Posts Tagged ‘review’

Mother of God

10 March, 2018

Mother of God: An Extraordinary Journey into the Uncharted Tributaries of the Western AmazonMother of God: An Extraordinary Journey into the Uncharted Tributaries of the Western Amazon by Paul Rosolie
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was very eager to read this book as I had spent three months up the Amazon living in a settlement of Caboclo Indians. These are mixed race from the rubber boom of the 19th century. They hadn’t gone to the cities to live but remained in the jungle intermarrying with those they called ‘the painted men’. They had no contact with tourists of any kind and I was the first non-Indian to have visited them.

How I got there was I was sailing around the world with three friends and when we got to Brazil, they all went to Rio de Janeiro and I thought it was my one and only chance to go up the Amazon. Over the next month I went first to Belem, then Santarem ending up in Manaus. I spent a few weeks working out how to avoid the tourist routes and arranged tours. I was in a travel agency when the guide, an Indian, said he was going back home for three months and did I want to come? We negotiated a price and then after a fantastic two day journey sailing on river boats, canoes, a bus (it got stuck at a pot hole big enough to sink it in which Victoria Regina lillies 6′ across were growing) and finally walking we got to Lake Amañas in Amazonas.

40 or so people lived around this lake which was so big it took a river motor boat 2.5 hours to sail around. A few people lived in houses on stilts, one with the most beautiful parquet floor a la William Morris I have ever seen, but most on floating houses. I lived in the latter. The dish-washing and toileting arrangements involved holes in the sweet-smelling wood floor with pirañas waiting to clean the plates or receive… offerings.

My days were filled with fishing with seine nets and leaky pirogues, hunting with spears and dogs, music on tiny little guitars and panpipes and visiting the people who lived around the lake. I was most impressed by the medicine man who was as graceful and beautiful as a ballet dancer and who applied sound hygenic and herbal principles to his work, he wasn’t a shaman. I learned how to catch crocodiles in my bare hands although I only did it once (it was enough!)

So when the author writes about his trips into the jungle, I’m not exactly ignorant and he is writing to impress with things he says are unique but in fact are quite everyday.

The Amazon rises and falls 40′ a year from the melt-water of the snow in the Andes. This means that the forest can be flooded for part of the year, then it is known as igapo, and trees quite tall can look like little bushes when you manoeuvre your leaky canoe around them. I arrived when the waters had gone down considerably and on dry land there was a small tree with a dead and stinky anaconda draped from not far above the ground, over the top and down to the ground again. It was bigger than anything in the Guinness book of world records and eclipsed the author’s biggest ever 25′ one. The author said he fantasised that if he had taken a picture it would have been on the front cover of Time. Judging by the size of the tree the dead one I saw was between 35-45 ft. long. The Indians I was with said that it was a big snake, unusual but not unique and that they left it there as a warning to other snakes not to come near.

Another thing was when the author described the ‘rarely-seen landscape of floating islands’ by moonlight. These floating islands were common on the lake where the river flowed very slowly through. They vary greatly in size from a small rug upwards. They are made up of matted grass roots, the beautiful water hyacinth and small bushes. I was told you can’t walk on them, although the big ones will support your weight because they are full of biting ants. Also, in the daytime, crocodiles hide under them for the shade.

Once, when I was visiting the medicine man I tied up my canoe to the bank but when I came back an hour or two later I found myself land-locked by a huge island, the size of a football pitch. All you can do is push it with the paddles, it’s a heavy job, until it starts to part and move off slowly. They are never stationary for long.

The last example I want to write about is his encounter with ‘rare, fast-moving’ morpho butterflies. So rare apparently that his Indian friend takes a leaf to wrap up a dead one the author found in a parcel. I was out hunting one day with the medicine man’s son. We had two dogs with us and spears and found ourselves in a beautiful little glade with a small pool in the middle and sunlight shafting down from high up above the canopy. There were morphos everywhere! Although the author says they were very fast fliers, these ones were taking it easy. Their huge, hand-size wings, glimmering and shining all the blues a sky can be, as they glided around the glade sometimes settling on us. One brushed my cheek with a wing and left a drift of angel dust. It was like an enchantment.

The author left the Amazon and went to India. He became just the sort of bleeding heart white liberal that infest the Caribbean sitting on committees to preserve the natural environment or even taking it back and not giving a damn about how the locals are supposed to make a living. They’ve made their pile, they’ve got a house and family ‘back home’ now they want to see a paradise preserved for their winter homes.

Conservation is important. Good conservation is taking necessary progress into account and negotiating a way through that. When that isn’t done, people will remain not just poor when they can see they needn’t be, but bitter and seek to take what they can. Poaching, burning, corrupt politicians (and huge foreign conglomerates) are their weapons.

So what finally got me to put the book down was this sentence that shows the attitude of the author that he finds elevated and admirable and I find beyond irrelevant:

“What is it about our species that allows us to watch sitcoms and argue over sports while cultures and creatures and those things meek and green and good are chopped, shot and burned from the world for a buck? “

All creatures are not meek and good, but his point is, as is with a lot of propaganda, if you can’t work it through the facts, then go for the emotions, guilt-trip ’em. It is implied that we should get off our lazy arses and fill our days and evenings with meaningful work towards conserving the wildlife of this planet just like he does, no time for levity, frippery or going to the pub.

This is a bit like blaming people for the problems of pollution and Garbage on the planet when really it is industry, from cafes on up, that are responsible for over 95% of it. As long as it’s the individual doing their best to be green, we will get swallowed by a massive wave of communal self-congratulation and governments, industry, banks and businessmen will continue on in their own sweet way, destroying the planet for money. This should not be an emotional issue as it is sold, it certainly isn’t to industry or the banks. So that sentence of his and its import made me dnf this book.

Now it could be that if I didn’t know the Amazon so well, didn’t live on a beautiful island where conservation and progress are in opposition but forever butting up in the middle, that I would have enjoyed this book. Instead I found it to be ego-driven with the author’s great delight in being such an interesting person. He wasn’t. His adventures weren’t spectacular to me and the unique events were commonplace.

Two stars. One extra because it was quite well-written.


This was how I got up the Amazon with the The Forsyte Saga.
This is how to catch crocodiles in your bare hands and where floating islands play a part.


Stamboul Train

25 February, 2018

Stamboul TrainStamboul Train by Graham Greene

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like Greene, I liked that the book was entertaining, social commentary and political all at the same time, a hallmark of Greene novels. What I didn’t like and what really upset me, is the marking out of someone as Jewish. Rant follows! If you are not Christian, not White or not able-bodied you might well identify with it.

I have no idea if anyone else in the story, in many, many stories, newspaper articles, tv reportage, online news sites, are Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist or White. But Jews, Jews have to be identified. Especially if they are in finance, although in Greene’s story, he wasn’t. Bankers and other financiers who are not Jewish are not identified by their religion, only Jews. Are there more Jews in banking than any other industry? No. In London there is a joke that on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, you can’t catch a taxi. Who would think of mentioning that a taxi driver was Jewish?

It isn’t necessarily anti-Semitism in any shape of form, but something of the Nazi doctrine remains (yes, I know it dates back to Roman times but this is the 21stC and we know about genetics now) that Jews, whether they are from Zimbabwe, Eastern Europe or Malaysia are all really one race and no one should forget that and all that the writer wants to imply (usually negative stuff).

That’s some baggage there for all of us born Jewish whatever religion or philosophy we actually espouse.

It is no longer considered polite or politically-correct to point out that some woman is actually a transgendered pre-op male. ie. A man. We have to rightfully consider not only their feelings but that (unless you are going to sleep with them) it really doesn’t matter anyway. But somehow being Jewish does.

I am a redhead with green eyes (see my profile pic). I have been married twice, once to a White Catholic and once to a Black, Anglican guy from the island. When people write books or newspaper articles, they don’t mention things like my first ex was White or a Catholic or my second was Anglican. My present partner is White and an atheist. They would probably mention that my second was Black and definitely that I was Jewish.

Why is Catholic not important? Why is Anglican not important? Why is atheist not important? Why is Black important? Why does my mixed race son who looks White have to have it pointed out in articles that he is Black, and Jewish, do people think he might pass as a White Christian which is somehow wrong, somehow fooling people if it wasn’t pointed out?


message 1: by Hanneke
HannekeYou are quite right to point that out, Petra. It is certainly very strange that it gets mentioned and not if you are of a different denomination.
Mia (Parentheses Enthusiast)I haven’t read this but definitely have noticed the phenomenon. It’s really prevalent with race in fiction, I’ve found—it’s always assumed that the protagonist in an English-speaking country is white, even if their skin colour is never mentioned, but people of colour are always identified by their “chocolate skin” or their “cinnamon skin” and all manner of other identifiers.
message 3: by Greta (last edited Feb 23, 2018 06:18PM)
GretaI’m glad someone finally draws attention to this. It bothers me too. If it’s not relevant, there’s no need to mention race, religion, skin color or whatever. I recently read a memoir written by an “Arab-American” man. The description and half of the reviews mentioned this, although it wasn’t in the least relevant, so I didn’t mention it in my review, and referred to him by his name, like we normally do. What also annoys me, is that women in fiction are mostly referred to by their looks, and to which guy they belong : “A clever detective and his beautiful assistant” ; “an average guy and his beautiful girlfriend”; “a charming man and his beautiful wife”. It makes me so angry sometimes that I want to (ab)use my power as a librarian and change the description 🙂

Petra XGreta wrote: “It makes me so angry sometimes that I want to (ab)use my power as a librarian and change the description 🙂 …”

I don’t see that as an abuse of power. Do it!

I do see Arab-American from the point of view that very large numbers of Americans, it seems to me, want the prefix as in African-American, Italian-American etc.

“The beautiful glamour model turned up for the meeting dressed in a form-fitting and revealing red Victoria Beckham bandage dress to give evidence against Harvey Weinstein”

Why not, “against fat, ugly, Harvey Weinstein wearing a navy Brooks Brothers suit that bulged at the seams”?

LOL it would be funny wouldn’t it if men were described like that.

message 5: by Ivonne
Ivonne RoviraIt’s amazing how many novels from the 1920s through the 1950s have gratuitous mentions of Jews. It’s jarring to 21st century readers. As you noted, they don’t randomly identify people as Catholics or other Christian denominations.
message 6: by Lyn

Lyn ElliottI agree that allocating labels to mark Jews, blacks, Muslims as different, at best, is intrinsically racist, no matter what the context or the outcome.

message 7: by Jonathan

JonathanEarly Agatha Christie books often have negative, stereotyped Jewish characters too. Come the late 30s they disappeared, hopefully due to some feelings of compassion and remorse. Books help us remember what people who were other than white Christians had to deal with – and read about. Still winds me up too though!

 message 8: by Ina
Ina Cawlthe old Jewish stereotype and most people who believe in it have never met or befriended Jewish person.
being Somali i get a glimpse of when your identity is stereotyped into something negative

Petra XJonathan wrote: “Early Agatha Christie books often have negative, stereotyped Jewish characters too. …”

Agatha Christie was a racist, homophobic, classist and very anti-Semitic. She was a horrible, horrible person. Her depictions of Jews were invariably nasty, she wrote about servants as “simple” and “vapid”. In 1939, despite being told that the word was offensive (in the Uk, even back then) she called a book, Ten Little Niggers. This was later changed to Ten Little Indians and eventually became, And Then There were None.

Petra XIna wrote: “being Somali i get a glimpse of when your identity is stereotyped into something negative”

Agatha Christie was vile about Muslims, Arabs and anyone not white too, Agatha Christie – ten racist moments.

Ina, if you came to the US you would get more than “a glimpse” of what it means to be Black and Muslim, it would be full in your face.

message 10: by Petra X (last edited Feb 24, 2018 05:07AM) rated it 4 stars
message 11: by Greta (last edited Feb 24, 2018 05:21AM)

GretaPetra X wrote: “Greta wrote: “It makes me so angry sometimes that I want to (ab)use my power as a librarian and change the description 🙂 …”

“The beautiful glamour model turned up for the meeting dressed in a form-fitting and revealing red Victoria Beckham bandage dress to give evidence against Harvey Weinstein”

Why not, “against fat, ugly, Harvey Weinstein wearing a navy Brooks Brothers suit that bulged at the seams”?

LOL it would be funny wouldn’t it if men were described like that.”

Laughing. You should be a librarian and change the book descriptions. You definitely have more imagination!

Greta wrote: “Laughing. You should be a librarian and change the book descriptions. You definitely have more imagination! …”

It substitutes for having a life!

message 13: by Ina

Ina CawlPetra X wrote: “Ina wrote: “being Somali i get a glimpse of when your identity is stereotyped into something negative”

Agatha Christie was vile about Muslims, Arabs and anyone not white too, Agatha Christie – ten…”
i really know that,this is not the best time to be black and Muslim in Western world as you would feel the racism in the airport before even before you even enter the country

message 14: by Greta

GretaPetra X wrote: “Greta wrote: “Laughing. You should be a librarian and change the book descriptions. You definitely have more imagination! …”

It substitutes for having a life!”

Ah, but you’re larger than life, Petra!

Petra XGreta wrote: “Ah, but you’re larger than life, Petra! …”

On a diet!


Jackie, Janet & Lee: The Other Side of Camelot

23 February, 2018

Jackie, Janet & Lee: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Janet Auchincloss, and Lee Radziwill -- The Other Side of CamelotJackie, Janet & Lee: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Janet Auchincloss, and Lee Radziwill — The Other Side of Camelot by J. Randy Taraborrelli
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a 21 hour audio book and I dnf’d it at 75% because it is life-sapping listening to such a shallow book about vapid women who put money first with nothing that couldn’t have been and perhaps was, written in something like the Daily Rag – of course or the Enquirer. Except the book does expose the media-whipped up spin of the adulation of the undeniably beautiful Jackie as utterly misplaced. She was a gold-digger pure and simple. And a cunt.

The awful writing (this is a biography not chicklit) and worse narration – Hundreds of sails like a host of butterflies composing a backdrop for the party. One guest gasped and said, “I don’t believe it. It’s not real. It’s being produced by Walt Disney.” But it was just another example of the Auchincloss style.Janet Auchincloss knew that the cruise were scheduled and she had guessed that they would arrive in time to help decorate her daughter’s wedding. It did! And in her chosen colours: white on blue. (Narrator gives an excited sort of giggle at “In her chosen colours.”

Fact-checking – “In the fall of 1966, Jamie Auchincloss was studying at Cambridge in London.” Cambridge University is a couple of hours away on the train, about 70 miles.

Yet again, Jackie dumps a man because he isn’t rich enough although she as Jack Kennedy’s widow is very wealthy herself. – “Jackie was with the architect Jack Warnecke for two and a half years. They were going to marry although a date had not been set. He ignored his business for Jackie, lavishing her with everything she wanted. He phoned her to tell her that he was in a little trouble, he owed the bank about $1M (about $8M now). He said if they were going to get married she should know. He ended the phone call by saying, “I love you.” She replied, “Goodbye for now, Jack. And that was that.

Why Jackie is a world-class cunt – Lee “Princess Radziwill” – a title she insisted upon although her husband had actually given up his many years before they were married, had been having an extra-marital affair with Ari Onassis for over six years. Naturally there were tabloid and Enquirer articles and photographs. Ari never stopped having an affair with the opera singer Maria Callas. Lee had not discussed her affair with either her mother (who knew and had been to see Ari) or Jackie. Therefore when Jackie was deep in vodka and wondering if she should have finished with Warneke over money when she “loved” him, was invited to Skorpios by Ari she could pretend to herself that she wasn’t really having an affair with her sister’s boyfriend as she hadn’t been officially “told” about it.

(When Ari started to seriously court Jackie, he dumped Lee by merely never being available to her or returning her calls. Lee was naturally very upset but what could she do when she’d called out her husband on his affaire? They were all a bunch of phenomenally wealthy, entitled assholes. The veneer of charm and manners doesn’t actually cover up their gutter behaviour towards each other)

Jackie was unkind to her sister in other ways too, like not even once going to the theatre to see Lee’s debut as an actress, screwing Peter Beard who again was

Jackie sells herself, cash up front. – As the gentleman said to the beautiful girl, ‘Would you spend the night with me for a million dollars?’ Yes, she replied. Right he said, now we’ve established what you are, let’s get down to a sensible price. Or up.

Jackie, maintaining the same fiction that she didn’t know Ari was her sister’s lover, married Ari. But before she did, she got her in-laws, the Kennedy’s to get her a premarital settlement of cash down, $20M (in today’s money) and $1M for each of her children. Having sold herself she then refused to discuss it as talking about money was “unsavory”. Ari continued his affair with Maria Callas and Jackie continued spending on “nice” things.

Queen of the Fakes, supremo of the golddiggers, Janet Auchincloss, – Janet had kept her alcoholic, gambler of a first husband and father to Jackie and Lee away from John Kennedy’s inauguration (and also stopped him from giving away his daughter and her wedding to Kennedy) primarily because she thought he might be interviewed and give away who Janet really was. Ashamed of her ‘common’ Irish Catholic forebears, she had invented an English and French history for her family, one where her family had never been in trade. Her second husband, whom she was with for 39 years, was impotent. She had to weigh up phenomenal wealth against real love and sex. But money was her passion.

Maternal disapproval: Jackie loses her virginity but does not gain a boyfriend
– When she found out that Jackie had lost her virginity in an elevator to a one-night stand, she was upset, not just that her daughter would do such a thing, but do it with a man who wasn’t truly wealthy. When this was pointed out to Jackie, she saw sense. No point in contacting the man again.

Janet’s bible, authored by Psalms Kalu He says, in the blurb, “The fact that you are poor is evidence that you are not a good Christian!”

Notes on reading and how I was fooled by Jackie’s “class” – I always thought that Jackie was the epitome of elegance and class. But then “class” depends on whose defining it. I mean a gracious, well-mannered balanced bearing that is welcoming to all. Like Princess Diana had. But a lot of people define class as being at the top of the social tree and having a lot of money and a facade of being gracious and well-mannered etc. From this book I see that Jackie didn’t have the first but the facade of the second fooled me.

Notes on reading and how exactly Jackie dumped her first fiance because although rich, her mother said he wasn’t rich enough – Jackie was engaged to Jack Husted and he had been invited to the Auchincloss’ for a party. Janet, Jackie’s mother, had ascertained that he had no family money and “only” earned $17,000 a year (about $160,000 in today’s money). She said to Jackie that if she married him she would never be able to travel and live well. So Jackie when taking her fiance to the airport, slipped off her engagement ring and put it in his pocket. As Jack later said, she was icy cold and never spoke to him again. But Jackie felt bad about this and so, good Christian that she was, went to church to pray to know if she’d done the right thing.

So why am I giving this awful book 2 stars? One because it at least fascinated me enough I listened to three-quarters of it, and one because there was an ah-ha moment in the book, at least for me. My mother didn’t love me but adored my brother. Janet loved both Jackie and Lee, but not equally, Jackie always came first, and Lee said (paraphrasing) that if you didn’t receive praise for your accomplishments and looks when you were young, you were forever after inclined to doubt compliments and never quite believe in yourself. So true.

The Dictionary of Cliches

22 July, 2017

The Dictionary of ClichesThe Dictionary of Cliches by James T. Rogers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My life at times has been like a soap opera. This review, you might call news of a kidnapping with apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

This is an entertaining sort of book for pulling out at odd moments or when you need a topic to talk about, or for me when I need reminding about lurrrve, kidnapping, people who forge Chippendale chairs and that I once had a life.

I was sitting around the swimming pool in a marina, not looking glamorous in a bikini and owl-eye shades, but wearing beat-up shorts and flip-flops, sailor’s clothes, when I noticed this man looking at me. Not my type, not really, so I didn’t respond. He got up to get a drink and when he came back he took the lounger next to mine, smiled and opened his book. This book. A few minutes later he said, “I could say do you come here often, but that would be a cliche,” and on we went from there.

Grahame was a very nice man, a Canadian, he owned and captained a big dive boat trimaran that had a crew of six and chartered throughout the Caribbean. We went out for drinks a few times but nothing much else because I was mad for another man, Richard, who was equally mad for me but his wife was rather an obstacle, even after she’d left before we were even together. So we were just mad for each other and often at each other, and having drinks and long, soulful talks.

I heard that Richard was sailing away soon; he wanted to sell the classic wooden yacht he’d restored with the same techniques he used for forging the antique furniture he sold for huge amounts of money, and in desperation I decided to kidnap him. I got a seafront villa on a deserted beach where the sea is so wild few people go. I stocked the fridge with champagne, grapes and chocolates and a joint in case that was his poison, and put in my bag his favourite brand of cigarettes. At the bar I induced him to come to the car and was just going to drive it off when he said, “I’m not going ANYWHERE with you” and got out of the car and went back to the marina bar. So did I. I was furious and humiliated. Revenge would come publicly and instantly.

I radioed Grahame on his boat to come and meet me in the bar and a couple of minutes later there we were, arms linked, going to my car, ‘something wrong with the handle that opens the bonnet’ I said and he got in. And I drove off.

It was a night filled with the most passionate, vengeful sex. I was so angry, he was so crazy. Everything I did was to spite Richard, but Grahame was off in his own head, complaining of extreme pain where others feel joy, telling me of the creepy thoughts of death he always had with sex.

Next morning I took him back to the marina in time for breakfast and Richard and I resumed our strange circling of each other. We always contrived to be in the same place day and night. Occasionally Grahame would persuade me to have a drink, but my interest, such as there was, had gone.

One day Grahame wasn’t there anymore and a friend came over to tell me that he had bought the trimaran and Grahame had gone home to Canada, voluntarily going to a mental home, but that he’d left me a book. This one. A dictionary of cliches.

(What happened after that with Richard involved voodoo and curses and more rubbish like that, but I never heard from Grahame again).

This story was full of cliches Do you believe any of it?


(It was all true and considerably toned down!)


Noughts and Crosses

17 June, 2016

Noughts & Crosses (Noughts & Crosses, #1)Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Reading this, I read about a quarter of it I suppose, I thought say it was written by someone white from the opposite point of view, that is whites are on top and pushing their agenda, and they wrote in this very ‘I came top of English and joined a writing circle’ kind of way, would we still praise it? Or are we being all white-liberal and this book is kind of helping us say ‘mea culpa’ and the author is very, very cynically playing on that?

And I know it’s all about we can overcome prejudice and just share the love together, but to me that is not the underlying agenda of the book at all. That’s just the hook…

You may have a totally different opinion and disagree with every word I have written above. I respect that, and am happy for discussions. You might even change my mind. But, don’t troll me…

The rest of this is about me, you might not want to bother reading it.

On the island I live on, when I arrived there were about 6,000 people, not poor, nice place to live, very difficult to get to and everyone said ‘hello’ when you passed them on the street. It became very wealthy quite quickly and the government gave many scholarships for the bright young things who wanted to go to historically-black African-American universities in the US. Some of them were staff working before college, and they were a lovely bunch.

When they got back they would come and see me from time-to-time. Mo had become a Black Muslim. He invited me to a poetry reading and said that if I heard anything against whites I shouldn’t take it on, it wasn’t directed at me. Maie came back and started a political party for youth representation, grew her locks and wrote in the paper about how whites need re-educating. I had tea with a friend, a UN official, and later another one of these kids passing our table, now a journalist, said to her, “I know you have to do business with them but you don’t have to socialise with them to.” (My friend who didn’t feel like that told me). And so it goes.

They were the new intelligensia, angry young blacks carrying a chip on their shoulder of all the ills that African-American society has to deal with in America. What they had forgotten was that the black man is king in his own country, and the island government was entirely black, and doing very well.

They are older now. They are running the colleges, the schools, the newspapers, some are aiming for politics (not quite old enough), and they are nice to your face whilst maintaining their pernicious attitudes. They teach a form of history that is fake, they worship some of the most evil people looking only to see what their attitudes are towards white people. But always very pleasant to your face. They have me caused a lot of harm whether educationally with my kids , or giving book contracts for schools to a furniture supplier rather than to the white woman and her bookshop.

So I know where this book is coming from.

Do I say that Black racism is here and all the whites are innocent victims? Somewhat, nobody white has any power really. But there is plenty of white racism, very covert, it is not our society, but it exists and is often social. You don’t get invited places, neither do your children. Some of them won’t patronise a ‘traitor’s’ business (mine) and speak disparagingly of you. They have caused me a lot of harm what with no contracts from their schools, social isolation for my kids and talking trash to me (those who don’t know me) about blacks in general. They say things like ‘when we all leave this place is going to be like Haiti again’. (It never was, it was never poor).

I do see both sides. My ex is black, from a top political family. Two of my sons are black, one has locks, he’s lovely and loud and very protective of me. Although I am their stepmother (for most of their lives) when people say as they still do, ‘she ca’an be yu mudder, she a white woman’, they will immediately say I am and none of us will say ‘step’, just mother, just sons.

My youngest son turned out white, more or less, and as long as the whites in school didn’t mix with the blacks he was invited everywhere. But then came the funeral of a Prime Minister, a brother in law and everyone knew it was my family, and the invitations stopped from most of them. At 8 my son’s hair went kinky and light brown (rather than blonde). He was blamed for everything and thrown out of the white school. The black tutor I employed charged me 5 times as much as he did locals.

I really know it from both sides.

And I know where the author is coming from and I am disgusted.


24 April, 2016
The BFGby Roald Dahl

April 2016

Do you know what the BFG stood for before his publisher told him he had to think of other words for the acronym? Dahl wasn’t joking either, not at all. This story is of a man’s interest in a prepubescent girl. The first thing he does is enter her bedroom in the middle of the night and kidnap her. Taking her away from the orphanage she lives in to the land of the extremely unfriendly giants who, in the original draft forced the little girl to look at their giant ‘clubs’. But the BFG’s different, he’s friendly….(grooming!)  It all ends with the little girl giving the BFG kisses and living next door to him and everyone is very happy. Dahl sees himself as the BFG giving Sophie, children, a new way to think, different from human adults, who don’t even believe in giants let alone let themselves be loved by them.

It is an inventive story without doubt, and all fairy stories require you to absolutely suspend disbelief. Lots of them include sexual and violent elements which children either don’t notice (sexual) or thoroughly enjoy (violent). When Disney gets hold of them, they lose both and become the anodyne Barbie-doll princesses (cue violins-in-the-background) we are used to. In that tradition, the BFG succeeds.

In the mid-to-late 20thC there was less emphasis on paedophilia than there is now, and I wonder if it this book could have been written at all in the 21stC. Ironically, this book is banned in some educational districts in the US for ‘teaching poor moral values’ and cannibalism. Ridiculous. Children laugh at those sort of things. I don’t believe in banning books, but Dahl was an unpleasant character and it is wilful blindness to ignore the feet of clay our heroes sometimes have as we place laurel wreaths on their brows.

Misogyny: Dahl’s misogyny, especially in his adult stories, is quite extreme, and, in shades of Harper Lee and Go Set a Watchman being turned into To Kill a Mockingbird at the publisher’s insistence, the first draft of Matilda:

“Painted the protagonist as a devilish little hussy who only later becomes “clever”, perhaps because she found herself without very much to do after torturing her parents.”Dahl’s editor Stephen Roxburgh completely revised Dahl’s last novel and, in doing so, turned it into his most popular book.”

Anti semitism,: ” In a 1983 interview with the New Statesman, he said, “There is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity, maybe it’s a kind of lack of generosity towards non-Jews. I mean, there’s always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere; even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason. I mean, if you and I were in a line moving towards what we knew were gas chambers, I’d rather have a go at taking one of the guards with me; but they [the Jews] were always submissive.” Buzzfeed

Racism and rudeness. Remember the Oompah-Loompahs? The NAACP objected that in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the manual labor, performed by characters called Oompa-Loompas, are described by Dahl as African Pygmies, essentially brought-over slaves running the chocolate factory. Look at the original illustrations for the first edition of the book on Bidnessetc In the BFG, one of the giants, the Fleshlumpeater is supposed a black character, certainly another of them likes eating Turkish people.

There is also a discussion on Bignessetc on his general misogyny and unpleasant character leading his publishing company, Knopf, who made a lot of money from him to write,

“You have behaved to us in a way I can honestly say is unmatched in my experience for overbearingness and utter lack of civility.”

Dahl used to belong to the only country club in South Wales that allowed Jewish members. My father and grandfather were members in their time. He once objected very loudly to the number of Jews dining there and how it fouled the atmosphere. The management threw him out and banned him. He is supposed to have done something similar at a gambling club in London with the same result!

I think he worked on the principle that everyone male, white and Christian shared his views on women, non-whites and Jews. I get it here, those sort of whites say racist things to me thinking because I am white I will go along with it. My clerks, always black, say they get complaints about whites from other blacks thinking they are bound to sympathise, but they don’t. But most of us aren’t racist or hate any group of people. Trouble is most people aren’t vocal about that in a conversation and are likely to nod and just file it away. We need always to speak out.

Perhaps the best link of all to Roald Dahl is This Recording. He was without doubt a horrible person, but equally without doubt, a tremendously talented writer with an extraordinary imagination. I’ve enjoyed on some level all of his books and the films made of them.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

14 March, 2016

The Picture of Dorian Grayby Oscar Wilde


Possessing eternal youth and beauty produces exactly the same effect as sentencing a man to life without the possibility of parole. Both have nothing to lose and morals disappear before the desire for immediate self-gratification in all things. And so it is with Dorian Gray. It’s a moral story so eventually his evil catches up with him and he dies, as does the criminal.

Is Oscar Wilde saying that it is man’s essential nature, to be so internally psychopathic and selfish that so long as he can keep his reputation he will wreak havoc on people’s lives and not care in the process of enriching his own?

Oscar Wilde was a man who held some very nasty views and only cared when extremely similar ones were turned upon himself. (He was imprisoned for homosexuality, but felt it was ok for Dreyfus to be imprisoned on a trumped-up crime but really because he was Jewish. He chose the wrong side on that one and lost even his best friend). I don’t like the author, but I do love his prose.

I read this book years ago. But the psychological story of a man’s realisation that there are no consequences to his actions, nothing is forbidden, everything is permitted, you never forget.

Prosopagnosia, Face Blindness Explained

13 March, 2016

Prosopagnosia, Face Blindness Explained. Prosopagnosia Types, Tests, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Research and Face Recognition all coveredby Lyndsay Leatherdale


Here is a check list of the symptoms of prosopagnosia for self-diagnosis. If you have any difficulty recognising people reliably, you might find it interesting. I’ve put in my own experiences as I think it helps put the questions into context. Or not. Maybe I just like writing anecdotes 🙂

1. Failing to recognise close friends or family members in unexpected situations.

I once left my ex at the airport late at night. I thought it was him but I wasn’t sure. He’d been in college in Canada and his normal brown skin (what we call ‘red’) without the sun had paled to what we call ‘clear’ and he was wearing a hat. Last May I arranged to meet my son in a cafe after he’d come back from Law School and I saw him and called out Daniel. It wasn’t him. The embarrassment… you have no idea.

2. Trouble in following films or television shows that have more than a few distinctive characters.

I don’t have this.

3. Failing to recognize yourself in the mirror and/or have difficulty identifying yourself in photographs or sometimes in reflections.

I don’t have this either.

4. When someone gets a haircut, you may not recognize them when you see them again

I don’t think I have this.

5. Having difficulty recognizing neighbours, friends, co-workers, clients, schoolmates etc, out of context.

I have this big time. But I also fail to recognise them in context as well. There is no guarantee I will recognise even a good customer every time. It’s pretty likely I won’t outside the shop. Ex-employees I often fail to recognise especially if I had no real affection for them.

6. Another common symptom those with prosopagnosia experience is that they are more likely to not be aware that their close friends or family are in the same area if they are in a context that is not of their usual nature. For school friends, this would be at school, for brothers and sisters, this would be at home, or a work co-worker, this would be in the work environment.

Yes. At a party I didn’t recognise one of my sons because I didn’t expect to see him there. At a political cocktail party I failed to recognise a shop assistant I saw almost daily.

7. Lack of navigation skills. For this reason, these individuals are prone to getting lost.

I am famous for this. A few years ago I was staying in Miami and rented a car to drive to the Sawgrass Mills mall. The reception staff at the hotel printed me out a map and gave me very explicit instructions. I drove through the toll booth in the same direction three times in a row. I was with my son who doesn’t have prosopagnosia but also has no sense of direction. The pair of us navigated back to the hotel, but found ourselves first at Opa Locka airport and finally at Fort Lauderdale airport. There we were pulled up where we shouldn’t have been when a police car stopped and started to tell us off and then realised we were genuinely hopelessly lost, so the very nice policewoman said to follow her and took us all the way back to the Blue Lagoon Hampton. That is the worst I’ve ever been lost.

8. Inability to recognise left from right.

I have this to some degree but I’ve grown out of it. I couldn’t set a table properly until my 20s. However my parents said that as a young child I showed no preference for my right or left hand so they decided I should be right-handed. There are some things I can only do with my left hand. So maybe this isn’t related to prosopagnosia.

9. Inability to recognise emotions – Those with associative prosopagnosia may have the inability to recognise faces. It is often also the case that they are unable to identify the emotion of the individual as well.

So what may have been put down to AS for me is in fact another symptom of prosopagnosia. This would fit as I’m not really typically AS in any other way.

10. Inability to identify race or colour.

I like to think I’m colourblind but not in that way!

11, Difficulty in reading literature – It may be difficult for an individual to follow a story in a book. This is due to the fact that an individual has difficulty in imagining the faces of the characters described in the book.


So there you have it. I have associative, genetic prosopagnosia. If anyone else has suspected they have more than average inability to recognise faces (it is specific to faces and not anything else at all) and scores high on this test, I’d like to know. How do you cope with other people’s rejection and coldness when they think you have been rude to them and ignored them? How do you cope with the embarrassment? Do you have coping strategies?

Below this is my review of the book which contains one interesting bit – on some very famous people who have it as well, the rest is just personal opinion.

[I have this, but not badly, which might be worse. Oliver Sacks had it very badly, Jane Goodall about the same as me I think,Duncan Bannatyne the millionaire entrepreneur of Dragon’s Den fame has it worse than me, Chuck Close the famous portraitist ironically suffers badly from the condition and Brad Pitt has people thinking he is incredibly rude and snobbish, like all the rest of us, because he too cannot reliably recognise faces. I am not alone!

All of us are thought to cut style on people, deliberately offend them because we couldn’t care about them, and exhibit manners of the very worst kind. None of us have the faintest idea when we are doing this since if we can’t tell you from a stranger, why would we go up to you and be all effusive? When you say hello to us we try and simulate absolute friendship even though we still don’t recognise you, but there is always something missing and people know.

Why I said it is worse for people like me, Duncan, Jane and Brad is that we do recognise most people most of the time, but not always, so it’s like we say hello to you one day and cut you next. People like the late Oliver Sacks and Chuck Close do not recognise hardly anyone any of the time so they can explain themselves. I’m not saying they have an easier time of it, I’m saying people are probably more understanding.)

If you know people who have difficulty in recalling your name or it seems that they don’t recognise you, be kind. tell them who you are and where you last met. Please don’t cut them because you think they have ignored you, they may not know it’s ‘you’ at all.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

11 March, 2016

by Mark Twain

Feb 10, 16


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainThis is a rant. I found Huckleberry Finn on my bookshelf had been changed for Huckleberry Finn Robotic Edition. Some very pc “authors” and “editors” took it upon themselves to change the N word (view spoiler) to ‘robot’. They then rewrote the book to take away any mention of humans and to ‘roboticise’ words such as ‘eye’ which becomes something like ‘optical device’. The illustrations have also been changed. I have no problem with this.

However I have a big problem with the librarians who think think this is close enough to the original that it should be combined and therefore share the ratings of Mark Twain’s original book. There was a long discussion in the librarian thread where some librarians thought it was essentially the same book, perhaps most. So it was combined and the edition of the book I read was changed to that one. I DID NOT read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Robotic Edition.

This robot edition was a Kindle book. Think about it and the danger of these ‘authors’. If this is acceptable and it is to a lot of the librarians, why not politically correct Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Agatha Christie (oh she’s been done already. It was 10 Little N words, then 10 Little Indians, now it’s Then there were 10, lol). Sooner or later print books will be in used bookshops, research libraries and old people’s houses. They will become not books to be read but collector’s items. For reading it will be the ebook where changes can be easily and instantaneously made.

And if politically-correcting everything becomes Amazon policy then the whole publishing world will follow and your children will never know the original story that Mark Twain wrote. They will never understand how N word people were treated.

They will never know that Jim, a grown man who would not normally be expected to hang out with 13 year old boys, kowtowed to Tom and Huckleberry not just because they all liked each other, but because he was not free, he was a slave, property, and was subject to the usual treatment of property. He could be ordered to do anything no matter how stupid or harmful, he could be sold or mistreated not even for punishment but just because he had no human rights whatsoever.

Changing N people to robots negates all this. Yes it is more politically acceptable to Whites but how would a Black person feel having their history taken away from them? This is not pc as much as sanitising history and is wrong on every level.

Do you find this acceptable? A lot of GR librarians don’t see a damn thing wrong with it. But I do.

See Fahrenheit 451

Hurricanes & Hangovers: And Other Tall Tales and Loose Lies from the Coconut Telegraph

18 February, 2016

by “Dear Miss Mermaid”

Why have I one-starred a book that really isn’t too bad? Because I know the author and she once tried to get my son to take a wrapped parcel into the US with him. A gun? Drugs? Either were likely. For sure it wasn’t books otherwise she would not have had a problem with the parcel being open. That was only some of the trouble she caused us. Not only us. A lot of people. But it was never her fault. She lived by nickels and dimes and if you had a dollar, she wanted it.

This is a book full of stories, essays and ramblings from a lady who had in her day many adventures in the Caribbean and the States mostly accompanied by wine. I later heard that one of the bars she used to hang out in to get free drinks from tourists was one of her major sources of stories, stories that happened to other people.

Nonetheless, it’s not a bad book. Some of the stories show the funny side of island life, although it is also about the author’s life in the US. You can read it without feeling that you have to ‘Begin at the beginning and then go on ’til the end. I knew that the author was given to not just exaggeration but outright invention too, so take it all with a pinch of (sea) salt.

I used to sell her book, in quantity, but then she accused me of not paying her and all kind of things. For years we shared a post box then she left the island and bills behind her and several years the post mistress told me that she had put a divert on to her address in the US. I could have lost thousands of dollars worth of books that way if the post mistress hadn’t told me and continued to give me my boxes while I changed my address.

So it’s the author gets a one star and she doesn’t even deserve that.  She always uses a pseudonym for everything, I suppose anonymity is key if you have upset a lot of people and/or owe a lot of money.  Her real name is Cynthia Rose Keeton.