BOOK REVIEW: ‘Uzbekistan: An Experience of Cultural Treasures to Colour’

101.UZBEKISTAN COLOURING BOOK (NOT REVIEWED YET 17 MAY 2019) 20190503_161427 (2)

Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title:  Uzbekistan: An Experience of Cultural Treasures to Colour

Author: Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, Babour Ismailov, Binafsha Nodir, Davron Toshev

Total Number of Pages: 143

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent): 7

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According to its cover notes, the volume is intended to be ‘…A celebration of the arts and pictorial traditions of Uzbekistan’ doing-so with ‘Photographs of architectural works, murals, ceramics, tapestries and ornamental textiles’, and as part of this, ‘…The reader is given the opportunity to colour in their own drawings based on the beautiful photographs provided’. The result is simultaneously both a ‘Colouring book’ (albeit a very nice and well-presented one), yet equally a volume showcasing Uzbeki culture. It is an unusual treatment of an unusual subject.

Surprisingly, the volume contains no Contents page; the first page encountered being an untitled one which serves as an Introduction to its subject. This provides a broad historical background to the architecture and designs which are to follow. The first of five Sections which form the main part of the volume now appear. Although not defined as such (and un-numbered), these sections are analogous to Chapters. They cover the previously-mentioned subjects of architectural woks, murals, ceramics, tapestries and ornamental textiles with the unifying factor common to all, being patterns unique to Uzbekistan. These patterns mostly appear as full-page coloured photographs of unknown origin within each section, and in most instances are reproduced as line drawings on an adjacent page. It should be noted however, that, for unknown reasons, pages 54-65 do not contain reference images. Although some images contain a more detailed explanation about their subject (that of Mosaic Décor of Sherdor Madrasah, being one such example), the majority contain only a brief caption, this being placed alongside the appropriate photograph. Surprisingly (and although the intention is that the reader use coloured media such as crayons, pencils or paint to replicate the colours the coloured image contains), no guidance is given as to the colours that should be used, the volume’s complier’s evidently believing that the viewer can make this decision for themselves and ignoring the fact that there are numerous shades of a specific colour (‘Brown’ being but one example). Although a variety of Uzbecki words appear throughout the volume, it contains no interpretative Glossary. What (for example) is Ganch? (Section 2) The section itself offers no explanation and as the word does not appear in the previously-referenced Introduction, a reader can have no idea. Despite being located in a little-known part of the world, no maps are provided to assist the geographically-challenged reader.

The previously-noted ‘limitations’ notwithstanding, it is very evident that this book is a labour of love, yet its exact purpose is uncertain. The problem is that the volume is neither Fish nor Fowl. On one hand it is a celebration of Uzbeki culture and as such is beautifully presented, yet equally it is a Colouring Book, a genre that is at the lower end of the publishing market and more-frequently (and traditionally) associated with children rather than adults. What has resulted in this instance (at least for this reviewer) is a ‘compromise’ that is unable to decide its exact purpose, and is cheapened by this indecision. Were that that was not the case.

Aside from Uzbeki nationals who will purchase it for nostalgic reasons, it is possible that this volume will appeal to several different readerships. These could include ‘Orientalists’ who are interested in Middle Eastern cultures and their attributes, ‘Colourists’ who are seeking different subjects for their talents, and those who simply like beautiful images with a Middle Eastern theme. Artists with an interest in ‘Eastern’ themes and artworks may also find the images contained within this volume worthy of their attention.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given this volume a 7.

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Uzbekistan: An Experience of Cultural Treasures to Colour’

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Indoor Wildlife: Revealing the Creatures Inside Your Home’

100. INDOOR WILDLIFE

Reviewer:  Michael Keith

Title: Indoor Wildlife: Revealing the Creatures Inside Your Home

Author: Gerald E. Cheshire

No. of Pages: 85

Rating Scale (1: very poor, 10: excellent): 6

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In his Introduction to this volume, the author states that it ‘…Examines the environments inside our homes that offer sanctuary and somewhere to live for many animals and a few plants [that] find our homes suitable of habitation …’ It is an excellent precis of what is to follow, but as will be seen (for this reviewer at least), draws a very long bow.

The book opens with the aforementioned Introduction. Within this, the author details the many creature-desirable environments that the average domestic dwelling has to offer. He also notes that industrial and rural locations can, in many instances, offer similar possibilities to whichever organism cares to take advantage (‘exploit’) what is on offer.  The five unnumbered Sections (analogous to Chapters) that comprise the main part of the volume then follow, with each Section being devoted to s particular type of organism. Surprisingly, given the book’s title, these range from mammals to moulds, bacteria and even viruses (the ‘Very long bow’, previously alluded-to), these latter appearing under the broad classification of Flora. Regrettably, within each Section, the format and information provided follows no uniform pattern, and could at best be described as being ‘muddled’. The Section on Mammals (for example) carries no introductory subsection relating to its subject, while that of the Section titled Birds does-so, as do those on Invertebrates and Flora. This lack of uniformity is, at minimum, disconcerting. Subsections within each Section are used to describe a specific organism, but yet again, this practice is haphazard and seemingly random, the section Birds containing little more than single-sentence captioned photographs, while that of Flies (a subsection within the Invertebrates section) receives wide and detailed coverage. There are numerous, similar, examples. Regrettably, this ‘bias’, leaves the very distinct impression that the author’s primary interest (and this volume’s focus) concerns very small lifeforms of all varieties to the exclusion of almost everything else. Such text as is provided is supported in many instances by high quality colour photographs some sourced, some not, but again, this support does not extend to every section, with Simple Plants (a subsection of Flora) receiving no image, while Wood Rots (within the same section) has been the recipient of two. The existence of such images is not mentioned on the Contents page. No Index is provided, and the existence of the subsections within each larger Section is also not alluded to on the Contents page, a situation which this reviewer believes promotes unnecessary searching.

This reviewer found this volume frustrating. He expected to find a book containing detailed, image-supported descriptions of the creatures which inhabit the average domestic dwelling, and to a certain extent these criteria were met. He did not however expect to find descriptions of Environmental Viruses and Moulds , Pathogenic Moulds or Timber Rots as part of the narrative, nor a very evident bias towards ‘creepy-crawlies’, this latter to the exclusion of larger life-forms.  For him, the difference in coverage between Birds and Insects was very evident, emphasised by the volume’s previously-mentioned ‘Muddled’ format. The absence of an Index and the consequent need to make numerous (and at times fruitless) searches for a specific organism did not help.

So what to make of the result?

The previous comments notwithstanding, this volume is informative and well-illustrated, with the qualification that it leans heavily towards insects and their ilk. Readers seeking information about the very small creatures, moulds and viruses that co-exist with them within in their domestic environments are likely to find this book of considerable interest and very informative. However, readers seeking similar information about the avian lifeforms they encounter around their dwellings may be disappointed; the coverage of the latter being minimal.

On a Rating Scale where 1: very poor, 10: excellent: I have given this volume a 6.

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Indoor Wildlife: Revealing the Creatures Inside Your Home’