My Spanish Interlude
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Memorable Moments in Madrid By Farley McKinnon Weber and Weber £14.25, pp 423 Reviewed by Quentin Pincher Farley McKinnon shows considerable animus towards me, a frame of mind which I feel diminishes the contribution this interminable book might have made to contemporary Spanish studies. McKinnon was a trade representative in Madrid in the period when I served as Iberian correspondent for one of our better tabloids. Our paths crossed frequently in the time covered by his memoir. We were never on the best of terms. Among other things, McKinnon alleges … Read more

Dolphin Nights (The New Meditations on Intra-Species Dialogue) By Jacqueline Annuka-Templeton The Aquatic Press £25.00, pp189 Reviewed by Norman Fitzgibbon Jacqueline Annuka-Templeton has produced an extraordinary volume, the more impressive for being the author’s first venture into prose. Annuka-Templeton has hitherto been known (in the United States at least) as an academic poet of considerable distinction if limited popular appeal. Her account of two summers spent on the coast of Northern Mexico communing with “an eccentric but endlessly humorous school of dolphins” is a monument to one individual’s enterprise and … Read more

You Really Want to Buy This Book! by Chad Ellis Pointer Pitch Press £8.95, pp 212 Reviewed by Beate von Hummingen-O’Rourke, That Chad Ellis Pointer is an idiot must be beyond doubt. The man’s lack of any communicative technique beyond importunate hysteria is evident even before the prospective reader becomes acquainted with his abominable prose. Mr Pointer gives fair warning that he functions on a different mental plane from the rest of us by means of the hyena-like grin he presents to the world on the front cover of his … Read more

Beate came into the shop and said, with the baffled excitement that is her trademark, “Alec is parking the car!” She placed EL Doctorow’s Ragtime on the counter, noting genially, “This was very good!” Beate is from Bremen and her husband, Alec, is from Belfast. She is tall and thin, he is short and heading towards rotundity. Beate has blonde hair smartly coiffed, and pale blue eyes that twinkle; Alec has an unruly black mop – and the most striking thing about his appearance is not the colour of his … Read more

“Me Ma’am says you’ll pay dosh for these,” observed a youth of the pierced and tattooed variety. He placed a cardboard box full of books on the counter. I didn’t know him by name but by reputation: he is the only foreign member of Los Malvados, our town’s neo-punk band. “Not a lot of dosh,” I cautioned, looking inside the box at a collection of children’s paperbacks. He shrugged. “Me brother and me ain’t got no use for them.” He said bruvver, of course, rather than “brother”. His accent, I … Read more

A Faustian pact? Shortly after coming on as a second-half substitute for Malaga in last weekend’s season-opener with Celta Vigo, 16-year old Fabrice Olinga became the youngest player ever to score a goal in the Spanish First Division, delivering a 1-0 victory to his side. In 2011/12, the second season of ownership by Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Abdullah Al Ahmed Al Thani of Qatar (who has invested heavily in the club), Malaga finished fourth in La Liga, qualifying for this season’s Champions’ League. Commercial logic, however, appears to have … Read more

“You should organise your books better,” a balding man with a rather long and mournful face advised me. He displayed that familiar holiday syndrome, where people believe that having discarded formal office garb for slacks and polo shirts they can likewise swap customary reticence for breezy small-talk. He had already told me that he and his wife were down from London on a mini-break; they’d flown to Almeria and driven along the coast. “You should have themes,” he continued, placing two dog-eared paperbacks on the counter: Agatha Christie’s Murder at … Read more

I was leafing through a copy of Modern Zanzibar Cuisine when the couple came in. They brought with them an aura of nervous anticipation. “Oh!” the lady began, looking at me through modish blue-tinted spectacles in white frames. Her “Oh!” had an American twang. “Is this the internet café?” “It’s over there,” I said, pointing to the premises next door, “but you can just walk through.” “Is it working?” the man asked. Also American, also bespectacled. His glasses were rimless and gave him a bookish, professorial appearance. He and his … Read more

Jack and Stella have bought a house a few miles inland. “Bigger and cheaper than we’d originally planned,” Stella told me “Distressed sale,” Jack explained. “About half what they were asking three years ago.” He said this philosophically but then brightened and added, “Crises really are full of opportunities.” Jack and Stella don’t strike me as being ruthless exploiters of other people’s misfortune, just two enterprising house hunters who saw a chance and seized it. Jack was a director at a bank. He was given a golden handshake, I’m told. … Read more

The Dream of the Red Chamber is a remarkable novel and like many remarkable novels it is rather long – five volumes in the award-winning Penguin translation, and those volumes aren’t slim. In China, though, schoolchildren are familiar with Red Chamber the way British schoolchildren are familiar with Oliver Twist or Great Expectations. I mention this by way of introducing a little vignette that occurred in the vicinity of our Penguin Classics section one rainy afternoon. Two customers were discussing the merits of a prospective purchase (the sort of discussion … Read more