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Samir's Critical Corner

I love good writing. Samir's Critical Corner will have reviews on World Literature but you will also find reviews on various subjects like Mathematics or Tai Chi, and on specific niches like Nigerian writers.

Currently reading

South Sea Tales (Oxford World's Classics)
Robert Louis Stevenson
Progress: 122/289 pages

PSA - Shorten your posts in the feed! (Reblogged from AnaRita)

Reblogged from Themis-Athena's Garden of Books:

If you don't want to annoy lots of people with big assed posts on their dash... Use the page break function. Makes things so much less huge.




Spread the word!


This adds a "Read More" button to expand the post.



*Did I reblog this before? I don't remember but it's a good thing for people to see again. Scrolling through super long posts is cumbersome. You can add this when reblogging, too.

Snail Pace!

ARGH. It's taking forever for BookLikes to import my shelves and settings from GR... it's been saying 17 hours left for the past 24 hours... I wanna start fiddling around on BL... come on BL, make it happen, I wanna have fun!

REBLOG: Make Your Wish on BookLikes

Reblogged from Amara's Eden:

How's your BookLikes experience so far? We hope you're enjoying your time here. We're doing our best to create perfect space for readers and authors with your help, of course. Here are several information that we felt you would like to know :)


BookLikes lets you create your own personal webpage ready to customize and fill with your reviews and books. You can also use your own domain with absolutely no fees, to make it happen go to Settings.


We would also like to inform all BookLikes member who already use their domains that we've changed our DNS, please update them to new ones: to make your site work properly.

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An open letter to Goodreads from author Leah Raeder

Reblogged from Aure `Reading With the Dark`:

I came across this recently and thought it was a very well thought out and very eloquent letter about the recent changes on Goodreads. As I was reading I was applauding what she had to say.




With the way things have been going on that site, I decided to reblog it here so that if it were to be deleted, it wouldn't be lost forever.  


From the keyboard of Leah Raeder:

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Source: http://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/4917309-an-open-letter-to-goodreads

Review: Home and Exile by Chinua Achebe

Home and Exile - Chinua Achebe

The three essays contained in this all too slim book are actually lectures that Achebe gave at Harvard University in 1998. The essays are interlinked and form a sustained argument from start to end. The theme of the argument is the book's title Home and Exile and this collection, which contains glimpses of his childhood, motivations on becoming a writer, and of his home and people, is considered his first autobiographical work. The lectures, in order of presentation, are ‘My Home Under Imperial Fire’, ‘The Empire Fights Back’ and ‘Today, the Balance of Stories’. Due to the nature of this collection, it would not make much sense to talk about each section separately.

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Review: The Jew of Malta / The Massacre at Paris by Christopher Marlowe

The Jew of Malta/The Massacre at Paris (Works & Life of Christopher Marlowe 3) - Christopher Marlowe

2.5 / 5 stars. The Jew of Malta was not what I expected, having previously read Dr Faustus and thoroughly enjoyed it. The play is about the jew Barabas, whose assets are taken over by the state of Malta, in order to pay off a debt to the Turks. When Barabas refuses at first to offer half his wealth as requested by the governor, his entire wealth is then demanded, as well as that of all the Jews in Malta. Thus begins the antisemitism in the play. And unknown to anyone except his daughter Abigail whom Barabas informs, he has a stash of gold hidden in his house. But as part of his punishment for not complying with the governor, his house is turned into a nunnery. To acquire the gold, Abigail pretends to convert to Christianity and join the nunnery. This is the bulk of Act I and the events unfold slowly with engaging prose that reveals character development.


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Review: Place and Leisure (AA100 / Book 4)

AA100 The Arts Past and Present - Place and Leisure (Book 4) - Deborah Brunton

The final book on the AA100 course and it focuses heavily on multidisciplinary studies. While most of the chapters were quite boring, at least the angel from which they were approached, like sacred places in Britain such as stonehenge (for religious studies), or ancient Roman villas as places of leisure (architecture and ancient history) etc, there were also some interesting topics like the different schools of thought on leisure between Aristotle and Epicurus (philosophy) and how modern music like the Beach Boys and The Who can be contextualized and analyzed to better understand leisure at the seaside.

All in all, the topics are broad and there's bound to be something that appeals to someone, it's all rather subjective really.



Samir Rawas Sarayji


Review: Marlowe and the Early Shakespeare by F. P. Wilson

Marlowe and the Early Shakespeare - F.P. Wilson

F. P. Wilson was a British scholar specialized in the Elizabethan era of drama. This collection of 5 lectures was delivered at Trinity College in Cambridge in 1951. Where appropriate and for the sake of contextualization, either in terms of a timeline or in terms of the quality/similarity of work, Wilson compares Marlowe to the early Shakespeare.

Those who are familiar with Marlowe's work will most likely be familiar about the many controversies surrounding this fascinating man, such as the way he lived his life, his supposed atheism, his work as a spy for the British monarchy, and the events surrounding his mysterious death. To the reader with this background knowledge, Wilson quickly stated in his introduction that: "We know we cannot write a biography of Shakespeare; we think we can write one of Marlowe." Furthermore, Wilson explains that only the first and second parts of the play 'Tamburlaine' were published during Marlowe's lifetime, to which Wilson explains that the remaining plays descended to us in "desperate corruption". And because of the lack of adequate records, there is also uncertainty in the chronology of Marlowe's plays. Finally, in his introduction, Wilson discusses extensively about Elizabethan drama and puts into context Marlowe and his play 'Tamburlaine'.

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Review: Death of a Naturalist by Seamus Heaney

Death of a Naturalist - Seamus Heaney

Some books are so thin and light, yet they carry so much weight, like Heaney's 'Death of a Naturalist'. Each poem in this collection is a work of art, a masterpiece. There is neither pretentiousness nor symbolism here. Each poem is a story in itself and in this, Heaney has mesmerized me. I just imagined someone who had written an entire collection of short stories and then thought: "Let's see how we can strip away all the unnecessary words and images to just capture the essence of the tale in as few words as possible".

The autobiographical nature of these poems adds further weight, and exhibits the emotional investment that Heaney imparts on his reader, like in 'Digging' where we see the Heaney descended from a lineage of famers who takes the path of the writer (an excerpt):

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Review: Sex for Sale by Ronald Weitzer (Editor)

Sex For Sale: Prostitution, Pornography, and the Sex Industry - Ronald Weitzer

This book is an excellent resource for anyone interested in better understanding the sex industry. The 14 essays in this collection are all based on empirical research and the contributors are practically all Ph.D holders and most are in academia as professors or assistant professors. So, for the most part, this is top-notch information. There are essays based both on quantitative and qualitative research, and the compilation is brilliantly categorized into four main sections: I-Pornography, II-Stripping and Telephone Sex, III-Prostitution and IV-Trends

The first essay, 'Sex Work: Paradigms and Policies' is more of an overview essay that touches on most of the topics to be discussed in more detail in the pages that follow. It acts as a perfect introduction to the collection and contains much statistical evidence to lay the groundwork for the kind of data one can expect from the more quantitative essays.

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Review: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by Amos Tutuola

My Life In the Bush of Ghosts - Amos Tutuola

This is the first novel of Tutuola that I've read and it's not comparable to any other book I know of. Two brothers get separated from their mother in the village and then from each other near a bush when war breaks out. There are no details or specifics. The power of the novel - the suspension of disbelief - works best with the continuing vagueness that Tutuola employs. The youngest of the brothers eats a fruit from a tree and is then transported into the world of ghosts in this bush. Here the strangest tale takes place as the boy learns about this world with all its different towns, each with their own rules, while he wanders about hoping to make his way out and back home. Suffice it to say, he is stuck there for 24 years.

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Review: Essays in the Art of Writing by Robert Louis Stevenson

Essays In The Art Of Writing - Robert Louis Stevenson

This collection contains seven essays of which the first two are much longer than the others. They first essay 'On Some Technical Elements of Style in Literature' is somewhat boring as there's nothing really new to learn that other writers haven't discussed more clearly. Stevenson distinguishes between prose and verse, and then continues by using the following four classifications 1- Choice of Words, 2- The Web, 3- Rhythm of the Phrase, 4- Contents of the Phrase' to discuss further the elements of style in writing.

It is at the second essay 'The Morality of the Profession of Letters' that the collection became alive, with passages like: 'A writer can live by his writing. If not so luxuriously as by other trades, then less luxuriously. The nature of the work he does all day will more affect his happiness than the quality of his dinner at night' - and this was published back in 1912! Even then, successful writers struggled with the question of earning a living as a writer. Another passage: 'There are two duties incumbent upon any man who enters on the business of writing: truth to the fact and a good spirit in treatment', where he then discusses what and how writers should write based on their experiences and the pursuit of truth in literature.

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Review: Reading and Criticism by Raymond Williams

Reading and Criticism - Raymond Williams

The premise of this book is to encourage 'intelligent reading', which according to Williams is to read with an open, attentive mind and to also focus on the use of language. Well... he might have been proud of GR then since most of my GR friends read intelligently judging by their reviews. But let's face facts, we're a small school of fish in the vast ocean, and Williams doesn't shy away from expressing the drivel most people read. In fact, the opening chapter analyzes some extracts of advertisements to show the level to which language is manipulated in order to serve a purpose. He then quickly uses this to express the same sentiments in news writing and how all this kind of quick, easy reading perpetuates commercial writing (aka 'entertainment' fiction). There's a lot of merit to his arguments and his down-to-earth analysis, even though this book was published in 1950.

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Review: Cultural Encounters (AA100 / Book 3)

AA100 The Arts Past and Present - Cultural Encounters (Book 3) - Richard Danson Brown

By far the best book in this series so far. There's a diverse range of topics from several disciplines in the humanities, these include the art of Benin and the conquest of Benin, an introduction to liberalism, understanding the short story, the transmission of medical knowledge and understanding classical studies. Quite a variety, yet all the topics are informative and cohesive.


Samir Rawas Sarayji

Review: The Burial at Thebes by Seamus Heaney

The Burial at Thebes: Sophocles’ Antigone - Seamus Heaney, Sophocles

I liked Heaney's version more than the original. There are some interesting elements Heaney incorporated to bring ancient and modern together. While the overall structure and technicality follows that of Sophocles, concepts like parodos, episodes, rhesis. stichomythia and so on, there is also different registers of language used. The chorus is that of an ancient Greek play with rhythm to be sung or danced, and Creon's speech is in the iambic meter, whereas the Guard's speech is, for example, in colloquial English. Heaney pulls this off masterfully helping to keep the modern reader grounded in the play and the effect of such exchanges between characters, while sometimes borders on the comic, generally makes the play both accessible and enhances a sense of immediacy to the action.

A most enjoyable read.


Samir Rawas Sarayji

Review: Whores for Gloria by William T. Vollmann

Whores for Gloria - William T. Vollmann

Whores for Gloria is about Jimmy, an ex-soldier who cashes in his SSI checks only to spend them – after paying his rent at the hotel – on whores. Vollmann weaves a captivating and most disturbing tale that captures the grittiness and vulgarity of street prostitution, and the frightening and depressing reality around it.


Jimmy is on the lookout for Gloria, who appears to be a figment of his imagination, and it’s never clear if Jimmy is high, psychotic, mentally handicapped or whatever, but this doesn’t matter because Vollmann shifts the focus from Jimmy to Jimmy’s desire for Gloria, and how the prostitutes fill that void in strange and unusual ways.

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