This is a lyrically written series of stories about real people in Moorish Spain, which highlights different times and aspects of the 700 years the ArThis is a lyrically written series of stories about real people in Moorish Spain, which highlights different times and aspects of the 700 years the Arabs ruled tolerantly in Southern Spain. This is a lovingly written homage to the deep connections and interplay of the Islamic, Christian and Jewish poets and scholars who kept Greek and Roman knowledge alive and shining while Christian Europe was plunged into the intolerant and illiterate dark ages. A good read indeed....more
Well written, somewhat disturbing book about what makes sociopaths who they are (conscienceless manipulators), how to spot them and avoid them. If youWell written, somewhat disturbing book about what makes sociopaths who they are (conscienceless manipulators), how to spot them and avoid them. If you even have the tiniest inkling that you have a sociopath (psychopath) in your life, you will want to read this. ...more
I found Unlocking Harry Potter interesting, even useful, but fundamentally flawed and deeply irritating. John Granger gives us lenses (keys) through wI found Unlocking Harry Potter interesting, even useful, but fundamentally flawed and deeply irritating. John Granger gives us lenses (keys) through which to view aspects of the Harry Potter novels. Some of them are mysterious and new (alchemy), and some of them are just basic English 101. I’ll start with the 101 material.
Granger spends a chapter on “narrative misdirection.” He shows how the point of view of the novels is intended to keep us looking at all the action through Harry’s limited view. He claims to have been caught by this narrative ruse in novel after novel. In this I can only assume he is being disingenuous. Any serious adult reader can follow the adult story going on around and behind Harry’s erroneous view of the story. At the end of Sorcerer’s Stone, we learn that Snape is working for Harry during the Quiddich match, not against him, and that Snape is completely trusted by Dumbeldore. Nothing in any of the following books would cause the serious adult reader to revert to Harry’s teenage misunderstandings of the situation. Granger is not just a serious adult reader, he is an English and Latin professor. So the first truly annoying thing about this book is that early on, you recognize that the author is lying to you about his own experience.
In elaborating on narrative misdirection, Granger points out that Rowling’s favorite author is Jane Austen, and that her favorite book is Emma, which is indeed full of the same device Rowling uses to keep her readers off-base; the central character is continuously clueless about the motivations of others. On page 186 of his book, Granger calls Austen, “this Edwardian spinster.” Red alert, red alert! Austen is not an Edwardian author! Later he refers to her as a Georgian author. You might be able to say she was a late Georgian author, but normally Austen is considered a Regency author. Why does this matter? Because if Granger can be off by nearly 100 years about one of the most famous authors in the English language, how can we trust that what he’s saying about subjects we know nothing about (like alchemy), is remotely accurate?
Another lens we are directed to is the hero’s journey. Again Granger is disingenuous. He must include something about the hero’s journey, but he gives it short shrift. If he went into any depth on the hero’s journey re-enacted in each of the seven novels, it would become clear to the attentive reader that the Jesus myth Unlocking Harry Potter is supposed to represent according to Granger, is just one in a long line of hero’s journeys. Jesus is preceded in his three day “death” and subsequent resurrection by such important goddeses as Persephone (Greek) and E-Na-Na (Mesopotamian), and by Osiris (Egyptian). An eight-step formulation of the hero’s journey is given by David Adams Leeming in his book, Mythology: The Voyage of the Hero: 1. Miraculous conception and birth 2. Initiation of the hero-child 3. Withdrawal from family or community for meditation and preparation 4. Trial and Quest 5. Death 6. Descent into the underworld 7. Resurrection and rebirth 8. Ascension, apotheosis, and atonement
If Granger had written even this much about the hero’s journey, it would become clear that the main point he is trying to make in Unlocking Harry Potter, that the Potter books are a Christian allegory, would shrivel into insignificance. Several times in Unlocking, Granger says that Rowling is a professed Christian. In this country, (and Granger is an American), profession of faith means something more than claiming to go to church, “more than weddings and christianings.” If that’s Rowling’s profession of faith, it’s mighty weak and we can ignore Granger’s thesis of Christian allegory entirely.
The Potter novels could just as easily be seen as a Buddhist allegory; sacrificial love is a central theme in Buddhism as well as in Christianity.
And certainly read The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. ALCHEMY
Granger spends much of the book explaining alchemy and about how understanding alchemical references is essential to understanding English literature. This was all quite interesting and enlightening and is what makes Unlocking worth the read, maybe. Unfortunately, while he is explaining that alchemy is more about the purification of the soul of the alchemist than it is about turning base metals into gold, and while he points to all the Christian symbolism intertwined with alchemical symbolism, he fails to point out that alchemy, like so many other things, came to Europe from the Arab world. It is a Muslim science and practice and as such demands that we not be so quick to overlay Western meanings onto it.
Granger talks about the deadness of the material world and the richness of the spiritual world. Like most religious authors, he condemns the “materialism” of science. More disingenuously, he conflates the use of the word “material,” meaning the world of atoms and objects, with the word “materialistic” meaning the value system of the Dursleys. He knows the difference between these two words and what they convey but chooses, in his own brand of misdirection, to conflate them in order to smugly dismiss rational non-believers. This is inexcusable in an English professor. In doing so he also undermines Rowling’s indictment of materialistic, bourgeois, Western culture. This brings us to another of Granger’s keys, post-modern themes. The evil of materialism (the Dursley kind) is only secondary to the ultimate evil of racism and intolerance in Rowling’s work. No problem there, and not a particularly interesting chapter in Granger’s book.
In explaining narrative misdirection to us, Granger is talking in part about the “voice” we hear the book in. The voice in Unlocking Harry Potter is actually many voices and styles. This is one of the most irritating things about reading this book. Granger goes from scholarly lecture voice to calling Dumbledore “Dumby” all in the same sentence. The instances in annoying change of voice in this book are too numerous to recount and persist throughout the book.
Finally, Unlocking was either not edited at all, or it was edited in a rush to get to press before Deathly Hallows was released. Granger makes some predictions about Deathly Hallows and the book would have been an afterthought if it had not gotten to bookstores early enough. This is still no excuse for ghastly errors like starting a sentence with a lower case letter for goodness sake! Edits are a small thing, I know, but a totally annoying distraction to an attentive reader.
If I were a literature professor, I’d give Unlocking Harry Potter a 3/5 for content and a 1/5 for form. ...more
In Among the Mad, Winspear returns Maisie Dobbs to normal sleuthing using her skills of mindfulness and observation and leaving aside the magic and myIn Among the Mad, Winspear returns Maisie Dobbs to normal sleuthing using her skills of mindfulness and observation and leaving aside the magic and mysticism of the last book. This is a vast improvement. This addition to the series addresses the continuing theme of "shell-shock" (PTSD)and depression in more detail, and with real compassion. If you like, you can read into it a critique of the VA's failures to treat Iraq War vets adequately. Now that dousing and gypsy magic are gone, I am looking forward to the next Maisie Dobbs novel....more
Here is a book full of inspiring stories and painstaking details about how to catch and use the thousands of gallons of water we have each been utterlHere is a book full of inspiring stories and painstaking details about how to catch and use the thousands of gallons of water we have each been utterly wasting every time it rains. It is both a call to action and a detailed instruction manual, and in each category it is clearly written and compelling.
Being a fairly right-brained person, the stories from around the world about individuals and communities organizing to harvest rainwater and vastly improve their lives appealed to me the most. Descriptions of standing in the rain and watching the flow of water on your property made complete sense to me. I truly believe that you can read this book and intuit how to alter your landscape to harvest water and grow amazing plants without understanding the engineering behind it all.
On the other hand, if you are a left-brained, engineer-type, you too will love this book. It is extraordinarily well organized and includes everything you need to know to create small and large water-harvesting systems. There are pages of equations; there are lists and very clear descriptions of every tool you will need for every project. While none of this made any sense to me, I can see that it would be enormously helpful to many others.
Whether you live in the desert Southwest US or a rainforest, fresh water is becoming more scarce every day. This excellent book will help you harvest and husband this precious resource. ...more
A terrible train-wreck between well-meaning and even laudable people from across a vast cultural divide. This is a must-read for EVERY medical personA terrible train-wreck between well-meaning and even laudable people from across a vast cultural divide. This is a must-read for EVERY medical person and social-worker in the US....more
On Guerrilla Gardening is a delightful little book! The author mixes history, politics, environmentalism and practical gardening into an enjoyable weeOn Guerrilla Gardening is a delightful little book! The author mixes history, politics, environmentalism and practical gardening into an enjoyable weekend read. Guerrilla gardening can be a strong political statement about the waste of good land and the potential for abundance even when we’re faced with a “food crisis,” or it can just be something you do for fun. My only concern is the “waging battle” metaphor that sprouts throughout the book; I wish even as we guerrilla garden, that we could make our speech more nurturing. It’s only a little quibble though. If you’ve ever been saddened by an abandoned tree well near your bus stop or your office, this book will give you the gumption to go out there and turn it into a lovely little garden! ...more
The Maisie Dobbs novels are descending into magic and mysticism to get solved. This takes all the fun out of watching Maisie use her intuition, intellThe Maisie Dobbs novels are descending into magic and mysticism to get solved. This takes all the fun out of watching Maisie use her intuition, intelligence, and mindfulness to clinch a case. It's a shame that Winspeare is going for the easy though unreal plot device....more