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A Night Out with Robert Burns: The Greatest…

A Night Out with Robert Burns: The Greatest Poems (2008)

by Robert Burns

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I got this book from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer's programme and was quite pleased about it. I know very little of Robert Burns' work and was looking forward to finding out about it. The blurb about this book said that it was for people who find it hard to get into Burns as the poems are presented in a way that shows their relevance to today, and that they have biographical and textual notes to help understand them better.

The book starts off with a biography of Robert Burns which I found very interesting as I don't know anything much about him at all. It was good to have that background to build upon. After that was the poems. Each poem comes with a very short introduction by Andrew O'Hagan. This was the bit that I thought was supposed to explain the poem to make it understandable and show how it's relevant to today. It doesn't at all. The introductions are basically along the lines of 'this poem was written about such a person or such an event' or 'I went on a trip once to such a place and this event happens and this poem reminds me of that time'. How that is supposed to make a poem more accessible is beyond me. It didn't help in anyway and I was quite disappointed by that. The textual notes are just under 30 little footnotes of a sentence or two that give a historical context or explain what a particular turn of phrase means. There's a glossary at the back of the book but I found that it was not at all comprehensive. The majority of the words that I was looking up weren't included and so it wasn't very useful at all.

I tried reading this book twice and both times I didn't get very far into it. I read a couple of poems but without knowing what some of the words mean and with no explanation of the poems relevancy, I really struggled to understand them. It didn't take long before I gave up for a second time. It's a very disappointing book, it doesn't fulfil any of the claims that it makes and is not a book for people who can't get into Burns by any means. ( )
  Ganimede | Jun 17, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was a great introduction to the poet Robert Burns for me . It's a book that will be a handy reference point for anyone like myself who has only just discovered his works. ( )
  kehs | Jul 23, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a difficult book to review because for me, it is two separate entities: Burns' poetry and O'Hagan's presentation of it in this particular book. I do love poetry but Burns has never been a poet I've particularly fallen for. I can't say that this book has stimulated any kind of epiphany with regards to Burns - he is and always will be a difficult poet to read for me. However, O'Hagan's presentation of Burns' work here is novel in format (the poems divided into 4 main sections depending on underlying subject matter, each poem accompanied by a small anecdote from O'Hagan himself) and this format has helped me to gain a deeper appreciation of what Burns is 'about'. The historical information, shallow though it is, is enough to contextualise each poem and bring it 'alive' for a modern reader. The modern anecdotes about the importance of Burns in a modern context to O'Hagan serve to show that, at least for some modern readers, Burns has a very real place in their literary interaction. There is an interesting introduction which really analyses, albeit in a shallow manner, the concept of Burns as a marketing tool and an entity apart from the literary world - not deep but thought-provoking nonetheless.

I wouldn't recommend this to someone who was looking for something that borders on heavy-duty scholarship. It's 'coffee-table' poetry presentation. It is a good introduction to or revisiting of Burns, however, for those of us who don't know his poetry well or quite understand where it's rooted in. ( )
1 vote klarusu | Feb 26, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I got this as an Early Reviewers thingy. And I am very glad I did.
Being from Ayrshire I grew up with Burns. Almost to the point where I had sickened of him. Years had been spent (so it felt like) reading his poems and trying to remember them. Constantly being confused by words almost like your own but not. And always told how great it is.
And the only books I would find would be Complete Works which were much too daunting to actually read. I'm sure many people have the same problem with Shakespeare.
So I was unsure when this came along. But its great point is that it is accessible.
It is a small collection pulled together of poems and songs that Andrew O'Hagan likes. Some for their eternal beauty, some for their aptness in the current world. He gives each a short introduction which is more to set the scene than to explain anything academic and then leaves you with the words.
And because it is not too big and daunting I read them. And was enlightened.
Burns is a superb poet, if not the best of men, and can find a beauty and a political statement in almost anything. Something I had lost in the dull English lessons of youth.
So, in summary, read Burns poems. And you could do a lot worse than start with this collection of them. ( )
  munchkinstein | Jan 29, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A decent introduction to the works of Burns. Some of his most famous poems are ommitted in favour of less well know works. The introduction to collection and the preface to the individual poems provide some valuable context, and highlights their continuing relevance today. The glossary of Scots words at the end was quite amusing to me as a Scots speaker but will certainly be invaluable to those unfamiliar with the language. Overall, a good place to start if you nothing about Burn's and his poetry and a good addition to those who already know a bit but want more. ( )
  Aitken_ka | Jan 27, 2009 |
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The Scottish poet Robert Burns has been idolised and eulogised. He has been sainted, painted, tarted up and toasted. In this text, Scottish essayist Andrew O'Hagan presents a collection of the poet's work Originally published: 2008.

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Canongate Books

2 editions of this book were published by Canongate Books.

Editions: 1841959928, 1847671128

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