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Showing posts from May, 2018

The Dark is Rising

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'The Dark is Rising' is both the name of a series of five novels, originally written for children, and of the now classic, second novel in the series. This book was the subject of an 'online' reading group (on Twitter) initiated by the accomplished nature writer, Robert Macfarlane last Christmas that brought it to my attention. I finished the last in the series yesterday with one of those releasing sighs where deep satisfaction and tender disappointment are mixed when you 'finish' a reading experience haunting and well made.

Like all good children's literature, it can (and ought) to be read by adults for enjoyment and profit. Here for multiple reasons.

First of which is that she is a gifted nature writer. In a few deft strokes she can describe a place vividly, accurately and even when she steps into the fantastic a solidly, real world is before you. But her nature is a place of the uncanny too - of the natural wonder of its giftedness as well as its abilit…

Bright Day - an unsung great novel

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J.B. Priestley's own favourite novel was 'Bright Day'. Here a jaded scriptwriter, returned to England from Hollywood, in the immediate post Second World War period, has a chance encounter in a Cornish hotel that translates him back to his earlier life in Bruddersford (Bradford) before the First World War.

Here Gregory Dawson, now the scriptwriter, is working in a wool factory, an aspiring writer, he sorts threads and idolises the family of his manager into whose circle he is drawn. But the magic of projection slowly unwinds into his witnessing a family tragedy. As he works on in the Cornish hotel, Gregory is drawn into remembrance of this past and, in parallel, into encounters in the present that will significantly readjust that remembrance inviting a better, indeed liberating, understanding of what it might mean for his future.

The portrayal of that gilded, hopeful Edwardian era is beautifully drawn. You taste its hopefulness just as surely as you know that it was to be …

Exploring the roots of and the routes to empathy

One reason for being in Toronto was to check in on Roots of Empathy http://rootsofempathy.org/ and attend the first day of their annual Research Symposium.

Roots, founded by Mary Gordon, is an evidence based intervention that enables children to develop deeper empathy for, and with, others, a greater ability to navigate and understand their own feelings and develop better pro-social skills. It has been able to show that its program has long lasting results in reducing negative behaviors, such as bullying, and promoting well-being and positive social interaction.

At its heart is an opportunity to engage with a young infant from four months (over a period of eight months) and their mother in ways that enable them to see and better intuit a child's developing range of responses and emotions and through that identification be helped to better understand their own and of the people around them. A process beautifully shown in this recent short BBC film https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/…

George MacDonald - Visionary Dreamer of reconcilation

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George MacDonald was C.S. Lewis' master. Lewis credited a reading of MacDonald's 'Phantastes', his first fantasy novel, with giving him a model of the search for holiness and that this search had a stop, a home, a place when it was fully realized in God. MacDonald was not only a principal factor in Lewis' conversion, he was a model for that conversion. He came after the manner of a literary saint.

MacDonald, himself, occupies a rather ambiguous place in literary history. A popular and accomplished nineteenth century author - of novels, poetry and theology - what principally survives is his striking reinvention of the fairy tale for the child in every person and his two striking novels of imagination and what would become known as the unconscious namely Phantastes (written at the outset of his career) and Lilith (written at its end). Here he creates imaginative worlds that are both resonantly beautifully and metaphysically complex inviting the reader to undergo the…