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A distinguished cafe off the beaten track: Cafe Eiles

An Austrian friend of mine was reading my Great Vienna cafe reviews recently (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site).

My friend commented: But my favorite coffee house you did not even name.  It is the Café EILES… Friendly staff, great environment, good coffee. And all the essential papers. And they do leave you alone, this is priceless. All the other coffee places I visit several times a month waiters become friendly and ask you things or even worse they involve you into their own problems, just because I am very friendly and leave good tips… 

The Eiles is spacious, in the tradition of the grand old Viennese cafes

There is much wisdom in these comments:

(i) friendly staff: I have often written about the grumpiness and mixed quality of waiters in Vienna and in Germany.  As someone said to me the other day, “you don’t go to the classic cafes for good coffee or good service – you go for the entire cafe experience”.  Most perceptive.  But the service in the Eiles is good; (more…)

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7 reasons to like the Strandbar Herrmann

In the city, the heat is oppressive.  Yet the evening, in a deck chair under a beach umbrella, is cool.  The beer in my hand is icy.  All around me, hundreds of people are upending a beer or slurping a cocktail.  Open water glistens nearby.  What could be better than this?

The Strandbar Herrmann is a regular haunt of mine; is a unique spot in the centre of Vienna; and has charm.  So here is a review.

Strandbar Herrmann – the Urania is the domed building in the background

Seven great things about the Strandbar Herrmann:

(i) it is close to town.  Vienna has tons of outstanding beach bars next to the Danube, many of which I recommend, but which are a train- or bike-ride out of town.  Herrmann is on the Danube Canal, which loops round from the river towards the city.  You can walk there from the town centre in 15-25 minutes;

(ii) it’s big and bustling.  OK, so I love the Kleines Cafe (click to see all my Vienna cafe reviews – links in bold italics are to other posts on this site).  But when you’re having a cooling drink out of doors, a hum of contented (more…)

14 Plums of Wodehouse

What is the funniest book by “Plum” Wodehouse?

I have so far read 14 of the 20 P G Wodehouse Jeeves and Wooster and Blandings Castle volumes of my father’s splendid Folio Society collection (links in bold italics are to other posts on this blog).  What joy these books have brought to the world!

But greater experts than I, such as the fabulous fellow WordPress blogger Plumtopia, who specialises in the works of P G Wodehouse, have pointed out that there is much more to “Plum” than Jeeves and Wooster and Blandings, splendid as they are.

So I was delighted to discover recently another Folio Society edition, The Plums of P G Wodehouse.  

My Folio Society edition of “The Plums of P.G. Wodehouse” (more…)

Trollope: “He Knew He Was Right”. A masterpiece of dry comedy

Trollope is, perhaps, my favourite novelist (although PG Wodehouse is up there).

I have described before 11 life-changing reasons you should read Trollope, including his views on religion, sexual politics, and the media (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site).

But not everyone is convinced.

So I thought I would give an example of the brilliance of Trollope by quoting an entire chapter from his 1869 novel He Knew He Was Right.  

He Knew He Was Right deals with the breakdown of the marriage between Louis Trevelyan, a wealthy young Englishman, and his wife Emily.  As a description of how jealousy and stubbornness can destroy a relationship, it could have been written yesterday.

My Trollope Society edition of “He Knew He Was Right” has 823 pages

Emily’s father is Sir Marmaduke Rowley, Governor of the fictional Mandarin Islands, a distant British colony.  An old friend, Colonel Osborne, who is also Emily’s godfather, arranges for Sir Marmaduke to be summoned back to London, ostensibly to appear before a parliamentary committee, but in fact in order that he can return to London at the taxpayer’s expense to see Emily.  Sir Marmaduke acquiesces in this subterfuge; yet is dismayed when he is summoned before the committee of Members of Parliament, which is chaired by one Major Magruder: “a certain ancient pundit of the constitution, who had been for many years a member, and who had been known as a stern critic of our colonial modes of government”.

I have reproduced here Chapter 68 of He Knew He Was Right, giving an account of Sir Marmaduke’s appearance before the Major Magruder’s committee.  I often counsel people who want to understand politics, and British parliamentary procedure, to read Trollope.  Chapter 68 (out of 99 in the book) illustrates why.  The procedures described; the emotions of the elderly Sir Marmaduke as he is questioned; the chairmanship and motivation of Major Magruder; and the outcome of the hearing, including the way Sir Marmaduke is treated compared with the incomparably more competent “Governor from one of the greater colonies” who has also been questioned  by the committee, could describe the proceedings of a British parliamentary committee in 2019.

Read, and relish.  I hope you enjoy it.

Chapter 68

Major Magruder’s Committee

Sir Marmaduke could not go out to Willesden on the morning after Lady Rowley’s return from River’s Cottage, because on that day he was summoned to attend at twelve o’clock before a Committee of the House of Commons, to give his evidence and, the fruit of his experience as to the government of British colonies generally; and as he went down to the House in a cab from Manchester Street he thoroughly wished that his friend Colonel Osborne had not been so efficacious in bringing him home. The task before him was one which he thoroughly disliked, and of which he was afraid. (more…)

Great Vienna cafes – Cafe Malipop turns 40!

Is kissing allowed in the Cafe Malipop?

How about smoking?

How about being cool and hanging out?

Clue: only one of these activities is allowed in the Cafe Malipop.

Here are eight reasons the Cafe Malipop is a great Vienna cafe (links in bold italics are to posts on this site):

(i) Viennese cafes, like London pubs, occasionally get “renovated” and, sometimes, ruined.  You can feel safe at the Malipop.  No renovation has taken place there since time began;

The Malipop: how a late-night cafe should be

(ii) the 10 Ungargasse address in Vienna’s Third District is far from the tourist trail, indeed far from trails of any kind unless you study at the nearby Music University;

(iii) like the Hard Rock Cafe, the Malipop has a song about it.  Malipopwritten and sung by legendary singer, activist and comedian Willi Resetarits (also known as Dr Kurt Ostbahn) is crooned in impenetrable Viennese dialect, opening with the lines:

Heid noch im Malipop, drink i an feanet, iss i an schbedsialdosd und rauch a smaat…

This means roughly: (more…)

James Bond and salad dressing? Nein danke!

Ian Fleming’s James Bond, created in a series of novels and short stories from 1953 to 1966, is unforgettable.  But his attitudes often now feel dated (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site).

Can one dislike Bond’s views, for example on women, yet still admire, or enjoy, his single-mindedness and style?  I think so.  If you cannot discount dated attitudes in cultural artefacts, you risk missing out on countless historical treats.

For writers, a character like James Bond is gold dust.  Like him or loath him, he is well written: he thinks about his actions, has values and opinions, behaves within a clearly defined framework, yet is full of ambiguity.  No wonder movie-makers want to exploit him.

Mention of movie-makers raises a key question: can you, or should you, attempt to update or adapt a character such as Bond?  That is what movie makers do, drawing on the original material in Fleming’s novels to create stories set in the present day which seek to update Bond selectively.  Results are mixed, although as I say in the piece at the link, many of us keep going back to cinemas in the hope Bond’s next outing will be better than the last.

Debate swirls around a black or female Bond: my view is that this would be perfectly permissible, so long as the character retained key characteristics such as sophistication, humour, gadgets, great grooming, and a merciless streak.

The cover of my Folio Society “Casino Royale” is suitably dated both in style and content – get a whiff of that cigarette smoke

Some adaptation and updating is essential.  A modern movie which used Bond’s line about a key – and formerly much-loved – female (more…)

East West Street: genocide? Or crimes against humanity?

I recently read East West Street by British law professor and international human rights expert Philippe Sands.

If you have any interest in the cataclysm which overtook eastern and central Europe between 1933 and 1945, I recommend East West Street.  It explains the development of the concepts of “crimes against humanity” and “genocide” against the background of the Second World War and the appalling crimes which took place in the run up to, and during, that conflict.

It also considers the relevance of what happened in 1933-45 today.

My copy of ‘East West Street’.  The endorsements ring true

Sands humanises and illustrates his account by focusing on four individuals.  Hersch Lauterpacht was a professor of International Law who developed the concept of crimes against humanity.  Rafael Lemkin was a prosecutor and lawyer who developed the concept of Genocide.  Hans Frank was Hitler’s lawyer and later governor-general of German-occupied Poland from 1940-45.  Leon Buchholz was Sands’s grandfather, who died in Paris in 1997 (‘He took Lemberg to the grave, along with a scarf given to him by his mother in January 1939. It was a parting gift from Vienna, my mother told me as we bade him adieu.’) (more…)

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