The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Apr 22, 2012


A little over a year ago, Amazon UK invited me to join their Vine programme. They said it was because people found my occasional review at the website useful. It is possible that is the reason: I have 128 reviews and 254 out of 352 readers liked them. (The remaining 98 are just nasty folks.) For some of the giants of the Amazon review scene, these would be pitiable numbers. Luckily I do not aim for giant-hood. I'm quite content being a pygmy.

There are benefits to Vine membership. Occasionally a nice item does drop into my sweaty palm. One recent example is the as-yet unreleased exploration of London by David Gentleman. I got London, You're Beautiful: An Artist's Year yesterday and I spent a couple of hours going over its pages. It is quite lovely. Here's what I submitted in review:
David Gentleman has lived on the same street in North London for more than fifty years and in the same house for slightly less, and yet for much of his life his artistic eye has been cast elsewhere. Last year he decided to take a look at his hometown with a fresh perspective, that of a flaneur, and he provides a look at much of the capital's gems as seen from street level. With deft brush-strokes and quick pencil work and a lovely palette of watercolours, he has depicted large parts of the city with love and keen observation. From January to December, he explores the moods of London. Some boroughs he revisits - you will see Camden and Hampstead over and over again. Other parts are captured in the moment of their finery. The City, especially, gains much from his interpretation - take a look at the sequence of angular buildings on Great Victoria Street and Poultry. He visits the theatre and street markets, he observes London from the heights of its hills, and he sees the new vertical city (the Heron Tower, Gherkin, Canary Wharf, Shard) in a new light. Interspersed throughout is his quiet commentary, witty and gentle. I suspect a coffee table format in large size would have been much more striking for some of the more elaborate pieces in the book, but many of his sketches are like miniatures, sharp and concentrated, and so revelatory in small size. This is a book to sample and savour.
See? I liked it.

It's not just books that arrive on my doorstep from Amazon. I have also received a pair of headphones. The electronic items usually are in big demand. There are people who are very likely sitting up in front of their computers at 8pm every third Thursday of a month, constantly refreshing their Vine pages, just to see what freebie electronic goodies are available. (Once, at 9pm on a Vine day, I happened to look at the website: there had been a fancy super zoom digital camera on offer. I'm sure the last of those had vanished at 8:00:04.)

As long as you review at 80% of the items you have ordered, you can choose two more every third Thursday, and another two the following week. Having started in March last year, I should have had nearly fifty items in my possession by now.  I chose 18 items.

Choosy and ungreedy, that's me.


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