woman is inescapable. However, unlike the author, I did not find her a very sympathetic character and a lot of her boldness seemed to derive from tactlessness opposed to honesty.
In terms of the writing, the syntax was occasionally rather garbled (to the point one had to reread sentences in order to understand who the subject was), and Fraser was in the habit of making relentlessly partisan statements on behalf of her subject, instead of leaving the reader to draw their own conclusion from the evidence.
That said, in the wake of the Princess Diana phenomenon, it makes for a fascinating historical parallel in terms of its subject matter - a dynastic royal marriage bedevilled by adultery and mutual recrimination on both sides. I enjoyed this a lot and found it well-researched and very accessible, and some of the antics of the Royal pair had me laughing out loud.


Stardust
Stardust
by Neil Gaiman
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delightful Fairy Tale, 7 Jan. 2000
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This review is from: Stardust (Paperback)
I love Gaiman's work in graphic novels - he manipulates ancient myth, legend, and folktale into a believable, often terrifying narrative. "Stardust" is no exception, and some of the imagery, such as that of the Witch Queen and their reflected sisters living in splendour on the other side of the mirror, and the description of the previous star's piece of heart in the box, are quite simply wonderful. The repartee between the principals is also sweet.
"Stardust" is as light and delicious as chocolate or ice cream, as other readers have observed, but ultimately just as fleeting - it's lovely but not exactly a grab-you-by-the-throat, rollercoaster of a read... more a pleasant amble through a beautiful meadow, though shot through with the occasional darkness.
On the other hand, I absolutely loved the poignant sadness of the last few pages, in amongst the jolly ending. That was a brilliant note and well hit.


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