She Who Pays The Piper

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She Who Pays The Piper
Sue Kindon
Three Drops Press – £5.99

From such considered clarity as ”gathered on unhallowed ground” (‘Just Short Of Midsummer’) to the idiosyncratic, yet variegated romance of ”frog prince promises” (Three Promises’), there’s a pronounced equilibrium of harlequin density that allineate the twenty-three poems of She Who Pays The Piper.
All of which are aligned with a most profound sense of wonderment.
Of place

And of course, invention.

Whether influenced by her native Westmorland in the UK, or inspired by the regal serenity of her adopted home in the Ariege region of south-western France, Sue Kindon shoots from the heart (rather than the hip) and equates beauty with inevitable grit (rather than saccharine folly).

To be sure, Kindon writes with all the sparkling finesse of someone who clearly knows and understands their craft – as if second nature.
As if there were no second choice.
No-where is this more noteable than in the book’s second poem ‘Long Meg and her Daughters;’ where such a literal constellation as ”Udders splayed like bagpipes. Meg’s in her wellies at the churn of dawn,” is enough to beckon the most cynical of taciturn matrons unto further investigation:

Another time they’re a constellation: shining sisters in a looking-glass
a necklace of whispered secrets giggling until they snap over a knitting needle.
Mother Meg wipes grainy hands on her apron sweeps up the spilt beads of cup-and-ring storm.

[…].

There are full-on nights when menstrual tides run high her harem inconsolable without a master
the ache of granite in a chaste brothel. Somehow their Madam Superior
she who podded them without intervention keeps them ruly.

Suffice to say, Kindon enables to keeps both us, as mere onlookers, and ”them” as ”shining sisters,” very demonstrably ruly indeed.

If such a line as: ”a necklace of whispered secrets giggling until they snap over a knitting needle” won’t evoke a certain, seething, high-octane, potential permissiveness; as perhaps subscribed to by the ideologically risible likes of a pent-up, funked-up Jane Austin – then I don’t know what (ever) will

There again, such poetic, social rabble aside, ”the ache of granite in a chaste brothel,” invariably sets the record straight – as if (once again) second nature.

To underline such reflective continuity, the inevitable outcome is further brought to bear when Kindon writes:

Princesses succumbing to the sleep of centuries.

before (invariably?) bequeathing the innocent bystander with the magnitude of a biological thunderbolt:

She dreams of the granddaughters she’ll never have whole moonscapes of ’em.

To suggest that the outcome of ‘Long Meg and her Daughters’ is capable of stopping one in one’s tracks, would be something of a veiled understatement.

If nothing else, it, along with She Who Pays The Piper as a whole, ought to be considered as nothing short of a sparkling template, from which Sue Kindon ought to embark on a v-a-s-t continuation of further poetic onslaught.

And then some.

David Marx

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Hemingway at War

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Hemingway at War –
Ernest Hemingway’s Adventures as a World War II Correspondent
By Terry Mort
Pegasus Books/W.W. Norton 

Money can be easy to come by, especially and obviously when it’s inherited; integrity is not.

This is a terrific book.

Apart from being very readable and very honest – not to mention flawlessly written – its fifteen chapters take the reader on a perilous journey through wartime Europe, as brought to bear by that equally perilous and utmost of seemingly blokey characters, Ernest Hemingway. Yet even if you’re not into Hemingway, which admittedly I am, it’s the sort of book that’ll have you turning the pages with all the great haste regularity of a curious gazelle.

There again, we are talking about Ernest Hemingway; who not only led one of the most interesting and colourful lives this side of Oliver Reed and Keith Moon, but is perhaps someone, many would consider as among the first rock’n’roll writers of his generation. He was after all, married four times, was something of a rebel rouser (to put it mildly) and enjoyed a pint. All of which is painfully, yet marvellously captured throughout Hemingway at War – Ernest Hemingway’s Adventures as a World War II Correspondent.

Indeed, so far as Hemingway’s spell as a most reticent reporter during the Second World War is concerned, Terry Mort (whose previous books include The Hemingway Patrols, The Wrath of Cochise and The Monet Murders) has herein left no stone unturned.

The author has unearthed his subject with as much truth, daring and research as is surely possible.

For instance, as the outset of chapter two, Mort touches on Men at War – which Hemingway spent much of 1942 editing and to which he also contributed three selections from his own novels – which, in and of itself, could well trigger an abundance of debate among Hemingway aficionados: ””This book will not tell you how to die.” That is Hemingway being Hemingway, but not the best of him […]. And in what surely is an unintentional visitation of irony, he writes that Mussolini’s bluster and military posing were designed to cover up the fact that he had been fearful, even terrified, during World War I. Surely Hemingway would be enraged to know today that that is almost exactly the criticism that was, and is, levelled at him, in some quarters. Worse, that same criticism is also used to question his sexual identity – does a hairy chest conceal some different needs! He would not have liked that, either. And in fairness, that sort of analysis – the defence mechanism argument – is facile and in some cases has a whiff of agenda-driven criticism. But if you, meaning Hemingway, are going to use it, you cannot be surprised when others do it to you.”

Suffice to say, the above is loaded with what many could well assume to be high-octane ambiguity; especially from the stand-point of ”Mussolini’s bluster” and Hemingway’s chest quite possibly concealing ”some different needs.”

It’s all relative conjecture of course; although in historically literal terms, there is needless to say, no smoke without fire. Or in this particular instance, no cover up without the most boisterous need to both subvert and divert.

Assorted light is further shed on such thinking in chapter eleven, by which time, Hemingway, who was involved in the Liberation of Paris, was staying at the Ritz Hotel. Mort writes of Hemingway having initiated a reunion with his old friend and occasional benefactor, Sylvia Beach. Quoting from her memoir: ””There was still a lot of shooting going on, and we were getting tired of it, when one day a string of jeeps came up the street and stopped in front of my house […]. I flew downstairs; we met with a crash; he picked me up and swung me around and kissed me while the people in the street cheered.

We went up to Adrienne’s apartment and sat down. He was in battle dress, grimy and bloody. A machine gun clanked on the floor. He asked Adrienne for a piece of soap, and she gave him her last cake […].”

The author then goes on to (perhaps clarify?) by writing: ”Beach’s account of the meeting suggests strongly that it took place as Hemingway was entering the city. His ”bloody” and ”grimy” appearance does not suggest the appearance of a man who had just spent the night at the Ritz. And you would think he would not need a bar of soap – surely the could Ritz provide that. (Although there were shortages of everything after four years of occupation and rationing).”

The mere fact that Terry Mort writes of such open ended conundrum, is just one aspect of what accounts for Hemingway at War being such a valuable and weighty, if not quasi-inflammatory read.

Naturally, not all of the 263 pages (excluding Introduction, Endnotes, Bibliography and Index) lean toward such supposition, as the following direct Hemingway quotation from a 1958 edition of the Paris Review – one among many – surely substantiates: ”All you can be sure about in a political-minded writer is that if his work should last, you will have to skip the politics when you read it.”

It’s not often a book will have one reading on the edge of one’s seat – but hey, this Hemingway. Replete with bluster and braggadocio.

David Marx

Scandinavian Christmas

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Scandinavian Christmas
Over 80 Celebratory Recipes for the Festive Season
By Trine Hahnemann
Quadrille – £16.99

I love […] the way the world turns silent when covered in snow.

     ‘Christmas Baking’

There are many different ways to celebrate the four Advent Sundays in Scandinavia. Mainly it’s about getting together and celebrating the end of the year and…well…life!

     ‘Festive Brunch’

Celebrate one of the Advent Sundays outside. Play in the snow: remember there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes. Serve hot drinks, salmon sandwiches, and ‘nisse’ (elf) cake, make a stew and bake bread over the open fire; I’ll show you how […].

     ‘Advent: A Whole Month of Christmas’

More than anything else, Scandinavian Christmas – Over 80 Celebratory Recipes for the Festive Season is a veritable delight to both behold and partake in.

Not only does it lend an entirely different slant to that of the Festive Season – which, given that all these rather wonderful, mouth-watering recipes are anchored in Scandinavia, ought hardly be surprising – it’s also something of a quintessential inspiration. Prime reason being, Trine Hahnemann, fundamentally arrives at these festive meals by way of an entirely different route from that of which most of us are used to. Let alone consider.

Whether it’s Warm Chicory Salad, Roast Pork with Spices and Crisp crackling, or Rice Pudding with Cherry Sauce (‘The Christmas Eve Feast’); Salted Cod and Kale Pesto on Celeriac Brushetta or Mini Root Vegetable Cakes with Horseradish Cream (‘Christmas Party’).

There is indeed, an abundance of ‘newness’ involved here; and whenever things are new, they cannot help but thus invariably inspire.

That the authoress is an expert on, and an ambassador for modern-day Scandinavian food, has obviously helped to make these 140 pages (excluding Acknowledgements and Index) what they are: clear, concise, colour-coded and authentic; thereby making for a cool collection of Go Scandi recipes that even the most reticent of culinary festive tigers are able to embrace: ”It’s completely missing the point of Christmas to be totally stressed out! Select just those things from this book that you would like to cook, and have fun. Christmas is about celebrating life and ‘hygge,’ a Danish term that is almost untranslatable, but encompasses comfort, camaraderie, and good food and drink. So create your own celebrations on your own terms.”

As a result of Hahnemann going out of her way to substantiate the need to ”create your own celebrations on your own terms,” is precisely what accounts for Scandinavian Christmas being such an inviting and alternative template.

Divided into seven sections (‘Christmas Baking,’ ‘Gifts from the Kitchen,’ ‘Advent: A Whole Month of Christmas,’ ‘Festive Brunch,’ ‘Christmas Party,’ ‘The Christmas Eve Feast’ and ‘Christmas Day Smorgasbord’), this hardback celebrates a hybrid of traditional treats and the most sumptuous of modern-day, Scandinavian recipes.

Replete with more than evocative photography, I’d have to say that this book isn’t just for Christmas, it’s for many (potentially elongated) fun times in the kitchen – the coming together of the aforementioned ‘Nisse’ (elf) cake on page fifty-seven especially.

David Marx

Safeguarding Democratic Capitalism

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Safeguarding Democratic Capitalism 
U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security, 1920-2015
By Melvyn P. Leffler
Princeton University Press – £32.95

Living under a cloud of fear like this robs a child of his spirit. It’s one thing to be afraid when someone’s holding a shotgun on you, but it’s another thing to be afraid of something that’s just not quite real. There were a lot of folks around who took this threat seriously, though, and it rubbed off on you. It was easy to become a victim of their strange fantasy… When the drill sirens went off, you had to lay under your desk facedown, not a muscle quivering and not make any noise. As if this could save you from the bombs dropping. The threat of annihilation was a scary thing.”

                                                                   Bob Dylan
                                                                   Chronicles, 2004

That the above was written by Bob Dylan in his book, Chronicles (on pages 29/30), should go some way in both dismantling and deciphering the American psyche throughout much of the last century as well as the beginning of the twenty-first. That Dylan is of unquestionably severe intellect, and is rather renowned for his seething honesty, ought further highlight the very substantial link that lies at the heart betwixt American paranoia and its own self-induced perplexity.

After all, the very first part of this book’s title alone (Safeguarding Democratic Capitalism) immediately conveys a troubled, underlying essence of its own design.

The mere fact that U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security has to ”safeguard” it’s very own ”democratic capitalism,” is surely something of a political blight that has burdened North America for many years. Much of the manifestation of which has invariably been ingrained within the very fibre of American thinking. The above opening quote of which is a prime example.

One does need to remember however, that what Dylan professed to, absolutely wasn’t, and still isn’t something to be taken lightly.

It still isn’t something to be merely brushed aside, as if mere words; even if said words, were spoken by one of the most utmost of intellects in the world today. But where Safeguarding Democratic Capitalism – U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security, 1920-2015 comes into its own, is its quintessential acknowledgement that what Dylan was saying, still remains at the very core of American psychosis.

And if psychosis – as characterised by an impaired relationship with reality; in other words: a symptom of serious mental disorder – isn’t at the helm of the current American presidency, then I really, really don’t know what is. Neither for that matter, may Melvyn P. Leffler (who, apart from having written For the Soul of Mankind and A Preponderance of Power and is also the Edward Stettinius Professor of American History at the University of Virginia), because these eleven chapters rather frustratingly conclude in 2015.

That said, in Chapter Two’s ‘Herbert Hoover, the ”New Era,” and American Foreign Policy, 1921-1929,’ Leffler does have the clarity of literary mind to regale readers with an excerpt from 1921 no less, made by the then Secretary of Commerce, Robert H. van Meter:

”There is nothing that would give such hope of recovery in life and living as to have this terrible burden and menace [arms expenditures] taken from the minds and backs of men. As Secretary of Commerce, if I were to review in order of importance those things of the world that would best restore commerce, I would inevitably arrive at the removal of this, the first and primary obstruction.”

Again, it does need to be remembered that van Mater wrote this (to President Warren G. Harding) in 1921. So is it any wonder that thirty years later, a young Dylan was perpetually being ingrained with the preposterous notion that cowering beneath his school-desk would save him from nuclear annihilation?

The notion of Dylan wanting to ”die in his own footsteps,” as aided and worryingly abetted by American Foreign Policy ever since God knows when, is herein brought to bear amid perhaps some of the finest essays written on the subject in a long time.

As such, these 335 pages (excluding Preface and Index) are, as the author of The World America Made, Robert Kagan, has since said: ”Always provocative, never doctrinaire, and often surprising in its lessons.”

David Marx

Springsteen – Album By Album

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Springsteen – Album By Album
By Ryan White
Introduced by Peter Ames Carlin
Carlton Books – £15.99

     The older you get, the more it means.

Bruce Springsteen,
Stadium of Light,
Sunderland, UK (21/06/2012)

A few days ago, it was announced and confirmed that Bruce Springsteen’s stint on Broadway (five nights a week) has now been extended to run until next June, 2018.

What with tickets being not only exceedingly hard to get hold of, but selling and changing hands for literally hundreds and hundreds of dollars; I find myself wanting to clamour onto a Manhattan rooftop – somewhere in the vicinity of the Walter Kerr Theatre on 48th Street – and through a large megaphone, scream the following words:

Hasn’t Bruce Springsteen made enough money yet?
Isn’t four-hundred-and sixty million dollars enough?
Isn’t four-hundred-and sixty million dollars (and counting) enough for him to at least think about giving a little something back? Back to his incredibly devoted fans – who, for many, many years, have always, always stood by him?
Just how much more money does he need to accumulate playing live, in order ”to provide for my family” (page 499 of his book, Born To Run)?
Indeed, how many risible hoops do his fans need to continue jumping through – as if dumbstruck, performing seals, with nothing better to do than outwardly fawn; while simultaneously hurling a menagerie of credit cards out unto the starstruck wind, ad infinitum – until such a time as fairness and decency descend?

To a certain degree, it’s a real tough and confusing one.
I myself have been a huge Springsteen fan for years. As such, it’s almost impossible to dismiss all the great music he’s put out over the years. BUT, isn’t it high time for him to remember what it was once like being a fan himself?

When the above mentioned book, Born To Run was published, he did a book signing in London, yet had the audacity to charge fans £20.00 to queue up! Supposedly to pay for security. Whatdafuckingfuck? Surely his label could have splashed out a few quid to pay for a couple of gorillas to ”protect him?”

It is indeed quite upsetting/disturbing, to come to the cold, harsh realisation that someone you’ve admired for so many years, has evolved into someone for whom the only thing that now truly matters is money.

As a result, listening to ‘Thunder Road’ just isn’t the same any more.
What’s more, it never will be.

What was it Dylan once said, ”it’s funny how money brings out the worst in people,” which is why I prefer to remember a time when Springsteen was indeed, wild and innocent. With a huge dollop of emphasis on innocent, which is where this altogether terrific book comes in.

Other than being a well-considered and highly authoritative overview of the artist’s work, Springsteen – Album By Album, is a lavishly compiled, hardback compilation, that harks back to a time when Bruce Springsteen still had a hungry heart. From his debut album Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ right the way through to High Hopes, the book is littered with thought provoking drop-quotes (such as the opening quote of this review) and is filled with some truly great – colour and black &white – photographs covering Springsteen’s entire career.

Written by Ryan White, and with an Introduction by Peter Ames Carlin – whose book Bruce I reviewed in 2012 – these 288 pages invariably drip with nostalgia. And all things considered – Springsteen’s aforementioned, current penchant (if not infatuation) with money for instance – this ought not be deemed a bad thing. After all, as long-standing side-kick, Steve Van Zandt said of Springsteen in 2011: ”He had the balls to be cornball […] to risk being sentimental.”

Hmm, but clearly not that sentimental.
Not sentimental enough to give his fans some sort of financial break – that’s for sure.

Rather than trying to secure tickets by lining the pockets of countless agents and touts, middle-men and of course, Bruce Springsteen himself; or queuing up for literally hours on end in the cold in the hope of seeing Bruce play a few acoustic songs, you’d be far better off watching the nigh endless Bruce footage on YouTube and buying this truly wonderful book.

Wonderful in the sense that one can still glean a fragment of the truth.

David Marx

 

The New Routledge & Van Dale Dutch Dictionary

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The New Routledge & Van Dale Dutch Dictionary
Second Edition
Routledge/Van Dale – £125.00

Even though the Dutch language, Nederlands), is spoken by twenty-four million people as a first language – obviously within The Netherlands itself as well as sixty per-cent of Belgium (predominantly within the Flanders region) – it remains the third most widely spoken of the Germanic language after English and German.

Outside of the Low Countries, it is the native language of the majority of the population of Suriname and also holds official status in Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maartin, which are constituent countries of the Kingdom of The Netherlands. Then of course, there is South Africa and Namibia, where Afrikaans has evolved into a mutually intelligible daughter language of Dutch, spoken by a further sixteen million people.

This, in conjunction with the fact that I am half Dutch myself, is what triggered me into thinking it was nigh high time I owed a decent Dutch dictionary.

So where else/further to look than this?

The New Routledge & Van Dale Dutch Dictionary is literally the finest, if not the best Dutch/English dictionary available (especially this second edition). Reason being, this more than comprehensive and contemporary two-way dictionary is ideal for Dutch language learners and users at every level.

Some of its key features include over 32,000 Dutch entries in the first edition, with a further 9,000 new definitions and headwords – supported by a further 18,000 translations not to mention a really helpful pronunciation aid. And talking of headwords, there has been a substantial expansion of them throughout this dictionary, which, suffice to say, is in keeping with changes in both the Dutch and English languages themselves. As a result, this second edition includes a further 3,000 new examples.

Along with including the past tense and past participle forms of Dutch irregular verbs, all words also appear in an English spelling. Although interestingly, to avoid confusion, American spellings have not been included; which I do have to say I find of particular interest. For purposes of clarity if nothing else.

That said, perhaps a little clarification with regards the English and American spelling(s) might not go amiss: American spelling can be easily predicted on the pure basis of British spelling(s). For example, many words ending in ‘our’ (humour) and ‘tre’ (centre) are spelt ‘or’ (humor) and ‘ter’ (center) in American English.

Moreover, unlike British spellings, the American equivalents do not always use double consonants; thus American English has words such as ”traveler” and ”jeweler” as opposed to the British ”traveller’ and ”jeweller.” As such, where British and American English differ lexically, there are entries for both.

The New Routledge & Van Dale Dutch Dictionary also includes phonetic transcription, conjugational information (added to the Dutch verbs after relative headwords), while Dutch nouns have been gender marked, which I’m sure many students of the Dutch language will find particularly helpful (for speedy referral if nothing else).

Finally, this altogether handsome and easy to use Dutch/English dictionary benefits from easy referencing, along with an exceedingly well defined – if not improved – format and layout.

In all, the most agreeable and superlative of Dutch dictionaries currently on the market.

David Marx

Italian Street Food

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Italian Street Food –
Recipes From Italy’s Bars and Hidden Laneways
By Paola Bacha
Smith Street Books – £25.00

Like most great eateries the length and breadth of many a foreign land, it’s always those off the beaten track which prove to be the most inexpensive and inviting. Not to mention usually the best. Only problem is – if such be the word – is actually locating them.

So far as Italy is concerned, this all round terrific book may well tick a number of surprisingly unconsidered, gastronomical purposes (and boxes). Namely, that you can learn to rustle-up an assortment of proper, delicious Italian street food of your own.

Something which, to all intents and cuisine induced purposes, ain’t no bad thing signor.

Who wouldn’t want to be in a position of being able to bring such regional delights as Pizzette con Gorgonzola e Fungi (Gorgonzola and Mushroom Pizette), Suppli al Telefono con Ragu (Suppli with Meat Ragu) or Pizza Bianca con Mortazza (Roman Mortadella Sandwich) to life – in the relative comfort of their own kitchen?

Being something of a foodie myself, I do have to say Italian Street Food – Recipes From Italy’s Bars and Hidden Laneways, is something of a true delight to both behold and fervently indulge in.

As let’s face it, ”food is central to the Italian way of life.”

Just as authoress Paola Bacchia makes exceedingly clear in this book’s fine Introduction: ”I have never met an Italian who did not mention food in almost every conversation. Describing what their last meal or spuntino (snack) was or what their next one will be, invariably with a strong opinion on the dish. And just like my father had repeated to me, for the average Italian, their mamma is the best cook, maybe only surpassed by nonna (grandmother) before she hands on the baton […] to the next generation. Region, provenance and seasonality always matters to them, so it stands to reason that street food in Italy combines all of these elements […].”

Just as, to a certain degree, do these 271 pages.

Replete with an array of (predominantly) colour photographs, it goes without saying that Italian Street Food essentially depicts that what it says on the tin/cover Although what fundamentally accounts for the quality and prime difference in Italian (street) food, is the vast variance in regionality: ”It is as much about geography as it is about tradition; what grows locally and is plentiful is more likely to be a key part of a particular dish. A traditional porchetta (roast pork) roll made by an artisan porchettaio (porchetta-maker) in Abruzzo will probably taste different from a porchetta roll eaten in Umbria. It might be made with different herbs (wild fennel in Umbria and rosemary in Abruzzo), the pig will have been raised on different land with different feed, and there will be some secret ingredient or cooking method handed down from mamma (or another family member equally qualified in the kitchen) that makes their porchetta better than everyone one else’s.”

It’s true.
My Italian mates are forever carping on about how their mother simply makes the best this, that or the other. And while there’s absolutely no debate to be had, let alone considered; amid these nine succulent chapters lie many an answer as to what may substantially qualify one Taralli al Limone (Lemon Taralli) being different or at least better from another.

Along with a helpful section entitled ‘Notes on Ingredients,’ this most mouth-watering of cookery books is altogether way too meraviglioso for words.

Not to mention a fine addition to any serious contender in the cucina.

David Marx