I understand the difficulty inherent in trying to write about a historical figure who was both a woman and a minority, but the speculations, attemptedI understand the difficulty inherent in trying to write about a historical figure who was both a woman and a minority, but the speculations, attempted extrapolations, and unanswered questions get a bit tiresome. As others have remarked, this is much more focused on Mansfield (understandably - as a rich, influential white man, his story is much more likely to have been recorded and remembered than Dido Elizabeth Belle's).
Also, there is a fairly uncomfortable section postulating the willingness of Dido's mother, as viewed through the lens of other black women who became mistresses to white men and the plot of a popular contemporary play. If the power imbalance is extreme enough that your lover can literally sell you if you piss him off, I think we've left consent in the rearview. I know you want to imagine theirs as a love story, great and good, and Dido as the wanted product of a loving union, but that is a sketchy beginning, and there's nothing in the direct evidence that makes it less so....more
Full disclosure: I received a free proof of this book through the First Reads program.
The problematic nature of this book is acknowledged in the authoFull disclosure: I received a free proof of this book through the First Reads program.
The problematic nature of this book is acknowledged in the author's note: there is very little that can be definitively stated regarding the personal lives and private intentions of any figure from so long ago, especially taking into account the sacred nature of records in ancient Egypt, where the carved word quite literally became the truth (whether it had started that way or not). What this means in practical terms is that the book is littered with "Perhaps it was scenario A. Equally likely is contradictory scenario B. Or maybe it was scenario C." While I understand the limitations imposed by the historical record and the tendency to want to avoid unsubstantiated assertions, this continual hedging gets exhausting and frustrating to read after a while. Some of the points are repeated without apparent cause.
There is clearly a lot of research behind this book (with commensurate end notes and a list for further reading), and the author is passionate about attempting to bring a human element to the bare-bones treatments of Hatshepsut's reign. The beginning, however, hints at a different approach that might have made for more captivating reading. The first few pages of the first chapter present an imagined narrative from Hatshepsut's perspective, a technique that is mimicked in shorter snippets in other sections. The contrast between this and the more academic sections is jarring. I wonder what kind of book would have come from having 2 sections: a complete, imagined narrative of the most likely/supported scenarios and an academic half addressing potential scholarly debates and contradictions to that narrative.
Given the sheer number of potential paths, an academic "choose your own interpretation of Hatshepsut" would have worked, too - and would have been more accessible for the layperson who is not up-to-date on issues in Egyptology....more
Full disclosure: I won a (signed!) copy of this book from First Reads.
I entered the giveaway for this book thinking of my students. Our new standardsFull disclosure: I won a (signed!) copy of this book from First Reads.
I entered the giveaway for this book thinking of my students. Our new standards demand writing, and then some more writing, and then after that, y'know, writing about what they wrote, so I've been on the lookout for new writing resources. This book is clever, well-written, and clear.
It's not quite what I was looking for.
Let me explain. The book is divided into three main sections (minus the introductory front matter and the glossary/indices). The first focuses on diction and specific issues surrounding it: overuse of linking verbs, prevalence and uselessness of jargon, misplacement of adverbs, misuse and abuse of pronouns, utility of hyphens, culling of unnecessary words, and fluidity of parts of speech. The second turns more to strengthening sentences and paragraphs: emphasis, definitions, metaphors, commas, run-ons, clarity, contrast, depth, readability, how-to's, and sound. The third presents tips for writing as a whole: revision, branding, knowing your audience, and a final chapter that brings together all the previous issues by looking at a sample essay.
Some of this will work well for my classes - I'm definitely stealing the run-ons chapter, pretty much in its entirety. I've already come up with ways I want to use the sample essay to get my kids to articulate their process. A link to exercises for teachers and students is provided at the front, and I'm excited to see what's available.
That said, some of these chapters were clearly for an audience of not-me. It's not the book's fault (nor the author's!) that I could not care less about making my content readable for today's technology, creating a cogent how-to, or promoting a brand for my authorial voice. These chapters present their content well - it's just not content that applies to my reason for reading the book.
This is still the most entertaining style guide since Strunk and White (Oh, Strunk and White, you paragons of snark and subtle insult...), even if I persist in using linking verbs. If you're looking for the very basics, this is probably not comprehensive enough for you. If you're looking to refine and improve what you already know, particularly if you are hoping to break in to writing as a career, this is a great investment. It includes many, many footnotes of additional resources.
This book does not contain a "Fill out this test to determine if you are a psychopath," so if that's what you're looking for, you will be disappointedThis book does not contain a "Fill out this test to determine if you are a psychopath," so if that's what you're looking for, you will be disappointed. Rather, it is a narrative of one man's explorations of the origins of psychopathy as a diagnosis, the various modern treatments of the same, and the ethical implications of the diagnosis (and, briefly, psychiatry in general). Those looking for objective, hard-science, lots-of-footnotes material will not find it here, but it is a very absorbing read for laypeople. ...more
Fun with science! Honestly, if this had been around when I was making choices about my college major, I might have become a physicist like my dad wantFun with science! Honestly, if this had been around when I was making choices about my college major, I might have become a physicist like my dad wanted.
Since I didn't, I'm not having the same issues with it that others have mentioned (lack of citations/complete bibliography). I think the idea was to do fun, get-you-into-this, pop-science...and I'm totally fine with that. There are many other works and websites mentioned, for those that want to get more into the theory and essentials of it all.
It does help to have a basic grounding in chemistry, though - while the author explains things clearly, he's leapfrogging around and making lots of connections which I suspect make more logical sense to the experts. I had a really great high school science teacher, so I vaguely remember most of the major people and the basic rules (s- and p-orbitals! I thought I would never have to see you again), but I can see how people without that grounding could be turned off on the book fairly quickly. ...more
This book provides a good overview of life for the gentry class in Regency England, disguised as a seriI received this book for free from First Reads.
This book provides a good overview of life for the gentry class in Regency England, disguised as a series of "how-to's" (some of which any well-bred lady of the era would avoid like the plague - see "How to Elope to Scotland"). It doesn't purport to be a serious history - more of a tongue-in-cheek guide for those who might, just possibly, be re-enacting in the near future or who have a burning desire to know the difference between a pelisse and a spencer. There are allusions to Austen's work scattered throughout as in-jokes to the avid fan, as well as illustrations and diagrams and an appendix containing a brief biography of Austen (with mentions of her family members), outlines of the plots of her works, a list of notable films and retellings, resources and bibliography, a somewhat redundant glossary, and a thorough index.
This sort of reminded me of the tone of the Worst Case Scenario books, but with more charm and less overt deadpan irony. There were some interesting facts, but very little that will be new to, say, history majors or owners of an edition of Austen's works with decent footnotes. It overwhelmingly assumes the reader will be female, so most of the chapters are geared for that audience (there are small sections about men's education, responsibilities, entertainments, and dress). Not that this is an entirely unfair assessment of the primary audience for Jane Austen, but it skews things a bit much for me.
The book itself is hardcover, about the size of the taller paperbacks, and has heavier pages than the norm. After one reading, the binding on mine is slanted.
Overall, this is witty and fun, but probably not something you're going to read more than once unless you actually are participating in re-enactments or you feel you need to know what Lady Catherine's barouche is....more
I won this book through First Reads. So far, I have not been able to get past the introduction to this book, which is a 61-page primer on the ancientI won this book through First Reads. So far, I have not been able to get past the introduction to this book, which is a 61-page primer on the ancient origins of the New Age movement (and which, the authors will pardon me, seems to have little to do with the presence of the supernatural in America, beyond attempting to convince people that the supernatural exists - without which belief, I doubt if they would even care this book existed, much less open it and slog through 61 pages of quasi-historical drivel).
I started reading this roughly concurrently with teaching my classes about logical fallacies, and if the introduction is any indication, the book is going to drive me to madness. It's nothing but appeal to ignorance - "We haven't found the missing link, so why not believe life was brought here by aliens!" "We can't be sure how the Sumerians knew everything they did, so it must be aliens!" "We don't know for sure how the pyramids were made, so let's just say it was with psychic powers!" "While we're at it, the Bible might have been written by aliens! Or maybe God. Or maybe some really bloody-minded prophets with a yen for codes. But probably aliens."
I mean, I understand that the author came to this book with a certain, shall we say, bias (star and producer of UFO Hunters), but still. Don't write 61 PAGES of "No one really knows the truth, so here's a theory that fits into my worldview. If you don't agree, then you are 'obdurate skeptics and debunkers' (23). It's ok if I never really come to a conclusion about anything - it's all a MYSTERY!" *big distracting hand gesture*
I don't know if I can continue with this. And, just to be clear, I am not a partiularly skeptical or practical-minded person. The introduction feels self-indulgent, unnecessary, and, if you'll forgive the pun, alienating.
*Update - I've read about half of it. I was right. It is driving me crazy. The bits that are actual history are good, but the conclusions drawn are sketchy, at best (Maybe the women in Salem deserved it - some of them really WERE witches! And Lincoln might have been psychic - except he averted any of the disasters he might have predicted except his own death! Mediums who admitted they were faking may not have been faking after all!). Gah....more
Common complaints are the same as the other ones I've seen. The points are mostly good, but detail is lacking, and it's very repetitive. The approachCommon complaints are the same as the other ones I've seen. The points are mostly good, but detail is lacking, and it's very repetitive. The approach is rather scatter-shot - little bits and pieces of everything, with odd narrative digressions (particularly considering that one of the author's criticisms of medieval culture is that it takes a narrative view of causes and history). Theories are thrown about without much support, and some of them are completely dismissed (or rendered unimportant) after paragraphs or chapters about them. The book is well-written, but not very fulfilling as a complete history. I think I would prefer something more scholarly....more
A good anthology of modern retellings that seek to overcome the traditional patterns, including stories appropriate for a variety of audiences (you miA good anthology of modern retellings that seek to overcome the traditional patterns, including stories appropriate for a variety of audiences (you might want to preview the stories before reading them to children - there are at least 2 which might scar them for life. Unless your kid is Wednesday Addams, in which case - carry on. Keep an eye on your edged weaponry.)
The introduction and literary criticism essays included in the book are unabashedly academic (sentence chosen at randonm: "Bearing Eisenstein's analysis of feminist thought in mind, I want to suggest that one of the major contributions of the feminist critique still pertains to the power relations of domination in capitalistic societies and their reinforcement by a sepcific arrangement within child-rearing and the family and the sexual division of labor."). This works for me, but if you're looking just for a collection of stories, you may be disappointed by the roughly 100 pages of intro/criticism.
I would have liked a more specific textual focus in one or two of the essays - fairy tale titles were thrown about with abandon, and if you aren't already familiar with the stories, it can be easy to lose the author's point. I think it would have been interesting (and helpful for some readers) to have a section of the book presenting the original tales (as was done with Maria Tatar's Secrets Beyond the Door). Then readers could compare and contrast, as well as connect to the criticism, more easily.
The bibliography lists tons of resources for extending the topic, including other collections of feminist retellings. All in all, a very good book on the topic....more