jazzy_dave: (Default)
Whilst in Crawley, i had some time to trawl the charity shops and found these for more than fifty pence each -


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Eric Hobsbawm "How To Change The World : Tales Of Marx and Marxism" (Abacus)




This is a powerful argument for the serious re-engagement with Marx and his ideas. The book title is a bit of a misnomer though, as it certainly doesn't contain any blueprint for 'changing the world'. What it does contain is a collection of essays written between 1956 and 2009, most never previously published before in English, many considerably extended, that provide a history of both Marx and Marxism.

You can't fail to be impressed with Hobsbawm's reach, or the breadth of his learning, and that he argues the case for Marx cogently. The relevance for today is that the globalized capitalist world of the last decades had been anticipated in crucial ways by Marx: the concentration of Western economic and financial power in a few hands, high socio-economic inequalities and systemic (capitalist) crises. He foresaw all this from the end of the 19th century.


So, whilst not an instruction manual to bring in the golden age of socialism, this book concerns itself entirely - with the exception of the last chapter - with the history of ideas, the discipline Hobsbawm commands best. The various essays in this collection, ranging from notes on the prehistory and the contemporary reception of Marxism to musings on Gramsci and Marxist thought in the postwar world, are all concerned with Marxism as one major intellectual influence and current in the history of ideas. his is as it should be, because it allows Hobsbawm the necessary distance as well as giving him the freedom to exercise the kind of subtle and nuanced reflection on the nature and spread of ideas in history and their effect on politics that has made him justly famous.

Overall, a Highly recommended read in my estimation.

jazzy_dave: (beckett thoughts)
So after the convivial time spent at the Bedford yesterday i took the bus back to Maidstone and because of the time situation with no extant buses running to Faversham i had to transfer to the Chatham bus and go home by train. Hence not getting home till nine in the evening.

Halls Bookshop is not open as the building is being done up with scaffolding around it. So i hope that they will open again sometime in the Autumn. Meanwhile, i took some more pictures of the High Street in Tunbridge Wells going down to the Pantiles.

IMG_1351IMG_1352

I will have to pop into Faversham this morning to my bank. I have checked my balance at the ATM outside the Co-op in the village and i am down by £74 , and i know it is not a transaction i have made or authorized, so i want them to reverse it and i shall submit a fraud claim in. I am so bloody angry. I have enough worries and i need this like a hole in the head. Jeez, up one day and down the next.

I shall keep you posted.
jazzy_dave: (Oh my god)
I find it quite mind boggling that the Co-op Group can have lost so much money, and to put it in perspective, here is a  link to my brother's blog that really does show up the ineptitude of the Co-op in losing such a sum.

http://abulldoginbrighton.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/co-op-group-loses-25-billion.html?spref=fb

No Card

Jan. 21st, 2013 04:21 pm
jazzy_dave: (pipe man)
Another scintillating morning at the radio station followed by an hour or so at the Office. Meanwhile, before popping into SFM Towers, i went into Nationwide to do a mini statement. I leave the bank, then after doing my stint at the radio station, realise i left my card in the ATM.

I had to go back to Nationwide to see if somebody had picked it up and handed the debit card in or the machine took it. Nobody had apparently, so i immediately put a stop on the card but now will have to wait for a replacement, and if i need to withdraw money i will need to bring my passport. Fiddle sticks! Although at the time it was more expletive. Sod it!

Addendum - my bro thinks it is very funny!!!
jazzy_dave: (Default)

John Keats Everyman Poet Library (Everyman Poetry)


John Keats (Everyman's Poetry) by John Keats


I rarely read poetry as a genre and sometimes I wonder if I should read more. This is why I picked up this cheap collection of some of the poetry of Keats last year.

Keats is one of the principal figures in the Romantic movement. His verse can be fanciful and intensely musical and this collection gives an indication of the breadth of his passions and concerns. A very concise little paperback.

It contains two of his best known poems “Ode to a Nightingale” and “Ode To A Grecian Urn” as well as part of “Endymion”
jazzy_dave: (beckett thoughts)
Ivan Turgenev "Fathers And Sons" (Oxford World Classics)




I started reading this novel back in November of last year. It is my first Russian novel from the classic period of Russian literature and is hence hailed or considered to be a masterpiece. I found it to be quite beguiling after a sluggish start with well thought out characters.

Written in the mid-19th century, it deals with intergenerational conflict and is centred around the historical event of the emancipation of the Russian serfs. It is also relevant to every generational conflict. The main protagonists are found in all part of Russian society of that period. The older generation who come from the fading world of the nobility and attempt to be liberal in their views, against those of the younger generation who advocate nihilism and free thought.

One of them, an intelligent young doctor called Barazov, represents the youth, strength and the new ways and ideas but at the same time, aware of his own naïveté and hypocrisy. He is arrogant of any manifestation of "weakness" such as the finer emotions, and when he falls deeply in love with a woman, who was his equal in strength of will and ideas, he goes through an intense struggle with himself. The other characters in the novel provide a brilliant counterpoint to the personality of Barazov, and the exchanges between and among them is subtly woven into the plot, and underlies the the slowly changing political and social landscape of the country, signalling a restlessness that tend to characterize periods of transition or upheaval. 

The extremists at either end will never understand each other, yet there is a delightful middle ground to be struck and exist happily in. This could have been a relatively dull classic but ended up as a good page turner.
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As promised here is the list of the books I intend to read and / or finish during 2013 Fifty Book Challenge. Last year I read 78 books and hope to do the same amount this year.

Slavoj Zizek – In Defence Of Lost Causes
Jeet Thayil – Narcopolis
Noam Chomsky Rogue States
Frank Furedi – Where Have All The Intellectuals Gone ?
David Baggett & William Drumin – Hitchcock and Philosophy, Dial M For Metaphysics
Don Kowalski – The Big Bang & Philosophy
Humphrey Carpenter – J RR Tolkien A Biography
Alistair Cooke – Letters From America
Ivan Turgenev – Fathers And Sons
Jack Kerouac – Maggie Cassidy


Michael Faber – The Crimson Petal And The White
Dave Haslam – Young Hearts Run Free
Rob Young – Electric Eden
Daisy May – Young Romantics
Umberto Eco – The Mysterious Flame Of Queen Loana
Stephen King – Misery
Dodie Smith – I Capture The Castle
Bernard Cornwell – Harlequin
Bill Bryson – Notes From A Small Island
Cormac Mc. Carthy – The Road


Audrey Niffenegger – The Time Traveller's Wife
Markus Zusak – The Book Thief
Meg Rosff – How I Live Now
Peter Ackroyd – The History Of England Part 1 , Foundation
S.J. Parris – Sacrilege
Julian Barnes – Foucault's Parrot
John Paul Sartre – The Age Of Reason
Julia Bell – Dirty Work
Charles Dickens – A Tale Of Two Cities
John Le Carre – A Small Town In Germany


Eldridge Cleaver – Soul On Ice
Lisa Randall – Warped Passages
Hilary Mantel – Fludd
Steven Pinker – The Language Instinct
Simon Reynolds – Retromania
John Gray – Gray's Anatomy
Ian Mortimer – The Time Traveller's Guide To Medieval England
Olaf Stapledon – Star Maker
Philip K Dick – Flow My tears The Policeman Said
Daniel Keyes – Flowers For Algernon


Henning Mankell – Faceless Killers
Umberto Eco – Foucault's Pendulum
John Lloyd and John Mitchinson – QI The Book Of The Dead
Michael Chabron – Wonder Boys
Adam Phillips – Promises Promises
John Keats – Selected Poems
The Penguin Selected Poems of Tennyson
Margaret Atwood – The Year Of The Flood
Roy Porter – Enlightenment
Iceberg Slim – Trick Baby



So the challenge starts today.

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Deborah Levy "Swimming Home" (Faber)

Swimming Home


This is a very short book but a dense one written in surreal, hypnotic and lyrical style. If you're looking for something realistic with a taut and defined narrative and `plot' then this may well be one to avoid. Concerned with post-Freudian ideas of desire and death, this is critically- and theoretically-informed in its concern with coherence and incoherence, surface and substance, the tension between the word and what is always unsayable. If this is already starting to irritate you, then this is certainly a book to avoid!

In lots of ways this is a typical Booker-list book: its appeal is an intellectual rather than an emotional one. There are some lovely images and phrases here ("Joe's poetry is more like a conversation with me than anything else... we are in nerve-contact"; `she was as receptive as it was possible to be, an explorer, an adventurer, a nightmare. Every moment with her was an emergency'), and the text itself exposes the latent menace in everyday objects: a toy rabbit, sugar mice, uneven walls.

There are some moments where the text becomes a little too obviously sign-posted for significance (the arms-dealer friend with his guns; the daughter who starts menstruating; the swimming pool) but overall this is a tense and edgy read concerned with existential unease: threatening, perilous and anxious.
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Hayden Carruth "Reluctantly: Autobiographical Essays" (Copper Canyon Press)


Reluctantly: Autobiographical Essays…

Fascinating personal essay on author's attempted suicide, unsolicited resuscitation and surprising, post-recovery, radical change in psychology.

A solid introduction to his interior world, Reluctantly also serves well as a supplement to Carruth's 50 years of publishing poetry, criticism, and one fine, under read novel, Appendix A. Now in his late 70s, Carruth has witnessed from his seclusion in remote New England the rise and fall of myriad intellectual, political, and poetical movements. In his essays, he sets these passages alongside events in his own life as if to find explanations for the absurdity of one in the chaos of the other. As the title suggests, it is with great reluctance that he discusses his suicide attempts, hospitalizations, nervous breakdowns, divorces, and other disappointments. Yet in his memory these events are so intertwined with his successes and joys, indeed with his whole creative enterprise, that he is compelled to give both equal time. At times, the essays' careful manipulation of style and sound approaches the measured reverie of Carruth's poetry, especially when discussing his years in northern Vermont, the setting for many of his more famous poems. He describes in great detail the cowshed he converted into a writing cabin, and in fact the book's main characters besides himself are his neighbours there, Martin and Frances Parkhurst, through whose friendship Carruth relearned the social skills he felt he lost during a series of bad crackups in his 30s.

For whatever reason, Carruth remains elliptical about some of the more significant details of his life. For many years he was the editor of Poetry. Prior to that he was part of the Allied Army force that invaded Italy during World War II. He mentions these experiences only briefly, then, for example, writes three paragraphs about watching a frozen bobcat slowly decompose during a spring thaw.

Given a chance to explain his love of jazz, or his suicide attempt, or his psychoanalysis, Carruth indulges in tangents in ways his strict poetics would never entertain. There is something fitting about the author allowing himself a few autobiographical reflections at this point in his career, and his reluctance only heightens their value.

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Tom Hodgkinson "How To Be Idle" (Penguin)


How to Be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson

Hodgkinson breaks the day down, hour by hour, and systematically presents alternatives to the usual “rat race” activities. Why sit in traffic when you could be asleep or thinking big thoughts? Why work a 9-to-5 job when, as Hodgkinson proposes, humans are bred for flexibility and variety in their working life? Why go to bed early when you could be at the pub, engaged in meaningful conversation, or even dreaming up revolutions? Many people are put off by Hodgkinson’s romanticizing of the pre-industrial era, but if taken with a grain of salt, it can be made more palatable. A cross between Buddhism, anarchy, and a nostalgic longing for a bygone era, this book is not just a celebration of following your own path; it raises idleness to the level of a sacrament

This book is a series of views on a variety of issues from smoking to napping, a book that encourages us to think about our lives rather than just put our lives in neutral and keep going

I agree that idleness is beneficial and necessary, at least in comparison with the usual hyper-caffeinated sleep-deprived existence. Productivity nuts take note -- Samuel Johnson slept in and lingered over dinner AND got a lot done.
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Russell Hoban "The Bat Tattoo" (Bloomsbury)

The Bat Tattoo by Russell Hoban


I haven't read enough of Hoban to know if there is such a thing as a typical Hoban, but I doubt there is. I find Hoban's work easy to read, his prose moves you along and he presents characters who seem consistent and convincing even though the situations they find themselves stretch into the realm of magic realism.


It is the modern day tale of a middle-aged man and woman, both widowed several years ago, who come together after coincidentally getting the same bat (a symbol of happiness taken from a Chinese vase at the V&A) tattooed on their left shoulders. It is a tale of art, loneliness, religious iconography, failure, erotica, mysterious millionaires, and an unfortunate obsession with crash-test dummies.

Weird and wonderful and thus highly recommended.
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Jean Baudrillard "The Evil Demon Of Images" (Power Publications)


A very short book which is a   transcript of a lecture he did in Australia. In it the French theorist delivers his thoughts on film, TV and the image. It also includes an extended interview where he expounds his notion of objective irony, seduction and hyperreality. A difficult but thought provoking read about the relation of the mass media to the postmodern.



Evil Demon of Images by Jean Baudrillard

jazzy_dave: (Default)
Stephen Fry "The Fry Chronicles" (Michael Joseph)

The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry herein chronicles his life, or another section of it at least (see "Moab is my Washpot " for a more comprehensive biography of Fry’s younger years) including the beginnings of his launch into television, but not quite his launch into stardom. There is, it seems, another volume to come. Excuse me while I wriggle impatiently in my seat. There.

This book would serve as a reinforcement to anyone circling the Fry fandom; it’s the man’s quirks, vulnerabilities, flaws, endearing traits, towering and extraordinary strengths, story, connections and influences laid bare; an essence of Fry as much as a written history.

He’s one of few subjects, to my mind, whose biography might maintain your interest, but whose autobiography will fascinate, delight and entertain you, while imparting a certain introspective wisdom (and some pitiful moping, which will either annoy you or make you want to pat him gently) and plenty of pertinent facts. There are the hoped for anecdotes - two students meeting and saying ‘hullo’ a few times never took on more significance – and unexpected byways. And, of course, it’s a potted history of an era of British Comedy. And all of it is written in Fry’s own paradoxical brand of humility (which, he claims, stems from a perceived whomping arrogance, which is wrought from hideous insecurity which… well, read the book) and, more importantly, with that lunatic and lovely wordiness for which we value him, and gladly consider him one of our ambassadors of British brain and wit

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Sam Kean "The Disappearing Spoon" (Black Swan)

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean


A loose history of the ongoing discovery of the elements and what it means to our understanding of the universe and our place in it. The first couple of chapters are somewhat technical but meant for the layperson, with additional science mixed in as the book goes on so the reader can understand how scientists build on what they know to push the limits further. Some of this is fairly unnerving: currently, work is being done on the possibility that the universal constants on which Einsteinian physics (or any other we know) is built may not hold true throughout the universe or at different times.

The book is laid out rather strangely, with a periodical table on the last two pages (after notes and index and where the reader might never notice it). And this is a case where having the lengthy narrative footnotes located with the main text would have worked better than grouped at the end. Still, lots to learn here, and told with a sense of humor
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Jiri Weil "Mendelssohn is on the Roof" (Daunt Books)

Mendelssohn Is on the Roof by Jiř Weil

I took this book on my Ramsgate visit as I had a few pages left to read.

While Primo Levi, Ann Frank, and Eli Weizel are well known contributors to Holocaust literature, Jiri Weil is not. It is a shame that Weil is not better known because his work is just as powerful. This novel, set in German occupied Prague, "The Protectorate" as it is known, faithfully and horrifically describes life outside of the concentration camp. The closest it gets is the Terezin ghetto. Life was equally bleak outside the extermination camps. The novel views the world through the eyes of various characters, some Jews but others Nazis or Czech workers. This pastiche dwells on the usual themes of evil, power, death, violence, and suffering. A less typical theme was the psychic pain experienced by those who chose to or were forced to be complicit with the Nazis. And, although almost everyone meets a poor ending, in the end life always affirms itself. This truly is a brilliant novel and classic literature at its best.

jazzy_dave: (Default)
"Europe in Our Time - A History: 1945-1992" Walter Laqueur (Penguin)


Europe in Our Time: A History 1945-1992 by… 

This is a survey and doesn't mess around with too many specific facts. It did not tell me too much I did not know, but it was fun to realize there was to be an upbeat ending to the book. The transformation of Europe is one of the great stories of the age. .  Very objective, a good read for amateur historians. 

 This was a good book to read, and to dip into again occasionally. 
jazzy_dave: (Default)
Iris Murdoch "The Italian Girl" (Vintage)

The Italian Girl by Iris Murdoch


This is my first venture into the writing of Iris Murdoch, and it has inspired me to read more.

Edmund, our narrator, has returned to his family home following the death of his mother. The story concerns a small cast of characters who have become trapped in their very insular world. Each has their own source of escapism, which is at once as much a cause of destruction as it is of release.

Ever present in the background is the eponymous "Italian girl". Despite playing little part in the foreground of the novel, she is a powerful presence of whom the reader is constantly aware. We know she will have an important role to play, but are never quite sure what that role will be.

I would not hesitate to recommend this book - especially to anyone who was looking for a short and easy read, but with beautifully created characters and a dense enough plot to intrigue and satisfy.
jazzy_dave: (Default)
Margaret Atwood "Moral Disorder And Other Stories" (Bloomsbury)

Moral Disorder and Other Stories by Margaret…



"I felt as if I were groping through brambles in a night so dark I couldn't see my own hands. At my wit's end had been, before this, merely an expression, but now it described a concrete reality: I could see my wits unrolling, like a ball of string, length after length of wits being played out, each length failing to hold fast, breaking off as if rotten, until finally the end of the string would be reached, and what then? How many days were left for me to fill -- for me to fill responsibly -- before the real parents would come back and take over, and I could escape to my life?"

This is the story of a woman's life told in short story form. While the stories can stand alone, they work beautifully together to create a portrait of a life. Nell comes of age just before the sixties and seventies upended the social order, turning her from an independent spirit into someone just not adventurous enough. Her life is an ordinary one, but beautifully told. My favorite story is His Last Duchess, in which Nell thinks about the women she reads about in her literature class. While I love Atwood's more adventurous novels, like Oryx and Crake and The Blind Assassin, I think this quieter story allows her writing and nuanced characterizations to really shine.
jazzy_dave: (Default)
Neil Gaiman "Stardust" (Headline)

Stardust by Neil Gaiman


By the cover it would seem that this is another one of Gaiman's famed graphic novels. But instead it's an illustrated novella, spinning a story of three peoples' fate as they try to find the blonde-haired maiden from the night sky. The vibrant illustrations make the story.

An absolutely charming fairy tale with Neil Gaiman's characteristic twists. Stardust draws on traditional fairy tale memes and contorts them into something new, surprising and highly entertaining. The film differed from the source material in many ways and frankly some aspects of the film, especially Robert de Niro's Captain Shakespeare, were brilliant. Nonetheless, the plot is excellent and the characters keep the attention throughout.

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