Original Book Reviews, Recommendations and Discussions

Not much of a mirror – You Don’t Look Your Age, by Sheila Nevins

Hardcover, publisher: Flatiron Books, a division of US Macmillan Publishers, New York, US, 2 May 2017, 255 pages. ebook: Flatiron Books, 250 pp.

With reference to the title of her new biography, Sheila Nevins does not look her age, which is 78 years. When I saw her interview with Charlie Rose last Friday on PBS, I was struck by how beautiful she is, in the same class of timeless good looks as Elon Musk’s mother, Maye Musk (69), and Carmen Dell’Orefice (85) who are both (still) models. She was also funny, self-deprecating, and sharp as a blade, so I immediately ordered her new book, You Don’t Look Your Age…And Other Fairy Tales, published two days ago. It is a very short, slight production and, contrary to Nevins’ stated intent, reveals only the well-disguised, carefully curated thoughts and back-stories that Nevins, who has spent her career behind the scenes as a producer of documentaries for HBO, wants to reveal. Continue reading

With love and fatigue from writer and reader – Report from the interior, by Paul Auster

Published November 19, 2013, hard cover, by Henry Holt and Company, New York, USA.

No, this is not a second-hand copy with an old, ripped cover. It is how the cover has been designed to look. Published November 19, 2013, hard cover, by Henry Holt and Company, New York, USA.

Paul Auster has been one of my favourite authors for many years, but not one whose name would come directly to mind if I were asked to name an author whose books I “liked”. “Liking” is not an emotion that I associate with Auster’s books.  It is too friendly and mild a term. Bafflement and fascination, as well as irritation and great admiration, would come closer to the mark. I suspect he is something of an acquired taste and once you have gotten into Paul Auster, you are as devoted as a slavering but somewhat puzzled dog. Whatever his motivation for producing Report from the interior, a very strange bit of self-analysis, I would not recommend it unless you are an absolute Auster fan. Read everything else he has written, yes, do! Absolutely! But this one – I do not know whether I am crazy about it or hated it. It is an oddity that you cannot easily fit into a genre, but it is also an impressive demonstration that humans are, sadly, “on one level, no more than meat; and on the other, no more than fiction.”  Continue reading

The White Road – Journey Into An Obsession, by Edmund de Waal

The White Road

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1st American ed., September 24, 2015

Today I added the 153rd author to my list of reviewed authors. Only a few stand out, and here is one: Edmund de Waal.

Edmund de Waal is a famous British artist and maker of porcelain. To understand his latest book, you have to know the basics about porcelain. It is actually an amazing story, and, all things considering, appropriately told. Every quirk of grammar, format and metaphor has a purpose, which becomes clear once you have taken it all in.

Although porcelain is a type of ceramic, the reverse is not true. Just like all wood is not oak, not all ceramic is porcelain. Ceramics includes earthenware, bone ware, pottery and porcelain – any “user object” made from clay.  “User objects” include tableware, construction elements (like toilets) engineering parts, car parts and computer parts. Porcelain is the specific sub-category of user objects or ceramics made out of clay that results in a hard, fire-proof, water-proof, rust-proof and bacteria-proof white ceramic material. Porcelain is made from a very specific combination of clay and other substances that is baked in a kiln to temperatures between 1,200 and 1,400 °C (2,200 and 2,600 °F). This porcelain, due to its qualities, has been used for tableware for thousands of years, as early as the Shang Dynasty in China (1600–1046 BC). Like tulip bulbs and silk, people would connive and conspire for the secret of porcelain from the Far East.  Continue reading