Gandhi: An Autobiography

The Story of My Experiments With Truth

Author: M.K Gandhi

Publisher: Penguin

Date Published: 1927-1929

Pages: 454

Gandhi succeeded in uniting India in a national movement and did as much in the first half of the twentieth century as any other single individual to change the course of history. In this classic autobiography, first published under the title ‘The Story of My Experiments With Truth’, he recounts the story of his life from boyhood and child marriage, through the first stirrings of non-violent protest in South Africa to the early phase of his part in India’s fight for independence.

I came to this book in what I suspect is the most common way for westerners – I watched Richard Attenborough’s ‘Gandhi’. I am not a person who is generally moved by stories about ‘do-gooders’, as they are usually characterised by idolising the subject beyond the reality of their own humanity. But there was something about ‘Gandhi’ that interested me. His advocation of non-violence and his ability to inspire others to risk their life for this ideal was new to me.*

‘The Story of My Experiments With Truth’ is about Gandhi’s physical, social and personal experiments in cultivating purity and removing any falsehood from himself and those around him. This is the emotional journey that led him to be capable of the public brilliance he is renowned for.  These goals and experiments are described in great detail, particularly his self imposed dieting, fasting and abstinence. Though the book loosely follows chronological events Gandhi often side tracks to explain concepts about his spiritual quest for Truth in great detail (especially in the latter half), rather than focusing on events of historical precedence. Truth is the central theme and the elusive guiding force of this autobiography. ‘Satyagraha In South Africa’ would be better for readers who are interested in a chronological recount (Gandhi even notes this himself).

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Posted in ♥♥♥ - 3/5, Biography, History, Non-Fiction, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Have You Ever Wondered What Paedophiles Do With Their Spare Time?

Apparently between their jobs and abusing children they read book reviews – or more pointedly book reviews of Lolita. (Some would see this as befitting Vladimir Nabokov’s masterpiece, others as ironic).

I bring this up because it is really interesting what you learn about the world, or more precisely the shady back streets of the internet, when you start a blog. Often what you post doesn’t reach the audience you imagined or brings in a different kind entirely.

Since publishing the Lolita review I have unfortunately learnt that the (ever so wacky) Japanese have an entire comic genre dedicated to the animated fondling of children, named ‘Lolita’ or sometimes ‘Lolicon’, and that I have brought the interests of that audience to my website accidentally. Fantastic, isn’t it?

The top searches for my site end up being:

lolita
american psycho
gothic lolita
magic lolita
black magic

Some of these are due to the Gothic Lolita fashion style and the book review I did of it, but also amongst this are things like lolita sex, lolita rape, underground lolita, lolita incest, naked lolita and many other weird combos of the word Lolita. This rabid preoccupation for Lolita on the internet has probably given me half my traffic (*hangs head in exasperation*), but most of them probably would have realised the post was about an actual book and closed the window immediately anyway (thank god!).

Anyway, Lolita remains my most popular post (with probably 1% being readers interested in the book). My top five rating book reviews are:

Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
American Psycho – Bret Easton Elis
Black Magic, White Noise
Cooking: A Commonsense Guide
Fusion Junction 1

It is surprising what is and isn’t popular amongst your posts. You’ll find that something you thought would definitely bring in the crowds, such as Presidential Material: Barack Obama (during the election season) and Lady Chatterley’s Lover goes cold (who doesn’t like reading about ladies getting off with gamekeepers?). Others that are seemingly obscure, such as ‘Black Magic, White Noise’ and Mucha, receive a great response. Though I have never bothered planning my reviews around what I thought would get good hits (I just write about books that produce some kind of response in me), I now know that even if I had tried I would have failed miserably. It’s utterly unpredictable.

My sister is bugging me to read Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series because she thinks I will get a lot of hits – but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Not only have I already been told the entire story, been forced to watch the first few movies (which were terrible), I’ve also read about two pages of my friend’s copy of the first book. It was average writing at best – only a person who doesn’t read anything would be impressed by it. I couldn’t be bothered wasting precious hours of my reading and living time on it.

So what have we learned? Mostly that people on the internet are not really interested in politics or 20th century industrialised England, but they are very fond of cartoon kiddie porn, psychotics, vampires and cooking. Seems about correct.

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Cooking For Friends

Publisher: Harper Collins

Date Published: 2008

Pages: 272

‘As a chef, I work at a thousand miles an hour, but when I’m at home I want to slow down.’

My Father received this book for his birthday, but although he cooks like a madman he doesn’t actually use cookbooks and he hates Gordon Ramsay with a passion (present FAIL!). We don’t own any of his books or watch his TV shows, so this is my first intimate experience with his franchise. ‘Cooking For Friends’ is meant to be a look into what Gordon prefers to cook at home for his family and friends.

The introduction comes across as contradictory, disingenuous and strangely random. He makes a point of talking about his family life, despite a very public affair. I have no idea whether Ramsay is or isn’t a good parent, but it seems a bit rich yapping about how ‘his kids do the washing up’ (eg. ‘keeping it real’) while he is apparently doing his part by chasing skirt. He also makes a point of complaining about trendy food and venerating traditional British dishes before including a recipe for Pear Tart Tartin (perhaps the most ‘Frenchest’ and triendiest dessert at the moment in the restaurant world).  

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Posted in ♥♥ - 2/5, Cooking Books, Non-Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back From Sucking

This is an exact reenactment of how I look when I read.

I’m back after a couple of months hiatus. I would like to say something heroic, like I got my leg blown off while extreme reading in the deserts of Afghanistan, but mostly I was lazy and lost interest.

To fix this problem I’ve decided to change the format of my site a little, starting with a fresh new skin. Instead of posts only containing reviews, occasionally I will also write to you guys directly and ask you questions.

Most importantly, I will put the effort in and bring you more fabulously astounding book reviews (I can see the crowds cheering now). Expect to see many more reviews coming up. 

Just to update you, I am currently reading or half way through:

Gandhi: An Autobiography – Mahatma Gandhi
The Story of Art – E.H Gombrich
The Origin of Species – Charles Darwin
Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism – Robert Jay Lifton
Metamorphosis – Ovid
Dead Aid – Dambisa Moyo
The Bible – Assorted ancient people

I really do have to concentrate on finishing some of these books before I start new ones, which is a terrible habit.

Here are some of the books I have finished reading. Some of them I completed while traveling in Europe, some at home lately. I aim to put reviews up for many of them if I can remember my thoughts clearly.

Neither Here Nor There – Bill Bryson
Mothertongue – Bill Bryson
Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
Down Under – Bill Bryson
A Short History of Everything – Bill Bryson
The Lucky Country – Donald Horne
The Pidgeon – Patrick Suskind
Running With Scissors – Augusten Burroughs
Look Me In The Eye – John Elder Robison
The Road To Wigan Pier – George Orwell
Homage To Catalonia – George Orwell
Animal Farm – George Orwell
Jan’s Atomic Heart – Simon Roy
Kill Your Boyfriend – Grant Morrison and Philip Bond
Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank
A History of God – Karen Armstrong
War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning – Chris Hedges
What Every Person Should Know About War – Chris Hedges
Home From The War – Robert Jay Lifton
The World According To Clarkson – Jeremy Clarkson

As you can see, another reason I haven’t been posting is because I’ve been reading too much! Also, I seem to be currently on a non-fiction bender, seeing as only four on that list are fiction (and a Bill Bryson bender). This also illustrates why my ‘To Read List’ never goes down – I’m very easily distracted by whatever book is readily available at the book store.

I haven’t really purchased many art books lately (due to my unemployment for a while there). The exception is Process Recess 3 by James Jean, which I received for my birthday, and Grafuck Book 4. I splurged on it due to pre-orders being signed by the artists (heck yes!). But I am finally employed now, so art book reviews will also be on the cards.

So anyway, I hope that tickles some fancies.

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Vegetables For Vitality

Publisher: Reader’s Digest

Date Published: 2007

Pages: 320

My mum and I were trying to find a way to eat more vegetables, as well as a couple of vegetarian dinners a week. We were originally going to buy a vegetarian cookbook, but we found that while the vegetarian books had a lot meat imitation recipes (like meat imitation burgers and sausages etc) that would be useless to us. Being an omnivore, if I want a burger I’ll choose the meat kind. (I also don’t like to eat food that have a lot of interference. Have you ever read the ingredients lists on some of those meat imitation products? If I were a vegetarian I wouldn’t bother with them). I inevitably came across ‘Vegetables for Vitality’ and it was exactly what I was looking for, as if it had been beamed down by my mental request.

‘Vegetables For Vitality’ has an easy to read lay out, with each recipe having numbered steps and the ingrediants listed clearly. The presentation is quite colourful, though white is used behind the instructions for clarity. Servings, prep and cooking times are also displayed along with little ‘did you know?’ factoids. It includes more than 200 recipes divided into the following sections:

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Posted in ♥♥♥♥½ - 4½/5, Cooking Books, Non-Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Metamorphosis

Publisher: beinArt Publishing

Editor: Robyn Flemming

Date Published: 2007

50 Contemporary Surreal, Fantastic and Visionary Artists

‘Metamorphosis’ presents the work of 50 contemporary international artists within the surrealism, fantasy, visionary and symbolic art movements.  A series of essays by the contributors – L Caruana, Robert Venosa, Philip Rubinov, Brigid Marlin and (the cover artist) Ernst Fuchs – explains the nature of the published works. An exert from ‘The Manifesto of Visionary Art’ gives a sophisticated history of symbolism in art, which should be appreciated by its followers and illustrative to newcomers.

In the tradition of Gustave Dore, William Blake and H R Giger, the art of ‘Metamorphosis’ is presented as being in an ongoing artistic discussion with the foundations of art history. One of its goals is not to be radically different as its defining feature (or merely for the sake of being different), rather to join in with the age old symbolic methods used to express the human condition. Philip Rubinov is quite clear in his dislike of some modern art movements, stating that ”these artists…throw light on the wilderness of the contemporary art scene, which seems to have lost its way’.

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Posted in Art, ♥♥♥ - 3/5, Non-Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

True Loves 1 and 2

Author: Manien Botma

Penciller: Jason Turner

Publisher: New Reliable Press

Date Published: Volume 1 – May 2006, Volume 2 – June 2009

Volumes: Both are single volume

A modern romance, True Loves follows a young vintage clothing store owner falling into a new relationship, while she struggles to break off her current one. The story is set in Vancouver and is full of the look and feel of the city.

‘True Love’ and ‘True Love 2: Trouble In Paradise’ is a independent collaboration between Manien Botma and Jason Turner, a writer and penciller couple who have been together for ten years (and recently got married after the completion of ‘True Love 2’). Unlike the vast majority of western comics ‘True Loves’ is set in none other than Vancouver, Canada, rather than America. The small series follows True, a twenty something boutique clothes shop owner, and Zander, a fruit and vegetable grocer with eccentric hair.

Our main character True is a morally ambiguous person, quite normal and acts almost like an avatar for the reader. She is simultaneously undistinguished and also not quite like anyone else. The routines of her daily life, her divorced parents and even her feelings of ambivalence towards her boyfriend Dirk will seem familiar to the reader. The writing is very honest and sympathetic to the characters; whether or not the audience will be is another question.

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Posted in ♥♥ - 2/5, Fiction, Graphic Novels & Manga, Romance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment