This was a book about the villages on the Curonian Spit, those that have been buried under sand and those that still exist. The Spit is a favourite
holiday spot with my family and my parents like to collect little bits of history of the area. What I learned is that when a village is about to be
buried under sand dunes and everyone is moving out, the last building standing is often the tavern (the church having been moved a while ago).
Of course, this is distant history now and the only threat to the current villages is Putin's unstable psychological state (Russia is just across the border).
The book was reasonably interesting but not particularly thrilling as there's scarcely any information about the region's history surviving.
"The US army doesn't really have any serious alternative than to be wonderful"
I had seen the movie so I sort of knew what to expect but this was still a major shocker. I laughed out loud on a few occasions whilst reading it
which doesn't happen to me very often. It blows my mind - both in a good and a bad way - that this is not fictional. Other than being gobsmacked at the
capacity for lunacy within our military and secret services (I refuse to believe the US is alone in this) I also learned a valuable lesson. Which is that
humour and pop culture sometimes are deliberately used to make unacceptable practices okay in the eyes of the society. And that is a serious point. Now
for the less serious...my favourite part has to be the use of an Avril Lavigne CD by military intelligence in their work. I mean, what?
It's my own fault for not reading the title properly. "Real service", as it turns out, is the direct opposite of "fantasy service" where you get your
boyfriend to dress as a butler and kneel on one knee to assist you with your shoes (for the record, my boyfriend is not keen; but that's what imagination
is for). Real service is about trimming the hedge, picking up kids from school and paying the bills. Significantly less fun. But hey, different strokes for
different folks and all that. I just can't claim to have loved this book, half of which is a list of potential tasks in every sphere imaginable. There were
also a few moments that attracted my disapproval but by now I cannot recall what they were so we'll let them slide.
"Hell is the absence of the people you long for"
What's appealing about Mandel's writing is that her characters are human, not wholly loveable and not wholly off-putting. When she makes
me look back at our civilisation from a vantage point of a post-apocalyptic world, I'm not looking at some idealised version of the current mess.
It's our mess alright but it engenders feelings of loss regardless, the sense of nostalgia is created very well. Whilst I liked this book, I didn't
love it. It felt overhyped, language overly floral in parts, the story a little too reminiscent of other apocalyptic tales (I'm thinking Atwood's
The Year of The Flood). Same tropes: strong female character, a history of violence and trauma, end-of-the-world cults). Good...but falls short of great.
"System that gives a few at fancy prices / Their fancy lives /
While ninety-nine in the hundred who never attend the banquet / Must wash the grease of ages off the knives" - Louis MacNeice
I picked this up from my shelf on a whim but it proved weirdly well timed. Socialists of the 30s (and poets are obviously socialists unless
they're Poet Laureates) felt a similar urgency as we do now, with a war in Europe that is so much more than a stand-off between two countries.
So I already feel a great affinity to these people politically but from the artistic point of view it's a mixed bag. There's ideology trumping
over aesthetic, there's unchecked emotion, there's sermonising. And yet, quite a few gems! My personal favourite was a poem I knew from before,
Betjeman's Slough (ironically, Betjeman was not a socialist and very much a Poet Laureate).
This book had one good piece of advice for me: set an alarm and tackle cleaning (or other task that I tend to put off indefinitely)
for 20 minutes. Then stop no matter what and take a break (Hoffman suggests 10 minutes but I take 20 because I'm a creature of leisure).
The rest of the book is mostly 'you can do it' type of waffle that is very circular and mostly aimed at people who face big psychological
or physical obstacles to doing even a small amount of cleaning. Even so, I'm glad I read this book because even that one piece of advice
that worked for me changed my habits for the better. My partner has commented that I'm getting things done, which I totally am.
Tortuous! No, just kidding. Happy as I am to leave these 900+ pages behind, it was an interesting read and not half as confusing as
contract law. I love that the central case in tort revolves around a lady who drank a ginger beer and then found a partially decomposed
slug at the bottom of the bottle (that's Donoghue v Stevenson). In general, tort has some truly fun case law, seeing as it deals with civil
wrongs and injuries of all sorts. But the length, the length is punishing. I'm worried thay by the time I get to the exam I will have
forgotten it all. Wait, I might have forgotten it already : (
Although I understand that the author is an academic, there are quite a few assumptions and opinions presented as facts. Apparently,
there was some golden age of colours and now we live in an increasingly black-and-white reality. Also, pastels are not real colours.
I just don't buy it. But other than that, this was a really fun book to read and I will definitely be seeking out more on colour.
The idea of churches and monasteries decorated in bright colours, with rugs and vases and paintings, makes religion 20% more appealing.
I also loved the story how at Monet's funeral his friend ripped off a colourful curtain and replaced with it the black cloth on the coffin.
The Iliad (unabridged, btw) had a real shocker ending: there was no horse! I waited for the horse so patiently whilst Homer
listed all the names of the fighters and names of their fathers and fifth cousins thrice removed. And no horse! It's like an M&M
with no peanut. I also learned that Achaeans and Trojans alike were terrible barbarians who deserved the nasty, petty and vindictive
gods that they had. Furthermore, it turns out that a woman is not even as good a possession as a tripod. What else can I say about
this classic? Guts flow freely and Homer has a major obsession with nipples, which are mentioned almost excessively.
My favourite of the trilogy, containing two of my favourite things: redheads (well, one) and domestic service. Again, emotion runs
a bit high for my tastes but it's balanced by excellent moments of tension and a slow build up. I also enjoyed the language which made
me seek out the XVIII c. Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. I'll be introducing those ancient vulgarities back into the common
parlance and that is a promise, my friends. The voice actor of the audiobook does a great job overall, although I'm less keen on him
speeding up whenever reading a sex scene. I get it, it's passion but I really would have preferred a slow and measured diction.
I prefer this to A Fashionable Indulgence as it features a BDSM relationship that's more to my tastes. Also, as a person belonging
to the political fringe, I find an affair across the political divide quite exciting to read about. Like all smut it gets a little overtly
romantic for my tastes at times (exchanging presents, celebrating holidays, that sort of thing) but I am ok with it. Not everyone wants
to meditate on a minute description of a bruise or a collarbone and I can accept that. We find cutesy-ness in different things. Still,
this is a strong effort. The three novels tie in together and should probably be read/listened to one after another. Which is what I'm doing.
A fairly well written gay romance/porn that follows the familiar arc of tension-fulfillment-falling out-making up-external danger-
happy ending. In fact, all three books are that way. The attention to detail - descriptions of dress, societal norms and the language
of the time - makes it quite a pleasant read, as do the elements of society intrigue and thriller. I am pleasantly surprised. My last
effort at a romance novel had been in 2007 when it was read out aloud for a lark. I feel naive and narrow-minded for having assumed
that all novels in the genre would include hilarious descriptions such as 'the flower of femininity'. Buggery I can get behind of (ha).
Brief summary: thinly veiled real story about a dominatrix in London who is trying to re-educate a tory with a feeding fetish. If this
doesn't sell it to you then nothing will. But wait! Despite two editors it is clumsily written and full of errors. Furthermore, despite
ample opportunity for schadenfreude I did feel that this was an unpardonable breach of certain rules implied in a BDSM relationship and
'Humpty Dumpty', unsavoury character as he is, had been exploited to score some woke brownie points. Idk, it just doesn't sit right with
me. Read it for entertainment, by all means, but don't blame me afterwards for I have warned you.
This novel has two claims to fame. One, it obsensibly inspired the founding of the NHS. Two, it turned my partner into a die-hard
leftie at a tender age. It fails both as a simple story about a doctor's life and as a romance. In 2022, his Damascean conversion with
no real understanding or acknowledgement about what he had put his wife through is unconvincing. However, the insider look at the state
of healthcare pre-NHS is exciting and harrowing. As a side note, I was shocked to learn that an induced pneumothorax was a real thing.
I'd encountered in Mann's Magic Mountain and had thought it was just a gruesome invention. Now that I've learned...I cannot unlearn.
It's funny how rereadings change perceptions. I still see Catch-22 as a brilliant book in many ways but the shine has certainly worn
off. It's coming off my favourites list for its blatant sexism, I'm pretty sure there were racist moments in it too. What really rubbed me
the wrong way (no pun intended) was the way sexual assault - including rape - was portrayed as a great laugh. Catch-22 still can be laugh-out-loud
funny and the critique of state military/war is clever. However, for every book like this there are hundreds of great books waiting to be published
or noticed. It's time for this particular star of the canon to move over. I'm afraid I'm now older, less easily awed and more demanding.
This covered a lot of musicians/bands that I listened to growing up and gave me an insight into the scene behind them. It's detailed
and interesting if a little starry-eyed. But the title is reflective of the level of hype within so I can't complain post-factum.
It's kinda sad that we live in a world where doing work that actually has some meaning to you makes you a 'madman' and a 'maverick'.
On the other hand, this book does help to get on the right path if your life sucks. It cannot solve the perennial problem of money
but it can sure ignite a spark. With a bit of indie DIY, your life can suck in a completely different way, which I think is preferable.
I know that The Turn of the Screw is James's most celebrated story but I preferred Owen Wingrave. Here's why. The governess's
moral outrages and fretting over the children's innocence feels very, very dated in 2021. As in, it feels like she's play-acting or
at the very least grossly overreacting. Owen Wingrave's moral objection to military service, on the other hand, is very enlightened
and contemporary. Also: Owen's haunted house > governess's haunted house. Other than that, James made me huff and puff
with his archaic sentence structures and I enjoyed his wonderfully rich vocabulary. Would read Owen Wingrave again.
I finished this and I am still not out of love with law, which I will take as a good sign. It was no walk in the park! Having
read The English Legal System I expected something similar, a smooth narrative where everything is spelled out for the benefit of
law n00bs such as myself. No such luck. Some terms were defined...some few hundred pages after they were first mentioned. There were
also the fun moments where the textbook goes on and on about some intricate point of law just to arrive at the conclusion that it no
longer stands. Gah! Exhaustive this was. A student-friendly summary it was not. But if I can hack this, I can make it all the way.
This is a pleasantly deceptive textbook. It entrapped me with its breezy tour of the English legal system, making it all sounds exciting,
fun and, most of all, manageable. Well, the funsies didn't last. Further textbooks came with an ever increasing page count and some pretty
tough material. But now I'm invested and munching through it. I look back to The English Legal System with nostalgia. Oh the sweetness and ease
of it! I felt like I didn't even need to specialise, I could just become an expert in the entirety of the English legal system, handle all
case law that has been generated over the hundreds of years and certainly become Lord Chief Justice in a year or so. Hah. Hah.
What is cool here that the author of the anthology - Alberto Manguel - is as interesting as the stories themselves. And the
stories of course are great, because fantastical literature might very well be the most important genre of them all. Anyway, Manguel
prefaces each story with a wonderful introduction. Some are exceedingly clever, some are biographical tidbits about the author of
the story, some are Manguel's memories or thoughts, but there's always a creative freedom that, along with the story itself, just
blows my mind. Bonus: Manguel, like me, is a die hard fan of the Arabian Nights. I am a little bit in love.
There were aspects of this that I enjoyed (the portrayal of France pre-revolution was excellent!) but overall this is not one my favourites
by Dickens. It's hypersentimental, with three of the main characters constantly make tearful proclamations of virtue to each other,
and the ending is syrupy as hell. The introduction by George Woodcock is interesting but when I read that the magnificent genius
of Dickens was stifled by his 'dull and phlegmatic' wife, I smell a rat. Well, here's something else I liked: there's a pervasive
feeling of evil rising, and an inescapable doom fast approaching, and that was really cool too.
Well, I wept like a baby. It is my special ability, my extra efficient emotional drainage system, but still. I do feel kinship with
Amanda Palmer on various levels and so the empathy flowed. The book is ostensibly about learning to ask for things you need, and I
guess it is about that too, but it's primarily an autobiography. It's not all sad - There were hilarious moments too, Amanda's
drunken 'I'M DEPRESSED AND WANT TO HAVE A BABY' act in front of her label exec in order to get them to release her from the contract
was just brilliant. This book inspired, and will continue to inspire me, because I'll be damned if I won't reread it.
I have empathy and respect for the character's feelings. My animal friend recently died as well. I feel the feels. And yet I don't
dig this book. Apart from the fundamental underlying humanity there's little I like about the dude. He's a freelance writer in L.A.
He's got money to throw at his grief. He watches TV shows, drops Valiums at trendy restaurants and and goes to Starbucks on a Grindr
date. Why should I care? I don't. Furthermore, the writing is mostly bad. "________ was like _________. _________ was like ________."
You can't do this shit unless it's ironic and even then it's highly inadvisable. I don't know, it's just a limp lettuce.
I've picked this book off a guy I used to know. I had just read another book (The Secret History of the World) that belonged to a
person from the same
friend drunk group and it was positively mad, so I expected The Cosmic Serpent to be mad too. I mean, look
at the title. But Narby is an anthropologist who does the most amazing thing: he shows how shamanic knowledge, gained through an
altered state of consciousness, is correspondent with what our scientists know about DNA. Only, you know, our science took until 50s
to discover DNA. There's much more to Narby's findings and they completely blew my mind. Meticulous referencing too.
Francis goes to Antarctica hoping to escape the 'radiowave chatter of the mind' and I have always wanted to do the same. Reading this
book was my opportunity to stop sadly scouring BAS vacancies every few months and find another way to the continent. It sort of worked.
Luckily to me, Francis is curious, eloquent, adventurous and completely disinterested in his actual job. Instead, he talks about his
solitary walks, the changing seasons and the penguins. There are some tales of early explorers but Francis is more preoccupied with
their state of mind than their achievements. Which suits me just fine. I really enjoyed this, might read again sometime.
It feels wrong to read poetry in translation. That's why Baudealaire is postponed indefinitely 'until I learn French properly' (jamais!).
That's why I own a biography of Rimbaud but can't bring myself to read his writing. It's a stupid affectation. So when I started on
Modern Russian Poetry, it was like pulling teeth. Then I got into the groove. Some of it is really beautifully translated ('but if men
check it on its road,/askew it sounds the alarm, there in mid-spin;/and often/very often/the heart explodes,/though no one hears the crack
of doom within.'). I guess my middle ground is: it's a different thing. And a different thing can be a great thing.
This is one of the books my partner dragged home and I was going to take it to a charity shop. Instead, it ended up in the bathroom and
eventually got read while sitting on the toilet. Now it's definitely going to the charity shop. The stories and anecdotes are interesting,
but the commentary made me squint and frown. It yearns for the golden age past and badly misreads some very uncomfortable situations in our
history as examples of great dignity. There's a sprinkling of sexism, a dash of nationalism, a dollop of militarism and the soup is ruined.
Despicable people seeing an opportunity to clean up their brand a little should not be seen as examples of selflessness and courtesy. Ever.
I went through such a kaleidoscope of feelings towards Plath when reading this book. Love, contempt, pity, admiration, it just kept changing.
It felt almost wrong to read her journals, and it was surely criminal to publish them, because something this honest and personal shouldn't
ever be shared without the author's consent. Introduction by Ted Hughes off-putting: patronising as hell. Loved that Plath shares my views
on the academia: "teaching is a smiling public-service Vampire that drinks blood and brain without a thank you". Such a complex portrait of
a person overall. So much unhappiness and misdirected feeling. Damn. Would probably read again.
Mixed feelings about this one. The first part of the book I found a bit contrived, Hofmann's erudition wielded like a
blunt weapon. The second part - in my opinion, much better - is about his relationship with his father (hint: father was/is
a bit of a dick). There is contempt and humour, and underneath the stoicism, a desperate desire to be loved which feels honest
and brings up a lot of emotion. Not in a simplistic way, it's still clever and well crafted. So quelle surprise! that my favourite
poem comes from the first part after all. It's called Eclogue and it has sheep bleating like eminent victorians.
I visited Kingsley Hall about 4 years ago and knew of R.D.Laing before that, but only got round to reading something
by him now. It's fascinating how his ideas about schizoid worldview are also, to a great degree, applicable to healthy people.
I came to Divided Self with a view of studying schizophrenia and instead ended up studying myself. Laing's approach was a big
step away from 'us and them' and towards 'mental-health-as-a-spectrum'. I'm not surprised he inspired so many psychiatrists.
What a wonderful, empathetic man. Can't wait to read his more 'out there' books.
I've realised I have four copies of Dorian Gray in two languages (and they are located in two countries). I try to reread this
book every so often, profylactically. To me, what it says is: go for theatrical decadence and artificiality and live the way
you like despite what is 'normal', but don't go too far down believing your own bullshit or you'll come a cropper. It reacts against
prudes, squares and hypocrites, but also against narcissism, good advice and the substance implied in what is merely style. It
has Wilde arguing with himself. It leaves no moral highground. That's my reading, anyway.
I liked the open and honest tone of this book, and the author clearly has useful knowledge to impart. What I liked less was
that due to poor editing it feels like a quick and careless job. I don't get it. There are four editors and a proofreader listed
but the book is full of spelling and logic mistakes, clumsy language, annoying product placement and comparisons that don't quite
work. I will be referring to this book in the future, I just wish it had all the padding removed, which would cut it down to quarter
of its size. Bonus: it cites Paul Ekman a lot, and I was fascinated by FACS when I was 19, so might look it up again.
This brings up all sorts of fears for me. Burroughs is clearly a very capable writer. In parts Naked Lunch is really funny,
especially if you have hung out with addicts or like bizarre comic books. What pisses me off here is that the author has gone on
a trip, typed it up as it was coming to him, then did bugger all in terms of editing. And a drug trip, even of an educated and
insightful mind, is not that interesting in itself. Now I want to meet someone who loves this book and can make a good case for it.
It could happen? I reread Naked Lunch because I had liked it as a teenager. Turns out I just liked how subversive it was. Damn.
Checkbox read for at least three fields: psychology, literature and kink. It's got its kicks and it's a nice tale, if you
ignore the musings on gender roles that would resonate well with the incel 'culture'. But overall, it's neither a very fine
example of writing, nor a legitimate introduction to BDSM. It's an unfortunate story of a guy who has a fantasy, but doesn't
know about roleplay and instead tries to make it real. However, he can't control reality, especially when another person is
involved, and it backfires badly when he ends up in an abusive relationship. Woe. Nice obsessive descriptions of furs, though.
I found it informative overall, and it did make me rethink how and when I argue. Although probably wouldn't read again.
The author is a conservative - a rather sane conservative, but still a conservative - and while it was a good idea to expose
were points of UGH, SERIOUSLY. My greatest issue with this book is that it seems to write off the post-truth society to a
philosophical shift in thinking, the advance of technology and an erosion of trust. Can we dig deeper in that erosion of trust?
Or perhaps look at the economical factors? Happy people don't tend to lean to extremes.
Take me home