Sunday, April 24

Bruce Hood: Supersense

From the back of the book-

Do you cross your fingers, touch wood or avoid walking under ladders? If someone offered to replace your old teddy bear with an exact replica, would you accept?
Where do such feelings come from? It seems that human brains have to make sense of the world somehow, and that need to find an explanation can lead our minds beyond reason and into the supernatural. Education tells us such thinking is irrational, but at an intuitive level it can stubbornly persist in otherwise sensible adults. Barack Obama played basketball the morning of his victory in the Iowa primary-and on the morning of every following primary. This is not all bad-these beliefs can be a useful glue that binds us together as a society. And creative types rely upon the ability to see patterns in the world.
Combining brilliant insight with witty example, Bruce Hood weaves a page-turning account of our 'supersense', navigating a path through brain science, child development, popular culture, mental illness and the paranormal.
This is an outright fascinating read. Tracing links between biology, psychology and childhood development, the author presents an interesting argument as to how it can be perfectly reasonable to develop irrational beliefs.
As the subtitle, From Superstition to Religion-the Brain Science of Belief, suggests, this book runs the gamut of supernatural beliefs from the fringe to the institutionalized. All are examined with the same level of logic and though the writing veers into philosophy never does the text become inaccessible to the average reader
Whether you've an interest in why people persist in believing in aliens or ghosts or if you're just interested in the origins of lucky charms, this book may have the answers you seek.-Lynn

Wednesday, April 20

Amanda McIntyre: The Diary of Cozette

From the back of the book-

True, I am but a mere maidservant from a great house, snatched from a wretched existence of poverty and desperation to serve noblemen of wealth and privilege.
And yet...
While I am indeed of lowly rank, I am also a young woman who allowed herself to sample life's greatest pleasures in the hands of these titled men. My tales overflow in this journal, penning my journey to becoming a woman of power of the most base, yet stimulating, breed.
Unmarried and twenty, yet betrothed to no man, I would be considered a spinster by most, yet this is of my own ardent intention. With my unabashed lushness and wisdom regarding a man's most vehement cravings, I am not lacking for suitors or proposals given in the heat of passion. No, I have yet to meet the man who will challenge me, satisfy me in all ways, not only of the flesh.
For where passsion and desire are fleeting, my heart continues to

In order to read this one has to come to accept the ideas that a low ranking ninteenth century woman is literate, articulate and willing to consciously break all of society's sexual conventions. If you can clear those hurdles then you have to face the story line which seems unrealistic and relies heavily on coincidence to achieve its happy ending. I refuse to suspend my disbelief just because this is an erotic novel.
The very thing that attracted me to this book (the presentation style of short diary entries) also made it very hard to connect with the characters in any meaningful way. We get only the briefest of glimpses into their world and very little insight into character motivation, the focus being instead on the sexual exploits of the main character. Of course, that's only to be expected in an erotic novel.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that I didn't like this novel but in fact I didn't mind it. The author writes well enough but the story is let down by no real sense of time and place, essential in an historical novel of any kind, and its superficial characters, really inexcusable in a diary.
I did like that the heroine got a happy ending even if it did feel contrived. So often the sexually independent woman comes to a bad end, it was good that wasn't the case here.-Lynn

Saturday, April 16

Peter Ackroyd: The Death of King Arthur

A retelling of Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. From the author's note on the text-
I have tried my best to convert Malory's sonorous and exhilarating prose into a more contemporary idiom...I have also chosen to abbreviate the narrative in pursuit of clarity and simplicity. I hope that by these means the essential story of Arthur and his knights emerges more clearly...I have also quietly amended Malory's inconsistencies. Despite these alterations, I hope that I have been able to convey the majesty and pathos of the great original.
Yes, Mr Ackroyd, you have succeeded admirably. Though the language is modern, the style is true to the medieval original. The writing voice is very much that of the early historian detailing events, with just a touch of the bard telling his tales. I have been a long time lover of Arthurian Romance, and while I enjoy the modern tales that make use of the traditional characters there is nothing quite like the original story. This translation might not be for everyone but it is essential reading for all Arthurian fans.-Lynn