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  • Review: The Middle Kingdom November 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Review: The Middle Kingdom

    As regular readers will know Beachcombing went a little fairy mad this summer. Indeed, as we speak two academic articles have been accepted for publication and four more are still waiting the judgement of tetchy referees spread out from Edinburgh to the Pacific Coast. In the process of writing these articles he read most twentieth-century […]

    City of Ravens: Boria Sax October 31, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    City of Ravens: Boria Sax

    The story so far. An ancient British myth going back to ‘ye olde Celtic times’ states that while ravens reside at the Tower of London then Britain will prosper. However, turn the neatly embossed tourist sign with ‘ye olde Celtic times’ over and there is a ‘Made in Taiwan’ marker stamped into the plastic. Translated? […]

    Secret Weapons September 22, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Secret Weapons

    Ideas for books very often begin with nagging questions that compulsively irritate authors and that they then work through – think of it as therapy – by writing tens or even hundreds of thousands of words. Beach suspects that the nagging question that saw Brian Ford pen Secret Weapons: Technology, Science and the Race to […]

    Dubious Archaeology September 4, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Dubious Archaeology

    Reading Kenneth Feder’s Encylopedia of Dubious Archaeology Beach was reminded of an adage by Benjamin Franklin. Franklin once said that before you start arguing with someone you need to make a fundamental decision: do you want to change that person’s opinion or do you want to draw blood? It is a frightening question because 90% […]

    Naval Blunders August 20, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Naval Blunders

    Beachcombing has been having a bit of a naval season and it was in celebration of this that he picked up Naval Blunders by Geoffrey Regan. Now, of course, books on blunders in history are commonplace. But this is arguably the best of all those with which Beach is familiar, in part because of the […]

    Mussolini’s Barber August 7, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Mussolini's Barber

    Mussolini’s Barber is a bizarrist’s wet dream, fifty well-written ‘weird’ stories as told by Graeme Donald ranging from the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 to Vietnam, with a heavy bias towards the Second World War. Long time readers of this blog will recognize many of the tales collected including the twice atom-bombed Yamaguchi, Mussolini’s Irish assassin, […]

    Lost in Shangri-La July 20, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary

    In May 1945 an American flight over central New Guinea crashed and killed all but three of the twenty four servicemen on board. The three survivors – two men and a woman – found themselves in the midst of a dense jungle miles from home. They managed to parley with the local tribespeople – who […]

    Review: The Great Pretenders June 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Review: The Great Pretenders

    Don’t tell Mrs B but Beachcombing is presently suffering from a rather silly teenage crush. The subject of his desire is a Scandinavia rheumatologist named Jan Bondeson who writes books in his spare time about strange things. It all began last month. Beachcombing bought twenty odd different volumes from various online sources – several of […]

    Last Words of the Executed May 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Last Words of the Executed

    Beachcombing will not deny it: he’s been in a real Last Words mood recently. So when a friendly book dealer sent him Robert K. Elder’s Last Words of the Executed he was hardly going to complain: even if, by a bizarre error of the printer’s art, the index had ended up being bound in the […]

    Saving and Murdering in the Holocaust May 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Saving and Murdering in the Holocaust

    Beachcombing noted in this place a month ago – death-dealer of Kovno – that an important new book on Germany’s wartime atrocities is coming out: Hitler’s Foreign Executioners: Europe’s Dirty Secret by Chris Hale. CH argues in this work that subject populations of the occupied territories often partook enthusiastically in the Final Solution or ‘Outdoor […]

    A Book about Spitting April 28, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    A Book about Spitting

                      Jerry Lembcke, The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam (New York University Press 1998) Beachcombing was never going to let a book about spitting in history pass him by. And so when he heard that Jerry Lembcke had given over two hundred pages […]

    The Commissar Vanishes April 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Commissar Vanishes

    After yesterday’s post on cinema gimmicks, Beachcombing found himself wondering about why cinema alone of the great arts seems to prosper under totalitarianism. From there he got all excited about Soviet kitsch and spent an hour in his armchair where he got reacquainted with one of his favourite books of the last couple of years: […]

    Review: Shadow Pasts April 5, 2011

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

    Beachcombing has only a few minutes today before class begins – a spring cold has meant that he is sleeping double his regulation five or six hours. But he wants to take what little time he has to celebrate William Rubinstein’s Shadow Pasts: ‘Amateur Historians’ and History’s Mysteries (2007), a gem of a book he […]

    Review: Atlas of Remote Islands March 22, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Review: Atlas of Remote Islands

    Judith Schalansky, Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will (Penguin 2010). St Jerome, long ago, said that books should not be treasures and Beachcombing, is happy to subscribe: he wants cheap functional paperbacks with a lot of glue on the spine. However, every so often someone produces […]

    Review: Behind the Palace Doors March 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Review: Behind the Palace Doors

                          Behind the Palace Doors: Five Centuries of Sex, Adventure, Vice, Treachery and Folly from Royal Britain by Michael Farquhar has a title that threatens scandal and titillation. But it is fortunately much more than that. It is a brilliantly-written psycho-history of Britain’s royal family […]

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