Book Review: The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco

Review: The Prague Cemetery, Umberto Eco

The very first thing to mention about this piece of work is that it will take a lot of concentration and a lot of brain power to understand and follow this book. It is not a light hearted book that you read on a beach. No. It is an intense, difficult, academic-type book that you read in a prison cell where there are no distractions. Except if you are in a prison cell, you are clearly not intelligible enough to get involved with the Prague cemetery.

Also, I feel that I should maybe clarify that in terms of my reviews, they are more concerned with my opinions of the thing I am reviewing rather than reiterate the plot, which you can gather for yourself by taking up the book/film, etc.

Right. On to the book. It is relatively hard to decide which the main story is and which the sub narrative is. Is it a book about a man with split personality disorder who also happens to be involved in a lot of shady stuff, or is it a story of a man involved in war, conspiracy and corruption who also has some kind of mental affliction?

Once you get around this confusion, it is a genuinely intriguing tale of forgery and anti-Semitism, and in some amazing way, Umberto Eco manages to make his main character an anti-Semite (as well as an avid hater of most races/religions, etc) whilst also demonstrating the evils of anti-Semitism. Plus, all the characters (other than the main character, Simonini) are real historical figures. Pretty cool, Umberto! [Why do I always go for the complex and confusing? Maybe next time I’ll read Spot the Dog and provide you with a nice simple review.]

I admit I am yet too young, naïve, and other synonyms, to have clawed my way through much of Eco’s works, but there is a five year plan in action (basically my ‘to read’ list) that involves most of Umberto’s literature. Another obstacle that I found is that my knowledge of late 19th century history isn’t particularly expansive, although this book did spurn a lot of googling of events of that era.

Two pieces of advice: 1. read this book. 2. Do a heck of a lot of research vis-à-vis ‘The Protocols of The Elders of Zion’ and the surrounding controversy and remember that Eco is describing the very thing that sparked the most memorable and horrific act of genocide in history.


The shopping revolution

The shopping revolution is in full swing – big corporate machines taking over from the smaller independent retailers, and online purchasing becoming more popular than ever. But is the revolution inevitable or can small businesses make a comeback?

Maybe the small shops have to suffer, as a form of natural selection – the strong prevail and the weak flail at the sign of challenge – this is what I was taught in school, and I assume the curriculum hasn’t changed immensely on that point. So is it so hard to believe that this theory can (and, maybe, should) be applied to retail?

I have to admit, my favourite bookshop is the Camden lock bookshop in Old Street station, and I would much rather go there on my way home from work than trawl around a Waterstones for hours, continuously tripping over yuppie mums buying self help dieting books. And I try to avoid Amazon as much as possible, because, despite being cheap and having literally everything, it just feels so impersonal and makes it all the more hard to stumble upon those rare finds that one can discover in the corner of an independent bookshop.

My favourite clothing shops, however, are the cheap, mass produced, high street kind (and yes, I am aware that the majority of these shops are unethical in their production, but what can be gained from me, one individual, boycotting these establishments? At least I get a good deal!). I don’t do designer, and I find it tedious trying to find decent vintage wear.

When it comes to supporting small businesses, I believe it is simply down to personal choice, requirement and availability. However, quite understandably, there are communities of people (with more free time than me) who want to preserve as many local businesses as they can, and new innovations have been created that prove this.

The Bristol pound was launched recently, joining the 5 other local currencies in Britain including the Brixton pound. These local currencies have been developed to boost local spending, but are these innovations actually beneficial for the financial problems throughout the UK?

When it comes to local currencies, I find myself wondering if anyone would actually bother. I work full time and have a family to look after, so I doubt if I, personally, could find the time to exchange all my cash for the Bristol pound, let alone the fact that it would mean I would either have to carry around two forms of cash or completely limit myself in where I spend. Can I not show my support of local businesses by giving them my pounds sterling? Does that not make just as much difference to those small companies?

So, what are your opinions on the shopping revolution and the local currencies that are popping up around the country?

Book Review: Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman

Firstly, I should probably apologise for the rather large gap between postings, but I want to condition you very few readers not to expect consistency from me as I have a very active social life [PAH! As if], no seriously, apart from the social aspect my life is somewhat hectic at times.

Now, on to the actual review! It’s a good book, an excellent book actually, but, gathering from conversations with friends (my mum) it is stigmatised by those who haven’t read it as being crap, based on its content – this, I must say, is somewhat true. The content is not amazing, but they way it’s written actually enthralled me to the point where I couldn’t put it down and got through it in two days (somewhat impressive considering I work a full time job and it wasn’t a weekend).

However, despite the lack of substantial content on the surface, if you actively read between the lines, the story is there and it is good! Part of this search for the story is due to the innocence and ignorance of the narrator (have I said excellent writing technique?!). For the most part, you will know more than the narrator, you will assume more and you will have the background knowledge to read more – by the last few pages (whilst I was on the tube, by the way) I was gasping and praying that the outcome I could foresee as inevitable would not happen! You will understand this if and when you choose to read this.

From this book, Kelman clearly has outstanding writing talent and I look forward to discovering more of his works in the future.

The Brit chasers

Review: The Revolution Will Be Televised, BBC

Just a glimpse of BBC’s new satirical comedy. FYI: All the episodes so far are available on iplayer at the moment.

So this political comedy show, well it’s just ingenious isn’t it? Mocking our political system amongst other random British sentiments, it is a hilarious show. And seeing what these guys get up to and, more so, get away with is very entertaining. I recommend this show to any dissatisfied Brit or anyone who simply wants a laugh at “the man’s” expense.

And while I completely stand by the fact that this is a brilliant programme, the only issue I have with it in the slightest is its unoriginality. There is something about it that is just so reminiscent of the Aussie programme The Chasers’ War on Everything and, although the format is different, the familiarities are definitely there. Nonetheless, please do watch it!

What was that?

Film Review: Knowing, 2009

Well, this Nicolas Cage delight was…delightful. (Sensing the sarcasm?). I watched this film quite late last night, and I can’t be sure if my confusion was as a result of my tiredness, or if the film was just that weird… And I don’t mean weird in the cool Donnie Darko/weird rabbit/random fires kind of way, although there were plenty of random fires.

It’s like a cross between 2012 type films of world endings, Matrix style with a load of numbers that no-one really understands, and The Others with the are they real people? Or ghosts? Or angels? weirdness going on. Sci-fi, Thriller, Horror and Disaster, with a little bit of implied romance thrown in there.

I thought I understood it at first. There was a weird girl who could predict tragic events in the future and Cage had to try and prevent those still to come – and then it kind of turned into this really strange Biblical/Sun exploding kind of thing. Sounds confusing? Well it was.

I may have to try and sit through this again to try and figure out what the producers/directors/writers were actually thinking when this film was developed. But until then, it won’t be joining my recommended list. Sorry Nic!

These cool dudes…

This group of guys are, collectively, the epitome of cool. They are the most talented bunch of fellows I have ever seen, and it’s a damn shame that they were around so long ago. Man, it would be so cool if music were like this now. I should have been born in the 40s!

Music has taken a turn for the worse in current years, with scantily clad ladies, occasionally dressed in cuts of meat, singing about meaningless rubbish like how badly they want to be Barbie, to tunes that make you want to rip your hair out. Well, I like jazz. Judge someone else, you Nicki Minaj loving hippies.

Anyway, about these guys: They are Cab Calloway and the Nicholas brothers performing together and they are amazing! The Nicholas brothers were singers in their own rights, but this video only showcases their tap ability which, I must say, is outstanding. And Cab Calloway, well he’s just about the coolest singer I’ve ever seen! (heard)

Watch these videos, add them to your favourites, and acknowledge the fact that your iPod will remain obsolete until these are amongst your collection.

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