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Philip Spires Commonplace Book Blog


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I have kept a commonplace book for many years. In recent times, it has become just a workbook to support my research on Philippine education. But now, via a blog, I want to recreate what it used to be, a place where scraps of impressions are filed for future reflection. It's not a diary, it's just a mental scrapbook, concentrating on book reviews, concert reviews, visual arts and some occasional pieces on travel.
2023-10-10 14:50
The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafaq is a novel about Cyprus and its recent history. Via the love affair and developing relationship between Kostas and Defne, the author examines the r… Read More
2023-04-04 10:08
Thirty-Five Poems by Herbert Read, I repeat Stavesacre – a larkspur plant or its seeds Benison - benediction Sodality – fellowship, concgregaion, association for chairty Cinc… Read More
2023-04-04 10:08
Sally Rooney’s Normal People is a hugely successful and very widely read novel about millennials. It concentrates on the relationships that develop in a group of school graduates as th… Read More
2023-02-26 09:42
Dreams From My Father is Barack Obama’s early autobiography, written before he went to law school. It details his early years and basically presents his pre-lawyer years in three phase… Read More
Shuggie Bain By Douglas Stewart
2023-02-17 14:06
Douglas Stewart won the Booker Prize for Fiction with Shuggie Bain, an autobiographical novel about a child coping with an alcoholic parent. Shuggie is a wee lad - the novel is set largely i… Read More
2023-02-15 08:57
John Banville’s Snow was resplendent at number one best seller in the airport bookstore. At the time, I hardly noticed, since I was immediately and irresistibly attracted to the author… Read More
2023-02-03 16:15
Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse provided the latest foray into the world and mores of the late fifties. It’s yet another novel that resides firmly in northern English working class life… Read More
Half Blood Blues By Esi Edugyan
2023-02-03 16:07
 Half Blood Blues is a novel by Esi Edugyan. It deals with territory that is rarely successful for the writer, that of music and musicians. They have surely been many successful books a… Read More
2023-01-28 09:29
Billy Budd is doubly famous. He is the eponymous principal character of Herman Melville’s novella and, by adoption via E M Forster’s hand, also the eponymous hero a Benjamin Brit… Read More
Moby Dick By Herman Melville
2023-01-28 09:27
I did not begin the two hundred thousand words plus of Moby Dick expecting to be surprised. Herman Melville’s book has been on my reading list shelf for years, always an intended read… Read More
2023-01-27 10:29
Between The Acts by Virginia Woolf is the author’s last novel. It is often described as a difficult read. And indeed, difficult it is, not because it is full of shocking scenes, tough… Read More
2023-01-27 10:26
Soft words butter no parsnips is an English saying that is, let’s admit, not overused, especially these days. It probably means get on with it and shut up. In many decades of reading… Read More
2022-11-29 10:45
Some artists seem to be inextricably linked to places. Henry Moore’s legacy is in Leeds, where he studied, but was not born. Barbara Hepworth’s is in Wakefield, where she was bor… Read More
2022-10-14 12:58
El balcón en invierno by Luis Landero is beautiful, if at times frustrating book. It could all be said much more simply, succinctly and perhaps with greater immediate power. But if it… Read More
2022-10-12 13:24
Some time ago and in relation to a different book, I wrote a review that in essence began, “Occasionally, just occasionally, one comes across a book so impressive, so scholarly and so… Read More
2022-10-06 13:22
Cakes And Ale by W Somerset Maugham is a profoundly surprising book. Written in 1930, the novel begins its story in the Edwardian age prior to the First World War. It comes, therefore, with… Read More
Contemporary Music In ADDA
2022-09-18 09:39
As a prelude to their forthcoming season of orchestral concerts, the ADDA orchestra of Alicante under their inspired and clearly inspiring conductor and artistic director, Josep Vicent, offe… Read More
More Fool Me By Stephen Fry
2022-07-18 08:00
I’ve just read More Fool Me by Stephen Fry. I finished the book – I don’t know why. There’s oodles of self-mockery Couched in torrents of post-hoccery, Where processi… Read More
2022-05-13 09:02
When we consider Nixon, Kissinger and the Destruction of Cambodia, Sideshow by William Shawcross is probably the main event, if not the last word. On completing the book, it’s hard to… Read More
2022-04-28 10:15
Consider these elements. A young, rich and gifted man is obsessed with revolutionary idealism. He attends prestigious schools and the most prestigious university but is expelled from the lat… Read More
2022-04-05 09:06
John Galt published his Life of Lord Byron in 1830, just six years after the poet's death in Missolonghi, in what is now modern Greece and then was part of the Ottoman Empire. Byron had been… Read More
2022-03-28 09:25
GK meets GF sounds like the title of one of those mid-twentieth century albums when a producer with an eye for a buck teamed up some ancient crooner with an equally aged instrumentalist to p… Read More
2022-03-23 14:28
All we have is the present. Our future, if it might exist, is a mere proposition of whose eventual reality none of us can be sure, may only be imagined, until it arrives, when it becomes the… Read More
2022-03-04 17:37
Reaching the end of The Fugitive, volume six of Marcel Proust’s A la recherche de temps perdu, I begin to realise – not quite at last – how modern an experience he relates… Read More
2022-02-07 11:05
 Veronica Decides To Die is a novel by Paulo Coelho. I write the review in English, though I read the book in Spanish, so it may be that many aspects of the book’s language may ha… Read More
2022-01-30 10:15
It's a comment both on current availability and prevailing mentality that I choose to write a piece about a television experience, albeit via the internet. There are not many concerts around… Read More
2022-01-29 15:37
Ostensibly, The Daydreamer by Ian McEwan is a book for children. It’s not really a novel, because the author himself conceived these pieces as separate stories to be told to his own ch… Read More
2022-01-25 10:43
Times change. Of that there is no doubt. Platitudes, however, remain platitudes whenever they are, like a dose of vaccine, rolled out. Their use, perhaps just once, but certainly on the seco… Read More
2022-01-24 15:40
On the surface, According To Queeney by Beryl Bainbridge might appear to be firmly rooted in the genre of historical fiction. Its cover portrays two gentlewomen, perhaps a mother and daughte… Read More
The Guermantes Way By Marcel Proust
2022-01-21 17:00
In a turn of uncharacteristic succinctness, Gioachino Rossini, himself the composer of long-winded and often empty vocal gymnastics undertaken because they were possible - or not! - rather t… Read More
2021-12-02 10:52
Against Interpretation by Susan Sontag was first published in 1961. It is hard in 2020, to accept that this was almost 60 years ago, especially since many of the works reviewed in this volum… Read More
2021-04-27 08:56
This particular reviewer rarely writes a negative review. If it didn’t communicate with me, there’s no need to assume that it will not communicate to you. A positive review has t… Read More
2021-03-15 11:14
Ann Enright’s The Green Road, eventually, is a family saga, but its characters cover a large part of the globe before joining forces in the grist of events back home. But this microcos… Read More

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