At first Hitchens' cerebral, superior tone left me cold, but after a while, after all the clever arguments and extensive historical examples, you haveAt first Hitchens' cerebral, superior tone left me cold, but after a while, after all the clever arguments and extensive historical examples, you have to concede that the man makes a valid point. I don't consider myself to be anti-religious but after Hitchens' incessant and eloquent tirade I'd be forced to admit that, on balance, humanity would surely be better off if religion had never existed.
On the other hand an agressive piece of polemic like this is the type of text that will surely only be preaching to the choir. It's hard to imagine the devoutly religious even picking up a copy of a book entitled "God is not great", which perhaps makes you wonder as to the value of writing such a book at all. I'd be inclined to say that more moderate figures like Carl Sagan who preach their case in a more subtle way and do so within the context of broader subject matter are more likely to be genuinely persuasive in furthering the humanist cause. It's this that makes me suspect that this book will not stand the test of time in the same way that Cosmos has.
I'd recommend this to non-believers who want to read an excellent essay that supports their viewpoint. If you do believe in God then you almost certainly aren't reading this review....more
I wasn't especially impressed with this. I suppose it was a lot more readable than a lot of what I read these days. It's typical terry pratchett; TheI wasn't especially impressed with this. I suppose it was a lot more readable than a lot of what I read these days. It's typical terry pratchett; The content is likeable, the intent is laudable and the execution is questionable.
Not really worth reading but not an unpleasant reading experience either....more
Pretty boring all in all. This is the typical story of my journey through ancient and mythological texts. The mindblowing, magical, profound moments aPretty boring all in all. This is the typical story of my journey through ancient and mythological texts. The mindblowing, magical, profound moments are few and far between and the tedious recounting of boring battles and exaggerated degrees of scale (how incredibly strong someone is, how incredibly noble another character is etc) fill most of the pages.
This was a version where the translator chose to present many, non-essential parts in abbreviated form. The problem here was that the book still clocks in at 790 pages (the main text) and the bits that he considers to be important are not necessarily the bits that are of interest to me. The side stories and philosophical discussions that he skimmed over intrigued me far more than the dreary battles which dominate the narrative.
I came to greatly regret reading this penguin version instead of the Rajagopalachari version which is highly acclaimed and roughly half the length. His version of the Ramayana was so informal and charming, entertaining and concise. It was one of the most enjoyable mythological texts I've ever read. I'm actually tempted to buy his version of the Mahabharata and try again. Maybe the source material is just not as strong as the Ramayana but I suspect that it was the long-winded and overly respectful translation that made it so boring.
I wouldn't recommend this version of the Mahabharata, or any version of this length (I'm not convinced that there is enough interesting material here to warrant any more than 500 pages) but I wouldn't dissuade you from reading any version. I would think that there must be one or two worthwhile versions out there somewhere. Read Rajaji's version and let me know if it's any good....more
Cezanne definitely fits more into the category of "worthwhile" or "interesting" than ultimately "artistically successful". He never could draw very weCezanne definitely fits more into the category of "worthwhile" or "interesting" than ultimately "artistically successful". He never could draw very well. His real influence seems to have been to initiate a stream in art that derived its aesthetic choices from personal, internal principles, rather than academic ones. The impressionists could explain the theory behind their approach and you could see what they were getting at but it seems that Cezanne is the only person who ever truly understood the logic behind his own idiom.
He's one of these artists who was perhaps never very good at what he did but gets along on the strength of what he is trying to say. You can look at his paintings and read an analysis and say "yes, that is interesting" but for me, I was never convinced by the painting itself. A critic might say "this arrangement of elements increases the overall harmony of the composition" but i can only reply "ok, if you say so, I guess I'll have to take your word for it".
I like some of his paintings... a little bit... I wonder about artists attempting something interesting but failing in their execution. Is it enough simply to have tried? I'm not sure....more
I enjoyed this one a lot. Besides the sort of stuff you would expect, Maugham also offers some interesting insights and speculations into the lives ofI enjoyed this one a lot. Besides the sort of stuff you would expect, Maugham also offers some interesting insights and speculations into the lives of his subjects. I especially like his contention that numerous men proposed to the plain and penniless Charlotte Bronte on the grounds that she was clearly "highly sexed". It's a nice little mix of biography and criticism but the fact that it is the work of a good Novelist means that the personalities of these authors really do come across in a very rich sort of way.
I'd recommend this to any reader of classic novels....more
This was OK. I've already forgotten what happened in it. It's pretty insubstantial but then so are an awful lot of graphic novels. I guess the main thThis was OK. I've already forgotten what happened in it. It's pretty insubstantial but then so are an awful lot of graphic novels. I guess the main thing you want from a graphic novel is to have one or two bits that make you go "ah, yeah that's cool" and this had that so I wasn't disappointed.
I'd recommend this to any fan of Supherhero graphic novels who has already read the big ones....more
An illuminating and fairly well-written biography. It's nice to read around the factual side of an author like Bukowski where you feel like you alreadAn illuminating and fairly well-written biography. It's nice to read around the factual side of an author like Bukowski where you feel like you already know his life story from his work....more
This book had a funny quality of being printed on paper that had a sort of seam in the pages about 1cm away from the spine. This meant a lot of the paThis book had a funny quality of being printed on paper that had a sort of seam in the pages about 1cm away from the spine. This meant a lot of the pages were coming out, almost as if the book had intentionally been designed to have the pages be easily pulled out (though I'm not sure this was actually the case). So a lot of pictures were missing.
Klimt is a great draughtsman and has a knack of creating those weird, lush, shiny surfaces. I don't think he's a very interesting artist though. Besides his fascination with eroticism and the female form I don't think he has anything very interesting to say with his work. Many of his commissions were supposed to be based on certain themes (Medicine, Justice etc) and the writer of the book seemed nonplussed as to how Klimt's final work related to the original specifications. I like his famous portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer but i wouldn't call myself a fan of his work or anything....more
I really enjoyed this audiobook. Obviously any account of the production of the worst film ever made is going to have plenty of amusing anecdotes butI really enjoyed this audiobook. Obviously any account of the production of the worst film ever made is going to have plenty of amusing anecdotes but I was also impressed by how poignant and sinister the narrative occasionally became.
I think this is a must-read for anyone who likes "The Room" and probably also a very rewarding read for anyone interested in how films get made....more
Mandela is without question an impressive and inspirational figure. I don't know if he's much of a writer though. I listened to an abridged audiobookMandela is without question an impressive and inspirational figure. I don't know if he's much of a writer though. I listened to an abridged audiobook (about 6 hours). I'd say it was just about worth it. If I'd had to work my way through the 600+ page book I'm not so sure I'd feel the same way....more
For the most part I enjoyed this series way more than I expected and I also felt that the ideas really resonated with me. The first 4 books in the serFor the most part I enjoyed this series way more than I expected and I also felt that the ideas really resonated with me. The first 4 books in the series (in publication order: Lion, Caspian, Dawn Treader, Silver Chair) are probably the best overall. #5 (the horse and his boy) is almost as good. 6 and 7 (The Magicians nephew, the last battle) are pretty cool but also kind of inaccessible. The first 5 books really feel like powerful, mystical fantasy novels that clearly have philosophical ideas running the proceedings, and yet the philosophy itself feels quite open to interpretation. There are a few "on the nose" moments where the christian allegory is a little thinly disguised but the theology functions more as fuel for Lewis' ideas rather than the central message. The final 2 books were just a little too heavily laden with the Christian Dogma and they lost that openness of interpretation and ultimately feel like sermons more than real novels. I think these last two books in the series are the ones that are responsible for the Narnia curmudgeons like Phillip Pullman who hate the ideologies that Lewis is trying to impress upon his audience. If he had ended the series after book 4 or 5 i think the Narnia books would be a little easier to stomach for a secular audience. As it is, the series overall kinda irks me.
Having said all that I still think the good bits are so brilliant that I would recommend this series to most readers, though somewhat reservedly. I was thinking of buying a copy for a 12 yr old boy i know but now I'm not sure. Those final 2 books remind me of Life of Pi, a novel that fails as a novel thanks to its insincere, polemical agenda. Having said that, this kid says he liked Life of Pi, so I guess he doesn't mind being lectured....more
I enjoyed this a lot for the most part but my enthusiasm started to wane towards the end. I think there's a problem in that this book appears to haveI enjoyed this a lot for the most part but my enthusiasm started to wane towards the end. I think there's a problem in that this book appears to have been conceived as a "true-to-life" yet also instructional novel for girls and so is full of moralising and subtly idealised characters. This works OK for the first half of the book where the sisters are girls and having to deal with girls' problems, but in the second half where they are women, dealing with adult problems, the moralistic, idealised narrative starts to become less convincing. It's ok to write sweet little moral stories about children but I don't think you can really get away with the same approch to writing about teenagers/young adults without the results ringing false.
Alcott was praised at the time for writing realistic, 3-dimensional characters, but these characters were deemed 3-dimensional by a heavily conservative, puritanical nation. They are believable to a point and yet also a little lacking in genuine human weakness. Alcott is happy to show her characters go through petty squabbles and small bouts of selfishness but nothing more severe than that.
I guess time will tell me how I feel about this novel. I really enjoyed most of it but I don't know how I feel about this phoniness. Will I remember the sweet, wise storyteller, full of sober insights, or the loveable characters? Or will I just remember the bogusness of it all?
Cautiously recommended for anyone who can stomach saccharine literature....more
I like Thackeray. He's a hoary old goat with a sharp wit and a soft heart. I think i liked this book more in principle than in practice. It was very cI like Thackeray. He's a hoary old goat with a sharp wit and a soft heart. I think i liked this book more in principle than in practice. It was very clever and quite funny and every few pages i would encounter some very memorable little nugget of wisdom. I guess ultimately it's another of these long-sentenced 19th Century novels where you really have to rev your brain in order to follow what's going on and the overall impression is more of intellect and wit as opposed to fun and emotional engagement.
It was an excellent book in spite of my lukewarm feelings for it. I'd strongly recommend it to anyone who enjoys erudite and somewhat inaccessible old novels....more
I loved Jane Eyre and this occasionally reminded me of the greatness of that book but ultimately it was too long-winded and pretentious.
CB frequentlyI loved Jane Eyre and this occasionally reminded me of the greatness of that book but ultimately it was too long-winded and pretentious.
CB frequently uses numerous adjectives where 1 would suffice: "I had heard hundreds of such little minced, docked, dry phrases, from the pursed-up coral lips of a score of self-possessed, self-sufficing misses and mesdemoiselles."
She frequently uses obscure words that need to be looked up where commonplace words would suffice: "I must expiate my culpable vehemence!"
She frequently writes in a hysterical and rambling tone about her abstruse psychological mechanisms: "Truth, you are a good mistress to your faithful servants! While a lie pressed me, how I suffered! Even when the Falsehood was still sweet, still flattering to the fancy, and warm to the feelings, it wasted me with hourly torment... Truth stripped away Falsehood, and flattery, and Expectancy..."
And sometimes her sentences are so breathless and poorly-constructed that it's hard to know what to make of them: "Hereupon I was put through a course of reading- that is, I just glanced at the books lent me; they were too little in my way to be thoroughly read, marked, learned, or inwardly digested. And besides, I had a book up-stairs, under my pillow, whereof certain chapters satisfied my needs in the article of spiritual lore, furnishing such precept and example as, to my heart's core, I was convinced could not be improved on."
In other words, she writes like a woman, and as with when i have to listen to a woman, i tend to zone out and find myself thinking of other things....more