Secrets you just don’t want to know

31 03 2007

Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs


Not rated

I got half way through and stopped. I’ve read all previous Welsh outings and, in general, been pretty positive although in all honesty the most recent offerings (with possible exception of Porno) have not been up to the standard of the earliest stuff.

Anyway, this is dire. It’s predictable, trite and not at all a pleasure to read. It’s Welsh by numbers really. Best avoided. Pretend it hasn’t happened.

Tales from (near) the riverbank

28 03 2007

The Clerkenwell Tales by Peter Ackroyd


4 star

14th C London and death, religion, sedition and general bizarre naughtiness and intrigue seem to be the order of the day. The narrative fairly charges along and the device of using a series of interconnected character-led yarns works extremely well (although not really very Canterbury Tales despite the timing and character names, Wife of Bath etc).

The novel is rich in historical detail (accurate I assume) but this never really distracts from a really good story. Fortunately the edition I read did not have on the cover “If you like Umberto Eco and Geoffrey Chaucer then you’ll love this” or anything like it. Anyway, first excursion into Ackroyd was extremely enjoyable and is recommended.

Carry on campus

25 03 2007

On Beauty by Zadie Smith

On beauty

3 star

Although the writing feels effortlessly stylish and assured, the story seems overstretched and just, well, a bit dull in places. And it really is difficult to feel any sympathy for any of the characters at all. The setting on a US university campus should make things a bit more lively, the issues around race, age and intellectual debate should make it a bit more fun but unfortunately they don’t. A few amusing interludes but too few to really make this genuinely enjoyable.

A real pity given the all round excellence of White Teeth and jolly good outing of The Autograph Man.

Do the living outnumber the dead?

8 03 2007

Fact or Fiction?: Living People Outnumber the Dead

Interesting article in Scientific American: Booming population growth among the living, according to one rumour, outpaces the dead.

This is an urban myth (or not) which I’ve heard on several occasions. This article saves you the effort of working it out. And, if you can’t be bothered to read the article:


(current population represents about 6% of the total number who have ever lived)

Universities and their Unions: Podcast

4 03 2007

At last…podcast is posted

Universities and Student Unions – even more to be said beyond the original Greatrix, Horton and Bell report.

Report cover

In a crude attempt to cover all possible media platforms, there is now available an immensely stimulating podcast of a discussion involving self and Claire Horton facilitated splendidly by Tom Abbott.

First 17 minutes are about international student matters (and although interesting, you might want to come back to that bit later). You can find it at:

Warwick’s podcast site under ‘University relations with student organisations’.

See the Oxcheps site for the original report (it’s listed as Paper 28).

Let me count ’em

3 03 2007

So many ways to begin by Jon McGregor

so many ways

3 star

A tale of unsurprising and surprising disappointments. Built around uncertainties and untruths with a host of possible alternative futures, this is another terrifically written and lyrical novel from McGregor.

However for me the quality of the writing doesn’t quite make up for the unevenness of the narrative and some of the plotting just seems predictable and banal. The notion of museum curator as hero and his handling of the real and metaphysical artifacts of his own life just don’t seem terribly convincing.

So, a slightly harsh three star rating but would still recommend.

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