More Books from my Recently Read List

A Dreamer's TalesA Dreamer’s Tales by Lord Dunsany

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This collection of tales by Lord Dunsany is romantic, fantastical and somewhat macabre, each having a fitful dreaming quality to them. The reader eavesdrops on conversations between souls and bodies at the point of death and travels to some very strangely named places. This was my first taste of the author’s work and has compelled me to explore further.


The Stars My DestinationThe Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A brutally visceral and mind-bending psychotic trip that nevertheless sounds a triumphant note for the common man or woman … or, dare I say, the 99%


ClarinetClarinet by Jack Brymer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a thorough book on the clarinet from a world class player and expert on the instrument. Brymer is excellent on the history of the clarinet and also very much focused on the technical side of note production. He very quickly encourages the reader/player to begin thinking acoustically about their instrument in terms of a tube of vibrating air and to move away from a mere inputs (covering holes and blowing) and outputs (notes) approach. In order to progress to mastery of the clarinet the very quirks and compromises that are inherent in its design must be mitigated throughout the registers. It covers every aspect of clarinet playing and technique from a specifically classical orchestral and soloist point of view (i.e. don’t expect much insight on jazz or other styles of playing).


Four QuartetsFour Quartets by T.S. Eliot

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I want so badly to understand the appeal of this “classic” work. I will return to it repeatedly in the hope that on some reading in the future it will break open for me and I’ll come to love it as so many do. Until now, however, I have found that its 36 pages of overblown metaphysicality leaves me cold and unstirred, with the notable exception of the closing lines of “Little Gidding”, which really do blow me away.


Collected Poems, 1978 1999Collected Poems, 1978 1999 by Craig Raine

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I first encountered Craig Raine’s poetry it was like a homecoming, one of the most exciting moments in my literary youth. Here was someone who seemed to write about the same world that I saw through my eyes – the most commonplace things having a breathless mystery about them. I have since discovered that his approach spawned an entire school of “Martian Poetry” that takes his “A Martian Sends a Postcard Home” as its point of departure into a tour of the most familiar things seen through alien eyes: “There are tiddlywinks / of light in the summer woods. /Play with them. The ironing-board / has permanent lumbago. Pity it.” In “Scrap”, “The [petrol] pump held a gun to its head an empty theatrical gesture”. “Enquiry into Two Inches of Ivory”, “A Cemetery in Co.Durham” and “The Behaviour of Dogs” are the poems that stand out the most for me from this collection and are always with me.


The Shangri-La Diet: The No Hunger Eat Anything Weight-Loss PlanThe Shangri-La Diet: The No Hunger Eat Anything Weight-Loss Plan by Seth Roberts

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Obviously there has been a buzz about this book on the back of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. Like other reviewers I found it a very quick read and interesting enough to read in one sitting. Yes, the basics could fit on three pages but the “padding” is lightly engaging although repetitive at times. I did skim the chapter on the problems of global obesity because that’s not something I need convincing about. Like other reviewers I was impressed with Seth’s audacious self-experimentation and willingness to connect concepts in unorthodox ways.

So what about the “diet”? The concept at the core has this intuitive ring about it and resonates with some of the other bits and bobs that have crossed my radar recently, such as Michael Dowd‘s stuff on evolutionary psychology. The author is careful to include some examples of negative feedback he has had on the “diet” not working for some people. If it works for me, it will be astounding, and it could be the answer I’m looking for – but the proof will be in the eating …

It costs nothing to try and seems harmless so I’ll be giving it a go and reporting back.

View all my reviews

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5 Responses

  1. Huh, oh sorry, you had me at “macabre” – a favorite word of mine! Your feelings about Eliot are mine regarding “Gone with the Wind” as a movie. Epic pretension, liberally sprinkled with poor editing, overacting and…more epic pretension. There, I said it.

    • Ah yes – Did you ever come across the character “Faintly Macabre” in Norton Juster’s “Phantom Tollbooth”? Never forgotten forever afterwards when that word is encountered.

      Gone with the Wind, though? I don’t think I have ever watched the whole thing through and yet I know a couple of people for whom it is the greatest movie ever – no accounting for taste eh?

      Thank you so much for your consistent engagement with the stuff I put on this blog. I read yours but tend to feel that I am too inarticulate in my response to fire off a comment with out it being anything more than the appreciative “yeah” that tends to follow a fellow cat’s blinding jazz riffs.

      • (Place ridiculously self-aware Bugs Bunny laugh here). You see what I mean? You haven’t even seen it start to finish. That’s my point. I guess the editors figured that the subject matter was sufficiently over-the-top American complete with bombastic, over-the-top…well, everything else, that they said to one another, “just let ‘er run, Just let ‘er run, boys.”

  2. When I grow up, I’d like to learn to play the clarinet. My father played clarinet and sax in dance bands when he was a young man. There just wasn’t enough money in betting the ponies or playing poker.

    The problem is too many instruments, too little time, and the need to make a living along the way. I’d also like to learn the chemnitzer concertina or maybe the Hayden duet concertina. I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to it.

    The comment about the quirks and compromises inherent in the design of a clarinet holds true for button accordion too…although I have a long way to go in mastering that instrument too.

    • I have tried so many instruments in my life. My problem is I’m never content to listen to music, I want to make it – so when I hear something new I think “I want to do that” and that usually means I have to take up another instrument. In vain I have searched for that one instrument that so transcends the genres I love that I can play anything I want on it.The clarinet comes close but, alas, the technical challenges defeated me – reeds, tone production, tuning … nightmare. And that’s my other problem, as soon as progressing calls for more technical dedication, I’m out of there … and on to the next instrument …

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