[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Yes, it was back to the charity shops and the local bookshop again today. Perhaps as punishment, it rained, hailed and thundered. We kept having to take shelter because of the risk of either drowning or zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz-CRACK. A couple of times one of my eyes got so full of water I couldn't see out of it.

One of my recent en-route books arrived: The Fall of Carthage by Adrian Goldsworthy. I shall hope to take better care of this one.

That aside, I picked up:

The Road Not Taken: How Britain Narrowly Missed a Revolution by Frank McLynn;
Napoleon's Wars by Charles Esdaile;
Gendering the Master Narrative: Women and Power in the Middle Ages, edited by Mary C. Erler and Maryanne Kowaleski;
Training in Observation and Tracking by Gilcraft, a book for Scouts and Cubs first published in 1927
Shipwrecked on the Top of the World: Four Against the Arctic by David Roberts.

Also took a lot of books to the Mind shop. The top ones got wet.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
All these trips to town are probably damaging our finances. However, I came away from the last one with a hefty tome:

The Slave Trade: The History of the Atlantic Slave Trade 1440-1870 by Hugh Thomas.

It should go nicely with Sweet Water and Bitter: The Ships that Stopped the Slave Trade by Sian Rees.

Which is perhaps an odd way of putting it.

Other books were purchased at the same time, but not for ME, so I shan't bother listing them here.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
I finished the Donald Crowhurst book some days ago but have only just got around to putting my thoughts together. It's an interesting book and well worth reading if you have any interest in sailing in general, sailing round-the-world, or what can happen to people who are isolated from others for a long time.

I thought the authors did a good job of trying to put together Crowhurst's state of mind, although I think they overlooked his head injury as a possible contributor to his psychotic break. If his dopamine levels were already elevated, it might not have taken much of the Dexedrine known to have been on board to take him to the break point. As Crowhurst talks repeatedly of working long hours and/or through the night, it's possible he was taking the Dexedrine at times.

His desperate attempts to contact his wife made me very sad. Maybe if they could have talked, things would have ended differently. The poor guy was obviously looking for a way out right from the start.

The thoughts he wrote down after his break reminded me very much of Philip K. Dick's Exegesis. Not surprisingly, I suppose, as both were probably dopamine-fuelled. And the whole 'if you believe it, it will be true' approach that I discussed in an earlier post does seem to have been instrumental in events.

Talking to my father about the book, I discovered that he was at Cambridge with Nicholas Tomalin, and even knew him, slightly. Dad says Tomalin was a nice guy.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Back to the bookstalls, er, I mean the dentist. Then the bookstalls. It was the flea market today so much walking around and going inwardly HOW MUCH? was done.

Some non-book items were also purchased. No need to talk about them here. Although I did get a nifty camera bag.

Roadcraft: The Police Driver's Handbook by Philip Coyne, Penny Mares and Barbara MacDonald;
Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks;
Life in Roman Britain by Anthony Birley;
Roman Britain by I.A. Richmond;
Gaining Ground by Joan Barfoot
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.

I saw The Snow Child in a charity shop the other day and thought it looked interesting, but they wanted £2.20 or maybe £2.50 for it. At 50p it seemed a safer bet. My father however has pointed out that it's recommended by Richard & Judy, the Sunday Times, the Daily Mail and the Telegraph. It might still be worth reading, though. Maybe?

He also raised an eyebrow at the Roadcraft book. It's the sort of reference book I'll pick up if it's cheap enough (I passed up a rather nice book on machine guns and rifles as they wanted as much as £3.50 for it) because YOU NEVER KNOW.

A stallholder I've bought from before sought out the Roman books especially for me. Getting notorious I am.

Now I'm off to read more about Donald Crowhurst. I have a feeling it's not going to end well.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
I'm a little surprised that Tomalin and Hall waited until they were some two hundred pages into writing the strange voyage of Donald Crowhurst before mentioning that Crowhurst's mother was a Jehovah's Witness. It doesn't seem to have occurred to them that this might be highly relevant to his state of mind.


If you're trying to understand someone's tendency to magical thinking, a religious upbringing might just hold some clues.

Not that we're not all prone to magical thinking. But imo religion tends to foster it, as otherwise reality and belief are intellectually difficult to reconcile. And there's no doubt that Crowhurst had a strong intellect, as well as an enquiring mind. He also had, apparently--and ironically--a well-formed conscience. Only magical thinking could reconcile such a man to a concerted campaign of deceit. And religion supports magical thinking: if you believe something hard enough, it will be true.

Poor guy.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
the strange voyage of Donald Crowhurst by Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall.

Don't ask me why the title is in lower case. That's how it appears on the cover.

This is an old book, first published in 1970, and turned up in the secondhand section at the back of the local bookshop. I recognised Crowhurst as the chap who set out to win a round-the-world yacht race but lied systematically about his position. Eventually, his abandoned trimaran was discovered. No trace of Crowhurst was ever found. This book attempts to reconstruct what happened, drawing on sources including Crowhurst's own log and interviews with friends and family.

It's an oddity perhaps but round-the-world sailing interests me. I've accumulated a number of books on the subject, including Joshua Slocum's Sailing Alone Around the World. What has always stuck in my mind about Slocum's book is his scattering drawing pins on the deck of his boat to deter thieves. However, my father came up recently with the recollection that Slocum had written about boiling his alarm clock (essential to navigation) in order to get all the grease out of it and make it work properly. Dad then went on to boil a padlock that had been giving him trouble. It worked, too. Although padlocks are not, generally, useful in navigating.

Also hanging around the house in the hope that one day I will read them are:

Log of the Centurion by Leo Heaps;
The Incredible Voyage: A Personal Odyssesy by Tristan Jones
Carteret's Voyage Round the World 1766-1769 edited by Helen Wallis, in two volumes.

And probably some more that I can't lay my hands on right this minute.

(infer another rant here about my GR account)

The name Claire Tomalin in the acknowledgements struck a chord of memory. She's the biographer who wrote the Dickens biography I got for my birthday last year and also the biography of Jane Austen I got my father for his birthday last year. She and Nicholas Tomalin were married until his violent death in 1973. An unexpected connection there.

This is another book with history. On the title page, it's inscribed: 'Christmas 1970 With Much Love Janet'. We'll probably never know who Janet was or to whom she gave the book way back then, or how it ended up on a shelf in a small bookshop in a small market town.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
I finished reading The Unredeemed Captive today, after much sustained effort. Author John Demos notes that he has preserved the spelling in the primary sources as far as possible, but I can't help wishing he (or his editor) had either converted the thorns to 'th' or had found some way of printing them that made them look less like y's. The constant struggle to render 'ye' and 'yt' as 'the' and 'that' (not to mention the few occasions when 'ye' actually was meant to be rendered as 'ye') made this book far harder to read than it should have been. It's tiresome anyway to find yourself concentrating on how something is written, rather than on what has been written.

It is ironic however that after I wrote my mild complaint that not enough background and context had been supplied, the very next chapter went into substantial detail about the Sault Indian community. Interesting stuff. Less interesting is the constant struggle between two branches of Christianity: the Puritans and the Catholics. Oh ye fir trees, what a fuss over minor distinctions of doctrine. The Puritans don't want Eunice Williams staying among the heathens and/or the Catholics and Eunice herself is scared to live among the 'heretics' (Puritans) again because it might put her soul, and the souls of her children, in danger. Clearly this is all very important to them, but it's wearying to the outsider. And stupid. Incredibly stupid.

Also, the incredible persistence of the family in believing that Eunice is a captive, when it's clear that she's staying in the Canadian community of her own free will, is downright annoying. They keep begging their God to 'let' her return and ignoring the obvious: she doesn't want to return. They're always hoping she'll visit them but it never seems to occur to them to visit her. Maybe there were practical obstacles to this, but, if so, Demos doesn't mention them. No, they want her to visit because they see that as a route to 'restoring' her to her family. Except that, to her, the Iroquois among whom she's lived since the age of six are her family. Demos goes into some intriguing details about why it might be more appealing to the young Puritan women--who form the majority of former captives who remain voluntarily--to live in the heathen rather than the Christian fashion.

At its heart, however, this book has a void. We learn much about Eunice's father, who left letters and sermons, and her brother Stephen, who left letters and a journal, but hardly ever from Eunice herself. One letter of hers--written on her behalf by someone else--survives. How much of its contents are her own words is impossible to fathom. The narrative is therefore like the moon in the old riddle that goes around and around the house without ever touching the house. It would have been more honest to have framed this as the story of the Williams men than as Eunice's own story. She's not here. She's off bringing in the corn.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Husband went to get his brakes looked at and came back with a book. It runs in the family, obviously.

Danger! Women Artists at Work by Debra N. Mancoff.

Profiles of over sixty artists from the early Renaissance to the present day. The book includes a striking photograph of Alice Liddell as Pomona, taken by Julia Cameron.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
I used to get home with whatever books I'd acquired during the day and dutifully update my Goodreads account. Since I trashed and burned my GR account, it's been hard to find somewhere else to attempt to keep track of even the TBR pile. I've tried a few places but none of them seem quite what I'm looking for. Which is, I suppose, another Goodreads. Only with not quite so much author-drama and much less Amazon.

However, in my online peregrinations, I came across the BookTrackr on the Worlds Without End website. It's only for SFFH but it does give a quick utility to make a visual check of what you have and haven't read. Provided you can remember what you have and haven't read (ahem). So I created an account and started turning books green as ones I've read or blue as favourites of the ones I've read. You can also track your reading progress through various lists (eg Hugo winners) if you so desire.

Anyway, in the course of this process I came across a book by Hilary Mantel listed as among the best SFF novels on a list created by the Guardian newspaper. I've seen this list before but if I noticed the Mantel book, it made no impression at the time. It struck me as odd this time around because Mantel is better known for her Booker-prize-winning historical fiction. I was surprised to see she'd written anything in SFF.

It turned out that my dad knew of the book, Beyond Black, and had in fact read it. Disappointing however to discover that he'd read it for his Reading Group, which relies on books borrowed from the local library, and so he didn't have a copy. Book-buying funds are limited (ie they're not infinite) so this was a bit of a bummer.

Then, today, while rifling through the £1 paperbacks in the Works, I found a copy of Beyond Black. This rarely happens to me. I even squeaked. Then I seized it in my hot little hands and required my husband to pay for it.

It would after all have been a shame to have come home with no books at all.

Other books recently acquired include:

What's Wrong With Eating People? by Peter Cave (my husband suspects Chapter 12 will have me incandescent with rage);
Beyond the Cyborg: Adventures with Donna Haraway by Margret Grebowicz and Helen Merrick;
Ancient Civilisations by Timothy R. Roberts;
The Strange Voyage of Donald Crowhurst by Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall;
Life in Ancient Rome by Nigel Rodgers
Caligula: The Corruption of Power by Anthony A. Barrett. A sneaky book that had managed to get itself knocked onto the floor and then hidden under the furniture, to the point where I almost decided I'd imagined buying it.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
The book du jour is The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America by John Demos. It was found on the shelves at the back of the local bookshop, grabbed by the scruff and hauled off to the cash desk. Most ruthlessly.

I'm on page 111.

"The priest tries to dissuade them but cannot. They know their minds, and will have what they want. They have reached this point from radically different directions and refuse now to turn back."

The book is based on the experiences of the Williams family, who were attacked in their New England home of Deerfield in 1704. Some were murdered there, Mrs Williams on the march to Canada as a captive of French-Canadian Iroquois, and the survivors split up among various 'masters' once their destination was reached. The focus of the narrative is supposedly on Eunice Williams, whose captors refused to release, exchange or ransom her, but her voice does not appear much on the pages. Instead, we hear from her father and brothers, and from various people engaged in attempts to negotiate her return to New England.

When I was much younger, I had a romantic interest in Native Americans, possibly the result of watching too many Westerns. I read some books by Dee Brown and while I didn't go the 'noble savage' route, I did feel sympathy with peoples who had lost everything and been almost obliterated. This interest lapsed for many years and was only revived when I read the fascinating 1491: The Americas Before Columbus by Charles Mann. I've also read Ancient Mariner by Ken McGoogan, which inspired me to think that on the whole I'd have been better off reading Hearne's original ms instead. Not that I have. Yet.

By far the most aggravating aspect of Demos's book is the endless religion. It's a necessary part of understanding events, especially as Mr Williams is a Puritan minister, and his children were in the hands of 'popery', ie Catholics, but oh it's tedious and dispiriting. At one point it seems likely that Williams believes his family's travails were the result of sin in the Deerfield community. He can't blame God so he has to blame people--not the people who murdered his wife, but his own parishioners. Such I suppose are the convolutions of a mind that has to reconcile belief in a God of infinite love with the ugly reality of life.

So far, however, it's a mostly interesting and engaging read. Some more context and background would however be useful to someone who lacks a firm grounding in American history.

I shall read on.


The Little Dog Laughed

January 2019

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