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Reviews Written by
Tracy Rowan "dargelos" (Chicago, IL USA)

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Rackham's Fairy Tale Coloring Book
Rackham's Fairy Tale Coloring Book
by Arthur Rackham
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 4.28
40 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful coloring book for adults and children, May 28 2002
I decided to revisit my childhood recently, and ordered a stack of coloring books. The Rackham is by far the prettiest of the lot. You can attempt to emulate Rackham's earthy palette, or you can go wild and use every bright color in the box. Either way, you'll have a wonderful time coloring these complex, sinuous, lovely illustrations. And the fairytales are a bonus. Something for when you're sick in bed, or just feeling down and looking for a bit of comfort.

A Moveable Feast
A Moveable Feast
by Ernest Hemingway
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.64
54 used & new from CDN$ 2.16

5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable introduction to Hemmingway, May 28 2002
This review is from: A Moveable Feast (Paperback)
Apart from an abortive attempt at "The Old Man and the Sea" in high school, I managed to avoid Hemmingway for fifty years. Now I wonder why. "A Moveable Feast" is so enchanting, so fascinating with its tart, funny, incisive portraits of Stein, Pound, Fitzgerald and others that I feel sad to have missed it for so long.
Why Hemmingway took so long to write this memoir is anyone's guess, but perhaps the older writer understood things the younger one only lived. Whatever the reason, AMF is a wonderful mixture of the perspective of age and the enthusiasm of youth. It's a lovely portrait of a city where people too poor to own a cat can afford a cook and a nurse for their son. It's a tale of a writer writing, reading everything he can borrow from Shakespeare and Company, getting to know artists and authors and loving Paris and Parisians. If you read no other Hemmingway in your life, read this.

Lennon in America: 1971-1980, Based in Part on the Lost Lennon Diaries
Lennon in America: 1971-1980, Based in Part on the Lost Lennon Diaries
by Geoffery Giuliano
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.56
30 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but disturbing, May 28 2002
I'm always a little skeptical of celeb bios which paint portraits of their subjects as being so totally dysfunctional that you can barely comprehend how they manage to get through a day in the real world. Giuliano's bio of John Lennon is on the thin, sharp edge of this territory, giving us a Lennon so sex, drug and Yoko-addled that he's lost virtually all of his creativity. What we're seeing is almost a walking corpse. It's almost a relief when Chapman kills him. Thats a terrible way to feel about anyone, much less someone who was a kind of hero. There's part of me that resents bios like this.
Giuliano, who is seen in photos being terribly chummy with Yoko and Sean, nevertheless trashes her as an artist and a human being with such apparent glee that the word "hypocrite" came screaming to mind. If you had bad feelings about Yoko, this book will only confirm them. If you had no bad feelings about Giuliano when you started reading, you might just have them by the time you finish.
Did I enjoy this book? No. But I did finish reading it, a tribute to Giuliano's easy style, and the prurient nature of the human mind. It's hard to look away from a train wreck.

Murder on the Orient Express
Murder on the Orient Express
VHS
2 used & new from CDN$ 18.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Retains its charm., May 28 2002
Even after all these years, Murder on the Orient Express holds up. It's got stellar performances from Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall and Wendy Hiller, and only slightly less impressive ones from most of the rest of the cast. The look is just too 1930s retro chic for words, and the balance between comedy and drama is deft. If you're looking for a film to sink down into like a big, comfy sofa, look no further.

Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems
Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems
by Billy Collins
Edition: Hardcover
21 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Told in the simple things, April 10 2002
More and more I appreciate the poem that brings poetry down to the familiar, even the mundane. A cup of coffee and a cigarette, or the way leaves look just before a storm. Billy Collins is a master of this kind of simplicity. He grounds you firmly in the world, and then lets the truth of it open out before you. Accessible though never simplistic, direct and dryly funny, Collins is a gem. Read him.

Truly,Madly,Deeply
Truly,Madly,Deeply
DVD ~ Juliet Stevenson
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 181.63
7 used & new from CDN$ 71.55

5.0 out of 5 stars I love this film truly, madly..well, you know, April 9 2002
This review is from: Truly,Madly,Deeply (DVD)
Nina can't move ahead with her life after the loss of her lover, Jamie, so Jamie returns to her. And for a while she's overjoyed. But then she starts to remember why Jamie often made her crazy, remembers that he wasn't a saint or an angel, but a man. And losing him was a tragedy, but not one she can't ever recover from. She's alive and she wants a life. She can't have that with Jamie, and finally she gets the closure she needs to say good-bye to him, and move on.
So many comparisons were made between TMD and Ghost, but comparisons do justice to neither film. Taken on its own merits, I'd have to say that TMD is one of the sweetest love stories I've ever seen because it's one of the most real. Nina is a real woman who gets blotchy when she cries, has second thoughts, says and does foolish things and loves deeply. She has needs and desires which she puts on hold out of grief, but when she gets a good, solid nudge from the ghost of her lover, she recognizes how much of life is ahead of her and she accepts, finally, that loss is a part of that life.
I'm not sure why this film means so much to me. At a guess I'd say that it transcends my love for Alan Rickman by miles. Possibly it's because I first saw it after losing someone I loved, or maybe I was just ready for the gentle humor and lessons about life, love and loss that the film offers. I highly recommend this film.

Secrets of Saffron: The Vagabond Life of the World's Most Seductive Spice
Secrets of Saffron: The Vagabond Life of the World's Most Seductive Spice
by Willard
Edition: Hardcover
19 used & new from CDN$ 3.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Not just for saffron lovers, Dec 20 2001
Saffron is, in my opinion, one of the greatest flavoring agents in the world. I'm partial to it in baked goods and dairy products, and have developed my own recipe for saffron ice cream which is so addictive that I don't dare make it often. The finest (and incidentally the most expensive) wine I ever drank had a distinct saffron note to it which made the experience of drinking supremely heady. Saffron is mysterious to most people, even experienced cooks, and for many an acquired taste.
Pat Willard's book, though it does offer a number of saffron-rich recipes, is primarily a history of the spice and its travels. But even more compelling is the personal content, the stories of Willard's own involvement with saffron which range from amusing (her red silk bodice and almost-but-not-quite association with the SCA) to poignant (her saffron-rich creme brulee pie, created while trying to hold off the worst of the grief over her mother's death.) Willard has a gift for personalizing her work, and even though some of what she writes has an almost confessional quality, her stories are never less than graceful.
The recipes she includes are often quite old, and can be difficult to follow for modern cooks, but there are also more contemporary recipes which will whet your appetite for saffron. If reading about food is as pleasurable for you as cooking and eating, then this book will be a good addition to your shelves.

One Potato, Two Potato: 300 Recipes from Simple to Elegant - Appetizers, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, and More
One Potato, Two Potato: 300 Recipes from Simple to Elegant - Appetizers, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, and More
by Roy Finamore
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 29.61
22 used & new from CDN$ 6.13

4.0 out of 5 stars Not just for spud lovers, Dec 15 2001
I suspect that the die-hard potato lovers of the world will take this book to heart. I hope the not-so-committed will also want to pick it up because it contains a wealth of fantastic recipes which show just how versatile the potato (in all its incarnations) really is.
How difficult are the recipes? They vary, but I can tell you that you can get some spectacular results even with some of the easiest. The Gratin Dauphinoise, for example, is a simple dish of sliced potatoes, cream, milk and cheese, but the look and taste of it suggests that it took you hours to prepare. And there really is nothing quite so good as cold gratin the morning after.
Unless you're a potato fanatic, I don't know that you'll use the majority of the recipes here, but I do think that unless you hate potatoes (In which case why even read this review?) you'll find at least a few new recipes that you and your family really enjoy. Give it a try.

Crash: A Novel
Crash: A Novel
by J. G. Ballard
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.27
48 used & new from CDN$ 3.17

3.0 out of 5 stars Points for subject matter if not for execution, Dec 11 2001
This review is from: Crash: A Novel (Paperback)
This is a case of a derivative work being superior to the original, IMO. I came to the novel because I found the film so compelling. True, the two share a fascinating take on the relation of man and technology in their exploration of the eroticism of one of the more iconic pieces of machinery ever created: the automobile. But this isn't just doing-it-in-the-back-seat-of-the-Chevy sex, this is kinky, body-modification-by-violent-means sex.
Ballard's characters are obsessed with car crashes and the way in which the human body and mind are forever altered by the experience. There is an obsession with scarring, with wounds, with broken bones and torn flesh, with body fluids and the way violent impact can force them from us. This is ground-breaking stuff, thought-provoking and troubling in ways that aren't pleasant to think about. Unfortunately, whether it's that Ballard's style isn't conducive to conveying the eroticism in any visceral way or whether the sheer length of this story works against it, the novel never really grabbed hold of my imagination.
I had a sense, as I slogged through the latter half of the book, that I was reading a short story in novel's clothing. It feels padded to me, and highly repetitive. The erotic frisson of engine coolant as a kind of sexual musk lost its charm after the first dozen times it was evoked. Ballard's sexual vocabulary here is clinical in the extreme which may work in terms of distancing the reader from sex on wholly human terms, but it works too well. Held at a distance by the words he chooses, it's hard to get a feel for the implied eroticism of the subject matter. It's all too cerebral, too cold and mechanical. The machine is all, and humans might as well be made of metal, too.
I give points for the chances he took, but subtract them for the unnecessarily sterile way in which he took them.

Uncle Mame: The Life of Patrick Dennis
Uncle Mame: The Life of Patrick Dennis
by Eric Myers
Edition: Hardcover
16 used & new from CDN$ 5.12

3.0 out of 5 stars Curiously uninvolving, Dec 1 2001
Some of the best-loved and best-remembered reads of my early adolescence were the books of Patrick Dennis. "Auntie Mame" left a nearly indelible impression, while its sequel, and the novels "The Joyous Season," "Tony," and "Little Me" were as eagerly devoured if not quite as unforgettable. On the recommendation of a friend I picked up a copy of "Uncle Mame" certain that I was going to be wildly entertained, but alas it was not so.
I don't really know why this book didn't capture my imagination, though I do know that throughout, Dennis (nee Edward Everett Tanner III, aka, Pat Tanner) remains a somewhat shadowy figure, aloof and unapproachable. Myers never closes the gap between Tanner and his readers or indeed, between Tanner and himself. I had the impression that for all the delving into Tanner's life, particularly the facts of his sexuality, Myers is no more familiar with the subject of his book than is the reader. I don't necessarily blame the author; it's clear he's done his legwork on this book, interviewing those friends and family members who survived Tanner. It's just that the information as presented casts no revealing light on the man. We're told over and over again that Pat Tanner is a charming, gracious man, but see little evidence of it. We're told of his process of self-discovery, in re. his sexuality (And I give points to Myers for the way he handles it, unfolding the facts slowly rather than making it a primary issue from page one.) but I never got a real feel for either his conflict or the blunt reality of his homosexuality.
Oddly, the book comes alive when Myers is discussing the other people in Tanner's life. In particular, his crazy aunt Marian lends herself to some very vivid narrative. Marian always claimed she was the original inspiration for Mame Dennis, though Pat always denied this absolutely. Either way, she's an unforgettable character, and Myers is at his best when writing about her misadventures. Also fascinating is the material about two of Pat's best friends, Cris Alexander and Shaun O'Brian. Cris in particular comes across as a vivid, creative, funny man, and I found myself wishing that the book had been about him and his partner, O'Brian, rather than Tanner.
To be fair, I think Meyers was constrained by Tanner's personality. He seems a creature of opposites. Over and over, it's said that he was a kind, generous, gentleman, but his own words are cool (even cold), sardonic and frequently waspish, and paint a very different picture. His children adored him, we are told, but in the same chapter we learn that he ruled them with an iron will, often shamed them into good behavior, and preferred to teach them to play bridge or mix martinis for his guests, than to do parent-type things with them. We're told that he and his wife, Louise, loved one another deeply, but see scant evidence that they were more than just buddies who produced two children together before she and Pat separated when he felt the need to be more honest about his sexuality. We're told that he was generous to a fault to crazy aunt Marian, but his letters to her are cold and self-justifying, explaining that he has very little money himself (hardly true; he lived extremely well) and can't spare any more for her. And certainly while there was no reason for him to continue to support her, the tone he takes with her made me uncomfortable in light of all the praise that had been sung on his sweet nature. Over and over, we're told one thing and shown another.
In the end, Tanner comes across as a sad, eccentric man who was easy to like but hard to know. I suspect that the force of his personality is not something that can be captured in print. I would recommend this book with reservations. If you're a huge fan of Tanner's work or interested in post-war New York, this might be just the book for you.

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