Posted in Advanced Review, Liked It, Non-fiction

Prejudice in Harry Potter’s World

I finally got around to reading this book. I buy far too many books. My To-Be-Read pile is growing exponentially.

I am really surprised there haven’t been more books written on the topic of prejudice in the wizarding world. I think this is the single most important issue in the book because prejudice is the reason why everything in this series transpired.

Brown tackles the issue of prejudice fearlessly. I say this because for some strange reason people still tip toe around the idea of prejudice. Perhaps it is due to the “politically correct” movement of today. Or perhaps society has deluded itself into thinking that the issue does not exist as much because society is “tolerant.” Granted I may be cynical to the issue of prejudice as I am an attorney and have worked on a number of discrimination suits.

In her book, Brown defines prejudice as

A feeling, favorable or unfavorable, toward a person or thing prior to, or not based on, actual experience.

-Brown, page 6.

Using this definition, Brown critiques the Harry Potter series. She notes that J. K. Rowling does not just merely use the characters readers expect to be evil, but rather she predominantly uses the “good guys” to show exactly how pervasive prejudice in society is. She uses the beloved Ron Weasley as an example.

Brown goes on to summarize each of the seven novels concentrating on the incidences of prejudice revealed in the book. Then she defines the social hierarchy in the wizarding world as well as discusses the concept “humanity.” In the next chapter, Brown discusses how social hierarchy is maintained through ignorance, indifference, insecurity, and intolerance. She illustrates her point by citing the treatment of giants, goblins, and elves by wizards in the book. Of all these magical races, she spends devotes a whole chapter to the house-elf using sociological principles to determine how the wizards managed to enslave the elfs. She also goes on to discuss how the enslaved perpetuate the oppressors ideology in the future generations by way of the mother. She notes that it is the female elfs (Winky) reinforcing the wizards thoughts about house-elfs, while the males (Dobby and Kreacher) constantly buck against the social structure in place.

Leaving no stone unturned, Brown next considers the prejudice towards the disabled in the magical community: Squibs and Werewolves. Now Brown seems to feel that the wizarding community has in the past as well as present done something wrong in its treatment of Squibs. She points to Deathly Hallows as showing that in the past, Squibs were encouraged to integrate into the Muggle world and that in the present (and undoubtedly past as well) that Squibs were denied magical education. I disagree slightly. Squibs have little to no magic whatsoever. Yes they are able for instance to see Hogwarts and the Leaky Cauldron, but they don’t have enough magical ability to pull off transfiguration. While I don’t think forcing Squibs into Muggle society is necessarily the right course, I don’t think I can blame them for not letting them into Hogwarts. Really what would be the point? They wouldn’t be able to function. Now that’s not to say that there shouldn’t be any education for them; but what would be the effect on the children of being placed in a school were they will always fail? Now werewolves are a different matter entirely, except for their once a month affliction there is nothing that stops them from honing their magical skills as evidenced by Prof. Lupin in the series.

One of the most interesting chapters in the book is Chapter 5 entitled “What’s Wrong with Hermione Calling Herself a ‘Mudblood’?: Examining the Politics of Naming and Self-Naming in the Series.” She goes into detail regarding the social reasons that Voldemort changed his name and also forbade his name from being spoken and how that can on one hand empower an individual and other the other hand render and individual impotent. You’ll have to read that for yourself.

She also considers the role parenting plays in prejudice. I highly recommend every parent to at least read that chapter. Then she discusses the differences in rule breaking evidence between Harry and Lord Voldemort.

As a further point of interest, Brown does reconcile the Epilogue in Deathly Hallows. I know many people didn’t like it because the characters (Ron) in particular still evidenced prejudice. However as Brown notes in her book, eliminating prejudice that has spanned generations will take generations.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book! I found it thought provoking. Brown pointed out instances of prejudice that I hadn’t even seen in the book. I think it is an excellent corollary for our own world. As an attorney who has worked on discrimination suits, I can tell you that those who believe that race, gender, religion and like are not issues anymore are sadly mistaken. We still have a very long way to go. I think the book does an excellent job of showing the mindsets that lead to prejudice. My feeling has always been that if you can understand why you are doing something that is the first step in making a change.

Posted in Classic, Liked It

Oliver Twist

Of course right after I posted the previous post, my dad walked in. Anyway, his favorite book growing up was Oliver Twist. My dad doesn’t really read these days.

So Oliver is an orphan. His mother died in childbirth, and his father is completely missing from his life. Due to the Poor Laws in England during that time, Oliver ends up in a work house as a young boy. The workhouse is not a pleasant place, and all the boys are constantly half-starved. When Oliver chooses the short straw and asks for more gruel, he is farmed out as an apprentice.

He ends up with an undertaker Mr. Sowerberry. Unfortunately Mrs. Sowerberry takes quite a dislike to Oliver, as does Noah Claypole another apprentice. Eventually Noah provokes Oliver into attacking him by insulting his dead mother. After being beat by all in the house, Oliver runs away. He meets Artful Dodger and falls in with a gang of thieves headed by Bill Fagin with cohorts Bill Sykes and Nancy. These group of boys are taught the tricks of the trade. Soon after arriving Oliver gets taken out on an assignment with two other boys. Although he doesn’t pick any pockets, he is caught when the other boys run after they commit the crime. Oliver is brought up on criminal charges and cleared; but he was so ill that he fainted. The man who had been wronged, Mr. Brownlow, took him home.

The man nursed Oliver back to health; however Fagin had Oliver kidnapped afraid that he would spill the beans. In order to fully induct Oliver into their ways, Fagin has Oliver participate in a burglary. However, Oliver ends up being shot. The house belonged to Rose Maylie, who nurse Oliver back to health believing that he is good.

Meanwhile a man named Monk is tracking Oliver down. Nancy who feels guilty about the part she has played in helping to kidnap Oliver warns Mr. Brownlow and Rose. When she is discover, Bill kills her in a fit of rage. Monk is caught. As it turns out, he is Oliver’s half brother. Their father did not love Monk’s mother. Oliver’s mother’s name was Agnes who was Rose’s sister. When Agnes realized she was pregnant, her father took she and Rose and moved elsewhere to hide her shame.

Mr. Brownlow, who was a friend of Oliver’s father, asks Oliver to give half his inheritance to Monk, which he does. Of course leopards don’t change their spots. Monk ends up dying in an American prison having squandered his money and returning to a life of crime.

Well, my dad liked this book because of the criminal characters. He couldn’t remember the name of this book. All he knew is that it was the one with Bill Fagin and Artful Dodger. Hmm. I guess that sort of life would appeal to a young boy. It’s really funny that this was the book my dad would chose because lack of father is a big part of this book. As Oliver was illegitimate, he wouldn’t have been entitled to inherit anything under English law. In fact he would have been a social outcast. Monk was hell bent on destroying Oliver because he felt he didn’t have his father’s love.

Fathers, Love thy children. Thus sayeth Bluestocking. Have a good day!!!

Posted in Fantasy, Rated S, Young Adult

Here, There Be Dragons

Three Oxford men receive letters to meet one Professor Siguersson- Johm, Jack, and Charles. Oh, they all have different reasons for being at the house. It is however, a great pity the Professor is already dead by the time they arrive. Jack was asked to deliver papers from the solicitor; Charles needed the Professors annotations for an article. John was the Protege, who hadn’t been studying much as he was on leave from WWII.

The three men go to a social club at 221B Baker Street (That’s right, Sherlock’s address). There they are met by a mysterious man named Bert. It seems that the three men were chose to be the new Caretakers of the Imaginarium Geographica, which is an atlas with the maps of all imaginary and mythological places, also known as the Archipelago of Dreams. The three were chosen for their imagination in addition to the fact that they were Oxford scholars. The Professor was murdered because the evil Winter King wants the Geographica for himself. Thus begins the greatest adventure any of the men had ever taken beginning with take the Indigo Dragon (a dragonship) across the divide between our world and the imaginary one.

The Archipelago of Dreams had been ruled by King Arthur. The Silver throne was passed to his heirs. All the races- Centaurs, Troll, Dwarves, Elves, and Mythical beasts swore allegiance to him. All these years the other races had been content to allow a human king because the dragons in the land answered to the High King. However things began to change in the world as things began to change in our world. There is a spill over effect. The problems in the Archipelago culminated in the death of Arthur’s entire line. The killer was none other than the High King of that time Archibald. As a result, a Parliment was created in order to rule, till they could decide how to replace the king.

In this chaos, the Winter King decides now is an opportune moment to seize control of the Archipelago. First he unleashes the Shadow Born, who are creatures whose Shadow/Sould has been removed. They are immortal and grow stronger the longer they exist. Next he creates Shadowlands by essentially removing the soul from the earth itself. The only thing that keeps him from ultimate power is that he lacks the Geographica.

Although the trio receive help from Bert, his daughter Aven, Capt. Nemo, and the Morgaine, they barely manage to stay one step in front of the Winter King. Things are complicated due to the fact that John was never told for what job he was being prepared. As a result, he cannot always ready everything on the map as it is in many different ancient language because he neglected his studies due to being drafted in the war. It is a particular problem as John is the Caretaker Principia. As the story progresses, Jack and John both have to overcome personal hindrance. They both succeed, but someone must pay a heavy price. In the end the three succeed in saving the Archipelage. When they return to England, Bert reveals to them that all of the past Caretakers had been writers-famous authors such as Charles Dickens, Jules Verne, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, even Sir James Barrie. As the new Caretakers the three men sign the book, and the reader finally understands the destinies these three men are to fulfill. Ok I’m going to pu up a spoiler box. I’d like to do some character analysis but I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read the book.

My non-spoiler opinion was that the book was masterfully written. Owens mixed fact and fiction in a seamless way. The Archipelago is both in and not in our world. If you liked the mythology references in Harry Potter, then you will love the book even more. There are mystery elements of this story, and figuring them out prior to having the answer revealed depends entirely on how well read you are. It’s a fun read. It was my train read this week. I couldn’t wait to get on the train. Oh, I’m still trying to figure out who the Cartographer is. If you have any ideas, please share them with me. The second book in this series is called The Search for the Red Dragon and is on the bookshelves now. The third book called The Indigo King comes out October 21, 2008. The author says that this book is being made into a movie by WB.

Spoiler. Go no further on Pain of Death. You have been warned

Bert is revealed to be none other than Hubert G. Wells known as H.G. Wells.

John is J.R.R. Tolkien. This should have been more than abundantly clear with the whole language thing. I mean, Tolkien created several languages and wrote the Lord of the Rings to showcase his talent.

Charles is Charles Williams. I have never read his work nor ever heard of him. I intend to rectify that. Be that as it may, Charles Williams was part of the literary brat pack known as Inklings along with John and Jack.

Jack is C.S. Lewis. I knew lewis went by Jack. It all made sense with he whole shadows and him being able to restore the people and the land. If you didn’t know, Lewis wrote a book called Shadowland. It was about the death of his wife Joyce.

In this book, Owens, provides explanations for where these men got the inspiration for their book. I’ve already bought the second book. I’ll let you know how that one is.

Posted in Classic, Loved It

Lady Susan

This work of Jane Austen is a complete novella in the epistolary form. She never made it into a full sized novel. Some speculate it’s because epistolary novels were out.

Lady Susan is an attractive mid-30’s woman. Much like today, beauty lets you get away with everything. The only people who saw her for what she was were the women of course.

Lady Susan in addition to being attractive is somewhat poor as her husband has died. So she tries to marry her daughter Frederica off to a peer in order to be financially secure. Of course the whole thing is complicated by the fact that her daughter runs away, and of course she is caught trying to seduce a married man. She is aided and abetted by her friend Alicia Johnson. Then she tries to seduce her sister-in-law’s brother. There were enough plot twists and capers for a full sized novel. This book is different from other Austen works, because this one deals with the lives of aristocracy rather than the lower level gentry. The story has an interesting ending; but all’s well that ends well.

Posted in Liked It, Science Fiction, Space travel, Uncategorized

That Hideous Strength

Dramatis Personae
Main
Mark Studdock- the stuffy university don who wishes to be part of N.I.C.E.
Jane Studdock- wife of the above, also a seer.

N.I.C.E. (National Institute for Coordinated Experiments)

Francois Alcasan — “The Head”, a French scientist executed for murder early in the book. His head is recovered by the N.I.C.E.
John Wither — “Deputy Director” of the N.I.C.E. He is the true leader of the N.I.C.E.
Professor Frost — A psychologist and assistant to Wither.
Miss/Major Hardcastle (a.k.a “The Fairy”) — The sadistic head of the N.I.C.E. Institutional Police and its female auxiliary, the “Waips”.
Dr. Filostrato — An Italian physiologist, who has seemingly preserved Alcasan’s head.
Lord Feverstone (Richard Devine) -succeeds in bringing Mark into the N.I.C.E. He, along with Weston, kidnapped Ransom in Out of the Silent Planet.
Reverend Straik — “The Mad Parson”. He believes that any sort of power is a manifestation of God’s will..
Horace Jules — the nominal Head of the N.I.C.E.

Logres

Dr. Elwin Ransom — called “The Pendragon.” Upon being made the Pendragon he took the name King-Fisher.
Grace Ironwood — psychologist who helps Jane interpret her dreams; physician to Ransom.
Dr. Cecil Dimble — close advisor on matters of Arthurian scholarship and pre-Norman Britain.
Mrs. Dimble- wife of the above.
Ivy Maggs — Formerly a part-time domestic servant for Jane Studdock; now driven out of the town by the N.I.C.E. and living at St. Anne’s. Her husband is in jail for theft.
Merlinus Ambrosius (Merlin) awoken and returned to serve the Pendragon and save England.
Mr. MacPhee — A scientist, skeptic, and rationalist, and close friend of Dr. Ransom. He is mentioned parenthetically in Perelandra.
Mr. Bultitude — Last of the seven bears of Logres.
Arthur Denniston- old friend as Mark Studdock
Camilla Denniston

I told you it was a complex book. I will be heavily annotating the summary for clarity. The annotations will look like this.

The books starts off with us being introduced to Jane Studdock, who is a newlywed of six months. She is contemplating why her young marriage is falling apart. Her marriage and “modern” views on marriage form the basis for her narrow minded opinions of other as well as aiding her in coming back to God. She is also disturbed by some very realistic dreams one of which is that a scientist’s head is removed from his body yet keeps on living. Also there is an old man with a white beard is being exhumed- and wakes up and starts living again.

We are next introduced to her husband Mark, who is one of those unfortunate men who was a follower in his youth. His obsession is to get in with the “in” crowd. He has recently been appointed as a don. He is friends with a thoughtless man named Curry, who reminds him that he did not achieve his position by talent, but rather through the machinations of Lord Feverstone, whom he is invited to meet for dinner.

The story unfolds back and forth between these two people. They represent the opposite sides in the upcoming battle. Although Jane has never been “religious” she is not able to completely cast off her Christian upbringing. Mark on the other hand has never believed in anything and thus is a representation of the “goats.”

The plot begins to unfold when N.I.C.E. approaches Mark’s College in order to purchase Bragdon Wood. Bradgon Wood is the supposed resting place of Merlin. N.I.C.E. also wants to incorporate the University into itself. Although it appears that the College makes the choice to sell, in reality N.I.C.E. holds the cards.

Later on that day, Jane has lunch with Dr. and Mrs. Dimble and is quite shocked when Dr. Dimble’s talk of Arthurian legend is disturbingly similar to the dream she had. Mark does meet Lord Feverstone for dinner. Here we see the beginnings of the Plan. Feverstone’s reason for getting Mark the position as a don is because N.I.C.E. is very interested in him, although Mark, poor fool that he is, doesn’t see it. Mark ends up being taken to Belbury home of N.I.C.E. for the weekend to see how he likes it. At first Mark doesn’t fit in; in fact Mark has no idea why it is that he is wanted by the organization or what the organization actually does. His experience improves when he is befriended by “Fairy” Hardcastle, who is quite a perverse hyper-feminist. Although Mark is confused, the reader realizes that the organization’s aims are to better mankind. They intend to achieve this by purging those not worthy, cleansing the world or organic life, and brainwashing the public. The night Mark arrives, Hingest who is also a don at his college decides to leave N.I.C.E. and tries to convince Mark to come with him. He is murdered on the way home…
Which is exactly what Jane dreams that night. The Dimbles convince Jane to go to the Manor at St. Anne’s to discuss her dreams with Grace Ironwood, who it seems is some sort of doctor/psychologist. As it turns out, Jane is not having dreams but rather visions. Jane’s comes from the Tudor family of the Warwickshire branch. It turns out that there was a seer in the family and that this sort of thing is genetic. Although Jane is disgusted by this discussion, you can clearly see that her visions have a larger significance and that Grace Ironwood is afraid of what Jane has told her. Eventually she runs into old acquaintances Arthur and Camilla Denniston who urge her to join the “right” side. This is difficult for Jane as she has put notions of right and wrong out of her mind. She eventually meets the Director, Dr. Ransom, to discuss her dreams. But the conversation interesting enough turns to her feelings for Mark. She does not hold an ounce of sympathy for him. In fact she completely blames him for the break down in their marriage. But after some discussion with the Director, Jane understands for the first time why her marriage is failing. She has really never humbled herself enough to truly love her husband. Here you see the contrast of the Dimble and Denniston marriages. These couples were taught to actually care for each other. They’ve grasped the concept that marriage isn’t all about living one’s own life. For this reason, there is a togetherness that defines these couples that is completely lacking in Jane and Mark. At first the Director does not let Jane join their Company feeling that it would become a problem as her husband works for the enemy. In addition, the Director wants Jane to be merciful and reach out to Mark, because he knows what is coming and doesn’t want Mark to be destroyed.

Meanwhile, Mark is becoming more ensnared in the twisted regime of N.I.C.E. But he doesn’t begin to understand what they are about. Namely, N.I.C.E. has contact with macrobes, which are beings higher than man. These macrobes are not from our world. These macrobes have given N.I.C.E. the following information which was partially alluded to in Out of the Silent Planet.

When the inhabitant of the moon, Sulva, fell under the influence of the bent Oysaru of this world, they began to systematically sterilize the moon. This is why the moon appears lifeless to us. On the side of the moon that we can’t see there is still a surface that has not been sterilized with atmosphere. Here too is a battle between the “progressives” and those who “won’t progress.” Ranson later on reveals that the inhabitants of Sulva are perverse. Upon marriage people do not have relations with their spouses. They have found a way to create pseudo bodies identical to their spouse which they animate in some ghastly way. Apparently real flesh does not appeal to them. No children are conceived naturally.

These macrobes have found a way to keep the body alive despite death achieving a pseudo immortality. This is what N.I.C.E. is in the initial stages of accomplishing with Alcasan’s head. I found this description rather unsettling because to a certain extent our society is like this now. Like the moon’s inhabitants, we too try to life in order to make it more “hygenic.” Think of all the anti-bacterial agents we employ on a day to day basis. Also this how far medicine has come- cardiac arrest does not mean death anymore. We can keep the body alive after a the point of “brain” death. The thought of sterilizing our planet or extending/manufacturing consciousness is anathema to us currently. And then there is the whole issue of sex. So much of today’s society has really sterilized sex. It is viewed as a strictly biological function rather than as a relational act. Even when it comes to conception. I understand the need infertile couples have for intervention, but some situations the whole test tube baby thing seems to dehumanize the process some how. Perhaps it is related to the lost of community relationships in our society today. When I consider how much of Nature around us we try to control, I some times wonder where we are headed. But I digress.

As a further means of bringing about a new order, N.I.C.E. has arranged to take over the College’s town of Edgestow by engineering riots as well as buy out to effectively control everything. Then they turn the town into a giant excavation. Meanwhile Jane continues to have more dreams about the old man and realizes she knows where he is buried. It turns out that N.I.C.E. excavation has trying to uncover this man who is none other than Merlin. The macrobe “Masters” require a vessel. As Merlin came from a time when men were more conversant with “powers,” they think he would be most appropriate. Ransom fears the earth will be destroyed if Merlin joins the wrong side. However, this proves to be unfounded because Merlin awakens on his own and shows up at the Manor looking for the Pendragon. It turns that Merlin would never have suited N.I.C.E. purposes as he was a devout Christian.

Meanwhile, we discover that N.I.C.E. was only interested in Mark because they wanted to obtain Jane and her abilities. When they try to press Mark, something in him defies them. He leaves N.I.C.E., but ends up being arrested for the murder of Hingist.

We see that although Merlin is a noble man through and through, he is from a different more savage time. Lewis seems to borrow from heavily from Tolkien’s idea on the English mythology with the fall of Numinor. In this series, there seems to have been a real Golden and Silver Age on earth. There was definitely a point where being conversant with “powers” was not the evil is it today. It seems that the problem with being conversant with powers in this day is that before the physical and spiritual worlds were closer together and now they are separate. I am speculating that this separation in the physical and spiritual world occurred soon after the Ascension because most miraculous abilities also disappeared around this time. Yeah, you’ll have to read it for yourself.

The powers do come. By these powers I mean the Oyarsu Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter. Merlin is empowered and then sent to Belbury. The end result is a combination of Babel and Sodom and Gomorah. Edgestow is completely destroyed by fire, earthquake and water. I found that Lord Feverstone became the modern day wife of Lot. He was given the opportunity to leave, and in fact was supernaturally taken out of Belbury. But as the town is being destroyed, he just had to take that final look back, and that sealed his doom! Oh yes, Mark escapes courtesy of Melin and makes his way to the Manor. He’s a changed man. He realizes that he was quite the fool; he also realizes how badly he has treated Jane with his “male right.” It is supposed that they live ever after more happily than the start of this book.
I hope the review made sense. It was complex! I think I felt like I had been hit by a truck the first time I read it. There was a great deal of symbolism and ancient mythology. I did have to look up stuff. But hopefully one of you found that helpful.

Posted in Christian, Liked It, Nancy Drew

Nancy Drew and the Secret of the Old Clock

This week, I tracked down an original copy of this book. I intend to do a write up on the bookstore. It really is worth a visit if you are in Philadelphia.

Revised
♣ Nancy is 18
♣ Nancy drives a convertible
♣ Hannah Gruen is more a member of the family
♣ Nancy finds out about the situation from the Turner sisters
♣ Allie and Grace’s surname is Hoover
♣ Helen is much older (in book 2 she is engaged)
♣ The fortune is distributed more equally among the beneficiaries.
♣ Allie uses her money to take singing lessons.
♣ Nancy is a lot more refined.

Original
♣ Nancy is 16
♣ She drives a roadster
♣ Hannah Gruen is more a servant
♣ Nancy already knows about the will
♣ Allie and Grace Horner tell her of the “other will.”
♣ The servant at the Topham’s bungalow is a drunk.
♣ There is a gun battle between the police and the thieves.
♣ The Horners receive half of the estate
♣ Allie uses her money to invest in a chicken farm
♣ Nancy is high handed in her manner.

Which do I like better? The original is very interesting. When I purchased the book, the store owner said that Nancy Drew was the real first feminist book. I can see why he said that. I think the original Nancy has more character. She definitely embodies the flapper ideals and the Jazz rebellion of that time. I think the revised Nancy is more of a demure 50’s kind of lady. I purchased another original. I’m on the look out for 19 more! When I read the next one, which unfortunately is out of chronological order, I will let you know.