intraspace: the review lounge

Saturday, December 31, 2005

the little world of don camillo

the little world of don camillo, by giovanni guareschi

this is a classic work of italian fiction from the post-war period. don camillo is a catholic priest who goes head to head with the communist mayor, peppone. both characters are rogues who try to outsmart each other for the benefit of the church and the communist party.

the book has great humour and is really a rather cunning insight into human nature. don camillo has constant conversations with God, and these also provide some interesting insights.

this seems to be a very good translation and is very easy to read. i think it would make an excellent movie, and apparently it has been done a couple of times - the original italian one receiving the best reviews. it was done more recently in the 80s, but methinks some talented movie maker needs to pick this one up again and do it properly.

very worth reading.

on the headphones: 'verona' by elemeno p (wow, there is actually a slight link there), from the album 'love and disrespect'.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

essential new zealand poems

essential new zealand poems, selected by lauris edmond and bill sewell

it's difficult to really review a book like this. what can you say? for me, this was a pretty good selection of new zealand poetry and well worth reading through. all the 'stars' of nz poetry are represented and i think there is quite a good range. the book is targetting joe public so there is nothing very challenging here, but that's ok.

strangely, given the fact that i write poetry myself, i'm not a big fan of reading other people's poetry. what hope is there? if poets don't like reading poetry then what hope is there that poetry will ever be read? someone better sort all this out and quickly before poetry becomes a total freakshow as far as the average person is concerned. but my reason for not being a big fan is that i haven't yet found a poet that i can fully enjoy - don't get me wrong i believe in poetry but haven't found my favourite poet so far.

all that raving aside though, this book is a good introduction to nz poetry and easy to read. quite nice actually, i didn't have to force myself to read it, and i think that if people who don't normally read poetry read this then they might actually quite enjoy it. maybe this book part of the solution.

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that hideous strength

that hideous strength, by c.s. lewis

this is the last book in lewis's space trilogy - although this one never goes into space. the interstellar supernatural spiritual battle between good and evil visits earth itself. dr ransom again features as the hero, although not so much the main character this time.

in this book, lewis focuses on jane and mark studdock - a somewhat unhappily married newlywed couple who find themselves on opposite sides of the great universal struggle. an organisation known as N.I.C.E start taking over small-town england and hope to resurrect merlin (ie the arthurian wizard) from the dead. in the event, merlin does come back, turning this book into a giant mishmash of theology, legend, sci-fi and philosophy. not to mention a little romance thrown in for good measure. the book ends with creatures getting it on all over the place (slight queezy feeling here - but not as bad as seeing hobbits reunited and jumping around on a bed in slow-motion). to find out exactly how lewis manages to get the story to that point you'll have to read it for yourself.

there is some brilliant writing in this book - lewis at his best. he can never resist having his characters indulge in long philosophical discourses but we just have to live with that. lewis is surprisingly free in his discussions of sexuality and allows his characters to be quite gritty. there are some great moments of visual imagery and also some quite brutal scenes. i definitely recommend the entire trilogy.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

the story of england

the story of england, by tom beaumont james

just so that i can’t be pegged down by my review of the miles book, here is something completely different - a history of england. being of english descent myself, and always interested to hear what went on in that country, i wanted to get a book like this to gain a kind of background knowledge of england’s history. when i say ‘a book like this’ - i mean a book of less than 400 pages.

the problems with that are immediately obvious - our author (whom we shall simply refer to as ‘tom’) has had to leave a lot out, hasn’t filled in areas which might have been interesting, glossed over things, and assumed that we know things that we don’t.

not that there isn’t anything interesting in the book (there is) but tom is obviously a bit of a fan of archeology, and he wastes space talking about the history of that science, when he could have been talking about some of the more fascinating things that that science has found

nonetheless, this book did give me a bit of narrative framework on which to hang the things i already knew about england, writing and history. so it was worth reading and kept me pretty engrossed.

gladometer ('how glad am i that i read it?') rating: reasonably glad.

on the headphones: ‘hey son (flash harry remix)’ by the black seeds, from the album ‘pushed’ (not from england by the way).

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Saturday, December 03, 2005

miles: the autobiography

miles: the autobiography, by miles davis and quincy troupe

this is a classic of jazz writing. and while i'm reaching for superlatives, can i also say that it is pretty much an essential read for anyone interested in jazz?

miles davis was apparently quite well-known for getting details wrong, but even if every detail in this book isn't entirely accurate, it still gives great insight into the jazz world he inhabited.

nearly every famous name in jazz was associated with davis at some point in their career, and his life spanned pretty-much every jazz movement from big band to acid jazz, although this account ends before the last couple of albums he did.

now, as for the writing itself, the text sounds like miles sitting down and rabbiting off his recollections (although i'm sure putting the book together was actually a bit of a nightmare for quincy troupe) and that works well. the book is somewhat famous for the way it liberated the word motherf****r - miles found ways to use it in every conceivable way. so if your ears burn, then this might be a struggle. not only that but miles comes across as a tiny bit racist and sexist - i'll leave it up to you to decide how much irony i'm using in the words 'tiny bit'.

gladometer ('how glad am i that i read it?') rating: pretty glad.

on the headphones: 'into the ocean' by evermore, from the album 'dreams' (not jazz by the way).

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this is my new blog. i've called it 'intraspace' meaning 'inner space' - an arguably pretentious title for a site where i'll review books, films and albums i've recently read, watched and heard.

you can check out my other internet offerings by using the links to the right.

new reviews coming soon...

on the headphones: 'godless' by the dandy warhols, from the album 'thirteen tales from urban bohemia'.