jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Deborah Levy "The Cost Of Living" (Penguin)

There's great pleasure in this quirky and brief (134 pages) narrative of a woman's life after her marriage goes under. She finds a new place to live, a sixth-floor walkup; rides an e-bike (electric); sets up her writing space in an unheated wreck of a garden shed, and reminds herself daily that her marriage was not worth extraordinary rescue efforts. It's like hanging out with a new Brit friend who's a fantastic storyteller - you've just swept along into her everyday life, which is rendered bright and shining by her rueful words.

The opening line sets the tone: "As Orson Welles told us if we want a happy ending, it depends on where we stop the story."
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Giorgio Bassani "Within The Walls" (Penguin Modern Classics)

'Within the Walls' is an interesting collection of five tales all set within the confines of the Italian city of Ferrara. They cover such themes as love and betrayal, and the justification for the lives we lead; each sits in the foreground with the Italian city and its difficult history always ready to lean over your shoulder and reframe the plot.

Bassani was a magnificent writer, of that there can be no doubt, and although I did find my attention wandering at times, too often in fact, these stories are still definitely worth the effort of paying close attention to. You learn so much about the craft of writing here. Not sure how to manage the exclamation mark in your prose? Read Bassani! It feels like he's telling you the story directly, and when somebody in his audience interjects he must respond with a parenthetical aside capped with a wondrous exclamation mark. Speaking of parentheses, Bassani was also a master of the run-on, multi-clause sentence, with so many branches that it would be a nightmare for anybody to draw a sentence diagram of much that you'll find here. Close reading does bring rewards.
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
F.Scott Fitzgerald "The Great Gatsby" (Vintage)

It is with good reason that this book is considered one of Fitzgerald's best works. This great American Novel was written in 1925. I didn't remember Gatsby, the man, or Daisy the love interest the same way that I did when I read these books as an Open University student. The Great Gatsby is a classic tale that provides the understanding and a connection to today with a bygone era and is still a wonderful read today. I was set during the age of prohibition, American jazz and America's post-World War I society. I was able to gain insight into a world that is so different from our's today, and yet the basic themes of love, jealousy and greed still hold true in today's novels.

The settings of frequent and extravagant parties, the involvement of friends and family and the growing secret and illicit relationship between Gatsby and Daisy provides the backdrop for this beautiful, and difficult love story. The book is a combination of mystery, intrigue, and friendship during a time when excess was considered the norm in certain social circles. The Great Gatsby is a truly wonderful book, and sure to be enjoyed by many for years and years to come. I recommend it as one of the basic of all novels we might all read and enjoy.

jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Ian Williams "The Bad Doctor" (Myriad Editions)

We tend to view doctors as omnipotent but this story will put paid to that. Who is the bad doctor here? I like the way the story leaves that open to interpretation. The main character, a rural GP, has plenty of problems of his own aside from dealing with tricky patients, and it's an empathic rendering of his struggles with OCD and how he has had to keep that hidden because of his job. Plenty of humorous side-detail in the drawing and a welcome insight into the humanness and fallibility of doctors.

I read this in one sitting and just 220 pages long, I recommend it.
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Margaret Atwood "On Writers And Writing" (Virago)

This book grew out of the series of Empsom lectures that prize-winning novelist Atwood gave at the University of Cambridge in 2000. In it, she addresses a number of fundamental questions: not how to write but the basic position of the writer, why a writer writes, "and for whom? And what is this writing anyway?".

Wearing her learning lightly, Atwood allows her wit to shine on almost every page. She probes her life and work along with those of many other writers and brings in myths, fairy tales, movies whatever feeds her themes. Following an initial autobiographical chapter, Atwood addresses major issues: the duplicity evidently inherent in writing; the problems of art vs. money; the problems of art vs. social relevance; the nature of the triangular relationship of writer, reader, and book; and, in the final title chapter, the provocative idea that "all writing of the narrative kind, and perhaps all writing, is motivated, deep down, by a fear of and a fascination with mortality by a desire to make the risky trip to the Underworld, and to bring something or someone back from the dead."

Each essay examined a different aspect of the writing process, such as dealing with fame, mingling with the dead and the conversation between the writer and his/her reader. Atwood added many stories from her past, which I found the most fascinating. She also included lots of references to other writers and poets, including Dante, Shakespeare, Alice Munro and Adrienne Rich – to help strengthen her many thoughts about writing.

Atwood is not looking to provide answers or solutions but to explore the parameters of some interesting questions. The result is engaging food for thought for all who care about writers and writing.
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Hugh Aldersey-Williams "Periodic Tales" (Viking)

Periodic Tales is a history book about science, explaining the stories behind the discoveries of the elements in the periodic table and the cultural impact of these elements.

It is a good book to pick up and read off and on. But I wouldn't have minded a little bit more scientific description of the elements, like a general glossary for natural state, common uses, and atomic number/symbol or even just the periodic table as an endpaper would have been greatly appreciated. As it is the paperback is a good beginner guide but lacks the meat and juice of a much more rigorous tome.

The only things that would have improved the book would be the inclusion of the periodic table itself for those of us who haven't seen one since school and better chapter headings to indicate which elements were being discussed because it jumped about a bit.
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Jack Kerouac "Pomes All Sizes" (City Lights Publishers)

An interesting collection of poems from Kerouac covering a ten year period that shows the various periods of his life through travel and differing inspirations. Kerouac was also a traveler, so this collection comes from various places throughout those years, wherever he happened to be at the time.

The topics covered include God, Buddha, the blues, wine, drugs, Beat friends, and thoughts of the moment. Kerouac's style is very in the moment, often not even letting spelling and punctuation get in the way of the thought trying to reach the page.

He remains such a powerful influence, and this book is an excellent collection of his work.
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Fredrik Backman "A Man Called Ove" (Washington Square Press)

Who doesn't love grumpy old men? OK, maybe not in real life, but they are ever so appealing in novels, right? Fredrik Backman's delightful novel, A Man Called Ove, has a wonderful curmudgeon of the main character that you just can't help but adore and a quirky cast of characters around him that restores your faith in humanity.

Ove is only in his fifties but he comes across as much older. He is intolerant of ineptitude and has a deep reverence for rules. He patrols his neighbourhood, making sure that any and all signs, injunctions, and homeowner rules are followed. He is a crusty bugger of a loner. And then he gets new neighbours. Patrick inadvertently flattens Ove's mailbox when he moves his family into the neighbourhood, not the most auspicious way to meet a man who is already annoyed that they've driven a vehicle down a street clearly marked for no cars. Yet Parvaneh, Patrick's pregnant wife, sees past the gruff exterior, finds him humorous, and starts to make inroads with Ove.

Having Parvaneh, Patrick, and their two young daughters living beside Ove engages him in the life of the neighbourhood again and foils his careful plan to commit suicide. He has come up with his plan because not only has he been forced to retire from his lifelong job, but he is also desperately grieving his wife Sonja, the only other woman who ever looked into his heart and saw the strong moral code of right and wrong and the sheer goodness and kindness that he is so careful to hide. But this family next door to him and then an increasing number of people in his community need him and so he must put off his plans to die day after day. As Ove becomes more and more engaged in living and in connecting with the people around him, he talks to Sonja, telling her about his days and reliving the past that made him the way he is.

This is a moving and emotionally satisfying book. Ove will make the reader laugh and cry in equal measure. He is a character who can fall out with a long time friend over the make of his car (Ove only drives Saabs) but he's also the man who can take in a ratty looking stray cat, despite disliking cats, because he knows it would have pleased his wife. Ove is such an appealing character that the reader can't help but root for him to find happiness and life-sustaining friendship. Each time Ove is called on to postpone his suicide and help someone, his grumbling and muttering are completely entertaining. The book is absolutely delightful, touching, and brimming with beautiful dignity. Everyone should read this lovely book.
jazzy_dave: (intellectual vices)
I went to bed early last night feeling very tired bu now wide awake so here is some quiescent mystical music for the early starters -
As you know I have eclectic tastes and hre are some Albanian love songs and complaint ones -

Albanie, Pays Labë, plaintes et chants d'amour (Albania, Labë Country, Complaints and Love Songs)

01. Atje Te Ura Ne Lume 00:00
02. Janines C'i Pane Syte 4:55
03. Atje Poshte N'ato Ledhe 07:40
04. Vito, Ta Kam Silloine 09:52
05. Pse S'ha Buke E Pse S'pi Vere 12:47
06. Moj Bonjakja Pa Mama 16:38
07. Rashe E Pashe Nje Enderre 19:43
08. U Plake Mike, U Plake 22:37
09. Marsi I Atij Viti 27:05
10. Bie Deti Dallget 30:27
11. Atje Te Lisi Ne Brinje 34:15
12. Ate Diten E Merkure 36:37
13. Po Vjen Lumi Trubull-O 39:21
14. N'ato Penxhere T'ergjendta 41:22
15. Kam Qene Sevdalli Per Kenge 44:53
16. Dim Himariote Dale! 47:31
17. Kur Merrje Uje Ne Krua 50:32
18. Hape Porten Moj Evrope 52:52
19. Laberi Dyzete Keshtjella! 55:34

2005, Ocora.
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Jean-Paul Sartre "The Age Of Reason" (Penguin)

It has been a number of years since I read this trilogy, so I will have to be rather general about it even though it has stuck with me all these years. I am a fan of Sartre's and his existentialist contemporaries, but this trilogy, of which this the first if I remember rightly, was an amazing display of Sartre's skill as a fiction writer. While I am generally more fond of Camus' fiction, every book in the "The Roads to Freedom" trilogy stands out as my favourite fictional work by that group. Make no mistake, this trilogy is a masterpiece of existentialist fiction."The Roads to Freedom" series (originally meant to be a tetralogy) was a fictional representation of new direction in Sartre's vision of existentialism which was far more participatory.

Using the backdrop of the Nazi occupation, Sartre's characters move from a prewar existence of complete apathy toward their life and others into individuals who are empowered by the will to resist any impediments to their freedom.

Sartre shows the way in which morality is important in his view due to the complex web of human relations. Whatever choice a person makes, they are accountable to whoever those choices affect. A person's freedom, according to Sartre, is dependent on their agency in deciding between the myriad paths in life.

This paperback edition from 1979 features Picasso's famous "Guernica" painting on the cover.
jazzy_dave: (Default)
Dear readers - we are here again with the plea for your kind help, donations and support.

I am back in the financial doldrums and finding it tough. Could you kind people help out with donations in any way large or small whilst waiting for next paycheck to come - down to two pounds in my account - and drag me out of this quagmire.-

Send your donations to -


Thank you for your time and bless you all.

jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Julian Barnes "Metroland"  (Vintage)

This is Barnes’ first novel, published in 1980 when he was 34 years old. It is told from the perspective of Christopher Lloyd, aged 15-16, living in Metroland and going to school with his best friend Toni, the two boys thinking themselves very smart in with their French language, their search for the meaning of art and life, their intellectual, superior ways with which they
score points as they can from the unsuspecting…basically all the hubris of youth unblemished and untested in life and emotions…plus their insecurities vis-à-vis the opposite sex and their conjectures and fantasies about sex. Chris goes to Paris when he is 20 to study, loses his virginity, discovers sex, discovers the value of frank and open conversation rather than clever circumlocutions, and discovers the tangled web of emotions and trying to decide what is love. He also meets the woman who becomes his wife when they have returned to Metroland and Chris has become what, as a youth, he would have derided: employed with a mortgage and a family and, somewhat to his surprise, happy. Toni has stayed much more bohemian, but one has the sense that he has to because it is his only sense of self-identification; he sneers slightly at Chris’s bourgeois lifestyle and that Chris isn’t interested in extra-marital sex because he loves his wife and is satisfied with her….which leads to an interesting conversation between Chris and Marion, later.

The book is well written and enjoyable in itself: it rings true in the psychology of Chirs and Toni as young and more mature men; it is also interesting for themes that one can see later in Barnes’s writing.

One of those themes, briefly covered in one of the short chapters, is the fear of death….a subject that Barnes explores a much greater length in nothing to be afraid of. In Metroland, Chris’s older brother Nigel is quite dismissive of such fears and Chris decides that Nigel, “either had a less touchy imagination, or he had a firmer, less anguished grasp of the termination of his own existence. “ I think there is an autobiographical touch here because in nothing to be afraid of, Barnes often juxtaposes his ruminations with the more analytical stance of his philosopher brother.

Another theme, explored further in Flaubert’s Parrot and also in Daudet, is the duty of the writer to observe and record, even to the extent of being seen as cold and unfeeling. Context shapes not just mannerisms (Chris finds himself adopting all kinds of French body language), it also affects language and how reality is described or lived. Chris quotes a study of Japanese GI-brides who spoke English at home and in the shops but Japanese among themselves; the group was interviewed twice, in Japanese and in English; with the former they came across as submissive, supportive, aware of the value of tight social cohesion; in English they were independent, frank, and much more outward-looking.

Another thought explored further in Flaubert’s Parrot, is the power and appeal of anticipation as opposed to realization and success or failure, in many things, including sexual relations.What is happiness and how is to be structured and what right do people have to sneer at the happiness of others, however that might be defined? Looking at his life, Chris concludes: “I’d call myself a happy man; if preachy, then out of a sense of modest excitement, not pride. I wonder why happiness is despised nowadays; dismissively confused with comfort or complacency, judged an enemy of the social—even technological—progress. People often refuse to believe it when they see it; or disregard it as something merely lucky, merely genetic: a few drops of this, a dash of that, a couple of synapses unclogged. Not an achievement.”

And finally, on the last page, Chris ruminates that, “there’s no point in trying to thrust false significance on to things.”…by which he means not just physical things but also thoughts, beliefs, ideologies; because in this direction lie distortion and untruths.

As a first novel, this is quite an achievement. He is becoming one of my most read aithors.

jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Juliet Gardiner (Editor), Neil Wenborn (Editor) - "The "History Today" Companion to British History" (Collins And Brown)

The fact that I still love good reference books is the reason to highlight this one. This is one I regularly like to dip in to.

Six British historians contribute to a comprehensive dictionary which not only is a reference work for events, people and places from 43 AD but also acknowledges that history is as much about the writing of what happened as what actually did happen. It also includes information on historical concepts and controversy. The contributors are Dr David Bates (University of Wales, College of Cardiff), John Gillingham (London School of Economics), Dr Diarmaid McCulloch (University of Bristol and University College London), Joanna Innes (Somerville College, Oxford), Dr David Englander (Open University) and Dr John Stevenson (Worcester College, Oxford).
jazzy_dave: (black jazz)
It has arrived and it sounds good. The new CD system that bro has sent me out of the blue. 

Listening to the Dino Saluzzi Cd on ECM Records.

Just one minor niggle. The system when playing music that flows from one track to the next - such as Virgins by Tin Hecker - leaves a short second gap between each track. the Compaq laptop with the Asus CD ROM attached to it lets it flow without the gap. I checked tracks 8 and 9 on the Denon in the common room and it is a smooth flow from one track to the next without that one second or so gap - which is noticeable - but a minor quibble.

Showing both together. The laptop will stay as a dedicated DVD player and hard drive for other music as well as ripping CDs to the hard drive. 
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Richard F. Thomas "Why Dylan Matters" (William Collins Books)

This was one of the books I received at Christmas.
It was a fascinating read of an artist I am beginning to appreciate more.

Of all the many books regarding the life and work of Bob Dylan, this one ranks at the top when it comes to being scholarly. Part of a long-standing Harvard class taught by Thomas, this distillation dissects no few examples of Dylan’s now-classic role in producing great works by stealing from others. More importantly, however, Bob Dylan makes what he steals his own. No small task and something only a very few distinctive artists can pull off successfully. But the great ones, in fact, do exactly that. What interests me most is Dylan’s process of creation based on the studies, experience, and knowledge of the professor’s obsession with great Classic art. It is no stretch to state that Dylan is one of the best in the business and well-deserving of his 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature

Very informative and enjoyable to read this tribute.
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Daniel L. Schacter "The Seven Sins Of Memory" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Schacter approaches his task as a teacher. He focuses on seven problems with memory that have undoubtedly been experienced by the average reader.

1. Transience - Our memories weaken over time.
2. Absent-mindedness - We don't focus on what we need to remember.
3. Blocking - It's in our memory somewhere, but we can't find it.
4. Misattribution - We are wrong about where we learned something.
5. Suggestibility - Other people can "plant" false memories in us.
6. Bias - We rewrite the past with the pen of present beliefs.
7. Persistence - We keep remembering things we'd like to forget.

For each of these problems, he gives understandable examples. In the final chapter, the problems are discussed as a group, and the author states the opinion that these problems are a small price to pay for a memory capability that performs extraordinarily well.

In the early part of the book, there are references to specific functions of the various lobes of the brain and how those lobes may affect the processes of memory. As the discussion moves on to the rest of the “sins,” there are fewer references to objective scientific data, and more references to hypotheses and activity testing of various types. Professor Schacter does a thorough job of referencing the works of other psychologists, and summarizing their opinions.

An informative book, intended for non-technical people who want an overview of the field and a basic understanding of academic progress.
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Deborah Curtis "Touching From A Distance" (Faber & Faber)

Deborah Curtis presents a brief biography of the man she married and gives the reader a glimpse at the very human side of her husband Ian Curtis., lead singer of Joy Division. Deborah presents the good and the bad and some may not want to think of an idol like Ian Curtis behaving the way he did. This is a frustrating and sad story like many that deal with suicide. There aren’t really any answers to why here and I didn’t expect them. One does get a sense that Ian’s epilepsy and numerous prescriptions may have played a strong hand in much of his turmoil and subsequent decision.

This book feels like a great sigh, like Deborah Curtis felt a weight off of her after she told her story. Though readers not familiar with Joy Division and others in music at that time in Manchester may be a bit lost with all of the names and places mentioned, I think this story can hold up without that knowledge.

In fact, I just started listening to Joy Division again after many years of not listening to them. I often go through periods of genre listening. I suppose what sparked a renewed interest in Joy Division and Post-Punk was my recent re-evaluation of The Slits and meeting Viv Albertine recently.

Ian’s lyrics and unfinished writings as well as Joy Division gig lists and discography are provided. This book inspired the film Control (2007).
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Joe Haldeman "The Forever War" (Gollancz)

"This was not just a separation. Even if the war was over and we left for Earth only a few minutes apart, in different ships, the geometry of the collapsar jump would pile up years between us. When the second one arrived on Earth, his partner would probably be a half-century older; more probably dead."

Deservedly acknowledged as a classic, this tells the story of a physicist drafted into the military when humanity's first contact with aliens turns violent. Haldeman, a veteran himself, is able to make the training regime and the military culture eminently believable.

"The Forever War" essentially is nothing more than a part-time biography of a soldier living through a war. What makes it special is that said war isn't your typical planetary conflict, but rather fought in the vast expanse of space. Even though faster than light flight was discovered, most of the travel still has to be done at relativistic velocities, thus ensuring that the soldiers on the first campaign returned a generation after they had launched to fight, after only one subjective engagement.

What is perhaps surprising is how little actual fighting there is in the book. (The protagonist even misses out on one of the few battles that do occur, getting shot down before reaching the battlefield and waking up in hospital.) This book isn't about the war, it's about what happens to the people in it.

The most significant effect is from time dilation. Travelling huge distances at relativistic speeds, the soldiers keep returning to Earth way out of their time. We see some fascinating snapshots of how society might evolve, and then watch our heroes try to come to terms with the changes.

The lead characters struggle to hold on to each other, their senses of self, and their connections to the rest of humanity. It's a striking premise, excellently executed.

A solid piece of speculative hard science fiction.
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Eliane Glaser "Anti-Politics: On the Demonization of Ideology, Authority and the State" (Repeater Books)

This is a wonderful little book on how we have got to the present malaise of populism and the distancing from the establishment that seems to pervade politics now. Whatever the roots of our anger and apathy, we need to revive the three pillars of political philosophy that seem to be dirty words in her estimation - ideology, authority, and the state. She defends these foundations, despite them being unpopular in the media, as a necessary bulwark against this malaise towards the functioning of a fair society.

A rather prescient book for our times.
jazzy_dave: (Default)
To celebrate IWD here are five unsung heroes still not familiar in the history books.

Victoria Woodhull
In 1872, suffragist, activist and advocate of “free love” (the freedom to marry, divorce and bear children) Woodhull ran for president of the United States when, ironically, women couldn’t vote but could be elected. Her running mate was black abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass. She didn’t get any votes, perhaps partially due to her arrest for obscenity a few days before the election, for a paper, she published with graphic descriptions of the adultery committed by a senior official. However, after making a fortune as the first ever female stockbroker, she broke one last ceiling by being the first to speak of women’s suffrage in front of the House Judiciary Committee.

The Mirabal sisters (Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa)
The three Mirabel sisters formed an influential movement, relentlessly opposing the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, but were eventually assassinated on his orders. Trujillo hoped that this loss would dent the resistance’s strength, but in fact, it angered Dominicans so much that many now say this is why he was assassinated a year later, and the Dominican Republic quickly became a democracy

Milada Horáková
Horáková was a prominent campaigner for women’s equal status in Czechoslovakia. In the Second World War, she was part of the underground resistance movement and imprisoned until 1945. She returned to Prague and got elected to the National Assembly, where she campaigned for the women’s rights and democratic institutions. She resigned to protest the Communist coup, was arrested for leading a plot against the Communist party, and eventually sentenced to death. She was posthumously cleared and celebrated for her impassioned defence and last words.

Ella Baker

Baker was an African-American civil rights activist and organizer for more than five decades, working alongside Martin Luther King. Her philosophy seems acutely relevant in today’s politics. She was against professionalized, charismatic leadership and emphasised that the oppressed should advocate for themselves, being one of the first proponents of ‘participatory democracy’.

“You didn't see me on television, you didn't see news stories about me. The kind of role that I tried to play was to pick up pieces or put together pieces out of which I hoped organization might come. My theory is, strong people don't need strong leaders”.

Josephine Butler

Butler was a campaigner for women’s suffrage back in the 1850s, and her commitment to women’s rights was central to her life. She is perhaps most well-known for her tireless 20-year campaign to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts, where prostitutes (including children as young as 12 who were traded as slaves in Europe) were examined to prevent the spread of venereal diseases in a process she called ‘steel rape’. Her imaginative campaign strategies, like touring grassroots movements all around Europe, were a model for suffragists and feminists afterwards and many consider her political work a milestone in feminism.


jazzy_dave: (Default)

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