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The best parts of this book are the chapters on the development of string.
Barber’s hypothesis is the ability to make string is an important precursor to the
development of civilization. Her point is that once people can make string, then
they can tie things together. This means you can make rope and rope can be used to
tether an animal or child, it can be used to make fishing lines, fishnets, bags and
just as importantly you can use string to carry items on your back. Once you can
carry loads then you can begin to move goods. And once you can do these things you
are on track to make coiled pottery and weave. What interested me the most was the
description of how easy it is to make string. The easiest way is to use already
existing vines, the second step according to Ms Barber is to take plant fibers and
roll them on your leg to make an every expanding string. Rope is merely a number of
strings put together. The evidence cited in this book is pottery and wall paintings,
since most fabric doesn’t survive. Barber examined thousands of early pots and
paintings looking for evidence of early cloth making.
Who would have thought that the first known biography in English would be written
by a woman, brewery owner, Christian mystic, and mother of 14 named Margery Kempe.
Margery was illiterate so she dictated her biography to a scribe between 1436 and
1438. Her biography begins with her conversion experience which was heralded by a
vision of Christ in her bedroom one night. The story then follows Margery through
pilgrimages across Europe and the Holy Land. She also tells about her heresy trial
in England and her burgeoning mystical life. After the trial the judge gave her a
piece of paper saying that she was not a heretic. Margery used this piece of paper
many many times when people complained to their local religious leaders about her
loud crying, laughing and preaching. His opinion, like most of her contemporaries
seemed to be that she was she was religiously insane. He was also surprised that she
followed Catholic dogma exactly. She never deviated from the church’s teaching even
when she was ranting and raving.
The book is amazingly lively. You get insight into
the personality of a woman who thought Jesus told her to wear white, live apart from
her husband and give voice to her religious opinions loudly and continually. Her
neighbors, her child and her husband complained regularly about her religious
activities. The book gives dramatic accounts of every day experiences, in Margery’s
home town, in many English regions, and as far away as Brandenburg, Rome and
Jerusalem. Just reading about how she traveled in Europe and how she got to
Jerusalem is illuminating.
This book is a diverse examination of the uniquely feminine aspects of faith in
God. The authors interviewed a variety of women, including a Seneca elder, an
ex-nun, a rabbi, a social worker and a Jungian analyst. Each woman shares her story
about how the traditional patriarchal models of religion lack relevance for her
life. Instead they speak of how they’ve redefined their spiritual beliefs and
practices to embrace their experiences as women. The book follows the unfolding of
life from childhood to adult experiences of creativity, love, family, sexuality and
community. I had a lot of “a ha” moments when I read this book. The experiences
described and feelings expressed by the interviewees articulated many of my own
thoughts and feelings about faith in ways I had not been able to articulate them
myself. I recommend this book for any woman who has ever found more spiritual truth
in her own personal experiences than in the traditional beliefs and practices of
Written and set in Swinging London in the mid-1960s, The Millstone is a story of
a common predicament, told in an uncommon manner. Rosamund Stacey - attractive,
intellectual, conscientious, and self-sufficient - is intimidated by the idea of
sex, and has successfully managed to avoid it altogether until her late twenties.
When her first sexual encounter leaves her pregnant, her life contracts and expands
in unforeseeable ways, as her perceptions are heightened and her preconceptions
softened. Structured as a coming-of-age novel, but slightly inverted, The Millstone
presents the true awakening of a young woman who had already considered herself
enlightened. Drabble's sensitive, humane portrait of the 1960s sexual revolution in
Britain is as fresh and relevant as if it came off the presses today.
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