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The Root of Wild Madder: Chasing the History, Mystery, and Lore of the Persian Carpet [Kindle Edition]

Brian Murphy
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Wisdom of a Turkmen proverb.

The Root of Wild Madder opens with an invitation that flows from the same ancient inspiration. "A carpet is poetry itself," an Iranian carpet merchant declares to author Brian Murphy. "You just have to learn to read them." So begins a journey. It follows Persian carpets from the remote villages of Afghanistan and Iran where they are woven -- often by young girls -- and on to the bazaars where they are traded, to the Sufis and mystic poets who find grace and magic in their timeless designs, and, finally and unexpectedly, to a carpet showroom in New York.
Told in exquisite prose befitting one of the world's loveliest art forms, The Root of Wild Madder eloquently chronicles how carpets embody humanity's endless striving for unattainable perfection. Here are stories of the weavers and their dreams, the "mules" who move the carpets from place to place, the tradesmen who sell them in the bazaars, and the refugee compelled to trade a carpet he believes contains the soul of his grandmother -- because his family must eat.
The madder plant has fed the carpets' red brilliance since the earliest weavings. But the power of its palette, like the dyers' traditions, threatens to pass from memory. It would be a profound loss. It's part of a world as rich as any sublime carpet: steeped in spirituality, culture, allegory, and, above all, mystery. Nearly all the carpet masterworks are anonymous art for the ages, and Murphy seeks out their glorious hidden narratives. As he observes, "Every carpet carries its own distinctive voice. Suddenly I wanted to hear them."

Product Description


"It is refreshing to read a book full of passion and without gimmickry or formulas. Brian Murphy's excitement about rugs sweeps you away and makes you want to travel -- and also want rugs. I couldn't put this book down."-- Mark Kurlansky, author of "Salt: A World History" and "Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World"


An accessible history of Persian carpet making identifies elements of faith and symbolism that have inspired traditional weaves, explaining the carpet's role in the Middle Eastern economy and culture. By the author of The New Men. 40,000 first printing.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2336 KB
  • Print Length: 332 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0743264215
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; New edition edition (26 July 2005)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00BOR9S10
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #607,285 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book 20 Sept. 2011
I bought this book after seeing a copy in the carpet shop of a dealer in Isfahan who is mentioned in the text and, once I got used to the slightly rambling writing style I was hooked. For anyone who loves oriental carpets it is a must and for those who have not yet caught the bug it is a great introduction
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3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars 16 Oct. 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
a very interesting journey through central Asia in recent times using the Persian carpet trade as the underpinning theme.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  22 reviews
42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Essence of Persian Carpets 6 Aug. 2005
By William R. Erwin - Published on
Nothing quite so enhances a space as an Oriental carpet, however humble or elegant. Carpets may enliven the spirit and mind as well, and here is the enduring significance of their art, never ending. After reading Brian Murphy's journey among them, newly begun, we join him in our own unending adventures.

There is a spirit to this book reaching out to both the novice and the collector. One also learns a lot about Iran and Afghanistan, their culture and history past and present. This book is an essence of Persia. Murphy was himself a novitiate as he takes us with him to meet carpet merchants, weavers, and dyers, urban and rural. He communicates a searching, often wide-eyed, innocence while meeting with myriad folk. He handles this contrast appealingly, rather as if we were with him, a style greatly effectuating what he wants to tell us. I and our carpets together, will never be the same.

This volume is also a welcome relief from the plainness of so many modern publications. The type styles, the look and feel of the paper, and the designs of the jacket, covers, and end papers are an aesthetic delight and most appropriate to the story.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative & personable - GREAT 29 Sept. 2006
By Fred - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've been a carpet collector (primarily tribal piece) for well over 20 years; this book spoke to me as some carpets speak to me! I'm especially grateful for the quotes attributed to Hossein Payghambary of Nomad carpet shop in Isfahan. I rarely read a book more than once BUT this has drawn me to do so because of the rich text and the author's compassion for his subject. This is MUST read for anyone with a heart for carpets.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Appreciation of Persian Rugs 16 April 2006
By A. Clark - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
By experiencing Brian Murphy's trip through Afghanistan and Iran and his search for answers to a number of questions he had and developed about the carpets and the people involved in making and selling them, I learned a great deal. I had no idea what I would learn would be so extensive and interesting. It was one of those books that I didn't want to end. Since the chances of my visiting there are slim, I really am thankful to have seen and experienced the people and culture through Murphy's eyes. His love of the rugs and the people are obvious to the reader, and he clearly wants to share what he knows and has experienced with others. I highly recommend reading this book.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and a delight to read 26 Oct. 2005
By John Matlock - Published on
I see this book as several books in one. Just like the title 'The Root of Wild Madder' which says nothing at all about rugs, unless you're really in with the right crowd, the book is nominally on rugs. But also the book is also:

on travel to places that most of us don't want to visit, would be afraid to visit

on politics, specifically on what's going on in Iran - he sees the strong theocracy, but he also sees cracks around the base

on history, particularly on Persia

and of course it's about the search for wild madder (the source of red dyes before the advent of chemical dyes).

Above all else, this book is a delight to read. It reads almost like a novel, while it conveys information that would be very, very hard to find elsewhere. It's almost, but not quite, enough to make one want to go to Iran.
17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not great 29 Oct. 2005
By Sage - Published on
An enjoyable book, but it's been done before and better in "The Carpet Wars" by Chris Kremmer. Murphy provides some interesting insights into carpet collecting, poetry and mysticism that goes along with the folk-art and aesthetics of carpets, and he does give some historical insight, but his writng style is hackneyed and pedestrian, and his historical and cultural insights are only skin deep, nothing you can't read in an encyclopedia. His attempt at wide eyed innocence and naivete seems contrived, overly sentimental and condescending. I often wondered how such a clueless, myopic, provincial person could become a world travelling, intrpid journalist and stringer for the AP. For a great travlelogue and carpet hunting escapades along with hisotrical and cultural insight read Kremmer's "Carpet Wars". Kremmer knows what he's talking about and we learn much more about the history and culture of the area than Murphy provides. Kremmer goes to more places, while Murphy travels to some of the same places that Kremmer does, but his descriptions aren't as deep. I often wondered if Murphy was conciously following Kremmer to the same places. However, to his credit, Murphy does provide more insights into the history and technique of dying and carpet making than Kremmer.
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