DirectoryLiteratureBlog Details for "Philip Spires commonplace book"

Philip Spires commonplace book

Philip Spires commonplace book
Philip Spires is author of Mission, an African novel set in Kenya. His commonplace book is devoted to articles, book reviews, travel pieces and other examples of his writing.
Articles: 1, 2, 3

Articles

Double Vision by Pat Barker
2008-05-02 16:24:00
Double Vision by Pat Barker is a novel that defies description. Within its pages there is war, crime, murder, rape, love, hate, sex, artistry, creativity, duplicity, anger, tenderness, inspiration: a dictionary might have enough words to list its subtleties. What it has aplenty is feeling and emotion, an ability to convey its characters' innermost thoughts in an almost tactile manner, as if sculpting them for a hand to explore their surface. At times, Pat Barker’s characters surprise even themselves.At the heart of the book is a series of relationships between four individuals – Justine, Ben, Kate and Stephen. The two men used to work together as a team. They have covered wars and conflict throughout the world. Stephen was the writer, Ben the photographer, who would always insist on getting that one last shot, the one that the eyeless onlooker would miss, the one whose poetry would convey the true horror, the one whose horror, perhaps, might stir conscience. But one day, an Afg...
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Kingdom Come by J. G. Ballard
2008-04-28 08:28:00
Kingdom Come by J. G. Ballard is not a successful book. Richard Brown is an advertising executive who has been estranged from his father for some time. Whilst the son has been in sophisticated London, the father has lived in Brooklands, an M25 town whose occupants, though bored to the core, know what they like. Above all, they like consumerism and, because of that, they like their Metro-Centre, a vast shopping mall that people actually worship. They also despise the stuck up sophisticates who live in London. And so J. G. Ballard begins by constructing a model of contemporary British society, whose addiction to mass market products now borders on denying any alternative a right to exist, especially anything with intellectual content.But there has been a problem. An apparently random shooting in the Metro-Centre has left Richard Pearson’s father dead. Richard has thus arrived from the nearby metropolis that might as well be a different planet, to find out what has happened. He finds...
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Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter
2008-04-23 07:55:00
Mario Vargas Llosa, novelist, Peruvian, is a word painter, an artist of consummate skill, capable of simultaneous intimate ecstasy and detached observation, skill that constantly surprises, titillates and intensifies. Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter is a novel that details how an eighteen year old writer of hack news stories develops relationships with his aunt and, yes, a scriptwriter, both of whom happen to be Bolivian. Auth Julia is an aunt by definable and identifiable, but non-bloodline association. At least there is still some decency! She is a divorcee, not a Peruvian – what would you expect, then? - and attractive to boot. She is also conquerable. She is a passionate older woman – old enough to be his mother! – who succumbs to the young man’s ardent if naive charms a little too easily for her own good or, it must be said, for the keeping of face in an interested, gossiping community.Pedro Camacho is a stunted, bald, pocket battleship of a radio scriptwriter. He is a...
Short story: Assessors
2008-04-23 07:47:00
From: 36dale42@283East.netTo: assessors@central.netSubject: Application for re-assessmentI hereby humbly present my case and hope, that in your enduring collective wisdom, you will accede to my request. I am sure that you will agree that my record of service has been excellent, my disciplinary record exemplary and my performance statistics at worst acceptable, sometimes outstanding. I acknowledge the extent of the cost associated with my request, but firmly believe I have ample years of active service before me, offering me the opportunity to repay whatever new investment might be needed. In any case, costs incurred can also be at least partially offset by my recovery, should that come earlier than I predict. In my present state, I am nothing but a burden.As you know, my name is Dale, my descriptor 42. I have over thirty years of service and have regularly retrained and re-skilled. I was built up to type 36 over seven years ago, though I have not had a new hardware fitted for more t...
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Cultured Tangos
2008-04-13 16:02:00
It may be that in musical retrospect, from a luxury of twenty-twenty critical hindsight, that Astor Piazzolla will be seen as having done in the twentieth century for the tango what Frederick Chopin did in the nineteenth for the waltz. It is perhaps already an accepted position. With the waltz, Chopin took an established popular form and stretched its boundaries so that what an audience might have expected to be a little ditty was recast to express heroism, sensuality, pride or even occasional doubt. The little dance tune then, in Chopin’s slender hands, became an elegant art form, highly expressive, utterly Romantic in its ability to convey human emotion.The tango represents an apparently different proposition. Already sensuous by definition, there are elements of the romantic towards which the tango need not aspire. If Romanticism placed individual emotional responses upon the pedestal of artistic expression, by the time the tango aspired to truly international currency in the t...
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Travels With My Aunt by Graham Greene
2008-04-09 17:43:00
Henry Pulling is a recently retired bank manager. He was offered an arrangement after many years of devoted service when his bank was taken over by another. He is looking forward to spending more time with the dahlias that are his pride and joy, and also rubbing shoulders with his former customers in Southwood, an unremarkable London suburb that seems to be populated entirely by retired officers from the armed forces. He mentions Omo quite a lot and is vaguely embarrassed by the fact that he shares initials with a well known brand of sauce. And then he meets his long lost aunt, Agatha Bertram.Henry’s mother has just died. His father died forty years before. He never really knew the father and his relationship with his mother was perennially tense. After the funeral, Agatha takes him on one side and calmly informs him that his father was something of a rogue and that his “mother” was really his step-mother, his true biological mother being one of his father’s bits on the side...
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The Hired Hand by Melvyn Bragg
2008-04-09 10:21:00
The Hired Hand by Melvyn Bragg is the story of John Tallentire, his wife, Emily, and their families. The novel is set in Cumbria in the north-west of England, starting in the 1890s and following the characters’ fortunes until the 1920s. John Tallentire is the hired man. He is a farm labourer who does as he is asked but is rewarded with mere subsistence. He accepts his lot. But then, in an attempt to improve his life, he becomes a coal miner in pits where the workings stretch out under the sea. The First World War comes, and goes, but not without wreaking its own dose of havoc on the family. John lives through attempts at trade union formation. And there is an accident in the coal mine that traps several miners. And so John’s life unfolds, working its way towards a goal one feels that he never chose. He is a hired man, a seller of labour in a market that, by definition, undervalues what he does. It is his lot to respond to the demands and commands of others. His own preferences, ...
Protesters - a short story
2008-04-04 16:26:00
A sharp closing of the door left the two men together yet alone, strangers, introduced merely seconds before. The older, taller of the two seemed to scrutinise the stockier new arrival for a few moments, his penetrating gaze noting the military dress that remained less than a uniform alongside the almost apologetic manner he projected. They had fallen silent after their mutual acknowledgement, the elderly man’s gripped handshake accompanied by a stentorian, lengthened “Hello”, the younger man’s hesitant nod, plus a hand quickly withdrawn. During an extension of that same silence, shared at the room’s edge by its only window, they surveyed the line of protesters below. The quiet that filled the room, a quiet left after the noisy departure of the usher who had just led the younger man up from the street, soon began to fade. Sounds of chanting, angry sloganising, hardly rhythmic from this admixture of universally blue-suited, tone-deaf Englishmen, filtered through the draught...
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Stamboul Train by Graham Greene
2008-04-02 09:00:00
Stamboul Train was the novel that made Graham Greene ’s name. Published in 1932, it catalogues a train journey that, a few years later, would have been impossible, a journey across Europe that was about to be changed for ever. The novel is set in a time when the Orient Express travelled from Western Europe to Constantinople across several borders, each of which that presented its own different challenge. Seventy-five years ago the continent was neither bifurcated by ideology coupled with allegiance of necessity, nor united by a desire for greater capitalist integration. It was also not a stable place, with the short-lived tensions of the Treaty of Versailles less than fifteen years old. To reflect this, Graham Greene presents Stamboul Train as a journey, almost a travelogue, with the setting of each part offering an informed relevance to the action. So we progress from Ostend to Cologne to Vienna to Subotica to Constantinople.The book is highly cinematographic in character and is c...
A Gun For Sale by Graham Greene
2008-03-29 18:55:00
On the face of it, A Gun For Sale by Graham Greene is a genre thriller, featuring a crime committed by a confessed and declared villain, followed by a police pursuit. In the hands of a great writer, however, even clichés such as this can be transformed into thoroughly satisfying novels.First published in 1936, A Gun For Sale is set in a Europe over which war looms constantly and threateningly, casting a shadow of fear and even depression over all human interaction. Graham Greene appears to use this context to allow the book to make a significant, yet very subtle point, an assertion that conflicts, even grand conflicts like wars, are pursued by interests, instigated by an intention to profit. The grander the conflict, the greater the potential gain. As individuals vie for influence, prominence, control and dominance, so do societies, groups, companies, even countries. And some of the protagonists play dirty, rarely receiving the comeuppance of justice. When they do, we are gratified...
After These Things by Jenny Diski
2008-03-27 11:15:00
In After These things Jenny Diski accomplishes an almost impossible task. She starts with a well known story, and thus a plot ready declared, a story that claims history and yet is read as myth. She reworks it, gives shape, form and thought to characters we think we might already know, and then puts words in their mouths. She finally presents the whole as an original work, a novel of deception, love and the intricacies of family life in a culture now perceived as alien. And she succeeds brilliantly, creating a new experience in a new world for the reader within a familiarity that her approach reinterprets.After These Things is born of the Old Testament. Abraham and Isaac, then Jacob and Esau, Rachel and Leah and finally Joseph and his half brothers, all face one another in head-to-head rivalry. There is trickery and deception, bullying and exploitation, politics and self-interest. Individual battles are fought, private wars are waged, all in the name of family. For instance, Jacob p...
On The Yankee Station by William Boyd
2008-03-25 13:21:00
On The Yankee Station by William Boyd is a series of short stories, the longest of which provides the title for the set. This particular story is a superb piece of short fiction, much more than a short story, confronting, in less than twenty-five pages, several big issues and, at the same time, drawing its characters in considerable, complex detail.Set on an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea during the Vietnam War, it describes the antagonistic relationship between two crew members. Pfitz is a pilot, conscious of and grateful for his perceived and actual status, a status he does not hesitate to assert to his advantage. But this tendency is sometimes exercised to excess. It is as if he needs to feel the elevation of his status in order to bolster his own self image. In short, he is a bully. This characteristic begins to dominate his thoughts and actions when events conspires to question his own competence, his right to that nourishing status.Lydecker is a member of Pfitz’s gr...
Fatelessness by Imre Kertesz
2008-03-24 13:56:00
Some writers try to shock. At least it often seems that they embark upon a novel with that in mind. They create books set in times of conflict, amid war or pestilence, where the context is vivid, horrific or even repulsive. And often it is so well known that we engage with the setting, the context or scenario, rather than the plight of the characters. Or sometimes writers deliberately try to portray the unsavoury, often attempting to present sadistic brainlessness in a form that suggests anti-hero, ignoring the requirement that such a character needs at least some aspect of the heroic to deserve the name. These bite-sized pieces of nastiness are thus presented in a form that is easily digested in the end, the product usually attaining only triteness. Meanwhile others try to deliver blood and guts, their raison d’etre, as a means of eliciting revulsion and shock in the reader.And then sometimes – rarely, in fact - we are presented with the truly shocking in a matter of fact way. ...
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
2008-03-24 12:50:00
Sometimes, when reading a big book, one gets the feeling that the author set out to achieve size, as if that in itself might suggest certain adjectives from a reader or reviewer – weighty, significant, deep, serious, complex, extensive, perhaps. Sometimes – rarely, in fact – one reads a big book and becomes lost in its size, lost in the sense that one ceases to notice the hundreds passing by, as the work creates its own time, defines its own experience, shares its own world. Even then, reaching the end can often be merely trite, just a running out of steam, the process thoroughly engaging, the product, however, something of a let down. Rarely, very rarely indeed, one reads a big book that actually needs its size, justifies itself, continues to surprise as well as enchant and then, finally, stuns. Margaret Atwood ’s Blind Assassin is such a book, a giant in every sense, a masterpiece beyond question.Blind Assassin was awarded the Booker prize in 2000 and charts intersecting hi...
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The Millstone by Margaret Drabble
2008-03-01 15:38:00
Rosamund Stacey is the first person narrator of her own story in the Millstone by Margaret Drabble. Rosamund is a single mother – nothing strange about that, perhaps, at least in a twenty-first century Britain where now half of births are outside of marriage. But in the early 1960s, when The Millstone was written, unmarried mothers were not so common and it was a status to which considerable stigma was attached.Consequently, when Rosamund visits hospital for her regular check-ups, she is summoned from the waiting room with a call of Mrs. Stacey in an attempt to maintain the privacy of her status. She longs for the day – and not too distant – when her thesis on Elizabethan poetry will be complete and she can prefix her name with Dr., thereby avoiding the deception.The Millstone is written in Margaret Drabble’s conversational, yet dense style. The characters are highly complex and seem to live their lives with a devotion to intricacy. Not much happens to them, however, and eve...
The Colonel’s Last Wicket by G V Rama Rao
2008-02-28 09:20:00
The Colonel’s Last Wicket by G V Rama Rao is a delightful novel that uses scenarios and technicalities drawn from cricket to add poignancy to a gentle but moving story. This is not a book about cricket. It’s a book about people, about their development, their motivation and their identity. At the plot’s core are Colonel Seth and Raju, the former a retired, decorated Indian Army officer. He is a widower, proud of his successful daughters, but still suffers a little when he contemplates what might have been. Despite his medals, he was never promoted to the highest rank; his beloved wife died; he never had a son. And he never achieved the distinction of playing first class cricket.Raju’s life has been a thoroughly different story, however. He is an orphan, living a life of poverty in a poor area. Of dubious parentage, even his peers and playmates regard him with some disdain.But Colonel Seth sees talent and potential in Raju when, by chance, he watches the boy playing a makeshi...
Willie The Actor by David Barry
2008-02-27 17:04:00
At one level Willie The Actor by David Barry is a crime novel in which a ruthless criminal commits bank robberies. On another it achieves the feel of dramatised documentary, for its eponymous anti-hero, William Sutton, is not fictitious and lived a real life. David Barry introduces us to Willy in 1923 and we bid him farewell in 1976. And it’s a farewell that is fonder than the reader might have been expected at the outset.Willie The Actor is not a “who dunnit” in any sense, because at no point in the book are we left in any doubt about who is perpetrating the robberies. We even have an insider’s description of his crimes, a rationale and a plan for their execution. It’s Willie, of course, who is behind them. They are his claim to fame, a fame that the novel fills out. Willie, or William, or Bill – however we meet him – did not commit one of the robberies, however, and that one proves to be a particularly important one for him and his future. In this case we find him fa...
The Heather Blazing by Colm Toibin
2008-02-25 11:16:00
The Heather Blazing by Colm Toibin is a deeply emotional, deeply moving book. It’s the story of Eamon Redmond, a complex man, grown on tender roots, influential friends, a keen intellect and a tangible distance between himself and those whom he loves.The book is set in three parts, each of which dips in and out of time. We are with Eamon as a child in the small Wexford seaside villages he forever regards as home. Coastal erosion changes them over time and provides, in itself, a metaphor of aging, both of the individual and the community. Eamon’s schoolteacher father is a significant figure, both locally as a renowned teacher, and nationally as a result of what he accomplished in his youth in the furtherance of Irish independence and political development. Eamon’s mother died when he was young, an act for which, perhaps, he could never forgive her.We also see Eamon as an adolescent, hormones abuzz, becoming aware of adulthood, a physical, intellectual and, for him, a political ...
Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai
2008-02-23 11:44:00
In her novel, Fasting , Feasting, Anita Desai eventually accomplishes what many writers attempt and then fail to achieve. She uses light touch, simple language, uncomplicated structure, but at the same time addresses some very big issues and makes a point.Uma and Arun are children of Mamapapa, the apparently indivisible common identity that parents present. These parents, however, are not at all alike. Mama is protective, perhaps selfish, and not a little indolent. Papa is a parsimonious control freak who locks away the telephone because someone might use it. But they are at least together. Their relationship has survived, despite the long wait for a son, and their disappointment at his disability.Uma and Arun also have a sister, Aruna. She is bright and pretty, but in her own way she is also disabled, because she is a woman. Arun’s disability is visible, but Aruna’s exists because of the her society’s preconceptions about women.Uma is not pretty, nor is she academic. She wears...
July’s People by Nadine Gordimer
2008-02-20 19:46:00
In July’s People Nadine Gordimer presents a scenario laden with fears. Written in 1981, the book presents a South Africa afflicted by near-worst case Cold War disintegration. With rumoured external support, the urban black population has instigated a revolution of sorts, transforming the cities into war zones. No longer “nice” places to be, they are no longer home for decent white liberals like Bam and Maureen and their youngsters.Twenty-five years on, it is this aspect o July’s people that grates. The scenario now seems horribly and, perhaps, naively, simplistic, improbable. At the time, people saw things differently, from a perspective that is difficult to communicate to anyone who did not live in through the Cold War.But then this is an unimportant point. We do not criticize Orwell for the passing of 1984 without Big Brother. Neither do we regard Huxley’s current lack of either Bravery or Novelty as a restriction on the relevance of his book to our world. Similarly, the...
July’s People by Nadine Gordimer
2008-02-20 19:46:00
In July’s People Nadine Gordimer presents a scenario laden with fears. Written in 1981, the book presents a South Africa afflicted by near-worst case Cold War disintegration. With rumoured external support, the urban black population has instigated a revolution of sorts, transforming the cities into war zones. No longer “nice” places to be, they are no longer home for decent white liberals like Bam and Maureen and their youngsters.Twenty-five years on, it is this aspect o July’s people that grates. The scenario now seems horribly and, perhaps, naively, simplistic, improbable. At the time, people saw things differently, from a perspective that is difficult to communicate to anyone who did not live in through the Cold War.But then this is an unimportant point. We do not criticize Orwell for the passing of 1984 without Big Brother. Neither do we regard Huxley’s current lack of either Bravery or Novelty as a restriction on the relevance of his book to our world. Similarly, the...
Victims
2008-02-15 17:57:00
ThursdayI need urgent advice and assistance. Please read the following in the context of my previous reports over the last fortnight, especially the details of my visit to P... last week. I have transcribed my tapes verbatim, omitting items of little or no substance. What follows is as accurate a rendition as I can manage, given the shortage of time. Some spellings and local names may not be wholly accurate. My sessions with Father Peter all took place in Room 258 of the Mount Gardenia Hospital. I have indicated in parenthetic comment the source of interruptions or other events that caused either remark or pause from either myself or Father Peter. I, of course, am AG throughout.TuesdayI started the recorder as we exchanged greetings.AG: So, Father Peter, I’ve found you at last.Peter: Alison! Hello there, Miss Grady. I didn’t expect… How did you find out I was here?AG: I was in the agency office when the news came down from the north. There’s been nothing in the press yet, On...
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Emperor by Colin Thubron
2008-02-13 10:50:00
Emperor by Colin Thubron is a mightily ambitious novel. It describes the conversion to Christianity of the emperor Constantine the Great, the circumstances of which are unknown. But this was an event that changed human history. This single event elevated Christianity, previously a minority sect amongst many, to the status of official religion of the Roman Empire. Thus it became the religion of a continent, a status it has never lost.What is so original about Colin Thubron’s book, however, is its form. The novel is constructed as if it were a sheaf of documents by different authors. The entries are arranged by date, but are constructed as if assembled from a jumble of material stuffed at random by an incompetent clerk into a satchel that was then lost. The author thus assumes many voices, many forms, many perspectives.Constantine has embarked upon the final phase of his conquest of Rome to establish himself the undisputed leader of the empire. He was in York when his father died an...
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Life At The Top by John Braine
2008-02-06 13:46:00
After recently re-reading John Braine’s Room at the Top, I went On Chesil Beach, courtesy of Ian McEwan. Without doubt the latter is a masterpiece, whereas the former seems to be a little too reliant on its contemporary setting, its social mores, its finely tuned appreciation of social class to be considered more than “of its time”. Concatenating the two books, however, has made me think a little more about the underpinning thesis of Ian McEwan’s book, that the early 1960s remained an age when sexuality was not discussed, dealt with or even experienced in the more open, liberal manner of just a decade later. In the context of Ian McEwan’s setting and for his characters, this was undoubtedly the case. Memories of John Braine’s 1950s, however, remind me that there might have been room for a different reading.And so I approached a re-discovery of Braine’s Life At The Top with more than just an interest in the narrative. Of course the book is a sequel, an attempt to recrea...
Master Georgie by Beryl Bainbridge
2008-02-04 16:56:00
At first glance Master Georgie by Beryl Bainbridge suggests it might be quite a light book, an easy read, a period piece set in the mid-nineteenth century. This would be wrong. Master Georgie is no safe tale of country house manners, of marriages imagined by confined, embroidering young women. Beryl Bainbridge’s Master Georgie is anything but a tale of such saccharine gentility.Master Georgie is a surgeon and photographer, and the book is cast in six plates – photographic plates, not chapters. Death figures throughout. From start to finish morbidity crashes into the lives of the book’s characters. We begin with Mr Moody, dead in a brothel bed, his host of minutes before in shock. Later we move to the Crimean War, where the carnage is graphic, extensive and apparently random. And even then individuals find their own personal ways of adding insult and injury to the suffering.The book uses multiple points of view. We see things Master Georgie’s way. Myrtle, an orphan he takes i...
The Mission Song by John le Carré
2008-01-31 10:24:00
In The Mission Song John le Carré re-visits the world of espionage that we associate with his writing. He is a master of the clandestine, the deniable, the re-definable. Bruno Salvador is a freelance linguist. His parentage is complex, his origins confused, but his skills beyond question. By virtue of an upbringing that had many influences, he develops the ability to absorb languages. Having lived in francophone Africa and then England, he is fluent in both English and French plus an encyclopaedia of central African languages. His unique gifts, considerable skills and highly idiosyncratic methods qualify him for occasional assignments as an interpreter. He is trusted. He is also, he discovers, pretty cheap, and already has considerable experience of working for those aspects of government and officialdom which sometimes transgress legality. He is also, therefore, vulnerable. So when a new assignment – so urgent that he has to skip his wife’s party – drags him to a secret dest...
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
2008-01-27 12:16:00
I read A Thousand Splendid Suns having just finished Kite Runner. I would like the opportunity to live life again (who wouldn’t?), if only to have a chance of reversing the order of this experience. I suspect that had I read A Thousand Splendid Suns first then none of the criticisms I raise about the book would even have been imagined, let alone expressed. A Thousand Splendid Suns is a wonderful book, a compelling and gut-wrenching story of two women, Mariam and Laila, who share a husband throughout the years of Afghanistan’s tragedy and turmoil. The fact that Khaled Hosseini can sustain expression, narrative, emotion and interest across two novels with ostensibly similar themes in the same territory is testament both to his supreme skill and the depth of the country’s despond.Where Kite Runner tells the story of two boyhood friends approaching maturity, separating and reuniting, A Thousand Splendid Suns presents two women who are forced together by arrangement. As in Kite Run...
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Strangers
2008-01-21 10:52:00
We arrived more than two hours later than planned, but the west of England summer light had not yet faded even to dusk. A soft golden glow was just growing across the sunset, which had just tinged a flat-calm sea beyond this tumbling village. We were tourists here, strangers in this small, tightly-knit place.For us it was just part of a tour, a long weekend snatched in common from the clutches of our combined, ever demanding careers. I felt utterly liberated, that beautiful evening, as we walked the quarter mile or so down the steep dry cobbles from the obligatory car park into the car-less village, the deadlines and demands of advertising for once confined outside the limits of this small place. And I could tell from the spring in Jenny’s step that her battles with bottom sets in Lewisham were now further distant than our three days on the road.There was a small gift shop, a tourist-trap trinket place, just a hundred yards along the lane. I bought the newspaper our early departur...
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The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
2008-01-21 10:52:00
This is a book that will live for ever. In it Khaled Hosseini has accomplished what many writers, most unsuccessfully, try to achieve. It’s the big stories, those turning points in history, which often attract us. They automatically have something to say, we might believe, something that needs to be aired, perhaps explained. So wars, revolutions, social upheavals, periods of turmoil, internecine struggles, ideological conflicts, all of these are the natural territory for the story teller. They are the backdrop that adds potentially unlimited drama, the context that can involve, inform and enlighten.But often writers are not up to the task. The attraction of that big issue is greater than the powers of judgment needed to create the right balance when the smallness of the story’s detail is pitched against the vast potential dominance of its setting. The balance, therefore, is often a fine one and, because of the power of the setting, the story is often belittled or, more usually,...
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Shakespeare by Bill Bryson
2008-01-19 08:07:00
At the start of Shakespeare Bill Bryson apologises for the fact that there is not much to tell. Every aspect of the bard’s physical presence on the planet seems to be shrouded in doubt and mystery. We don’t even know what he looked like. We don’t know much about where he lived, or what he did with his time, apart from write and act. And, though we think we know a reasonable amount about what Will wrote, we know next to nothing about how his works were performed, alongside zero about what role the writer, himself, performed.So, having apologised for presenting a non-book with a non-story, Bill Bryson proceeds to fill two hundred pages with pure, unadulterated delight. The text provides context, detail and background. It is less than adulatory on the surface, apparently determined to stay within the bounds of the known and the probable. But when Bill Bryson does offer opinion, he reveals a clear and deeply felt love and admiration, almost worship, for his subject.The book is an ...
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