The Fun Stuff: And Other Essays

bookshelves: essays, fradio, published-2012, radio-4, spring-2014, nonfiction, lit-crit, books-about-books-and-book-shops

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from March 03 to 07, 2014



Description: Highlights from an entertaining and idiosyncratic series of essays from James Wood, the leading literary critic of his generation. It’s a collection which ranges widely, from a loving analysis of Keith Moon’s drum technique to the intentions, gifts and limitations of some of our most celebrated modern novelists, including Kazuo Ishiguro and Ian McEwan.

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Wood analyses the lost genius of Moon and his ability to create magic out of mayhem, relating this to his own experience of learning to play drums as a boy.

2. KAZUO ISHIGURO: NEVER LET ME GO: Wood considers a masterwork that melds sci-fi with literary fiction – a cloning story that ‘combines the fantastic and realistic till we can no longer separate them’.

3. MARILYNNE ROBINSON: Wood looks at the religious sensibility of the American author whose Pulitzer Prize winning Gilead was one of the most ‘unconventional…popular novels of recent times.’

4. CONTAINMENT: TRAUMA AND MANIPULATION IN IAN McEWAN: Wood admires and critiques the author of Atonement, Enduring Love and On Chesil Beach – ‘the great contemporary stager of traumatic contingency as it strikes ordinary lives’.

5. PACKING MY FATHER-IN-LAW’S LIBRARY: Wood describes disposing of his late father in law’s library, and considers whether our personal collections of books hide us more than reveal us to our descendants.

Abridged by Eileen Horne
Reader: TBA

Produced by Clive Brill
A Pacificus production for BBC Radio 4.

A whimsy, a ramble, and okay on in the background but did I learn anything WOW or did it have me convinced that this IS made of the fun stuff promised in the title?

Not at all.

I would be mildly furious if I had shelled out for this, however for those lit-crit luvvies it may be worth a go.

Listen Here


Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington

bookshelves: published-2013, spring-2014, biography, music, nonfiction, north-americas, fraudio, palate-cleanser, history, under-100-ratings

Read from February 23 to March 06, 2014

Read by Peter Francis James
Unabridged edition 2013 | 17 hours and 43 minutes

A major new biography of Duke Ellington from the acclaimed author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong.

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Description: Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was the greatest jazz composer of the twentieth century – and an impenetrably enigmatic personality whom no one, not even his closest friends, claimed to understand. The grandson of a slave, he dropped out of high school to become one of the world’s most famous musicians, a showman of incomparable suavity who was as comfortable in Carnegie Hall as in the nightclubs where he honed his style. He wrote some fifteen hundred compositions, many of which, like “Mood Indigo” and “Sophisticated Lady,” remain beloved standards, and he sought inspiration in an endless string of transient lovers, concealing his inner self behind a smiling mask of flowery language and ironic charm. As the biographer of Louis Armstrong, Terry Teachout is uniquely qualified to tell the story of the public and private lives of Duke Ellington. Duke peels away countless layers of Ellington’s evasion and public deception to tell the unvarnished truth about the creative genius who inspired Miles Davis to say, “All the musicians should get together one certain day and get down on their knees and thank Duke.”

Does anyone else remember the Jazz Club se(le)ctions within the Fast Show? You do? NICE!

Black, Brown and Beige – D.Ellington.

Ellington doesn’t seem to have been a very nice man, but that said, why should we worry over whether he was affable or not. We do not have to personally like our authors, artists or peers, instead we judge the work that they produce.

Teachout is masterful here, showcasing the exciting history of black music in America. Well worth the read, or in my case, the listen.

50 Ellington songs



The Blackhouse

bookshelves: published-2009, tbr-busting-2014, series, winter-20132014, mystery-thriller, e-book, britain-scotland, gr-library, contemporary, first-in-series, medical-eew, religion, glbt, bullies, bedside, hebridean, zoology, teh-demon-booze, revenge

Read from June 19, 2013 to March 05, 2014

Here we go: They are just kids. Sixteen years old. Emboldened by alcohol. and hastened by the approaching Sabbath, they embrace the dark in search of love and find only death.

Excellent; looking forward to the next.

The Guga Hunt, Sula Sgeir. The chute used to drop the guga down to the boat.

3.5* The Blackhouse
TR The Lewis Man (Lewis Trilogy, #2)
TR The Chessmen (Lewis Trilogy, #3)


The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice

bookshelves: essays, fraudio, published-1995, spring-2014, roman-catholic, nonfiction, christian, history, religion, tbr-busting-2014, politics, philosophy, india, calcutta, lifestyles-deathstyles

Read from March 04 to 05, 2014


Written by: Christopher Hitchens, Thomas Mallon (foreword)
Narrated by: Simon Prebble
Length: 2 hrs and 11 mins
Format: Unabridged

Description: A Nobel Peace Prize recipient beatified by the Catholic Church in 2003, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was celebrated by heads of state and adored by millions for her work on behalf of the poor. In his measured critique, Hitchens asks only that Mother Teresa’s reputation be judged by her actions-not the other way around.

Among his many books, perhaps none have sparked more outrage than The Missionary Position, Christopher Hitchens’s meticulous study of the life and deeds of Mother Teresa.

A Nobel Peace Prize recipient beatified by the Catholic Church in 2003, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was celebrated by heads of state and adored by millions for her work on behalf of the poor. In his measured critique, Hitchens asks only that Mother Teresa’s reputation be judged by her actions-not the other way around.

With characteristic elan and rhetorical dexterity, Hitchens eviscerates the fawning cult of Teresa, recasting the Albanian missionary as a spurious, despotic, and megalomaniacal operative of the wealthy who long opposed measures to end poverty, and fraternized, for financial gain, with tyrants and white-collar criminals throughout the world.

Somewhat a redundant read given the year that I have finally got around to this and there was nothing in it that any intelligent person hadn’t sussed out about the disservice she did to the Culcutta poor. Far better would have been if she could hand out dunkies and pain killers instead of telling them that pain brings you nearer to God, and it is everyone’s duty (except hers, of course) to bring children to Christ. Powerful writing as always.

4* The Portable Atheist
TR God Is Not Great
TR Mortality
4* Arguably
TR Letters To A Young Contrarian
4* The Missionary Position


Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956

bookshelves: fraudio, lifestyles-deathstyles, nonfiction, spring-2014, published-2012, cold-war, slavic, tbr-busting-2014, totalitarian, military-maneuvers, newtome-author, history, bullies, casual-violence, gangsters, recreational-homicide, rid-the-world-of-tyrants

Read from March 02 to 04, 2014


rosado mp3

Description: At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union to its surprise and delight found itself in control of a huge swath of territory in Eastern Europe. Stalin and his secret police set out to convert a dozen radically different countries to Communism, a completely new political and moral system. In Iron Curtain, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anne Applebaum describes how the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe were created and what daily life was like once they were complete. She draws on newly opened East European archives, interviews, and personal accounts translated for the first time to portray in devastating detail the dilemmas faced by millions of individuals trying to adjust to a way of life that challenged their every belief and took away everything they had accumulated. Today the Soviet Bloc is a lost civilization, one whose cruelty, paranoia, bizarre morality, and strange aesthetics Applebaum captures in the electrifying pages of Iron Curtain.

Cassandra Campbell reads

I encounter this as a salute to Ukraine.

“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.”― Aldous Huxley, Collected Essays