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Review: Walter Starkie, An Odyssey February 23, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Review: Walter Starkie, An Odyssey

Walter Starkie is an in between figure. Born to the last of the Anglo-Irish in 1894, he added to his initial liminal state by: marrying an Italian (one of his better decisions); living abroad in Spain, Italy and the US; dividing loyalties between some of the twentieth-centuries less attractive regimes (Fascist Italy and Franco’s Spain) […]

Review: Good Italy Bad Italy February 4, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Review: Good Italy Bad Italy

Italy is a total maverick: a country of extremes that breaks all the rules of how a modern western democracy should work and yet that does work and, in many respects, works quite well. Observers from other countries, particularly from the English-speaking world have long  been fascinated by this anomaly. On the one hand, they […]

Review: Party in the Blitz December 30, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Review: Party in the Blitz

Elias Canetti was a Bulgarian-Swiss-British writer, who wrote autobiography, a particularly twisted form of central European sociology and who penned one important modernist novel, translated into English as Auto-da-fé. He won a Nobel Prize in 1981, which is, of course, no guarantee of quality: Dario Fo and the EU did, Borges and Calvino didn’t. But […]

Review: Imaginary Animals November 29, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
Review: Imaginary Animals

Any parent will know that animals are important. Children make animal sounds before they make words. They draw and paint animals. They cherish animal toys. The books they read have animal characters. They pretend to be animals. Animals, in fact, become a kind of meta-language for their experience and their emotions: Little Miss Beach has […]

Review: The Ghost Wore Black October 30, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Review: The Ghost Wore Black

The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales from the Past is the latest in Ghosts of the Past series by Chris Woodyard. Anyone familiar with CW’s style will know by now what to expect. There are half a dozen thematic chapters, which takes us from devils, to wild men, to spring-heeled jack wannabees: ‘ghosts’ has to […]

Review: The Extraordinary and the Everyday in Early Modern England September 25, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Review: The Extraordinary and the Everyday in Early Modern England

Academia usually shuffles anxiously away from the bizarre, but every so often a historian of note decides to take on something strange – crucifying cats, delusional werewolves… – and produces insights into the past. Imagine, instead, though that a whole soccer team of first-rank historians huddled together and determined to sprint after curious events, instead […]

Review: The Hikey Sprites September 12, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
Review: The Hikey Sprites

Review of Ray Loveday, The Hikey Sprites: The Twilight of a Norfolk Tradition (Norfolk 2009) The Hikey Sprites (aka Hyter Sprites) were Norfolk fairies that were summoned up by parents and grandparents to corral children into decency: ‘you be good or the Hikeys will get you’; ‘get home before dark or the Hikeys will get […]

Review: Shock! The Black Dog of Bungay August 10, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
Review: Shock! The Black Dog of Bungay

***Thanks to the Count for this tip*** Shock: The Black Dog of Bungay is a recent book (2010) by David Waldron (of Ballarat Australia) and Christopher Reeve of Bungay, Norfolk. The fact that you have to get a historian-anthropologist from down-under and a Norfolk historian to do justice to said black dog – and they […]

Review: Barry, Witchcraft and Demonology July 17, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Review: Barry, Witchcraft and Demonology

Witchcraft is extraordinarily popular in history faculties: there can be few first grade universities that don’t offer either a course on witchcraft or a course that has a witchcraft component. But caveat emptor, actually most of these courses are not about witchcraft, but about the witch hunt, in which tens of thousands of men and […]

Review: The Terror That Comes in the Night June 4, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Review: The Terror That Comes in the Night

Beach has been lucky with his reading recently. It began with Dennis Gaffen’s Running with the Fairies, passed on to Chris Woodyard’s Face in the Window and Emma Wilby’s Cunning Folk and then there was a jump back in time with Mike Dash’s Borderlands. Another excellent addition to his library has been David J.Hufford’s The […]

Review: Borderlands May 25, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Review: Borderlands

In 1997 Mike Dash brought out a five-hundred-page whopper entitled Borderlands. This book, that somehow completely passed Beach by for fifteen years, is, to use the word of one reader, a ‘small ‘s’ skeptical approach to Forteana’: lengthy examinations of earth magnetism, UFOlogy and other disciplines that survive on the margins of modern science. What […]

Review: Cunning Folk May 22, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Review: Cunning Folk

There is a memorable scene near the beginning of Woody Allen’s Annie Hall when Woody goes out on his first date with Diane Keaton and kisses her at the very start of the evening: oily old Woody says that he just wants to get the kiss out of the way and let everything else follow […]

Review: Secret of Kells March 31, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
Review: Secret of Kells

Part of being a twenty-first century parent involves the ability to watch cartoons repeatedly with your children (discuss). Most of these cartoons are trash. A minority are witty: Mega Mind, Toy Story… And a  handful – Shrek, Bambi, Totoro, Kiki the Witch… – make modern art house films look like third-rate romantic comedies: they really […]

Review: Witches, Fantasies and Fairies March 8, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Review: Witches, Fantasies and Fairies

In 1966 Carlo Ginzburg, a WANW Italian historian, published I Benandanti. In this book, Ginzburg argued that a group of sixteenth-century Friulian peasants, who believed themselves to have  super powers – they could fly and fight witches – were the last traces of a pre-Christian fertility cult in the region. Ginzburg went on to argue that […]

Review: The Face in the Window February 19, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Review: The Face in the Window

Two useful rules for writing reviews that Beach is about to break. Never write a review about a friend’s work and never write a review before finishing a book. Well, today we incinerate these rules and celebrate Chris Woodyard’s The Face in the Window because, after having read 80%, it is clear that it deserves […]

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