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arbieroo

Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

Thomas Middleton and Early Modern Textual Culture: A Companion to the Collected Works
Thomas Middleton, Gary Taylor
Progress: 63/1183 pages
The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry
Robert Chandler
The Uncertain Land and Other Poems
Patrick O'Brian
Progress: 8/160 pages
The Poems and Plays of John Masefield
John Masefield
Progress: 78/534 pages
Poems Selected
Emily Dickinson, Ted Hughes
Progress: 4/50 pages
Selected Poems
U A Fanthorpe
Progress: 18/160 pages
The Penguin Book of Scottish Verse
Mick Imlah, Robert Crawford
Hainish Novels & Stories, Vol. 2
Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 133/789 pages
The Art Book
Editors of Phaidon Press
Progress: 286/515 pages
The Essential Shakespeare
Ted Hughes
Progress: 82/259 pages

Reading progress update: I've read 55 out of 218 pages.

Phases of Gravity - Dan Simmons Not sure there's gonna be an actual plot in this book...

Reading progress update: I've read 1969 out of 2016 pages.

Thomas Middleton: The Collected Works -  MacDonald P. Jackson (Editor),  John Jowett (Editor),  John Lavagnino,  V. Wayne, Gary Taylor, Thomas Middleton

The Wisdom of Solomon Paraphrased

 

Absolutely atrocious! Even dramatists with excellent reputations were once inept teenagers, it seems - usually they don't get their horrible juvenilia published before they enter their third decade, though. No wonder the dedicatee didn't cough up any money for this poem - it's complete drivel that nobody with any appreciation would want to be associated with. For completists only and best treated with a big dollop of laughter in order to stave off a breakdown. It's a very loose adaptation of one of the apocryphal books of the Bible; probably best to read it there.

Reading progress update: I've read 276 out of 515 pages.

The Art Book - Editors of Phaidon Press

Guess which painting they picked to represent Leonardo Da Vinci?

Reading progress update: I've read 58 out of 1183 pages.

Thomas Middleton and Early Modern Textual Culture: A Companion to the Collected Works - Thomas Middleton, Gary Taylor

A 16th Century sheet of music is reproduced. It has the widely familiar five bar stave notation. How old is this notation, I wonder?

Reading progress update: I've read 1966 out of 2016 pages.

Thomas Middleton: The Collected Works -  MacDonald P. Jackson (Editor),  John Jowett (Editor),  John Lavagnino,  V. Wayne, Gary Taylor, Thomas Middleton

Still under 17 at the time of writing but Middleton still manages to work in a complaint about lawyers! His mother's dispute with his step-father really had an early and profound impact, it seems. A lot of the obvious anger should probably have been directed at said step-father, though.

Reading progress update: I've read 260 out of 515 pages.

The Art Book - Editors of Phaidon Press

Jeff Koons: Anybody making monumental flower sculptures of puppies is doing good work, as far as I'm concerned:

 

Reading progress update: I've read 248 out of 410 pages.

Billy Budd, Sailor and Selected Tales - Herman Melville, Robert Milder

Benito Cereno: Wowzas! 150 years or so puts a radically different perspective on this tale (based on a true story) of slaves and their masters. Unfortunately the story is poorly structured, which is highly detrimental. 

Avilion, Robert Holdstock

Avilion - Robert Holdstock

I'm not sure if this was Holdstock's last book, but it was certainly his last book about Ryhope Wood, the first being the justly famous Mythago Wood. It's interesting to compare first to last. Mythago Wood starts off as science fiction, or at the very least with a character who is trying to understand mysterious phenomena in the ancient woodland next to his home scientifically. Before Avilion is over it seems like nothing but magic can explain all the bizarre goings on. Mythago Wood is very much about mythic archetypes. Avilion is very much about specific characters from myth/legend. There's a big difference between a warrior who unites a kingdom and Arthur who dies fighting Mordred; the latter is a specific instance of the former. Mythago Wood is about a family that breaks apart self-destructively. Avilion is about a family that despite separation, remains a strong, healthy unit. Mythago Wood is about outsiders entering an alien realm. Avilion is about people who have an inside perspective of the same realm.

 

When I think back over the several Holdstock works I've read, I notice a common theme of writing about broken families - families that have become physically or emotionally separated (or both), families where internal abuse of power occurs. Families that either struggle to repair themselves or dissolve into anger and hate or get their members hopelessly lost to each other in space or time or emotional distance. Interesting then, that this final Mythago book lays heavy emphasis on hope for the family that have been central to the entire saga. Unfortunate that it does so too heavy-handedly, at the end. Also unfortunate that the plot sags before the denouement, taking too much time to move the chess-pieces (aka characters) to their correct spots.

Reading progress update: I've read 14 out of 404 pages.

Magnetic Reconnection in Plasmas (Cambridge Monographs on Plasma Physics) - Dieter Biskamp

Heehee - bangs on about gauge invariance like it's a school topic everybody reading will know and understand. Actually there's no guarantee that a Physics BSc has even heard of it...

Reading progress update: I've read 24 out of 498 pages.

Collected Poems - John Betjeman

"Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough!
It isn't fit for humans now,
There isn't grass to graze a cow.
Swarm over, Death!"

Reading progress update: I've read 246 out of 515 pages.

The Art Book - Editors of Phaidon Press

Shout out to Frida Kahlo, more widely known since the biopic starring Salma Hayek, I think.

 

Reading progress update: I've read 273 out of 342 pages.

Avilion - Robert Holdstock

Running out of time for the inevitable but mysterious crisis when everybody finally congregates in one place...

Reading progress update: I've read 240 out of 515 pages.

The Art Book - Editors of Phaidon Press

Shout out to Gwen John, Welsh portrait painter, overshadowed by her brother during her lifetime but now considered the greater artist.

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 50 out of 1183 pages.

Thomas Middleton and Early Modern Textual Culture: A Companion to the Collected Works - Thomas Middleton, Gary Taylor

...lists...skims...lists...skims some more...

 

Lists aren't an interesting topic of academic study.

Empires of the Word, Nicholas Ostler

Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World - Nicholas Ostler

I bought this thinking it would be philological in nature, but it turned out to be something else entirely; a history of the spread (and decline in many cases) of the use of major languages throughout history. Traditional philology gets only fleeting mentions. If the author is to be believed, such a thing has never been attempted before.

 

Hence I was less interested than I had hoped, but that isn't the fault of the author - and I wasn't totally uninterested, either. Parts of the book, mainly those overlapping with pre-existing interests of mine, were fascinating, other parts were a bit of a grind. The basic idea of examining how conventional historical processes (e.g. military, colonial, mercantile, migrational, religious, technological) impact the use, spread and decline of languages did seem interesting and original, particularly the generalising conclusions but, oddly, they come before the detailed exposition they are derived from.

 

Strongly recommended to history buffs - not so much to anybody else.

Reading progress update: I've read 225 out of 515 pages.

The Art Book - Editors of Phaidon Press

If Hiroshige was included, Hokusai was guaranteed to also appear.