Oct/Nov 2019

e c l e c t i c a   r e v i e w s  & 
i n t e r v i e w s

Reviews & Interviews

(These are excerpts—click on the title to view the whole piece!)

Ann Skea reviews...

Everything in its Place: First Loves and Last Tales
by Oliver Sacks

True to its sub-title, its essays range from first loves to last tales, including memories, observations, stories, opinions, patient-studies and, amongst the final essays, written when he knew he was dying, a glowing appreciation for gefilte fish, "which will usher me out of this life, as it ushered me into it eighty-two years ago"; and a sad commentary on the way technology now monopolizes our attention and invades our privacy.

Alice to Prague: The Charming True Story of an Outback Girl Who Finds Adventure—and Love—on the Other Side of the World
by Tanya Heaslip

At the age of 12 she was sent to boarding school in Adelaide, and eventually she became a lawyer in Alice Springs, but her dreams of seeing the magical places she had read about as a child never left her. A backpacking trip around Europe, however, was a disappointment. She found no enchanted lands, no magic, just freeways, cars, fast-food outlets and pollution. However, a last-minute, un-planned flight to Berlin with her staunch friend, Mick, and the euphoria shared with thousands of Germans at the fall of the Berlin Wall, made her determined to go back, not to Western Europe but to former Communist countries like Czechoslovakia.

by Kate Hamer

Kate Hamer tells her tale with great skill, weaving the characters, emotions, and vulnerabilities of her three girls together so believably, it is easy to feel compassion and concern for them. At the same time, she tells a compelling and suspenseful story, chillingly full of its own dark magic.

Faber & Faber: The Untold Story
by Toby Faber

Then there was the advice of one of their manuscript readers that a manuscript by an unknown author called William Golding, entitled Stranger from Within, was "Absurd and uninteresting fantasy... rubbish + dull. Pointless. Reject." Fortunately, other readers thought differently. Golding's manuscript was published as Lord of the Flies, Golding became one of Faber's most successful authors, and in 1983 he was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo
by Christy Lefteri

The families were close. But it was after one of their regular Saturday dinners that Mustafa raised worries about the political situation: "Things will get bad. We all know it, don't we? But we're trying to continue living as we did before." When the trouble starts, he sends his wife and daughter away from Aleppo but keeps his teenage son, Firas, with him, planning to join them later in England. Then one night vandals set fire to the beehives.

Make, Think, Imagine: Engineering the Future of Civilisation
by John Browne

For the general reader, Browne writes fluently and personalizes his accounts with fragments of his own life. He tells us, for example, that his mother was a survivor of Auschwitz; that he lives "for most of the year" in a palace overlooking the Grand Canal in Venice; that he was "fortunate enough to travel on Concorde many times"; and that he collects hand-decorated Japanese lacquer pens, with which he chooses to write.

And How Are You, Dr Sacks: A biographical memoir of Oliver Sacks
by Lawrence Weschler

Sacks was a great bear of a man, an award-winning weight-lifter, a tireless long-distance swimmer, a man who could consume dangerous quantities of addictive drugs without dying from overdoses, and, eventually, a highly successful writer. He was also deeply empathetic towards his patients, worked tirelessly for their well-being, and was desperately determined to bring medicine from cold, symptom-medication-based treatments to what, today, would be described as a holistic regard for the patient. He was also stubborn, insecure, prone to childish outbursts of rage, and as he described himself: "a man of vehement dispositions, with violent enthusiasms, and extreme immoderation in all [his] passions."

Tim & Tigon (A Young Reader's edition of On the Trail of Genghis Khan)
by Tim Cope

Horses, wolves and thieves were not the only challenges facing Tim as he set out to make a long-held dream come true. There were high mountains to cross, desserts and bogs, and temperatures which ranged from deathly cold (-50 degrees centigrade) to "scorching summers where, it was rumoured, you could become dried out and mummified in a single day."

The Far Field
by Madhuri Vijay

It is easy to sit comfortably in our homes and distract ourselves with other things (like reading this story for example). Or we may try to help in some way. But without deep knowledge of the situation or first-hand experience of it, we, like Shalini, may unknowingly do more harm than good.

The Sun On My Head
by Geovani Martins, translated by Julia Sanches

As with any short story collection, some stories work better than others, but Geovani Martins' ability to capture his narrators' voices, thoughts, and emotions and, through them, the great variety of their lives and the color and flavor of life in a favela, is superb.

Matthew Wade Thomas discusses...

A Clockwork Orange
by Anthony Burgess

Even though Alex's repugnant actions and narcissistic personality make him unsympathetic and a difficult character to connect with, he is a natural man driven to fulfill the biological imperatives to survive and reproduce, and despite his reprehensible behavior, he is thoroughly representative of the human species in this respect.

Gilbert Wesley Purdy reviews...

Solar Plexus
by Dean Young

In Solar Plexus, it seems possible, at first, that the lessons-from-experience trope newly evident in recent volumes has been set aside and he has returned to the anti-fundamentals. Certainly, the poet seems younger. He may have passed through his ruminant phase.

and discusses...

How life is still a wonder
To be honest, YouTube is not quite so unremittingly mercenary. It tries to adjust to minimize the classical music conundrum. Most ads play early in the listening experience. Their algorithms begin to "understand" how to recognize the signs that a piece is between movements and more often succeeds at inserting the ads there where they are less intrusive. After all, an angry potential-customer rarely buys the products in advertisements that infuriate them.