The main gist of this book is how libraries serve ruling classes, and serve as a vehicle of social control. In eras of political patronage libraries aThe main gist of this book is how libraries serve ruling classes, and serve as a vehicle of social control. In eras of political patronage libraries are constructed shaped by personal tastes and/or display like the Medici library. Battles fails to discuss the Carnegie library endowment which built most of the public libraries in the United States at the turn of the century-Wikipedia tells me only 2,509 were built between 1883-1929 and of that only 1689 were built in the United States, and most of them still exist. Still Carnegie clearly articulates the goal of the library to elevate working boys. The book adamantly reflects this agenda of all public libraries, although it is not limited to elevating boys. Librarians are expected to read their patrons like Sherlock Holmes, assigning them to a reading or intellectual class and treating them accordingly. I can't really grasp my local public librarian trying to elevate my reading level, and the last time I went to one about a book I had difficulty understanding she looked up a Goodreads review. Ironically it was my review!...And then she told me to take a university professor to lunch. This book was far less fun to read than the poetic work of Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night and far more fun to read than Casson’s Libraries of the Ancient World. The Alexandria chapter is relayed in a far from chronological manner, but has interesting international connections and corrects the common Anti-semitic notion that the Library of Alexandria was burned by invaders. He explores various myths of biblioclasms and some well documented biblioclasms, especially regarding Nazis. A well written political history of libraries. ...more
This is a fictional reading of the life of Sarah Grimke and her sister Angelina, or Nina. But Kidd has invented a shadow sister, Hettie the slave girlThis is a fictional reading of the life of Sarah Grimke and her sister Angelina, or Nina. But Kidd has invented a shadow sister, Hettie the slave girl Sarah received from her mother at her eleventh birthday. Sarah, who longed to grow up to be a juror or attorney, hated the idea of owning the slightly younger girl and rejected the gift in front of neighbors. Mother Grimke made her apologize and she negotiated a relationship without any signposts-how do you own someone and treat them well when nothing is truly within your control? The story is told from both Handful (Hetty's) perspective and from Sarah's perspective. And it's a heart breaking kind of bond they have- some genuine love tainted by guilt and some genuine affection twisted by use. Handful expresses it better, so you can read the book and find her regret. Sarah's appears every few pages, but is less direct. Guilt has a way of instigating vagueness on the guilty party's mind, and Sarah struggles not only with slavery but the strictures on women. Yet it is her abolitionist convictions that lead her, a poor speaker to get up in front of crowds, in public and speak when she separates herself from her family. It seems to take her a long time to recognize that she is also bound to strike out on her own behalf as a woman with a voice, inaddition to speaking out for people treated as property. In someone else's hands the story would have been rendered differently, but I appreciate Kidd's thought provoking work....more
I loved this book because it involved a mystery, or several mysteries and is set firmly in a painterly setting. Kostova describes the artistic communiI loved this book because it involved a mystery, or several mysteries and is set firmly in a painterly setting. Kostova describes the artistic community of painting in a way that made me long to return to art classes despite my own modest talents. Not for the potential affairs and the star system which is so accurately portrayed in the novel, but the lack of temporal location that so often occurs in a group intent on their work. It is firmly contrasted with the historical riddle in the mysterious woman who lurks in Robert Oliver's psyche. Andrew Marlowe is a psychiatrist trying to unravel a renowned depressed painter, currently under his care in a mental hospital. Robert Oliver has attacked a painting in the National Gallery of Art, and left an estranged wife and two children in a small university town. Marlowe oversteps his professional role in his fascination with Oliver and becomes involved in trying to resolve a system of chaos left by Oliver's depression, and the legacy of Impressionists. I found most of the character's sympathetic, and compellingly described, even of the women seemed a bit overly idealized. But the idealization is part of the story, the way Oliver is haunted by a historical figure never understood by the women in his life, although she becomes clear in the eyes of the observer participant, Marlowe. As with the historian, the character voices are not as clearly individuated as I might like, but the strength is in their appearance, both in an out of paintings and her narrative. I look forward to other novels by this author, and may eventually revisit the Historian....more
**spoiler alert** I loved this book. I loved it to the point that after reading it, I sat down and reread it. I loved the sense of time conveyed by th**spoiler alert** I loved this book. I loved it to the point that after reading it, I sat down and reread it. I loved the sense of time conveyed by the writer, alien to the advice for telling a story: begin at the beginning. Rereading it was an attempt to find out how this novel achieved it's affect on the reader-obviously it is not structured chronologically, and has many narrators, the story of a reservation community. I went so far as to summarize the chapters and put them in year order, to go back and note that character's names in full when often they were referred to by the narrator by relationship rather than full names. Part of this exercise was to tease out the family trees which are convoluted by extramarital parentage, and the fosterage of Marie Lazarre Kashpaw's home for unwanted/orphaned children. Her interest in providing this haven is summarized as the loss of two of her children to fever, but her early life experience offers a fuller rationale for taking in orphans and woods-colts (I don't like the terms "illegitimate" or "bastard," because no child is without legitimacy-it's a life we are talking about here.) Early on we learn of Marie's discontent with her wild original Lazarre family, and her attempt to "go up the hill" to join the convent. She is later to understand that the local convent is the ditching ground for dysfunctional nuns, sort of like the government surplus butter her husband Nector Kashpaw has to unload later in the book. And like the butter, she makes do with what she has been given, extracting love lessons from the abusive sister Leopolda. Nector's family has a more jaded view of the government school apparently run by the convent-they give Nector to the system and retain his brother, Eli to be raised at home. Nector marries Marie, somewhat baffled by her hold on him when his intention was to pursue Lulu Nanapush. Nector is kept from pursuing his alcoholism by Marie's firm hand and a sense of obligation to his crowded household. But it is an intermittent commitment, punctuated by drunks and a five year affair with Lulu, now widowed. Her behavior is somewhat scandalous-she has had 8 sons by 8 men, none of which are her husband, Henry Lamartine's get. One son is from Nector, and one may be the son of her brother-in-law, Beverley. Lulu, regardless of her license with men is a truth teller, and in some ways her serial love life serves to structure a chronological history of connection so lacking for many of the characters, although the extent of it is never enumerated. She claims to hate numbers, quantifying the world, yet she is consistent in ways in which some of the others are not, most adamantly a survivor. She uses her sons as leverage in a council meeting where people are inclined to dismiss her as a position of power-the reservation is a place where all things are noted, discussed or denied, or all three responses in concert. None of the men want to be named as the lovers of Lulu, their wives are ambivalent about finding out if their husbands have strayed to her charms, but she still looses her property to a factory that will produce nothing useful and is slated for failure. Lulu sees the value in things, a qualitative approach which rejects enumeration. The Nanapush line is shamanic, the Kashpaw's are leaders, the Lazarres are wild. The families are entangled by marriages and affairs, and the book resolves when Lipsha, an aimless cowardly character claims his own history and sense of agency. Lulu is the turning point for Lipsha's transition from being King's victim, and King is exposed as being a man broken in all senses of the word, broken by his arrogance of being the legal son of a bad marriage between cousins, his selfishness, his veteran's PTSD. The disorientation the book conveys to the reader grants a personal experience of the toll of being ripped from place and time by the reservation system. I suspect I will reread this book again, this time to appreciate the lyricism of the language. I was struck by how common things, like destroyed pies, a shipment of butter, cars, a pair of wild geese seem to turn the characters lives onto chaotic passages. Occasionally a book is worth mining so diligently, and here I am reminded of another Indian novel, written by Leslie Silko that had the same current of PTSD running through it. ...more
Obviously I loved the book, given my five star rating and I will look forward to future novels by this author. I picked it up because I have always beObviously I loved the book, given my five star rating and I will look forward to future novels by this author. I picked it up because I have always been fascinated by these microcosm houses in Amsterdam-just what sort of implication does this hobby have? I first encountered them in in Home by Witold Rybczynski. A Nigerian nun, a friend told me that villages often have miniature villages used in conflict resolution, and for sympathetic magic in stressful times. I am happy to have participated in adding pieces to such a village, and I told her about the Amsterdam houses, but was unclear as to whether the tradition had been taken from Africa. Jessie Burton doesn't answer this question in The Miniaturist, but she confronts many other questions and brings the idea of sympathetic magic into a compelling setting. It's clear these little households were part of the cult of materialism prevalent in the economically competitive Amsterdam of 1686, also reflected by still-life paintings of dead fowl, fruit and domestic settings. Rybczynki also observed the respect given to possessions, but I had not entirely grasped the parallel of the paintings memorializing affluence because like Petronella, I am squeamish about looking at forever dead animals without a fork in hand, and the fur and feathers removed. Frozen in time, prior to cooking, they seem to have no future. The novel gave a window into the stress between affluence and religious concern over vanity and wealth. Amsterdam is a paranoid setting, and the clergy charges the citizens to keep watch over each other lest they fall into sin. The panopticon effect of many windows, ever-present servants is reminiscent of Sarah Water's Affinity. But in the Brandt household nothing is as it seems, and it is anything but typical of the ideal set forth by Amsterdam expectations. One of the most compelling aspects of the novel is the underlying theme of forgiveness, and how a household made up of misfits becomes a microcosm of various loyalties, largely feminine in focus. I enjoyed the transfer of power, between the siblings Johannes and Marin, and then with the power of a secret placed in Petronella's hands, usurped by Jack and the grasping ex-friends of Marin. I found the female characters compelling, and the growth of Nella's embeddedness in this society convincing. Some have criticized the novel for being slow moving, but I found it difficult to put down. The miniaturist herself is a mystery that is never entirely resolved, but I was instructed by Burton's historical research about the control of the guilds over women and craftspeople's lives. I had known Amsterdam to be a place of liberal publishing practices, and found myself wanting to read all the books Nella discovers on Marin's table. But I had not known that women were not allowed to possess property and that their commerce was largely controlled by male proxies, all wealth sacrificed when they married. One of the interesting statements made is by the miniaturist's father when he observes that his daughter's work is a potential underground economy amidst women in the city. He seems equally convinced that her talents will not lead to a happy life for her, and indeed she has been banned, along with her idolatrous puppets. The city is in the pinnacle of development, and inevitably the competition leads to 'witch hunts' ambivalently fueled by greed and prejudice. These are all very weighty topics, heavily imbued in history and patterns of civilization, which in no way detract from the quick movement of the novel after it hits it's stride. The reader has to invest a little to hit the payload, much in the same way Johannes needs to research his markets, the same way Nella has to wait to understand the situation she's found herself in. I was charmed and satisfied, in part because I have not read many novels set in this time and place which is so interesting to me....more
I loved this book, which was wise and surprisingly funny. I also recommend reading it in public if you are lonely because all the introverts will apprI loved this book, which was wise and surprisingly funny. I also recommend reading it in public if you are lonely because all the introverts will approach you to tell you how much they loved it. I found myself stalling so as not to finish it, which almost never happens with non fiction, but it is that well written, that pleasing to read. I'd had it on my list, in part because one of my friends had read it and liked it. But then I saw the TED talk Susan Cain did the story about taking a suitcase of books to summer camp, and I recognized her body posture as my own. My summer camp story worked out very differently than hers did, but I loved her tale and how it was told. I find it mildly funny that she is named Cain, because being an introvert is like having a mark on your face. It's so stigmatizing that most introverts pretend to be something they are not-extroverts. And they are told to behave like extroverts pretty incessantly, which Cain mentions repeatedly without harping on how generally arrogant and overbearing this is on the part of the more durably wired. She does make some nice distinctions about Highly Sensitive People, the Shy and the Introverted. All of these are independent categories although overlaps are common. Highly sensitive extroverts, for example, or shy extroverts aren't impossible, and of course not all introverts are shy. I think you can be shy without being HSP, but if you are HSP you are likely to be shy because your nervous system is in a humiliating uproar at times. I welcome corrections on this take on the book which I read in a wallow of self recognition. The point I had marked before reading the book, was that introverts tend to form their self concepts away from the herd, where as extroverts tend to seek affirmation in the others. She explores this as a reason introverted thinking should be respected, even if it is slower and quieter. She used Warren Buffett as an example of an introverted leader who foresaw the dot com crash. So introverts are great people to have around to prevent stampedes, as well as being innovators, analysts, etc. She doesn't really get into the moral necessity of introversion, although it lurks in the background throughout the book. She does an interesting chapter on Asians but doesn't do a chapter on Judaism which brackets the whole book. Her description of her grandfather is sort of an archetypical oasis I will revisit mentally when I am in need of a comforting thought. The language I learned about the "internal locus of power" is from religious ethics classes and may not be a language in which Cain is trained. I was interested in it because we were investigating whether people could actually change, a good question in light of conversion experiences and the threshold markers of religious experience-baptism, coming of age, marriage, ordination, etc. I hope Cain writes more on this topic....more
**spoiler alert** This was a tome picked up by my book group which seems to have a penchant for the psychological. Having enjoyed Middlesex, also a bo**spoiler alert** This was a tome picked up by my book group which seems to have a penchant for the psychological. Having enjoyed Middlesex, also a book group pick I should not be surprised that incest and murder are some of the common themes of modern fiction, but I found this book unleavened by interesting historical vignettes, as was their selection of Middlesex.
His metaphors about water seemed labored, despite the initial tragedy of the flood which stripped Anna Oh of her mother and baby sister, and drove her father to alcoholism. To discuss other aspects of Anna's traumatic childhood would be too much of a spoiler, but the author enlists as much sympathy for the perpetrators as he does for the victim, or at least tries to give us insight into the passing on of abuse from one person to another-sometimes amplified and sometimes abridged.
All the characters are flawed as all human beings are flawed, but I found myself with some questions at the end of the book-two bodies were thrust into a shallow well by it's conclusion, one the victim of racism, the other a victim of rage, possibly an understandable rage. Was it the author's intent to parallel the sins of the past to the present issues, even as racism has not exactly gone the way of the dodo? Given the title of the book, I think this deserves more thought than I am willing to give it beyond posing the question.
Secondly, the idea that "we are as sick as our secrets" permeates psychologist Orion Oh's perception, yet he counsels his son to hold his tongue, in order to protect himself--exactly the strategy Anna used with great consequences. He tells his son that his intimate relationships may not bear the weight of confession, yet blames Annie for not trusting him to bear her secrets, and his son was victimized by those very secrets, a case of "abridged" abuse. Orion himself is no hero after succumbing to s seduction by a student bent on extorting a recommendation. A feminist cabal that has no sympathy for his compromise even though the student has exaggerated his role in perpetrating it, according to his testimony. It's easy to gloss over her potential for having projected her fear of her boyfriend onto another male figure, causing Orion to pay the price for another man's harassment. We have no other insight into the situation because he does not share it with any of the other characters while it is under the faculty microscope. Orion's sins appear to be those of imprudence and omission-he knows Annie has secrets, he overlooks evidence in his own household and on the job. In short, he is distracted, over committed and somewhat overly idealistic. However Lamb doesn't have a nice prospect for Annie, except years of extensive time spent with a psychologist. Her art does not seem to have a redemptive feature even as it leads her out of an uncomfortable marriage into what appears to be a more constructive union. I admit that I had no concept of what a shadow box collage was when I began the book, possibly because they remind me of dioramas constructed under the watchful eye of a fourth grade teacher, or perhaps because collage and scrapbooking, recycling things isn't my medium. It's easy to link this distaste with Orion's lack of understanding of Annie's artistic endeavors, except that I do understand her need to salvage because she herself feels ripped apart and reassembled. But those insights don't get stated by the writer, rather the reader in this instance. I did not like this book as much as I recall liking I Know This Much is True. I will read other novels by this author, but warily, because I found too much of the damaged goods/ tormented artist stereotypes in this one for my comfort.
On second thought perhaps the plot tells more than it says-Annie becomes Anna the successful artist in a seemingly happy relationship. The athletic Orion is immobilized and thus more reflective. Kent gets his end, and Andrew discovers his own capacity for violence-the most unresolved character....more
I read a 1977 version of this, probably a reprint. What I found of interest was that Morris divided the history of pattern on three stages, the EgyptiI read a 1977 version of this, probably a reprint. What I found of interest was that Morris divided the history of pattern on three stages, the Egyptian which was priest dominated, symbolic and non-naturalistic; Greece was intellectual formal and natural, the Roman Militaristic, empty ornamentation, formal, Byzantine imaginative and Medieval. He respected material and meaning in pattern, not purely abstract designs. Other contemporary designers: Pugin, Owne Jones, Christopher Dresser, J.H. Dearle Brice Talbert EW Godwin Walter Crane and J.D. Sedding. Crane and Sedding were involved in renaissance Scrollwork. Godwin and Talbert were influential in Japanese revival. Chapter five on Patterns in Textiles is strongly devoted to dying ....more
If you have a guilty pleasure of reading Dan Brown or enjoy codes, architecture, art and religious history this is a fascinating overview of the intelIf you have a guilty pleasure of reading Dan Brown or enjoy codes, architecture, art and religious history this is a fascinating overview of the intellectual history of Renaissance art. Many of the ideas were provoking, and some of his insights very succinct....more
Hilary Mantel is my current favorite author. I loved Fludd for it's subtle searching out of the failure of Vatican II to grant corporate or personal rHilary Mantel is my current favorite author. I loved Fludd for it's subtle searching out of the failure of Vatican II to grant corporate or personal renovation to the institution. This is another book with religious critique on the side of Protestant (?) missionaries returned from South Africa. The book is excellent in describing the mixed motives that sent Ralph and Anna to a land where the complexities outstripped their ability to comprehend, and required more prudence than their effort to help would permit. But all this and the nightmare that followed are in the past, divulged in tiny pieces throughout this family dynamics that follow in England. This is a wonderful psychological description of how denial on the parental level often produces distortions in their children who sense the unarticulated truths of their parents. One example less evident than perhaps the main plot line indicates is the fact that the Victorian father of Ralph and Anna, who forbid his son to study paleontology because it supported Darwin is the father of two children who could not keep from adulterous relationships. I found all of the characters sympathetic, and very much understood the draw of the small holding by the sea as an anchor for the two men who found themselves adrift. I liked the doctor who was humane enough to give a physical excuse to her sister in law, who truly did suffer heart trouble of an invisible nature. It's a great novel, especially in its descriptions of grief....more
I really vacillated between giving this one star because I hated it, I hated reading it because it was like compulsively gawking at a traffic accidentI really vacillated between giving this one star because I hated it, I hated reading it because it was like compulsively gawking at a traffic accident, and then being caught near a horrific crash because everyone else is gawking. It was a one night horror that was strangely compelling in it's structure, the way it was written. I'm tempted to vent and give spoilers for the book plot, but suffice it to say one is caught up in an untrustworthy narrative, a feeling that develops as the meal unfolds. A book group member mentioned Dinner with Andre when we were selecting the book, and since I liked that movie I voted for this. But it left me feel ill and unclean, searching for some redemption that the author did not offer. What might I say to my book-group, so as not to bash this selection? The book poses a challenge to our disgust for people who lack any form of empathy, and by the end of the book I would not be surprised if one does not want to kill most of the characters, simply to make the world a safer place. But it also very slyly poses the question of what is to be done about people who lack the foundations of ethical behavior. Relying on junk science, the novel includes this malady as one that is genetic and can be identified by amniocentesis tests. Liberal culture tells us that raising a child with special needs is the decision of the parents, but here we see how difficult it is for the morally challenged to raise the morally challenged. And as a culture we have very little means of assessing moral capacity until something has gone very, very wrong. And unlike special ed for issues like speech difficulties or dyslexia I am not aware of how moral problems like this might be remediated. One is tempted to take the simple economic solution offered by the prenatal test, but then eugenics is not a morally appealing position either. Regardless of how compassionless, there is always the ability to choose to behave righteously, and for that reason alone I would hesitate to tamper with the gene-pool. At the same time I would not be up to raising Cain, so to speak. I think there are a lot of moral question raised in the book and I appreciate some of the narrators questions about racism. The tepid book-group questions in the back concentrate on parenting and how far one would go to protect one's offspring. This not an inquiry I felt comfortable with-rather I was interested in seeing the plot through the eyes of an outsider to the family dynamic, the adopted African son, Beau. It is easy to dismiss him because he attempts to extort money for his silence and his witness to the crime. Yet if you look at his social location, he could not have acted in any other way and had any degree of safety. They know he knows, and they know he could tell, so he is in danger. His request for money to buy a scooter appears very childish in American eyes, but this is a novel set in Europe. With a scooter, he can disappear, travelling miles with it and then selling it-it is a means of escape. There is no one he can turn to who is not part of this sick family system, and if her were to go to the police, he would be treated as an ungrateful adoptee, in addition to racist justice systems. While it is possible Babette may have aided him, perhaps sent him to the US for an education, to do so would have threatened her hard won social status, and her relationship with her natural son. Beau is snared by his Dutch family and a greater system that will not judge him fairly. I feel the narrator and different cultural assumptions lead the reader to dismiss him easily. Hopefully none of this will spoil another readers enjoyment of this clever book. It is a sickening read....more