Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Trying to Critique an Academic Book


So those of you that know me well will know that I have studied hard for an MA in English Literature at Anglia Ruskin. I suppose you could say that I have a bit of a love affair with the academic side of life and especially for trawling through cavernous, dusty libraries in university towns - my favourite being the University Library at Cambridge Uni.

I tell myself that I very much want to stay in touch with this academic way of life, if nothing else to stretch my mind further than I have done already. Enter stage left the opportunity to become part of panel of book reviewers for the Annotated Bibliography of English Studies.

This came about in the usual form of an email from one of my Anglia Ruskin University lecturers and I thought to myself "and why not". If nothing else I get to receive new books, write about them analytically at a high academic standard and to keep the texts, all the while embellishing - hopefully - my CV and thus employability.

My first, and to this date, only foray back into the world of literary criticism came in the form of James Loxley's Critical Introduction to Ben Jonson. Jonson was a Renaissance dramatist around the time of Shakespeare and was, despite what you may think, always more popular than old Billy throughout his life.

Anyway, what I thought would be a simple process is getting more complex. Give or take time to receive and read the text, it seems to have taken months to get the review finally sorted. First of all the man who sends the books was ill which delayed the arrival of the book; then when I first submitted the review there was something missing so it got sent back to me; then I realised I hadn't sent the copyright consent form to the publisher; then another oversight on my part whilst writing the review meant it was sent back again.

Finally, I'm guessing it has been accepted, but I'm just waiting for another email warning me that something has been missed again; it's all so much harder than I thought!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Piercefield House

I was watching a programme, as I seem to spend a fair proportion of my time doing, and that programme happened to be Nicholas Crane's Great British Journeys. He was following the guidebook written in 1770 by the Reverend William Gilpin called Observations on the River Wye. This tourist guide is no stranger to me as elements of it formed large areas of focus in my Master's dissertation as William Wordsworth was one of the many who was believed to have followed the guide.

History lesson over. One of the most interesting parts of this programme, other than the fact that Crane was doing the journey in a canoe, was the when they came across an old mansion called Piercefield House. What struck me was how astoundingly wonderful this ruin of a mansion in the middle of the Wye Forest actually looked. Usually I would get on my high horse and start declaring that the government needed to start investing more into our architectural heritage, alas, this time, I didn't.

I found myself wondering why anyone would want to disturb this sleeping mansion and attempt to remove from its state of sullen slumber. I for one would not want to restore this but rather admire it in its current form eternally, surrounded only by grazing sheep and cattle. Then again, I am someone that loves rusty old trawlers in a harbour or a load of driftwood on the beach... if only I could afford to be a beachcomber.

The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society by Chris Stewart

Cover image ©  Sort of Books.
Having read both Driving over Lemons and A Parrot in the Pepper Tree, and thoroughly enjoying both, it makes perfect sense that I should immerse myself in the third book in this series.

The book itself takes a slightly different approach the previous two. Whereas they followed a very obvious linear narrative, Almond Blossom tends to skip around in time.

We start off joining Chris in the present time before going back in time for an excursion to Morrocco that Chris had taken prior to the birth of his child. When we return the present we are left with much musing on the future.

The focus of the book is less concentrated on just the farm and more on people and events that have held some bearing on the writer's existence in Spain. I think as a result you would need to have read the first two books in order to fully understand the setting and all its idiosyncracies.

There is a sense that this will be the last time we hear from El Valero, Stewart's farm, as this book seems to bring about a firm sense of closure to his family's adventure in Spain.

This book is well worth a read for those who have followed the story so far, but for an occasional reader, picking up a book in this series for the first time, its lack of linear narrative may be off-putting.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Abandoned Soldiers

I can't help but be moved by the plight of the 'abandoned soldiers' as highlighted in the BBC's Power to the People documentary tonight.

A temporary monument  in London.
It is difficult to comprehend why soldiers that have made sacrifices for the country in which we live - many suffering from limb-loss and mental issues - are not afforded a better quality of medical care and support. 

It seems that the lessons of yesterday have still not been learnt. The lessons learnt when the likes of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen wrote of the horrors of trench warfare and the poor conditions for soldiers was brought into the public conciousness.

I have no solution to offer for this situation as I don't know enough about it, but I do support the permenent erection of a bronze memorial in London to honour those soldiers who return alive and injured. 

Something like this may help to raise further into the conciousness of British society the realities of serving in the British Army. May something be done to help them and give them the treatment and dignity they deserve.

To find out more about the fund go to: http://www.theabandonedsoldier.com/. Photograph © 2007 The Abandoned Soldier Project.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Heading Offshore with Ben Fogle

Offshore: In Search of an Island of My Own
by Ben Fogle

Islophile Ben Fogle’s second book, Offshore, builds neatly on Teatime Islands in terms of unlocking further the reasons behind his fascination with islands. This time he embarks upon a journey around the coast of the United Kingdom in order to find an island to calls his home.

The book begins and ends with Fogle’s attempts to land on Rockall, a mere pebble of an island in the North Atlantic Ocean – an island that is technically British but whose sovereignty is disputed due to purported mineral and pescarian wealth in the area. Along the way there are plenty of small adventures involving the coastguard, storms, helicopters ditching and, amongst other things, a run in with an angry Viking.

The main reasons for buying this book were: firstly the Teatime Islands seemed to appeal to my own sense of curiosity about islands and far-flung British imperial outposts; and secondly that Fogle writes in a very accessible style – really the style in which you would expect him to write if you’ve ever watched him presenting on the BBC’s Countryfile or Animal Park.

With that said, the book is a lot more stylishly written than Teatime Islands – especially in terms of the phrasing and subtlety with which historical fact is incorporated within his personal narrative. One can only hope that another wind-swept, storm-battered adventure ensues sometime soon as at around two-hundred and sixty pages long, this very easy to read traveller’s tale strangely leaves you wanting more.


My rather hap-hazard review of Teatime Islands can be found at: http://ayohcee.blogspot.com/2005/09/book-teatime-islands.html.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Warwick in the Spring


Priory Park getting some much needed sunshine. According to the weather there is plenty more to come this Easter!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

"But like all great empires, this too fell..."

But like all great empires, this too fell,
Yet still I will cherish the day
When so serene was my soul,
That I sat and stared
Over fields and trees,
Thinking that how, shrouded only
By a minute veil of muted white,
The half-open golden eye
Looked like beauty itself.

Ozymandius, his head was found,
Buried in the sand,
This is now the grave
My soul posesses,
Leaving me to walk the ruins of this adoration imperious,
With only a void to remind me of you.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...