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Posts posted by Seiichi

  1. Taken on its own, I found Ring to be quite good. I didn't enjoy the second book, Spiral. I seem to have a different opinion from other people about which half of Spiral was better, but after finishing it, I didn't feel inclined to read Loop, the final book in the series.

  2. So, I'm on the Amazon forums. There's a thread much like our own "Most Overrated?" My original post read:


    "Eco's "The Name of the Rose" (abandoned at page 40), Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" (abandoned way before page 40, the last three HP books (especially "Deathly Hallows", the only one I couldn't finish), "Twilight" (gave up 100 pages into the first one, but they were 100 pages of torture)."

    A quitter? No. Maybe a glutton for punishment for using the Amazon forums and reading certain books against your better judgment (I thought you said you wouldn't touch Twilight with a barge pole, or maybe you're just too curious to ignore any book completely).

  3. I'm slowly making my way through the books --- I'm reading the original Moncrieff translation that's available online. As far as I can tell, Moncrieff is a little too literal in places and perhaps doesn't do justice to the original French when capturing the mood and language. I'm reminded of something my Latin teacher once said: literal translations are good for GCSE, but a good translator will also try to capture the beauty of the language. As far as I know, the new Penguin translations are a little looser and attempt to reflect the change in the writer's voice. Whichever you prefer comes down to how you like your translations, although I've heard Lydia Davis' translation of Volume 1 is excellent and is preferable to Moncrieff's.


    As a companion book, I'd recommend reading How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain De Botton. Also, if you can get hold of a copy of Cultural Amnesia, Clive James wrote a lovely entry on Proust.

  4. I'm curious to know whether they only object when the author actually calls it a prologue? I've seen some books, for example, where the prologue is simply headed with a date or a year, then when it switches to the next section of the book, it starts with another date or year, or is titled PART ONE, or something similar (sorry if I'm rambling, but I'm finding it difficult to explain!). Would editors and agents also class that as a prologue and have the same objections?
    I've been thinking the same thing, but I suspect the same editors would probably still make the prologue Chapter 1, use the date as a subheading, and continue with the scheme for subsequent chapters.

  5. Having just finished it, I feel moved, somewhat emotional even, and saddened that my - now this may sound weird - friend Edgar has gone. I wonder about this. The character remains safe within the pages of the novel, which very shortly will be returned to its place on the shelf. There he will be if I revisit the novel in time to come, and yet this time is lost. The growth one experiences with a character can only be felt once.

    I felt there was a little bit of Heart of Darkness in Edgar's journey to Burma, and the author captures the jungle atmosphere pretty well.

    It's tragic what happens. I recognize the build-up is all there, but the way the novel was paced and how events were presented made the ending a little unexpected and all the more tragic.

    Three or four years after reading this, I can still remember Edgar's final image vividly.

  6. Not wanting to be rude, but "Everybody should read" Harry Potter, Twilight and Jodi Picoult? Really? They might be peoples' favourite books, but I'm hard pressed to believe everybody should read them, that there's any merit beyond entertainment...
    I agree with your sentiments. Under normal circumstances, I'd be appalled if people were told they should read Stephanie Meyer or Dan Brown, but there aren't any rules set down here. I'd struggle in good conscience to list five books/series that people should read. I can only think of two books:


    1. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust


    and, despite the errors, the Katherine Woods translation of


    2. The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery.

  7. It is the year 1665. Ever since the declaration of 1666 as the Year of the Beast, the religious have been in a state of anxiety, for the end of the world approaches. It is said that their only hope of salvation lies within an obscure book known as The Hundredth Name. The Koran speaks of ninety-nine names of God, but it is believed that The Hundredth Name contains an additional name which, when uttered, allows the invoker to call upon His protection.


    When asked about the book, curio merchant Balthasar Embriaco attempts to persuade his customers that in all likelihood it does not exist. Everything changes when he is unexpectedly given the book. He finds himself selling it even before he has had the chance to glimpse its contents or ascertain its authenticity. Persuaded by his elder nephew Boumeh, he leaves for Constantinople in the hope of retrieving the book. Events conspire against him and he finds himself travelling his journey further afield. In an age of religious and political anxiety he meets all sorts, from religious fanatics and madmen to those who retain their own sense of rationalism.


    Among the believers in the coming apocalypse is Boumeh, who is single-minded in his pursuit of the book. Although a non-religious Christian and a healthy skeptic, Balthasar is weak-willed: logic is overridden by anxiety, and he finds his skepticism gently eroded by the murmurings of doomsayers. Against his own advice, and feeling the anxieties spread by the religious maniacs, he finds himself looking for signs that are not there. It's a shame that Balthasar is reduced to using mysticism to explain events, disregarding the sage words of the people he meets on his journey.


    On his journey he falls in love with people and places. It is as if the journey has allowed him to live for the first time, experiencing never-felt passions and succumbing to the brash decisions of youth. His journey concludes in guilt and regret about what has happened and what could have been. Little is resolved satisfactorily and the people important to Balthasar disappear. In the end, despite everything he has been through, Balthasar remains unchanged as a person, as if he had been a passive observer all along---a prodigal son making his way back home in a confused world.

  8. Masterpiece tells the remarkable story of celebrated Brit-artist Esther Glass, who audaciously puts herself up for sale by auction at Sotheby's as a living masterpiece, to be owned by the highest bidder for a week. For each day of her 'possession', Esther will perform as one of seven iconic woman, themselves the subjects of great paintings from the past --- Christina of Denmark by Hobein, Olympia by Manet, Madonna of the Pinks by Raphael, Madame de Senonnes by Ingress, Mrs Leyland by Whistler, Isabelle d'Este by Leonardo da Vinci, and Judith and Holofernes by Klimt.


    A savvy media icon and seasoned global traveller, Esther begins an extraordinary art adventure that takes her to major European galleries and the Frick in New York to research her seven selected masterpieces. Once sold, she returns to Manhattan for her week of ownership. There she is forced to confront financial corruption by her dealers, the instability of her relationship with her lover and, on her return to London, her own core values as an artist, daughter and woman.

    I have mixed feelings about this book. The idea is interesting, and Miranda Glover seems to be at her best when discussing art. Unfortunately, the narrator of the story is Esther, and it is testing to read the thoughts of a self-obsessed artist, propelled into celebrity status. Esther's personal problems are of her own making, a result of a past that she intends to keep secret. She hides behind her artwork, unwilling to face her problems face on, and it's this tendency to skirt around the issues, instead attributing them to others, that makes it difficult to like her...initially. Her celebrity status attracts the usual problems: having to deal with the gutter press who would love for her to fail (how endearing the British press can be!) and, as can be expected from the dumbing down culture prevalent today (in this case, a swipe at the Today programme from BBC Radio 4), intrusion into her private relationship as if it has any bearing on her current project.


    Her work on the Possession series does make Esther reflect on her own life. There are qualities in her subjects that she can identify with, the only exception perhaps being the Madonna with her motherly qualities. For me, learning about the women behind the paintings and how their lives fit in with the theme of possession is what drove the first part of the novel as I got to grips with Esther's character. Through Esther and her flashbacks, Miranda Glover makes an important point about art: it is only when you understand the concept underlying a work and view it in its proper context that you can appreciate it. This comes through well in the book. It is interesting to see how Esther's ideas and concepts for her performances are shaped, and it is possible to develop an appreciation for her masterpiece; but when each piece is viewed independently of each other, and the artist's intentions are unclear, it's easy for the viewer to feel underwhelmed by the work. This reminds me of something that is said in The Trial of True Love: when viewing a gallery, you get more out of the experience when you know what you are looking for and are not distracted by anything else. In this case, her work is intended to be viewed as a collection with a unifying theme. With this in mind, despite the lukewarm (and sometimes hostile) reactions to her individual performances (the viewers had no idea what they were watching), it's possible to believe that Esther's final exhibition of the Possession series might be successful.

  9. I have a varied taste when it comes to non-fiction books, but I prefer to set aside time specifically for reading them, mainly because I tend to read about science and mathematics. At the moment I'm trying to clear my TBR pile of fiction books before attempting Cultural Amnesia, Clive James' autobiography.


    My current non-fiction read is Molecular Gastronomy by Herve This.
    I'd love to read this book. I remember putting it on my wish list when the first series of Heston Blumenthal's In Search of Perfection was broadcast.

  10. I thought the MMR section was very well done.. he doesn't try to tell you whether to have the jab or not, but simply outlines what happened, how it was SO badly reported, how research was ignored by the media etc - he explains so well everything that I try to tell parents.
    I agree. The MMR chapter was especially interesting because, as well as illustrating the things he talked about in previous chapters, it showed how devestating the combination of bad research and bad reporting can be. Bad research can be refuted, but bad reporting goes unpunished.


    If I remember correctly, Ben Goldacre points out that the science journalists trained to cover articles on MMR were taken off the story, and were replaced with "big name" journalists---people who perpuate the myth "that science is hard". Then you had the columnists who wrote from a position of ignorance, but assumed a position of authority, simply because they thought they knew better. The blame, of course, lies with the editors, who are keen to push out a good story before proper background research has been done. This is the kind of problem Nick Davies talks about in his book Flat Earth News and the kind of thing you don't expect in a country where "education, education, education" were supposed to be top priorities. Bad science reporting continues as Ben Goldacre points out in a recent Bad Science article. It seems the press and media are able to continue as if they did nothing wrong. This is why I think his chapter on the press and media's attitude to health stories is so important, especially for those of us who form part of the ill-informed masses.


    Throughout the book he also gives good information about what makes good research, and what to look out for.


    For anyone interested in health stories, it's definitely a great read.

    It's wishful thinking that the administrators in charge of the livelihood of others, especially children, should read this book. Hopefully, I won't read any more stories along the lines of Brain Gym or fish oil supplements in the future.

  11. The chapter wasn't in the initial print of the book because he was being sued by the protagonist, Matthius Rath. The material is now allowed out.

    I had forgotten about that. Thanks for the link.


    This is one of those books that I think everyone should read.