Tag Archives: book review

Book Review; Pair of Dice Lost, Jeremy Ludlow

This is a volume for which I have been searching for many years. I first found a reference to it in the original Index Librorum Prohibitorum. By the fourth edition of this list, Pair of Dice Lost had been removed from the list, perhaps an indication of just how seriously the Catholic Church took this heresy.

While I have still been unable to find a copy of Ludlow’s work, I have at least found a review written by Tad Tuleja in his Catalogue of Lost Books.

An engraving from the original manuscript shows that Michelangelo was aware of this heresy although he could only code an allusion in his work.

It is also probable that Albert Einstein had access to this manuscript and his reading of it, coupled with his rejection of the heresy, led to his famous comment that, “God does not play dice with the Universe.”

Pair of Dice Lost (1671), Jeremy Ludlow

John Milton’s great poem Paradise Lost covers the biblical ground from the revolt of the rebel angels to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden. Milton’s younger contemporary Ludlow, who was “enthralled by Mr. Milton’s sonorities,” nevertheless felt the epic lacked something, and he endeavored to provide it in a “predendum.” What was lacking, he felt, was a fuller depiction of Heaven before the revolt, when Lucifer was still the Son of Light and the favorite of God’s admiring legions. “It was Mr. Milton’s own picture of the Archfiend,” he explained, “that compelled me to intrude myself into his poem: for I felt that a Being so fully tortured must speak his case with the lacrimae doloris sui, and not the bombast of a Drunkard caught out at tippling.”

Ludlow was not the first or the last to question the rhetorical excesses of Milton’s “Archfiend,” though he was certainly unique in his response. Pair of Dice Lost describes the “halcyon aeons” from the beginning of Creation to Satan’s defection, during which the Creator and his luminous companions amuse themselves by running interplanetary races (Satan has the record for the Mercury­to-Jupiter circuit), quaffing an ethereal beverage called “nebula,” and when they tire of these exertions, gambling. Using polyfaceted “cosmic” dice, they play not for gain but for preeminence: the winners get to oversee the Milky Way for the next millennia, or (an even more coveted prize) to sit closer to God’s throne.

All goes well in this celestial entertainment palace until, around nineteen aeons A.C., Satan comes to a disturbing realization: since God is both omniscient and omnipotent, there is no assurance He is not cheating at the game, either by placing his bets on a fore­seeable outcome or by manipulating the dice as they fall. The favorite angel broaches this sticky subject, and is informed magisterially, “Have you then invented Morality, my shining One? And when I breathed upon the waters, where were you?”

Understandably upset at this response, Satan muses darkly, “If the Almighty will not then set down Rules, why his loyal subjects must need set down their Own.” So thinking, he steals the cosmic dice, hurls them cavalierly in the direction of the planet Earth, and waits for judgment. It is not long in coming. Unable to tease an apology out of Satan for “rashly picking up My marbles and going home,” God banishes him from the celestial presence and con­demns him to an eternity below on Earth. “On thy belly thou must goe,” Ludlow echoes Milton, “and eat dirt with the creatures that I send you; so much thou must endure until thou save my dice, and restore them to their proper horne.”

Satan never does find the dice – which is why, in Ludlow’s wry estimation, “This green yet besieged orb of mud and mistiness/ spins yet uncertain, the Almighty’s plan defied.” The Latitudinarian implications of this comment won Ludlow no friends among the Puritan hierarchy, and indeed his “spirited despatch” was soon made anathema both by Canterbury and (redundantly) by Rome. In the bitter whimsy of its theme – his hint that God himself may be out of control-it speaks more strongly to the modern temper than to Ludlow’s own.

Book Review; Sign of the Cross, Chris Kuzneski

Yet another tale in the Dan Brown “Da Vinci” style. The biggest threat to Christianity in its history, yet another villain with unbelievable motives, particularly gruesome murders and innocents abroad. Oh yes, and two heroes who save the day. No wonder Clive Cussler said nice things about the novel.

Longish at 600 pages this is still readable, if only because the temptation to find out the “Why” is almost irresistible. The writing is competent and the plotting is meticulous yet there is an ultimate dissatisfication with the over all effect. The uninspired work of Dan Brown has a lot to answer for!

Should you be an un-repentant Dan Brown fan or a dedicated follower of Dirk Pitt, this is an excellent read. The testosterone is poured onto every page.

Book Review – People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks

Having won a Pulitzer Prize with “March”, her re-telling of “Little Women”, Brooks has moved onto deeper and darker ground with this novel about a book.

Not just any book. A Jewish Book which has survived more that 500 years of turmoil, book burnings and human terror. Finally resurfacing in Sarajevo near the end of the Bosnian War. A real book with an unknown history. The Sarajevo Haggadah.

Brooks creates a possible history for the book and the people who have been associated with the book. The glimpses into the world of book restoration are fascinating and the glimpses into the lives of the people around the Haggadah are warming yet horrifying. While most of us have learned that 1492 is the date Columbus discovered America, how many of us also know that it was also the year that Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, having defeated all the Moorish Muslims within their borders, decided they no longer needed the Jews and expelled them all. It seems the whole history of the volume is a series of rehearsals for the tragedy of the Bosnian Civil War during the ’90’s.

The research into both history and book restoration is meticulous. The dedication is to the most important people in human society, the Librarians. The great fear is that the book burnings could happen yet again.

Possibly the sole disappointment of “The People of the Book” is the way Brooks has drawn the relationship between the emotionally damaged restorer, Hanna, and her over-achieving mother. This may simply be a male reviewer’s reaction to the often repeated war between mothers and daughters.

How readable is “The People of the Book”?

After buying the book, I also went shopping and purchased some chicken and some Butter Chicken simmer sauce. I love Tandoori style chicken. I was really looking forward to that for my dinner. But first I had to walk back two bus-stops when I realised I had missed my stop. I must learn not to read on the bus! Then, way after dinner time, as the stomach growled in anger, I made myself a quick honey sandwich. I finally turned the last page at 2.15 am. I guess I will have to wait till tonight for my chicken.

But now I shall be able to eat it while contemplating the survival of a very special book. And remembering a well told tale which will live with me.

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Book Review – “Westbound,Warbound”, Alexander Fullerton

I admit it. I’m a ship-lit freak.

CS Forrester’s Horatio Hornblower, Douglas Reeman’s Richard Bolithio, Brian Callison’s Trapp and John Wingate’s encyclopedic knowledge of the sea all have suffered from my addiction. Give me a book about war at sea and I have disappeared for a day.

I found Alexander Fullerton’s “Westbound, Warbound” on a remainder shelf and it sat on my TBR pile for about a month. Then it could no longer be resisted.

The coming of age of Andy, the young third mate of the Pollyanna in oceans filled with German raiders, up the east coast of South and North America and across the Atlantic to Glasgow.

The Pollyanna is not a warship. She is a ship in a war, carrying supplies to a needy home country.

There is plenty of derring-do and death and lucky survival but as with all good sea tales, the major player is the ocean herself. Giant North Atlantic seas testing the rivets of Britain’s pride.

Worth the read without being outstanding, Westbound, Warbound is a readable story by a competent author.

Book Review; Raymond Saluad, by Lucien Choufleur

Since this blog began I have been a constant visitor to the wonderfully erudite and always informative Litlove. She has taught me much about literary criticism and about the post-modernists and existentialists.

It was through her essays that I became interested in the post-modern French authors who were major influences upon the Beat Generation on the other side of the Atlantic. Subsequently those influences which originated in France helped to inspire the  Hippies and now the Goths. Even now their influence continues with the philosophy behind the blogging and writing style of both the Raincoaster and myself . This is a fore-runner of the soon to be recognised Pre-Global Warming Hysteria movement of the first quarter of the twenty-first century.

So I rejoiced, when an English translation of this book by the fictional French boxer turned author, Lucien Choufleur who was strongly influenced by both Satre and Camus, didn’t cross my desk. As it wasn’t written in 1947, I felt impelled to plagiarise a review from Tad Tuleja.

Raymond Salaud is one of those rare works of art – like Goethe’s Werther or Mariachi’s Etudes Mexicaines – that are more significant for what they generate for what they are in themselves. This is an ironic thing to say about Choufleur, for he presented his novel as an acte gratuit, and would have been astonished to find that his influence, since his death in 1956, extended to such “contingent” arenas as popular movies and modern fashion.

A professional boxer up to 1946, Choufleur, in that year, discovered existentialism and immersed himself in the writings of Satre and Camus. Within a year he had become a café intellectual, building on the tradition of such pugilistes cartesiennes as Robert Cohen to ingratiate himself with the Deux Magots crowd and to earn a reputation (in the words of Gigi Sombreux) as “the only counter-puncher Jean-Paul feared.”

It was not enough. In the latter part of 1947, feeling still a “sometime member of the club,” he began a work of fiction that would amalgamate the basic Left Bank theories with (in his ingenuous phrasing) “those images that have made me what I am.” For Choufleur, this meant American film noir, subway billboards, and boxing newsreels. As a result, his need to impress the “big heads” battled constantly with naïve wonder at “low class” creativity, and the novel he wrenched out of this tension offended Hollywood no less than his café patronizers.

Choufleur’s character, Raymond Salaud, is a freelance detective, very much in the Spade and Marlowe mold. But his impulse control is leaner than theirs; he justifies his frequent outbreaks of “gratuitous violence” by invoking Camus’s Meursault as a patron saint, and taking as his personal First Commandment the Dostoyevskian notion that “without God all is permitted.” Thus, when he suddenly punches a stranger in chapter 1 – blessing her with “fortuity” – his justification is, first of all, Meursault, and then the honour which must be paid to one’s own feelings. In his words, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

The café crowd, recoiling at this “abuse” of the current cant, eased Choufleur out of the favoured circles, and he ended up in Marseilles, boxing for brandy. But the reverberations of his work were widely felt. Mickey Spillane first and then the Dirty Harry and Death Wish writing teams, acknowledged Choufleur as an influence on their dramatic styles, and Spillane has gone so far as to admit that “If that froggie hadn’t whacked that little old lady, Mike Hammer mighta thought twice about plugging broads.”

Choufleur’s other claim to fame lies in the fashion field. Salaud’s standard costume is not a trench coat but “black on black”, and his female companion, the lustrous Cherche Femme, also dresses exclusively in “midnight magic”. The vogue for “basic black” during the 1950’s – in the haute monde as well as in the demi – has been traced distinctly to the Choufleur fad, and modern bikers parisiens also acknowledge his influence. No doubt this would have pleased the struggling author. His personal motto was Je suis moi (I am me); after his shabby treatment by the Paris set he changed it defiantly to “Paint it black.”

Book Review – “The Accident Man”, Tom Cain

A “what-if” thriller based on a real event.

As is shown on the cover of the book; 12.19am A Mercedes leaves the Ritz Hotel, 12.25am A car loses control in a Paris underpass.

This is a plausible scenario which rather chillingly brings in a number of themes and motives for certain people wanting someone removed from the world scene.

Using the same techniques used in most modern thrillers there is little subtlety in the description of events. Scenes of explicit brutality, sudden death and torture are carefully inserted into the narrative. Modern television series use a similar sales gimmick. The violence is used to hold a horrified or jaded audience.

The motives of those involved receive some recognition yet the changing allegiances of many of the characters seem to be almost random.

Regardless of my uncertainty about the characterisation this novel is tightly written. It seems as though the motives for the initial crime are those of any one of several British groups. The Russian Mafia is involved somewhere as well. Scene follows hurried scene and the denouement, rather surprisingly, occurs as a world-wide audience watches a funeral. So much has happened in the novel that the time scale seems elongated yet in the outside world time has moved at a normal pace.

“The Accident Man” has the ability to hold the reader right through until the final, surprising motive is revealed.

I would rate it around 4 out of 5.

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Poopsie Gizzardshorts

This was passed on to me by a son with little boys and littler to do! 🙂

He even has the nerve to think we should all laugh more!

The following in an excerpt from a children’s book, “Captain Underpants And the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants” by Dave Pilkey. The evil Professor forces everyone to assume new names……

Use the third letter of your first name to determine your new first name:

a = Poopsie b = lumpy c = buttercup
d = gadget e = crusty f = greasy
g= fluffy h = cheeseball i = chim-chim
j = stinky k = flunky l = boobie
m = pinky n = zippy o = goober
p = doofus q = slimy r = loopy
s= snotty t = tootie u = dorkey
v = squeezit w = oprah x = skipper
y = dinky z = zsa-zsa

Use the second letter of your last name to determine the first half of your new last name:

a = apple b = toilet c = giggle
d = burger e = girdle f = barf
g = lizard h = waffle i = cootie
j = monkey k = potty l = liver
m = banana n = rhino o = bubble
p = hamster q = toad r = gizzard
s = pizza t = gerbil u = chicken
v = pickle w = chuckle x = tofu
y = gorilla z = stinker

Use the fourth letter of your last name to determine the second half of your new last name:
a = head b = mouth c = face
d = nose e = tush f = breath
g = pants h = shorts i = lips
j = honker k = butt l = brain
m = tushie n = chunks o = hiney
p = biscuits q = toes r = buns
s = fanny t = sniffer u = sprinkles
v = kisser w = squirt x = humperdinck
y = brains z = juice

Thus, for example, John Howard’s new name is Cheeseball Bubblehead while George W Bush is Goober Chickenshorts and North Korea’s Kim Jong-il will now, forever be known as Pinky Bubblepants! Would Britney be accepting of Chim-Chim Hampsterbuns? Or the late Anna Nicole Smith of Zippy Bananasniffer?