Reviews & Rants - Blogging about books, authors, and generally 

Reading progress update: I've read 257 out of 311 pages.

Die Pendragon Legende - Antal Szerb

That's the trouble with prophets: they're so volatile.

“It’s the Pied Piper of Hamlyn and his retinue of children,” Lene suggested.

“No,” exclaimed Osborne. “Look, it’s Pierce Gwyn Mawr, the old prophet Habakkuk. My, he does look in a bad way.”

We quickened our pace to meet him, and now I too could make him out quite clearly. The poor man was even more prophet-like than before. His appearance was exactly what you would have expected of John the Baptist, clad in the traditional attire of one crying out in the wilderness. Except for a rag around his loins he was stark naked—not something you expect to see in broad daylight in these islands. The stout branch in his hand served as a walking stick; the grey shock of his beard and hair flew in every direction.

It was a disturbing, fantastic, strangely threatening sight, complete with the obligatory wisps of straw in the hair that every self-respecting lunatic in Britain has sported since the days of King Lear.

He was followed by a procession of village children. But this was not mockery: they were really frightened, ready to take to their heels at the first hostile gesture from the prophet.

   Osborne called out to him: “Hey there, Pierce Gwyn Mawr. What’s new in the world?”

The prophet gave no reply. Though he looked towards us, I don’t think he saw us. His eyes were flickering and ecstatic; they also seemed, to me, to be filled with a supernatural fear, the universal fear felt by children and madmen of a world possessed by demons.

   I can’t say this for certain of course, being no expert in the reading of eyes.

Then, when Cynthia said something to him in Welsh, he stopped, appeared to recognise her, and a very specific terror seemed to engulf him. But he still made no reply. She repeated her question. He spun round and, with astonishing nimbleness, sprinted towards the village with the children at his heels.

“For Heaven’s sake, Cynthia,” I asked, “what did you say to frighten him so badly?” “Nothing,” she said, clearly shaken. “I only asked if he was hungry.”

Reading progress update: I've read 203 out of 311 pages.

Die Pendragon Legende - Antal Szerb

Right. How does Casanova fit into this?


This book is bonkers. (In a good way.)

Reading progress update: I've read 194 out of 311 pages.

Die Pendragon Legende - Antal Szerb

Ok, this is Scooby Doo re-enacting the Da Vinci Code.

Reading progress update: I've read 149 out of 311 pages.

Die Pendragon Legende - Antal Szerb

Well, this has turned into quite an odd story. If there was a dog in the cast of characters, I would describe this a the original Scooby Doo story:


We have our MC (Janos Batky), a young Hungarian scholar, and a new acquaintance visiting the Earl of Gwynedd. On the way, they also bump into the Earl's nephew, who is also headed to the ancestral castle in North Wales.


Once arrived at the castle, we have the mystery of a masonic cult of immortality (don't ask...), death threats, spooky goings on at the castle after nightfall, crypts, a secret laboratory, and an old woman who provides a prophecy.


This is fun. But it also quite odd.

I'm really intrigued as to where this is all going


Oh, but one thing is for sure, our MC, Janos, is adorable:

"We had reached the library.

It was an extremely long and narrow room, with countless books lining the walls, the majority in the uniform binding embossed with the Pendragon-Rosicrucian coat of arms.

I was filled with the tenderness I always feel—and which nothing can match—when I encounter so many books together. At moments like these I long to wallow, to bathe in them, to savour their wonderful, dusty, old-book odours, to inhale them through my very pores."

Reading progress update: I've read 422 out of 422 pages.

I Am Dynamite!: A Life of Nietzsche - Sue Prideaux

Well, that was an intense read, but ultimately very rewarding. 

Reading progress update: I've read 278 out of 422 pages.

I Am Dynamite!: A Life of Nietzsche - Sue Prideaux

When I put the book down last night, I just finished reading about Nietzsche's sister, Elisabeth, and her husband, whose proto-fascist views and racism led them to set up a colony in Paraguay. This part read like some kind of dystopian fiction, but was just the appalling conclusion of their efforts to create a society that had been cleansed of undesirable elements. The parallels between their ideals and those spouted by national-socialists a few decades later were unmissable. 


It was a good time to take a break from reading last night. 


When I picked up the book again this morning, I was delighted to find that Prideaux used this background to Nietzsche's life (he ardently disagreed with his sister and had no time for his brother-in-law) as the setup to delve into Nietzsche's own ideas of the world and provide a useful context to some of his works.


"He saw the principles on which Nueva Germania [the colony in Paraguay] was founded as contemporary expressions of the slave mentality. Fatherland-ism, super-patriotism, and anti-Semitism simply masked the jealous, vengeful ressentiment of the impotent."


I especially enjoyed the way Prideaux uses the background as a clarification of how his works were misused by his sister after Nietzsche's death. This was an aspect I hoped would be clarified in the book. 


I've got just about 80 pages left in the book (the rest are additional materials, aphorisms, references) and will probably finish this early this afternoon. 

Reading progress update: I've read 225 out of 422 pages.

I Am Dynamite!: A Life of Nietzsche - Sue Prideaux

With friends like Wagner, who needs enemies?


Also, the description of the bickering between Lou and Elisabeth about the scandal that Lou's living with both Nietzsche and Ree caused had me in stitches. 

Reading progress update: I've read 197 out of 422 pages.

I Am Dynamite!: A Life of Nietzsche - Sue Prideaux

I'm enjoying this biography, but for me it is lacking a little bit in commentary on Nietzsche's work. 


There are some references, but they seem superficial. While I understand that the author may have wanted to focus on the biographical aspect of her subject, I would love to read more of how Nietzsche's thoughts may have developed. 

What references there are, may make sense to a student of Nietzsche's work, but don't really provide much insight for someone who's not studied the works of Nietzsche and his influencers in depth.

As a result, some parts of the book read a bit like a list of appointments between Nietzsche and others, but don't relate much of the importance of such meetings.

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 96 pages.

A Scandal in Bohemia (Penguin Readers (Graded Readers)) - Arthur C Conan Doyle

LibraryThing tells me that 22nd May was ACD's birthday.

So, fittingly, I'll revisit a favourite story tonight.

Reading progress update: I've read 124 out of 422 pages.

I Am Dynamite!: A Life of Nietzsche - Sue Prideaux

I know that this is almost inevitable, but so far, it would be fair to describe this as a dual biography of Nietzsche and Wagner. 


I really cannot stand Wagner, and so far this book has not changed this. 



Reading progress update: I've read 100%.

The Way of all Flesh  - Ambrose Parry

Ok, I loved that ending. It was fitting. And it was funny.


This turned out to be quite a fun book, even tho the crime solving really only gets going at the 60% mark and the language and attitudes are quite anachronistic. Still, it could have been much worse.

Reading progress update: I've read 57%.

The Way of all Flesh  - Ambrose Parry

Oh, hang on, Simpson has just met David Waldie. So, the experiments with chloroform cannot be far off.


Again, I'm finding this aspect of the story much more interesting than the actual underlying murder mystery. Tho, we don't even know whether there is a murder mystery. There have been suspicious deaths...but there has been no investigation of any of them, and almost 60% into the book, I might suggest this is a bit late to start looking into that aspect of the book.

Reading progress update: I've read 52%.

The Way of all Flesh  - Ambrose Parry

For all my issues with historical fiction, this is not horrible. I still like the medical history background best, and I am beginning to wonder when/whether the "author" is going to introduce Dr. Simpson's trialling chloroform instead of ether as the story is set, I believe, in the year that Simpson started promoting chloroform. I would expect there be a period of Simpson experimenting with the substance throughout the year, but so far there is not a whiff of this. (Sorry, I had to.)


Also, I've learned that the author is actually a team of writers: Chris Brookmyre and anaesthetist Dr Marisa Haetzman. This may account for the medical element being quite well-written.


Overall, tho, this is not ground-breaking literature. It's an easy read to work away to, which is exactly what I was hoping for.

Reading progress update: I've read 25%.

The Way of all Flesh  - Ambrose Parry

What an odd, odd book.


The book is set in Edinburgh, but more particularly it is set at James Young Simpson's medical practice and we follow a main character who is training as a doctor and is a junior assistant to Simpson. 


Simpson was a notable obstetrician (most famous for first promoting chloroform to ease labour pains - Queen Vic was a fan), so most of the cases we get to witness and most of the discussions we get to follow between the doctors (some very, very notable characters) all focus on childbirth, complications, abortions, quackery, and newfangled science such as phrenology etc. 


If I were flippant, I'd say this is a bit like Call the Victorian Midwife...


But among all of this there is also a murder mystery and the mystery of a disappearance which are not quite Ripperesque but are not far from it. 

Oh, and there is a hint of a blossoming romance.


If I weren't such a sucker for medical history (which seems to be quite good - I love the description of grumpy Duncan, another shining star of Victorian obstetrics), I'd be quite bored. 

Reading progress update: I've read 26 out of 311 pages.

Die Pendragon Legende - Antal Szerb

This is charming. Absolutely charming.


I have no idea yet what the story is going to be, but we have just had a scene in the reading rooms of the British Museum that made me smile.

Now, we're off to another favourite place of mine: to have lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Greek Street.

And it's all in anticipation of a mystery in Wales.


Maybe I've finally cracked, maybe I just needed something quick that I could make for lunch, but today I finally ended up using some couscous I found in my kitchen cupboard. 


Let's be honest, it was at the very back of the cabinet...but it was still in date.


Now, I tried as best as I could to soak it in flavours (a stock cube came in very handy), then just added more flavours at it, and possibly used a novelty combination of spice mixes that were also hiding at the back of the cabinet (let's not talk about their use-by dates). 


Anyway, I ended up with a quick lunch that was not too bad, but it also made me wonder:


What do you all use to make couscous taste less like cardboard and more like ... anything at all?


(Couscous, mystery spices, olives, red onion, tomatoes, olive oil, salt) 

Currently reading

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott
The Complete English Poems by John Donne
Progress: 158/569pages
The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor
Progress: 605/1344pages
Halbschatten by Uwe Timm
Progress: 16/272pages
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein
Progress: 258/558pages