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An elegy for Russian poets – Khodasevich at @ShinyNewBooks @CoumbiaUP @Ruslibrary

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I have a new review up at Shiny New Books today, and it’s of another book in the marvellous Russian Library series from Columbia University Press. “Necropolis” is by Vladislav Khodasevich, whom I’ve touched upon briefly on the Ramblings before. I have a collection of his poetry I picked up at Judd Books in London, and of course he was married to the wonderful author Nina Berberova.

Necropolis

“Necropolis”, however, is a prose work from a poet; a memoir of the authors and artists Khodasevich had known, it’s a compelling piece of work which memorialises many Silver Age poets (and others) who were lost during the Russian Revolution and its aftermath. It also inadvertantly reveals much about Khodasevich himself and it really is an excellent book. You can read my full review over at Shiny New Books! 😀

Exploring modern Japanese literature with the Red Circle Minis @shinynewbooks @TeamRedCircle

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You might recall that amongst the images of piles of books I shared recently on the Ramblings, there was one featuring three attractive and slim volumes of Japanese literature. These are the Red Circle Minis, and they’re the result of a fascinating new initiative from Red Circle Authors. The latter is a venture which refuses to be categorised – website, publisher, agent, promoter, general cheerleader for Japanese writing; all of these could be used to describe Red Circle!

The Red Circle Minis

Co-founded by Richard Nathan and Koji Chikatan, Red Circle Authors has an impressive website with all manner of resources for anyone wanting to explore Japanese literature. The Minis are the first three editions in a planned series – bite-sized, beautifully produced pieces of fiction ideal for a quick literary fix. The range of subject matter covered is already wide, taking in AI issues, the psychology of searching for missing children and the curse of TV celebrity.

I’ve written more extensively about the Red Circle venture for Shiny New Books here; and I cover the first three Minis in more detail here. The Red Circle Minis were a joy and delight to read, so do have a look at my Shiny New Books pieces and check out Red Circle – I’m very much looking forward to seeing what titles appear next! 😀

“Selfies” on Shiny New Books! @shinynewbooks @LesFugitives #sylvieweil

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I recently reviewed a rather lovely and thought-provoking book which had turned up unexpectedly on my doorstep. “Selfies”, by Sylvie Weil, takes a very intriguing look at the art of self-portraiture which is a lot less new-fangled than you might think!

I’m pleased to say that a slightly revised version of my review is up at Shiny New Books today. I can’t recommend the book highly enough and if you’re interested in fascinating writing which blurs the lines between memoir and art, whilst taking a look at the way women portray themselves, then this could be the book for you! My Shiny review is here – do take a look! 😀

In celebration of a seminal Beat figure @shinynewbooks @FaberBooks #Ferlinghetti

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I have a new review up at Shiny New Books today, and it’s a work I was very keen to read – “Little Boy” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

The author is perhaps best known for his seminal role in the promotion of the Beat Generation writers, and for his famous San Francisco bookshop “City Lights” (which I’ve never visited, but my brother has….) Ferlinghetti passed his century in March and this poetic, stream of consciousness memoir was published to mark his birthday. It’s an exhilarating and individual ride, and you can read my full review here.

A rediscovered and prescient book…. @shinynewbooks @KateHandheld

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I have a review up at Shiny New Books today, and it’s of a work that turned out to be remarkably prescient as well as being MIA for a century – “What Not” by Rose Macaulay.

Despite owning several Macaulay volumes in lovely green Virago Modern Classics, I’m not sure I’ve ever read one of her books – so this welcome reissue by the excellent Handheld Press was timely and a great way to be introduced to this unfairly neglected author.

And “What Not” is a marvellous satirical read, with an array of hypocritical politicians who seem very, very modern. There’s romance and comedy and an underlying thread of some very complex issues – so a thought-provoking work that predates many of the ideas of Huxley and Orwell. Plus it’s a very pretty book… 😀

I highly recommend the book, and you can read my review here. And in the meantime, these are my lovely Greens – I really do need to pick up one of these soon!

Failed plots and a tragic end – The Race to Save the Romanovs @shinynewbooks

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I really am maintaining the reputation of being Shiny New Books’ unofficial Russian correspondent! So it was a given that I would be the obvious choice to review a fat new volume from Helen Rappaport which takes a look at the fate of the last Russian royal family – in particular, the various plots that were hatched to rescue the hapless Romanovs and save them from the hands of the Bolsheviks.

It’s an intriguing book, although I did have some reservations. If I’m honest, I’ve struggled with previous attempts to read Rappaport’s books as I sensed a bias – which is something I don’t like to see in a historian; I prefer an objective look at things. Also, this is one of a series of books she’s written on the subject and I did feel that it didn’t warrant a whole big volume; her research (which actually seemed to be undertaken by numerous people all over the world on her behalf) would have been better presented in a scholarly journal rather than a work of popular history. And the way that the new discoveries are signposted  in the text by an italicised paragraph *did* jar a lot.

Nevertheless, this is a pretty and well presented volume, with some fascinating photos. I think you need to know a reasonable amount about the historical period to really get the most out of the book, and you can read my full review here on Shiny!

Three things… #4 – Revolutions, plus difficulties with older books…

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Time for another go at the “Three Things” meme created by Paula at Book Jotter; this is where we post things we are reading, looking (at) and thinking. The book I’m currently reading has influenced what I’m currently watching (as there is still a dearth of documentaries, alas…), and this ties in also with my thoughts on some bookish and not so bookish things at the moment. So here goes!

Reading

I’m currently deeply immersed in “The Race to Save the Romanovs” by Helen Rappaport, which I’m going to be reviewing for Shiny New Books. Give my interest (alright, obsession) with all things Russia, it’s inevitable that I’ve read a *lot* of books over the decades about the last Tsar of Russia and the fate of his family. This particular volume promises new insights, specifically into the failure of any of the other Royal houses in Europe to intercede and come to the aid of their relations, and it’s intriguing reading so far. This is actually the first of Rappaport’s books I will actually have finished; I bailed out of her book on Lenin fairly early as I sensed an underlying inability to really accept the concept of someone devoting their whole life to a cause which undermined the narrative for me. However, we’ll see what this book brings! Although Rappaport is acknowledging the huge and fatal flaws of the regime, I *am* sensing a slight bias, and so I turned to some vintage viewing:

Looking

Mr. Kaggsy is something of an enabler when it comes to DVDs, and one box set he gifted me a while ago was the complete BBC series “Fall of Eagles” from 1974, which I’m gradually making my way through. A classic drama from what I tend to think of as the golden age of TV (!), it tell in 13 parts of the collapse of the three main royal dynasties in Europe at the time of the First World War and Russian Revolution. It’s stuffed to the gills with marvellous actors (Patrick Stewart perfect as Lenin; Barry Foster actually *is* Kaiser Wilhelm) and I remember being enthralled when I was just a wee thing, freshly captivated by the Russian Revolution. Revisiting it has been a wonderful experience; so after reading a bit of the Rappaport, I watched the episode “Dear Nicky” which deals with the pre-war correspondence between the Tsar and the Kaiser against a backdrop of suffering and unrest in St. Petersburg, and was reminded of a number of things:

1. Just how good the series was – the acting!
2. How it was also even-handed in that the royals were shown as flawed and the people were shown as suffering.

Which led onto…

Thinking

… well, thinking about revolutions generally. I have to say up front that I deplore violence (well, as a vegan, I would.) However, we live in a world which is unequal and unfair, and frankly it’s hardly surprising that the people often have to take up an aggressive stance against those in charge when the latter are exploiting and enslaving them. Russia was a case in point, and I’m finding my reading of the Rappaport book a little problematic because although I can’t condone the violence meted out to the Tsar’s family, neither can I countenance the violence done to the Russian people. It will be interesting to see what I finally conclude.

And as I’ve blogged recently, I’ve been incubating a possible reading project of French Revolutionary fiction. Well, it started as fiction, but might not end up being limited to that, as a few internet searches have thrown up a very tempting list of possible books. Some of which may have slipped quietly through the letterbox when Mr. Kaggsy wasn’t paying attention….

The revolutionary French are obviously breeding…

One in particular really caught my eye because of its focus on women’s involvement; when I posted about “The Declaration of the Rights of Women” by Olympe de Gouges earlier in the year, I commented on the fact that I’d been looking for the female voice int he French Revolution. I also alluded to the figure of Théroigne de Méricourt, who I’d heard mention of in Richard Clay’s excellent “Tearing Up History” documentary, where he credited her with urging on the men who were hesitating to storm the Tuileries Palace. I found very little about her in the books I have relating to the Revolution, so the fact that she features in this recent arrival is rather nice…

I must admit I feel inclined to pick it up and start reading straight away, but the problem is, it’s only one of a number of Big Books about Inspirational Woman that I have lurking…

All of these are crying out to be read instantly, but there isn’t enough time. Plus the French Revolution books are massing offstage… And as I hinted in the heading to this post, some of the older titles are really giving me issues. If you go off to search for a more obscure old book, like a Victor Hugo or a Joseph Conrad which *isn’t* one of the well know titles, you end up being offered weird, expensive reprints on the online sites. (I found this when I was looking for Robert Louis Stevenson’s book on Edinburgh, and ended up buying a very old copy instead – but that’s by the by…) I would like to have actual *physical* copies, as I really hate reading on a screen, but as you might have guessed by the glowing screen in the picture further up this post, I have had to resort to Project Gutenberg. Really not my preferred way of reading, but beggars etc etc as they say… Anyway, onward and upward with the Romanovs – hopefully by the time I’ve finished that, I’ll have more idea of what I want to read after it! 😀

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