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Julian Gardiner (Cambridge, England)

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Seeking God: The Way of St.Benedict
Seeking God: The Way of St.Benedict
by Esther De Waal
Edition: Paperback

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Testimony to the continuing value of St Benedict�s Rule, 6 Aug 2004
St Benedict wrote his Rule, a detailed book of instructions for monastic living, in the early 6th century, and thousands of Benedictine monks and nuns lead lives based on it to this day. In this book Esther de Waal gives a concise introduction to St Benedict's Rule aimed at modern lay people. The monastic life that St Benedict envisaged is not one of great asceticism: rather work, prayer, and study are to be held in balance, and all of them are to be done to the glory of God. (He memorably urges monks to treat kitchen utensils with the same respect as the altar vessels). St Benedict's understanding of the difficulties of communal living and his compassionate view of human frailty are both wise and practical, and often sound disarmingly modern. Whilst most of the specific prescriptions of the Rule are of little relevance to present day lay people, the spirit of it undoubtedly is. For those wishing to know more about it this is an excellent place to start.


God Outside the Box
God Outside the Box
by Richard Harries
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.54

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wise defence of the Christian faith, 19 May 2004
This review is from: God Outside the Box (Paperback)
In God Outside the Box Richard Harries starts by considering the fact that, whilst belief in traditional religion may be declining, most people still believe there is a spiritual dimension to life, as the growing New Age movement shows. Bishop Harries looks at some of the reasons why many people find that traditional Christianity is no longer believable, and may even seem morally repugnant: Why is God spoken of as male? Does he really send people to Hell? Is religion only for the weak and immature? Why does God have a chosen people? Harries treats these questions with the seriousness they deserve and provides answers which show great sensitivity, as well as bringing to bear his learning and intelligence. I found this a heart-warming book. If you have questions about the Christian faith, either as a believer or an enquirer, this is an excellent place to start.


Prayer: Letters to Malcolm
Prayer: Letters to Malcolm
by C. S. Lewis
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lewis’s last book, and one of his best, 9 May 2004
In this slim book, written shortly before his death, C. S. Lewis explores the subject of prayer. Lewis presents the material as a series of letters to an imaginary correspondent called “Malcolm”. This device is effective in creating a sense of intimacy; one has the feeling that Lewis is being touchingly frank in his discussion of the difficulties and rewards of the Christian life in general, and prayer in particular. He has interesting and useful things to say about all aspects of prayer: the petitionary prayer, prayers of praise, corporate prayer, and whether it is right to pray for the dead. Lewis’s theology has not changed significantly since his much earlier books Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, yet there is something mellower and less confrontational in this writing than in Lewis’s more famous Christian books, and it is all the more moving and persuasive for it. The fact that this book was written so near to Lewis’s premature death gives it an added poignancy. In conclusion, this is a first rate book which deserves to be more widely known.


Seeking God: The Way of St.Benedict
Seeking God: The Way of St.Benedict
by Esther De Waal
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

97 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Testimony to the continuing value of St Benedict’s Rule, 31 Mar 2004
St Benedict wrote his Rule, a detailed book of instructions for monastic living, in the early 6th century, and thousands of Benedictine monks and nuns lead lives based on it to this day. In this book Esther de Waal gives a concise introduction to St Benedict’s Rule aimed at modern lay people. The monastic life that St Benedict envisaged is not one of great asceticism: rather work, prayer, and study are to be held in balance, and all of them are to be done to the glory of God. (He memorably urges monks to treat kitchen utensils with the same respect as the altar vessels). St Benedict’s understanding of the difficulties of communal living and his compassionate view of human frailty are both wise and practical, and often sound disarmingly modern. Whilst most of the specific prescriptions of the Rule are of little relevance to present day lay people, the spirit of it undoubtedly is. For those wishing to know more about it this is an excellent place to start.
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The Making of the English Bible: The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution It Inspired
The Making of the English Bible: The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution It Inspired
by Benson Bobrick
Edition: Paperback

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating history of the English reformation, 25 Mar 2004
It is hard to imagine in the 21st century what a revolutionary idea it was in the middle ages that the Bible should be made available to ordinary people in their own language. In this excellent book Bobrick plots the history of the European reformation, focusing on England and the lives of the remarkable men and women who fought to make the Bible available to ploughmen and pastry-cooks as well as priests. This history is often stranger than fiction, with schisms where two or even three papal claimants mutually excommunicated each other, or the story of how the Bishop of London’s plan to remove heretical books by buying them up led to his inadvertently funding the second edition of Tyndale’s supposedly heretical translation of the Bible. Bobrick succeeds in making the complicated religious divisions and controversies of the renaissance remarkably understandable. This book is as entertaining as it is informative, and I recommend it to anyone with an interest in the history of the reformation and the story of how the modern English Bible came into being.


Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry into the Limits of the Possible
Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry into the Limits of the Possible
by Arthur C. Clarke
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thought provoking look at the future of technology., 24 Mar 2004
In this book Arthur C. Clarke considers the future development of human technology, focusing on the ultimate limits of what is possible rather than on what the near future is likely to bring. Originally published in 1962, Clarke has added comments where developments have substantially modified his earlier views. He addresses a wide range of questions: transport, colonising space, novel sources of energy, artificial intelligence, a universal machine that can produce any specified artefact, as well as more fanciful possibilities such as time-travel, teleportation, and invisibility. He suggests we should be slow to pronounce anything "impossible" as the technology of the future may be as hard for us to imagine as ours would have been for people of earlier ages. (He also quotes a number of "authorities" who denied the possibility of heavier than air flight or the rocket shortly before they became realities!) Sadly, my enjoyment of this book was somewhat spoiled by Clarke's style which is inclined to be rather laboured and pompous. A pity, as this is otherwise a first rate read.


Shakespeare's Island: Essays on Creativity (Mundi)
Shakespeare's Island: Essays on Creativity (Mundi)
by Charles Stephens
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars An idiosyncratic literary tour, 9 Mar 2004
The first chapter of Stephens' book is an essay on Shakespeare's The Tempest. He suggests some links between the play's plot and various strands of European history, and engages in some etymological speculation on the names of the characters. It's all good fun, but I didn't find his theories particularly convincing. The subsequent chapters offer a very personal, and frankly rather self-indulgent, discussion of 19th and 20th century European art. Stephens is especially interested in the decadent writers and artists of the late 19th century - Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud etc - some 20th century fantasy writers - John Cooper Powys, Charles Williams, J. R. R. Tolkien - and occult figures such as Aleister Crowley. There is no sense that Stephens is advancing any particular thesis in this book; the overriding impression is of having a late night conversation with an erudite, widely-read and eccentric academic. Personally, I enjoyed reading this thoroughly quirky book; but I can hardly recommend it very highly.


Shakespeare's "Edmund Ironside": The Lost Play
Shakespeare's "Edmund Ironside": The Lost Play
by Eric Sams
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good candidate for a lost Shakespeare play, 9 Mar 2004
In this fascinating book Eric Sams presents the text of the Elizabethan manuscript play Edmund Ironside, and argues that it is the work of the young William Shakespeare. The play tells the story of a war between rival claimants to the English throne: Edmund Ironside and "Canutus" (more familiar to most of us as "King Canute"). The play is violent, and in some ways crude, but it has a fantastic vigour of action and language, and it is not hard to believe that this is what Shakespeare was writing shortly before his earliest acknowledged history and tragedy: Henry VI part 1 and Titus Andronicus. The most interesting character is the villain Edricus: in his self-dramatising soliloquies he sounds for all the world like a first draft of those quintessentially Shakespearean villains Richard III, Iago, and Edmund (in King Lear). Sams' case for Shakespearean authorship is closely argued, and I am all but convinced that he is correct. Sadly, his view has been given short shrift by most established Shakespearean scholars, and I'm inclined to agree with Sams that there is some closed-mindedness involved. Read the play and judge for yourself.


King Edward III (The New Cambridge Shakespeare)
King Edward III (The New Cambridge Shakespeare)
by William Shakespeare
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.99

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting addition to the Shakespearean canon, 9 Mar 2004
This play was published anonymously in 1596 and first attributed to Shakespeare some forty years after his death. It tells of the English victories against the French which marked the start of the Hundred Years War, with Edward III's adulterous wooing of the Countess of Salisbury providing some "love interest" in an otherwise military story.
Thirty-six plays were published in the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays in 1623; modern editions of Shakespeare's collected works now add two further plays, "Pericles" and "The Two Noble Kinsmen", which Shakespeare appears to have written in collaboration with other playwrights. Melchiori makes a very strong case for the addition of Edward III to the canon as another play that is mostly, perhaps entirely, by Shakespeare. (Many of Shakespeare's early plays were published without attribution to him, so this in itself does not disprove the claim of Shakespearean authorship.) Melchiori provides a convincing reason why Edward III did not appear in the first folio, namely its very unsympathetic portrayal of the Scots which, by 1623 with a Scots king now on the English throne, had become politically unacceptable. I found the case for Shakespearean authorship convincing, and I hope this Cambridge Shakespeare edition will herald the addition of this play to the accepted canon. I have to add, though, that this is a workaday rather than a brilliant play: think Henry VI part 1 rather than Henry V. It is mainly of interest to those interested in Shakespeare's development as a writer rather than to the general reader.


Still She Haunts Me
Still She Haunts Me
by Katie Roiphe
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well-written, but somewhat disappointing., 13 Feb 2004
This review is from: Still She Haunts Me (Paperback)
Katie Roiphe’s first novel is an imaginative recreation of the relationship between Lewis Carroll and the child Alice Liddell, for whom he wrote Alice in Wonderland.
Roiphe handles this potentially disturbing subject matter sensitively, neither demonizing Carroll nor attempting to sanitize the darker side of his attraction to Alice. The writing is imaginative and sometimes strikingly vivid. But in the end I was not really convinced by the characterization, or by the portrayal of the society Carroll inhabits. What really happened between Lewis Carroll and Alice we will never know, but I don’t believe it was like this.


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