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review 2017-12-28 05:16
The Book Lovers' Miscellany
The Book Lovers' Miscellany - Claire Cock-Starkey

An excellent little book for what it is: a collection of facts about books and authors.  Oldest books in existence, description of the ISBN system, book towns, oddest titles of the year, and a code key to Penguin paperbacks are all examples of the interesting and sometimes amusing facts collected together in this small tome.  


I'm afraid MT learned rather more obscure facts about book than he'd have said he was  interested interested in, as I couldn't resist reading many of the sections out load.  My only disappointment was the distinctly UK focus; a small disappointment all things considered.


"Of all the things man can do or make here below,
by far the most momentous, wonderful, and
worthy are the things we call books."


– Thomas Carlyle

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review 2016-09-16 01:30
The devil is in the details
The Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Enquiry Into the Salem Witch Trials - Marion Lena Starkey

This is another of those paperbacks I've had forever and never read.  How it ended up on my BookLikes shelf with a 4-star rating I have no idea, unless it came from the original GR upload.  It certainly does not deserve four stars.


But . . . . 


The author, Marion Starkey, was a native of Massachusetts with a New England pedigree going all the way back to the Mayflower.  Good for her, and whatever the hell that has to do with the quality of the writing.  Educated at Boston University and Harvard, she worked as a freelancer and teacher.  The Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Enquiry into the Salem Witch Trials was published in 1949.


Starkey makes clear in her preface that she is trying to project a modern psychological analysis onto what happened in Salem Village in the early 1690s, or as modern as she could in the 1940s.  What she doesn't make clear, however, is the extent to which her text is a dramatization of the actual recorded events.  And that's where I began to feel uncomfortable reading this.  Perhaps with more of a disclaimer, the book might have served as a better picture of the community and its members and how they fell under the sway of their own delusions.  Or perhaps that kind of disclaimer is too contemporary with the later, much later, 20th century and 21st to have even existed when Starkey was writing.  Perhaps, therefore, I judge her too harshly.


According to Starkey, "the witchcraft" began with two young girls, nine-year-old Becky Parris and her eleven-year-old cousin Abigail Williams.  Both lived in the household of Becky's father, Rev. Samuel Parris of Salem Village.  Starkey blames simple boredom and lack of outlets for youthful exuberance for much of what happened, which may or may not have been the truth.  It's certainly believable.  Yet Starkey even admits in her chapter notes that much of her description of the girls is derived from secondary sources or extrapolated from the testimony of others on unrelated issues.


I found that sort of admission distanced me from the credibility of the book in a way I hadn't expected.  As I read beyond the opening chapters, I hoped that original impression would fade, but it didn't.  Despite the dramatic narrative that should have made the events and locations and personalities more "real," I never got over the sense that Starkey was making a lot of it up for effect.


What compounded this was, I think, another part of that preface, which I quote at length here, for what I believe will be obvious, 21st century reasons:


For Salem Village, for all its apparent remoteness, was not "an island to itself," but a throbbing part of the great world.  Its flare-up of irrationality was to some extent a product of ideological intensities which rent its age no less than they do ours; its swing to sanity through the stubborn refusal of the few to give way to the hysteria and mad logic of the many marked the turn of a moral season in New England.  During the witchcraft, and to some extent through the witchcraft, thinking people in Massachusetts passed over the watershed that divides the mystery and magic of late medieval thinking from the more rational climate of opinion referred to as "the Enlightenment."


Yet although this particular delusion, at least in the form of a large-scale public enterprise, has vanished from the western world, the urge to hunt "witches" has done nothing of the kind.  It has been revived on a colossal scale by replacing the medieval idea of malefic witchcraft by pseudo-scientific concepts like "race," "nationality," and by substituting for theological discussion a whole complex of warring ideologies.  Accordingly the story of 1692 is of far more than antiquarian interest; it is an allegory of our times.  One would like to believe that leaders of the modern world can in the end deal with delusion as sanely and courageously as the men of old Massachusetts dealt with theirs.


Well, except that first those men of old Massachusetts dealt cruelly and delusionally with theirs.  It's almost as if Starkey were trying to exonerate them.


She's not unaware of the tradition of witch-hunting, witch-naming, witch-blaming.  "Only twenty witches were executed," she notes, "a microscopic number"  in comparison to those who were condemned by the thousands in Europe, or in comparison to the millions who had been systematically slaughtered just a few years before Starkey wrote.  She is aware of the politics involved, the struggles for power and so on.  All of that seemed lost in what came across as an attempt to psychoanalyze and excuse.


It's been too many years since I read Shirley Jackson's The Witchcraft of Salem Village to make a fair comparison, but Starkey's injection of a fiction style to a factual narrative just didn't work for me.  The facts are there, of course, because the entire campaign was well-documented.  And for that much I suppose this is as good an account as any.  But one shouldn't have to struggle to figure out how much is fact and how much is speculation.


That she uses the phrase "the witchcraft" to encompass the larger episode on both sides is also irritating.  The efforts of the churchmen to identify, try, condemn, and execute the witches may have been part of their ideology and theology, but it was not part of any witchcraft. 


It is, however, worth noting that Starkey credits the infamy of the Salem Village episode with having at least some effect on decisions to separate ecclesiastical courts from justice courts as the various colonies evolved toward independence   That in itself is an idea to be explored.


I'd have given this three stars on the basis of the information, but the foggy narrative that seemed too much like "faction" than fact brought it down to two.


Halloween Bingo square -- Witches.



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review 2015-12-19 21:57
No Gun Intended: An Annabelle Starkey Mystery (Annabelle Starkey Mysteries) - Zoe Burke

#NoGunIntended  4 Stars  Available 1/5/16  @PPPress #ZoeBurke

This was a pretty funny book.  In part because of the sports analogies that the main character uses. She knows nothing, I mean nothing, about sports, but she uses them anyway. "It's the ninth inning in the football game" is one that comes to mind. There are many funnier ones throughout this book.

When her backpack is traded for a backpack with a murder weapon, the chase is on to find out who has her backpack and why the exchange. This is a madcap adventure with lots of laughs and lots of action,.

An entertaining read that for some reason, I was like meh, I'll read it even though I wasn't in the mood for it. It just seemed like it wasn't all that. Turns out, I was totally wrong. Once I got started, I was into it and laughing my way throughout.

Huge thanks to Poisoned Pen Press and Net Galley for approving my request and providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review. I was highly surprised and glad I requested it.


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review 2015-12-01 00:00
Echoes of Winter: A Wintery YA Short Story Collection
Echoes of Winter: A Wintery YA Short Story Collection - L.A. Starkey,DB Nielsen,CK Dawn,Chess Desalls,D.E.L. Connor,Tim Hemlin,Kelly Hall,W.J. May,Lu J Whitley,K.K. Allen,Kathy-Lynn Cross,K.S. Marsden,Fleur Camacho Echoes of Winter is a collection of stories from Young Adult authors. The stories range from the loosely Christmas themed technology thriller, Code X to Santa’s daughter trying to go to school incognito with a disgraced student witch, in Merry Chris Witch. There are a few Winter Solstice stories and many offer a tantalizing taste of a tale unfinished. A few are completely unique and original genre blending tales, such as The Darkest Night of The Year. Each story has a vivid cast of characters and is quite enjoyable to read, not a bad way to spend a few winter afternoons.
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review 2015-08-07 00:00
Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII
Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII - David Starkey I despise this man. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to be in his court.
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