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Archive for the ‘books’ Category

Sarah Helm’s If This is A Woman: Inside Ravensbruck: Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women is the most important and best history book I have read in a long while. It is a gruelling read full of horror and evil, redeemed in part by extraordinary acts of courage, compassion, heroism, solidarity and generosity. But it would be foolish to pretend that it is anything other than tragic both in its detail and in its overall effect. Quite apart from the strengths of the book’s narrative however, there is the central vital fact that what matters most is that at long last, and just in time, the extraordinary story of these women is being told in English.

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Shostakovich 10

A wonderful performance of Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony by the CBSO under the mesmerising Andris Nelsons. Shostakovich is a site of ideological battle, his music fiercely contested and debated, with every sort of hidden meaning detected which might make it acceptable to anti-communist listeners. (more…)

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This entry is somewhat remarkable in that consists solely of links to other people’s blog entries with almost no discussion or intervention. I do most heartily commend all of the pieces, but admit that it also functions as an easy historical record for me of a period in which I have not blogged. (more…)

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As we shall see, there is a sense in which this Tale follows on directly from Tale 14 – it too has as a central concern the effects upon a young man of having his conscience awakened. This raises again the question of the way in which certain Tales are grouped and the order in which they are presented; I would certainly suggest that Tales 14 and 15 do need to be considered as, to some degree, complementary. Having said this the milieu and characters, not to mention the outcome, of this story are very different to those of The Struggles of Conscience, and centre on a relationship of which Crabbe must have had considerable personal knowledge. (more…)

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The Struggles of Conscience forms one of that subset of The Tales concerned with the rise and fall of young men (other prominent examples include Tale 5, The Patron, Tale 11, Edward Shore and Tale 21, The Learned Boy). Although these tales are very different in their particular protagonists and their central issues, it is worth forming the connection, both because it raises questions around the autobiographical elements which may have worked their way, consciously or unconsciously, into such stories, but also because it is interesting to observe how Crabbe uses this particular narrative format to examine some of his major ideological, political and moral concerns. (more…)

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I wrote of  Tale 12 – Squire Thomas  – on September 28th 2010, so my project of providing a commentary on Crabbe’s Tales is proving a protracted one, as I suspected it would! However in the 21 months since then, I have not just read the next Tale – I have read all the early (18thC) poems, The Parish-Register, The Borough, the rest of the Tales and am embarked on Tales of The Hall. I have also read some books of criticism/biography. This effort has now intensified in preparation for a one-day Conference on Crabbe in July. My knowledge has therefore increased substantially, and I feel that I begin to have a better grasp of the poet – or, more accurately, I have a better feeling for the many problems, ambiguities and issues which a more in-depth study of any figure of interest inevitably entails. (more…)

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Whilst I have read, or reread, many ‘real’ books in the past 20 months, the most significant development in my reading habits has been the acquisition of a Kindle. I do not intend in future to bother specifying in which format I am reading any particular book I discuss, but did want to spend some time giving a general oversight of what I perceive as the strengths and weaknesses of Kindle, an account of the mistakes I made, and how acquiring a Kindle has affected my reading practice. (more…)

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