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Robert H. Nunnally Jr. "gurdonark" (Allen, TX United States)

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The Small House at Allington
The Small House at Allington
von Anthony Trollope
Preis: EUR 11,13

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Trollope's gentle satire works, 16. Juli 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Small House at Allington (Taschenbuch)
The Small House at Allington, one of Trollope's Barsetshire novels of provincial life, does not require a familiarity with the other books in the series. Its plot device, much like the slightly superior Framley Parsonage, is to show the effects of poor choices and the way in which life sometimes gives folks pretty just desserts for the silly choices they make. As with all Trollope, though, the plot is a jaunty cover for his real theme, which is a social satire of his era in an effort to illumine human nature. Sometimes Trollope's plot devices had a different effect on the reader than he intended. Lily Dale, placed in the novel largely to illustrate the consequences attendant to self-willed dedication to victorian ideas of true love, in fact became a celebrated character in her time as an example of a perfect jilted lover. It is somewhat amusing reading the novel today, seeing how Trollope showed Lily as a stubborn girl from a stubborn family, stubbornly devoted to "Love", and then to think that in his time, Lily was seen as a perfect avatar of true love.
This is a good read--lots of rich satire of persons of both high and low station. It is not Trollope's best, but it is a good read, and well worth a Sunday afternoon read. If you have not read Trollope, prepare for a richly human story laced with satire. If you have read Trollope, then expect a wit slightly less sharp but a story a bit more engaging than his others. His character Crosbie, the "villain" of sorts, is a fine creation, and this one is worth a read.

Descent Into Hell
Descent Into Hell
von Charles W. Williams
Preis: EUR 13,49

5.0 von 5 Sternen Hell has never been more poetically conceived, 15. Juli 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Descent Into Hell (Taschenbuch)
Among the writers associated along beside C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien with the "Inkling" writers, Charles Williams' voice is arguably the most curious. Williams' seven novels discuss the triumph of a vibrant, mystical, rather unorthodox Christianity over the forces of occult despair.
Williams was by instinct a poet with more than a bit of Tennison among his influences. His books are fairly easy reading, even though he alternates between rather vivid literary allusion and an idiosyncratic stream of narrative consciousness. In this book, he personifies salvation and damnation in characters who, despite all the odd phrasing and high flown prose, seem eminently human. The passage in which a character meets a final damnation is extremely effective, neither preachy nor filled with that sort of "tacky Mr. Scratch and his horrid fire" sensibility that some writing about the afterlife can have. This, along with the other six novels in the series (the series is linked thematically and stylistically rather than by plot), is certainly worth a read.
In our time, we see a lot of Christian fiction which seeks to tell stories of salvation and damnation through the use of fantasy characters (Peretti and his imitators come to mind). Yet, Williams' work, consciously literary, willing to risk heterodoxy to make a point, and infused with a victorian poetic sensibility, consistently takes the reader to places that the modern works fail to glimpse.
In short, Charles Williams is the real thing, and well worth a read.

Strong Poison
Strong Poison
von Dorothy L. Sayers

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Harriet Vane's Debut Enchants, 15. Juli 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Strong Poison (Taschenbuch)
Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey books are diverting detective fiction, set in a 20s and 30s England in which an aristocrat who is much less silly than he sometimes pretends to be goes about solving well-thought-out literary puzzle mysteries. As the saying goes, if Lord Peter did not exist, we would have to invent him.
Strong Poison marks the introduction of Ms. Sayers' love interest for Lord Peter, Harriet Vane. Ms. Vane, a curious mix of 19th Century ideas and 20s era feminism, is a mystery writer (and, in this volume, accused murderess) in her own right.
Apparently, some of those folks they call "purists" took a dislike to Ms. Vane, much preferring Lord Peter to be assisted only by his Jeeves-like gentleman's gentleman, Bunter. In fact, Sayers' Harriet Vane is a thorough delight.
This book is the first of a set of subplots in a love story notable for the fact that its heroine is frequently described as "not pretty", the affair is one of the head as well as heart, and the enchanting quirkiness of the couple makes the chase a bit winding but the result inevitable.
Is the plot a bit of whimsy? Absolutely. But, after all, it is Lord Peter Wimsey, and that makes it all come out right.
If you've not read this, I strongly recommend. If you have read this, take a good afternoon, and return to the Wimsey/Vane world.

Morgan: American Financier
Morgan: American Financier
von Jean Strouse

5.0 von 5 Sternen A Solid Biography of a Fascinating Life, 15. Juli 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Morgan: American Financier (Taschenbuch)
This biography succeeds in giving the reader a sense of Mr. Morgan's social milieu, the profound contradictions in the way he lived his life, and the way in which the late 19th and early 20th Century evolved into what we now call modern life.
Ms. Strouse is sympathetic to her protagonist, but is also quick to point up his many flaws and quirks. I found the whole thing extremely readable.
Perhaps the most amusing part of the book is the way in which Ms. Strouse portrays the "intelligentsia" in Mr. Morgan's art world--Roger Fry, Berenson--less as interesting evolutionary figures in the history of art criticism and more as real flesh and blood folks in search of a position or a commission. "Catty", Fry and Berenson seem to be synonyms in the Strouse lexicon.
I'm not a great reader of biographies, but this one is pretty darn interesting. I wonder how the bios of this generation's multi-billionaires will read.

The Wealthy Barber, Updated 3rd Edition: Everyone's Commonsense Guide to Becoming Financially Independent
The Wealthy Barber, Updated 3rd Edition: Everyone's Commonsense Guide to Becoming Financially Independent
von David Chilton
Preis: EUR 11,65

5.0 von 5 Sternen A One Stop, largely Jargon-free Guide to Money Management, 13. Juni 2000
We're besieged with financial data and ideas these days. Money rolls in and out of markets--fortunes made and lost and made again. Water cooler discussion no longer turns on weekend fun and childrens' soccer, but instead on internet investing and day trading fantasies.
The Wealthy Barber is the book for the person who wants to live his or her financial life with simplicity, integrity, and a quiet pursuit of slow wealth acquisition. The format of the book is to use a fictional setting--an advice-giving barber who shows middle-class people how to maximize what they have without undue stress or bother. The author's simple mission is to show the reader that one need not be a pinball wizard in the stock market to rack up a few points towards wealth and an easy retirement.
Do you want a book to read which is easy to follow, sound in its goals and advice, and basically a simple, good read? Then put down that copy of Field and Stream and step up into the barber's chair!

James Herriot: The Life of a Country Vet
James Herriot: The Life of a Country Vet
von Graham Lord

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4.0 von 5 Sternen Herriot's reality makes his novels the more remarkable., 6. Juni 2000
James Herriot's stories about a country vet in the 1930's and 1940's present a warm, fascinating set of yarns about a bygone time. The Herriot reader intuitively understands that the real story is not the literal set of cures and pet names listed in the stories, but instead, a Yorkshire culture that was swiftly passing before what then was considered modernity. The Herriot universe is peopled with charming farmers, the whimsical and amusing fellow vets, the Farnon brothers, and a world of amusing coincidences among the vet cases assigned to Mr. Herriot. In his biography, Graham Lord sets out to show the real vet behind the novelist. In so doing, he portrays a fellow who was, as in the books, a rather shy, quiet, likable man. Some Herriot loyalists in some instances may be alarmed to discover that Mr. Herriot's real life was not as idyllic as the books, and that the books contained a fair bit of fiction. On the whole, though, the reader will understand and appreciate that the Herriot stories are not bounded by inquiries such as "was Siegfriend Farnon really as charming as the character in the books?" or "was the real-life Helen a bit more domineering than the one in the books?". Graham Lord's bio is a straightforward read, which,while largely sympathetic, spends a fair bit of time trying to show that some of the Herriotverse was mythic. The style of the writing is clear and easy. The format of the bio is fairly conventional, though we are in the main spared the sort of speculation about the inner philosophies of grandparents that mar some literary bios. The bio is reasonably short of hyperbole. The real puzzle of the Herriot life is how this natural storyteller developed his craft and evolved such a fully-formed fictive universe. The Lord bio devotes some attention to this issue, but not nearly enough. Instead we are left with anecdotes suggesting that the Herriot novels are only fifty percent fact. This is really beside the point,
much as it is irrelevant whether a historical Sir John Falstaff was really a buffoon. I recommend this bio, as it shows a life quietly but in the main well lived, and a writer who developed fascinating material from a creative imagination and a colorful perspective on the everyday.

Storm in the Village (Thorndike Core)
Storm in the Village (Thorndike Core)
von Miss Read
  Gebundene Ausgabe

5.0 von 5 Sternen Miss Read's Simple Charms Shine Through, 4. Juni 2000
Miss Read wrote about the virtues of voluntary simplicity long before it became a movement or seminar topic. Her Fairacre books use a single school teacher in a small English village as an observer of a richly realized provincial life. One is tempted to wax on about the influence of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens in her work, or to somehow disparage Jan Karon, who has created a Readesque world from a North Carolina milieu. No doubt one day folks will write their masters' theses discussing how Ms. Read and Muriel Spark headed for many of the same places, and yet reached such different destinations. But really, all that folderol would be missing the point completely. Miss Read writes warm, sentimental gentle English provincial satire, which is really all you need to know.
The Fairacre characters are ordinary folks, burnished up a bit, as novels tend to do, so that they are entirely believable in their own universe, but not necessarily a part of our own "real world". Miss Read is not a pollyanna, nor does she set out to teach us some social lesson. Instead, she sets out for the reader a solid meal of good characterization, gentle wit, and a solid dessert of warm-hearted sentiment.
Storm in the Village deals with a dilemma all too familiar to anyone from a small town--the town church is damaged, and money must be found to repair it. The book exists in a world of happy endings and wonderful good fortune, but the straightforward plotting is beside the point. We do not live in suspense about the ending--we just enjoy with pleasure how our characters make the ending happen. Miss Read is not out to convert us to move to Fairacre, or even to cause us to create our own Fairacres. But she does offer us a chance to peek through the gauze into a middle-class life whose virtues and foibles we recognize and appreciate. Perhaps someone out there now is toiling away on rescuing our suburban stories from the smug modernisms of the latter-day aesthete. In the meantime, though, Miss Read shows us that the ordinary life, well told and brushed up a bit about the edges, can make a darn good read.
Storm in the Village is not going to make you pause and ponder life's inner contradictions. But it may allow you to sigh with relief on a rainy Saturday afternoon. What could be wrong with that?

Rainbow Mars, Engl. ed.
Rainbow Mars, Engl. ed.
von Larry Niven

4.0 von 5 Sternen Niven's Narrative Style Applied to an Interesting Conceit, 4. Juni 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Rainbow Mars, Engl. ed. (Taschenbuch)
Larry Niven's style is always accessible, intriguing and "sci fi". His characters tend to be ordinary folks caught up in extraordinary situations, whether they wear a janitor's togs or a general's bars. Although he gives his books a contemporary feel, they also hearken back to the 1930s and 1950s magazine based stories. Mr. Niven himself wrote for some of the later magazines, and this novel is a sort of long sequel to a series of time travel stories.
Niven's approach to this Mars time travel satire mines liberally from science fiction that has gone before. Its central conceit is satisfying and useful--what if every science fiction story and misplaced scientific theory about Mars were true? Analogously to Heinlein's Number of the Beast, Niven harvests from a rich field of Martian myths and stories.
Although this is a time travel work, Niven thankfully spares us any "hard science" effort to explain the time paradox. He's out to mine a solid satiric story from his material, and he manages to accomplish his goal without unduly burdening his story with inside jokes.
This book uses the traditional Niven narrative devices, but it feels much more like comic material such as "Hitchhiker's Guide" than the "fantastically improbable crisis made real through good characterization and patient explanation" which usually denotes Niven novels. Yet, although the work is a satire, it rarely plays for cheap laughs. The author creates a dilemma, builds a series of characters to resolve the dilemma, and winks at the audience quite a few times in doing so. It feels like a book-length issue of Astounding Magazine, re-issued in 2010. Fans who want a detailed and realistic bit of Niven unreality will be disappointed. Fans who don't mind a stretch will be pleased. This one marches to a different drummer, but the beat's not at all bad, and sometimes you can dance to it.

Piercing the Darkness
Piercing the Darkness
von Frank E. Peretti

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2.0 von 5 Sternen This work captures the attention, but is thematically flawed, 21. Mai 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Piercing the Darkness (Taschenbuch)
Frank Peretti excels at writing gripping suspense fiction about a universe in which the battle between good and evil takes place on a spiritual plane which is both literal and personified. If one undertakes to read the story as fantasy fiction, it is more satisfying than much work in this genre. Peretti's work, however, is encumbered by the heavy-handed themes he imports into the novel. Peretti's goal is to portray new age ideas as not merely unsound, but literally demonic. Although the literal way in which he melds this theme into his plot makes for reasonably satisfying genre fiction, the novel is distinctly unsatisfying as a work of spiritual inspiration. Mr. Peretti's dogged fictive separation of the sheep from the wolves lacks the spirit of Christian charity which is the theoretical point of the work. One is reminded somewhat of Ayn Rand's work--Ms. Rand was frequently so intent on making her particular points about the virtues of selfishness that otherwise enjoyable popular fiction was weighed down by "lumpy-faced" socialist villains as stick-figured as a tinkertoy. Similarly, Peretti hands out damnation and orthodoxy with such a determined hand that the work must be deemed off-putting if absorbed as other than a work of fantasy fiction. This is a work aimed for the evangelical Christian audience, but its tone is distinctly unbeatifical. It's not a bad read, but it's not good theology, either. Given that Mr. Peretti has a talent for a crackling good yarn, one wishes that this novel were not so laden with easy conclusions and flawed metaphor. I give this one 2 stars because the author knows how to write fantasy, but this is a disturbing work, which definitely brings Mr. Peretti's sword rather than any peace to the issues of religious diversity. I do not recommend this work unless you are willing to overlook poor theology in the pursuit of a good fantasy read.

The Cost of Discipleship
The Cost of Discipleship
von Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Preis: EUR 12,43

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Cheap Grace and Difficult Choices, 21. Mai 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Cost of Discipleship (Taschenbuch)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Cost of Discipleship explores the challenges of embracing the gospel theme of sacrifice. In a direct, sometimes harsh assessment, he points up the difficulty of actually living a creed which embraces sacrifice of the individual believer called to task by the divine.
The phrase "cheap grace" remains the watch-phrase of the work. "Cheap grace" refers to the counterfeit self-acceptance the would-be believer experiences, and is discussed in sharp contrast to the genuine experience caused by the demands of the Christian faith. Bonhoeffer cautions us against 'easy religion' and mere emotive response to the Christian message. He portrays Christian life as demanding unflinching self-awareness and struggle, culiminating in surrender.
In later writings, Bonhoeffer himself modified the viewpoints he set forth in the Cost of Discipleship. An argument can be made that the work's stringent tone fails to convey the richness of the Christian life to which his book seeks to call adherents.
Nonetheless, Bonhoeffer's construct of "cheap grace" serves as a useful metaphor in a time in which materialism, inequity, and disconnection plague us. We may not choose Pastor Bonhoeffer's iron-clad distinctions as to what constitutes authentic spiritual experience, but we will not easily forget his call to embrace the genuine, and not merely counterfeit assuaged feelings for genuine spiritual experience.
Although this is a work of theology accessible to most readers, it is never patronizing in tone. Although one would have only a limited vision of Bonhoeffer's work if one read only the Cost of Discipleship, this is an excellent first Bonhoeffer book to read. The Cost of Discipleship is not a radical work, but rather a work of then-mainstream Christianity intended to provoke the reader into action. Even if one cannot reach all of Bonhoeffer's conclusions, and even if one does not share Bonhoeffer's theology, the inquiry is certainly worth undertaking.

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