logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: Idiot
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-09-22 19:33
Hysterical Melodrama: "The Idiot" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Constance Garnett (Translator), Alan Myers (Translator), Joseph Frank (Introduction), Anna Brailovsky (Translator)
The Idiot - Fyodor Dostoyevsky,Constance Garnett,Joseph Frank,Anna Brailovsky


I'd like to suggest that reading choice, at all ages, resembles a vortex. One's favourite books and authors swirl round, and are re-read (I've always been a great re-reader). New books are sucked in to join the vortex, and some of the favourites gradually sink down, just occasionally bobbing back up, possibly to be re-read for the sake of nostalgia.

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-08-11 12:41
Noel & Cole: The Sophisticates
Noel and Cole: The Sophisticates - Stephen Citron

DNF @ 24%

 

Enough.

 

This is not a great biography of either of its subjects. It's not even a good or tolerable biography... I weep for the trees that had to die for this waste of paper.

 

I should have stopped after the introduction which included the following clanger:

"Kate Porter and Violet Coward steered their young sons early into creative and performing lives. Kate did so because she was a frustrated singer and Violet because she hoped to rise above the penny-pinching boarding-house-keeper life she had been born into. Because of this interdependence, each youth was to revere his mother, have night terrors about losing her while writing off his milquetoast father who left breadwinning and discipline to the distaff side. Coming from such a classically twisted psychological situation it is not surprising that both Noel and Cole were homosexual. With their raising of women, especially strong, determined and opinionated women, to such an exalted pedestal, perhaps bisexual would be a more apt description of their libidinous behaviour."

The author clearly has issues. He also, clearly, is full of crap.

 

And yet, I hoped he may have something insightful to say about the work of either of his subjects. Unfortunately, of the part of the book I managed to read, I believe I have learned more about the author's personality (and his many, many issues) from his gossipy, presumptive, speculative, condescending statements than I learned anything of impact about about Coward or Porter.

 

I finally drew the line when reading this about Coward's The Vortex:

"The idea for the play, whose controversial theme was one of the main reasons for the queues at the box office, came to Noel when he was invited to a party by his friend Stewart Foster. Across the room he glimpsed Stewart's beautiful and seductive mother, Grace, sharing a banquette with a young admirer. As soon as the party was seated one of the young girls blurted out, "Look at that old hag over there with the young man in tow; she's old enough to be his mother."

The Freudian Oedipus complex, the Hamlet-Gertrude relationship and perhaps Stewart Forster's own attentions to his seductive mother at the soiree immediately propelled Coward's dramaturgical mind into the concept of weaving the plot of a play wherein both a son and her young lover would vie for the love of the mother."

It's a good thing for the author that you can't libel the dead. Did I mention that there are little to no references to sources in this book?

 

I should have DNF'd this at the introduction.

 

On the plus side, it's another one off Mt. TBR.

 

I'm going to put on some Cole and make another cup of coffee.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-03-18 13:49
Arthur Conan Doyle - Beyond Sherlock Holmes
Arthur Conan Doyle: Beyond Sherlock Holmes - Andrew Norman

Arthur Conan Doyle - Beyond Sherlock Holmes, Andrew Norman's biography of Arthur Conan Doyle is one of those books that got off to a rocky start with me and I should have DNF'd after the Preface. 

 

However, I wanted to know how preposterous the book could actually get, or, ever so hopeful, if the premise set forth in the Preface was just an unlucky and sensationalist choice of "bait" that would be abandoned in the course of Norman's investigation of ACD's life. 

 

As I don't want to string anyone along, the book did not improve after page 11, which is where the Preface ended. In fact, if anything it got worse. So, if you plan to read on this short collection of thoughts about Norman's biography of ACD, you're in for a bit of a rant.

 

To recap, the Preface of the book seems to say that Norman's focus in this biography will be to explore what motivated a reasonable, logical fellow to believe in such ridiculous concepts as spiritualism and fairies, and the last paragraph of the Preface suggested that Norman's conclusion was that Doyle must have suffered from a mental illness:

Not only that, but this illness was itself a hereditable disease, in other words, one which Charles may have handed down to his son via the genes. Suddenly I realised that I now had an opportunity to solve what I consider to be the ultimate mystery, that of the bizarre and extraordinary nature of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself."

This was the in Preface! I don't know about other readers, but unless I am reading an academic text where the expectation is that the conclusion is summarised in the prefacing abstract, I am not looking to have the author's assumptions stated as facts on page 11 (!) of what I would hope to be a gripping biography of an extraordinary personality. 

 

Strike 1!

 

Next we get two (yes, TWO!) short chapters on Doyle's childhood, which are mostly pre-occupied with his the difficulties that his family had to cope with - mostly his father's alcoholism. There is, in fact, little about young Arthur in these chapters.

 

Following this we get no less than ten (TEN!) chapters about Sherlock Holmes. Not just about the writing and publication of the Sherlock Holmes stories but actual interpretation of Sherlock as a character - all substantiated with apparently randomly selected quotes from the different stories. 

 

Seriously? A book that carries the subtitle of "Beyond Sherlock Holmes" should not focus on the one topic that the subtitle seems to exclude. What is more, there are only 25 chapters in this book in total. Norman has spent 10 of them on Holmes. That is preposterous. 

 

Strike 2!

 

Luckily, we get back to ACD after this with a brief run down of his involvement in actual criminal cases, where he managed to prove vital in overturning two miscarriages of justice, and his work and life during and after the First World War. 

Unfortunately, there is nothing new or detailed in this, and the focus and ACD is superficial. Norman uses these chapters to write about ACD's father's illness and time in various mental institutions, surmising at what kind of psychiatric condition he suffered from. This, however, can only be guesswork on Norman's part. Charles Conan Doyle was hospitalised privately. There are few actual medical records. What is more,even if there had been medical records, the areas of psychiatry and medical treatment of addiction or mental illness in the 1890s was still in its infancy. The recording and diagnosis of cases of people who had been hospitalised or committed can hardly be described as reliable. And yet, Norman, with the help of The Shorter Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry (by Michael Gelder, Paul Harrison, and Philip Cohen) dares to presume to make a diagnosis of what illness may have plagued Charles Conan Doyle, and has the audacity to infer that Arthur Conan Doyle may have inherited the same potential for mental illness because in one of his works he wrote that he knew, rather than believed, that fairies existed!

 

What utter, utter rubbish!

 

And, btw, I kid you not, but the The Shorter Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry is referenced throughout the relevant chapters as the ONLY source to back-up Norman's ideas.

 

WTF?

 

Never mind that spiritualism was an actual thing in the early 1900s and that ACD was not alone in believing in fairies and magic and the paranormal. Instead of investigating ACD's interest, Norman's work in this book is not just superficial but outright lazy. He simply regurgitates the same outrage and disbelief over how a man of sound mind can belive in something fantastic. With this book, Norman simply jumps on the gravy train of sensationalism and continues an outcry over the notion that an author of fiction may have believed in something other than hard facts.

 

I can't even...

 

Fuck this book. (Note: This is Strike 3!)

 

Seriously, I have no idea what Norman's other books are like, but he seems to have written several other biographies featuring Charles Darwin, Agatha Christie, Robert Mugabe (seriously???), and others. 

 

None of which will ever end up on my reading list.

 

Like Reblog Comment
review 2018-03-17 00:00
Complete Idiot's Guide to the Old West
Complete Idiot's Guide to the Old West -... Complete Idiot's Guide to the Old West - Mike Flanagan Well written history of the Old West, starting with the earliest hunter-gatherers and how they reached the land mass that would become America, and going up to the late 1800's.

Mike Flanagan writes in an easy to read manner, and the book is scattered through with how to find some of the places mentioned, and explaining some of the language and giving some famous quotes.

He looks at the main characters who will be well known to most people, but also manages to bring other characters to the foreground to give them recognition that may have been missing.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-02-04 13:57
Wallace at Bay
Wallace at Bay (Wallace of the Secret Service) - Alexander Wilson

Wallace at Bay was my first encounter with Wallace, chief of the Secret Service, and it was not great. Maybe I should have started at the beginning of the series, but I somehow doubt that this would have changed anything because my issues with the book are not about the lack of background or setting, my issues are simply that the overtones of xenophobia and nationalism spoiled the book to an extent that I would even prefer a James Bond romp to this one. 

"Of course I don't know the district very well," Carter told her, "but it has struck me whenever I've been round this way, that the first house on this side - the one next door to the school - is about the most decayed of the lot. I suppose it is owned by the same landlord, isn't it?"

"Lord bless you, no! There's umpteen landlords own these houses and, if you ask me, they're all as bad as one another. Letting the places go to rack and ruin, that's what they're doing, but I don't suppose they care as long as they get their rent."

"Still," persisted Carter, "tidy tenants can improve even dilapidated houses by growing flowers in the front, banging up clean curtains and that sort of thing. The people in the house of which I am speaking don't seem to have any of what you might describe as home pride."

"Home pride!" snorted the lady behind the bar. "I should think not indeed. Do you know who live in that house?"

He smiled. "No, I'm afraid I don't."

"Foreigners, all the blesses lot of them. And what can you expect from foreigners?"

This is not the only instance - when the officials raid the house to arrest a bunch of "anarchists", the flat is described as a filthy hovel, but what else could one expect? 

 

There are other issues, too:

 

The "anarchists". This book was written in 1938. It does not seem to make sense to have "anarchists" as villains. To me this plot would have made more sense if it had been set pre-WWI, but it clearly isn't because the Cenotaph features in the plot.
In the second half of the book, Wilson seems to equate "anarchism" with "Bolshevism", which is not strictly true either. It would make more sense if he had focused on "Bolshies", but then why would their efforts be limited to the assassination of royalty? 

Of course, all of the villains, all of the "anarchists", are "foreigners" and the general description of the generalised "foreigners" is pretty harsh, and just ...stupid, including the made up accents, which seem to be all the same.

 

Wallace of the Secret Service is a pretentious snob, who is portrayed as the adored hero of all his underlings and the personal enemy of all villains everywhere. This is again ... ill-conceived.

Wallace does lead the operation but the actual story follows Carter, an agent who is at the forefront of all the action. Wallace hardly does anything in this book. It makes no sense for Carter or anyone else to focus on the amazing Wallace, when they're the ones solving all the puzzles. Holy sycophantic hero worship, Batman!

 

It all read like a boy's own adventure story - which it was. Literally. Apart from the two women discussing foreigners with Carter, there is only one mention of another. She doesn't even feature in the story, she is only mentioned! And in that mention, Carter, Wallace and the boys question her ... morals? ... for having a child by the evil chief villain ... who is a dwarf. 

 

I originally gave this story 2* but that was generous. It may been motivated by a sense of curiosity of whether Ian Fleming was aware of this series, because he also loved to display his villains as ugly, degenerate, perverted, or otherwise ... different.

 

In all earnest, tho, I cannot wait to remove the book from my shelves.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?