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James Sale "motivational mapper" (england)

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The Theatre of the World
The Theatre of the World
by C. B. Butler
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great History and Drama in One Book!!!, 31 Aug. 2017
My two favourite types of novel are diametrically different. On the one hand I like pure fantasy, best exemplified by JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, which is a history to be sure - of Middle Earth - but a purely fabricated one. And then, on the other hand, I like historical novels: novels which tell a story based around real life events and actual people who we know something about. In this category of liking, to be sure, I especially like those plausible reconstructions surrounding 'known' history, although a work like The Egyptian by Mika Waltari, which re-creates the Ancient Egypt of some 3000 years ago, is certainly a masterpiece - and is to historical novels what Tolkien is to fantasy.

So then, as I narrow things down, my favourite historical period in all of English history is the Elizabethan/Jacobean period between approximately 1580-1620 when the Golden Age of our literature, our exploration, and much else beside - including some very dark materials - occurred. This is an amazingly well documented period; so well documented that new discoveries from archived materials are still being unearthed. And so it is that C.B, Butler sets her epic story precisely (1586) in this favoured and favourite period of mine! Epic here is no understatement either: poor Dante could only muster 100 cantos in his short epic; but Butler manages 101 chapters in her 765 page narrative.

This novel, then is a raging treat for anyone with the remotest interest in Elizabethan England and how wants to read a ripping good yarn - that could easily be a great film too - and at the same time to immerse themselves in what life what like back then: the feel of the times, the sense of the politics and value system, and the all pervading and underlying sense of danger everywhere. Indeed, the first sentence of the novel sets the scene: "He was 27 years old and if he didn't die of plague, an accident or at the point of a Spanish sword, he was, he estimated, halfway through his life". What a great opening - and educational too: we learn that the average life expectancy in those times was 54!

And the whole book is like this, as we follow the adventures of Richard Mudford, a poor boy seeking to make good and change his station in life. Again, that is what is so fascinating about this period of our history: the feudal period was coming to an end, and opportunity was there if one could seize it.

The story is set in Southampton and meticulously researched; indeed, C. B. Butler is a well-known expert on the history of Southampton and this shows in her use of the buildings and places of the area as settings for some of her most dramatic scenes. This was particularly enjoyable for me as during the late 70s and early 80s I lived for 9 years in the city, and it was wonderful to find out so much more about places I thought I already knew.

Thus I strongly recommend this book to anyone remotely interested in the period, the place and the lie of those times: this is a really rewarding read.

Endeavour - Complete Series 4 (Dutch Import)
Endeavour - Complete Series 4 (Dutch Import)
Dvd ~ Shaun Evans
Offered by TVserieshop
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars If you like Morse, this is even better!, 24 July 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Endeavour is superb - I really think it is so superior to Morse, the original! The production values, the plots and writing, the music, the characters - it's a gem of a series.

Steel Masks
Steel Masks
by Joseph Salemi
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.71

5.0 out of 5 stars Real Poet Writes Real Poetry - Hurrah! At Last ..., 24 July 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Steel Masks (Paperback)
If you are tired of post-modernism, of free verse that certainly isn't poetry, of solipsistic clap-trap, or politically correct verses by institutionalised poets, then this collection is for you! Joseph Salemi is a major poet in that he actually writes poetry, uses form and meter, feels intensely yet has a biting, intellectual and erudite wit that cuts to the chase. To give you a flavour of his writing, try the final stanza of the Title poem, Steel Masks: "We think our wizards tempered, well-wrought, proof - / But they are brittle masks that cannot blunt / The thrust that sends us down to that cold realm / For which life is a flimsy, pasteboard front." Precise, chilling and so well written, we turn again to examine what our life means. Anyone seriously interested in real modern poetry will want to buy this collection.

The Naked God: Wrestling for a Grace-Ful Humanity
The Naked God: Wrestling for a Grace-Ful Humanity
by Vincent Strudwick
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

4.0 out of 5 stars and cri de coeur for a better world, a better church, 14 July 2017
Rowan Williams describes The Naked God as a “tremendously engaging and positive book”, and indeed it is just that. The author, Vincent Strudwick, must be at least 84 years old but he writes with the fire, passion and conviction of a man half his age. And the book is a strange amalgam of autobiography, Twentieth Century church history, radical polemic, and cri de coeur for a better world, a better church, and a better outcome for all, especially the dispossessed, the poor and the suffering.

What is his book about then? Essentially, it is about the re-imagining of the role of the church, specifically the Anglican community (but his principles extend to all churches), in the modern world. Citing the ideas of Christopher Dawson that the church has had six different and distinctive ages – the Apostolic, the Fathers, the Carolingian, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Reformation, and the Enlightenment – but that a seventh and very different age is now upon us. And, Strudwick argues, this new age is revealing the very real inadequacies of contemporary Anglican practises and beliefs both during the Twentieth Century and in the present. In the final part of the book Strudwick does present some glimmers of hope, although I must say I did not personally find them very hopeful, as they appeared to me patchy: patchy in that he describes small, isolated activities and also patchy in that commendably they cover a problem, but sadly only in a piecemeal way.

The essence of what is wrong with the Church is summed up in diagram in the chapter, Towards A Very Odd Church Indeed. Here we have three types of response to Christianity: the traditional, the liberal and the radical. There is little doubt where Strudwick’s loyalties are: the radical. So, for example, in the series of contrasts he draws, under the heading ‘Power’, the traditional wants ‘authority ...mediated through a hierarchy’; whereas the liberal position is ‘about management’; and finally the radical wants ‘all contribute through participation and challenge’. Or take the topic of Ideology: the traditional want ‘Divine right: it is all ordained’; whereas the liberal sees ‘the market leads’; and the radical says, ‘conflict must be recognised and worked at’.

It is all very admirable and I especially like his exhaustive and extremely interesting notes that consistently punctuate the text. Strudwick is well-versed in not only the history and traditions of the Anglican church, but also of other denominations, especially Catholics, too. Even the Quakers get a mention (though not in the Index, bizarrely). When near the end of his very long – and life time - tether with the Anglican church and its intransigent refusal to embrace radicalism, it is to the Quakers that he, via Richard Holloway, turns: “Quakers believed in the authority of the inner light … and if the Bible said otherwise, then the Bible was wrong”. On top of that Strudwick likes and cites frequently too the poets and literature. Wonderful – a small cornucopia of heaven for someone like me.

But that said, there are some less pleasing aspects of this narrative. The autobiographical weave reveals someone who has been at the centre of things for a long time, but possibly too obsessed with the centre. First, there is a slightly wearisome sense of name-dropping, especially of all the Archbishops of Canterbury over the decades but of other luminaries too. Then he also seems to think that re-hashing his notes or ideas from conferences held decades ago is going to prove useful or interesting. In his mind, clearly, he is still fighting those fights, but what I think we need is more core summaries and moving on to where we are now. A good example of this is where he repeats the ‘guidelines’ for the 1997 Quebec Conference where the ‘Anglican Bishop of Quebec, the Rt Rev. Bruce Stavert invited’ him to lead with the title ‘Models for a Changing Church’ – and then half a page of guidelines. The whole thing is too micro-orientated and the big picture is somewhat blurred by all this detail; though, I do not doubt Strudwick was very pleased to be invited to speak, as is clear in other examples.

Perhaps my biggest criticism, however, would be that for all his energy and enthusiasm for his Church, I am not sure he really empathises with those who disagree, or sees accurately the nature of what he is debunking. As the book progresses, we sense more and more how in tune with John Robinson’s ‘Honest to God’ position he is, and this position, of course, de-mythologises Christianity. It becomes apparent that Strudwick does not believe in miracles or in other core aspects of the Creeds as traditionally understood, and there are consequences of this which I think are important.

First, whilst he genuinely wants to help the poor, he seems not to realise that the de-mythologised version of Christianity he is advocating is not something the under-educated – often the poor – often readily ‘understand’ or ‘get’; and what – despite his assertion about the personhood of Christ being central – this comes down to is that why bother with Christianity at all? We just need to love people and have plenty of soup-kitchens? But the problem with that, it seems for Strudwick, is that he’d miss his cathedrals! Behind the radical, perhaps, a traditionalist in some profound and uneasy ways.

Moreover, he writes, “Many were horrified by the sight of the bishops lining up in the House of Lords to vote against equal marriage, which had so much support in society at large, especially amongst the younger population that the church so desperately wanted to attract.” This is a complex issue, but one thing I think is certainly true: Christianity, and no other religion I know of, has its policies and beliefs dictated by popular vote or plebiscite. Indeed, the Bible wisely advises us not to conform to the thinking of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. For all the analysis and learning, I suspect Strudwick is simply a partisan: even his phrase ‘equal marriage’ begs the question in advance of determining if such a thing is right or wrong, or good or bad. The early Christians went to their deaths because they did not conform with what society thought right and proper, but that doesn’t seem to have occurred to Strudwick as even a spiritual possibility, so fixated is he on getting people into church and thereby re-vitalising it.

There is a lot to commend in this book, and it is certainly an interesting read: I did not want to put it down, although I found plenty in it which I thought undigested, naïve and – yes – desperate. But for an overview of the Anglican church in the Twentieth Century this is a useful and gripping story., despite getting overloaded at times with finicky details.

Unbelievable?: Why after ten years of talking with atheists, I'm still a Christian
Unbelievable?: Why after ten years of talking with atheists, I'm still a Christian
by Justin Brierley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quakers like words, and they produce enough of them, 9 July 2017
Quakers like words, and they produce enough of them, but if there is one form of words they are perhaps sceptical about, it is probably that type that is called ‘Apologetics’. Apologetics have been with Christianity since the very beginning; Christ himself engaged in them with his disputes against the Pharisees and Sadducees, and St Peter himself, as Justin Brierley notes, advises Christians to ‘always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks of you the reason for the hope that you have’ (1 Peter 3.15). Indeed, Christianity has been arguing with the world ever since its foundation; and whereas in the first century AD the opponents were either, mainly, the Jewish legalists or the pagans, now the enemy on the doorstep tends to be the atheists with their assault on Christianity in particular and religions in general. But as I say, Quakers tend to be apologetics-averse and for two very good reasons: first, because they are not a credal-type of religion, and so just as this makes them trickier to attack, so they have less reason to rebut and dispute; and this leads to the second reason, which is that the lack of creeds is quite deliberate in that early on Quakers realised that words, and forms of words, led to ceaseless wrangling – and even actual violence – that contradicted the spirit of Christ and what His inner meaning is: namely, peace and love. For these reasons, then, Quakerism does not much engage in apologetics, and prefers to be more experiential than intellectual in its approach to true religion.

I am a Quaker myself, so obviously I think this is a good thing. But I can also see its danger; and one such danger that I frequently encounter and is directly attributable to the lack of apologetics – or ‘think-through’ – is that acceptance of a wishy-washy kind of love that accepts everybody and so proclaims that all religions are equal, we are all on the same path, and we are all – eventually - going to the same destination. To me this (not the acceptance of all people but the belief consequent from it) is self-evident tosh because, were it true, there would be no reason to become a Quaker; indeed, why adopt any religion at all if all roads lead to the same place? The answer that one simply prefers being a Quaker is so weak because it leads one into the wilderness of entire subjectivism, and all that that entails, which includes deep atheism and the undermining of all true morality (which Quakers, wishing to emphasise the power of love, are most keen to sustain).

Thus, a book like Justin Brierley’s “Unbelievable”, on the face of it, is not a book that many Quakers are going to like. It is published by SPCK, so has an evangelical flavour anyway; it is overtly argumentative (though in a deeply respectful way – more anon on this); and it explicitly supports traditional and credal Christianity (an anathema to many Quakers). So, should you buy or read it?

Well, in my opinion, absolutely yes: I loved the book, and I think all fair-minded Quakers will. I wasn’t aware before I read it that there is a radio station in Oxford called Premier Christian Radio (available in podcasts, so you don’t need to be in Oxford) whose flagship programme is called, Unbelievable?, and on a weekly basis for the last ten years or more Justin Brierley invites two guests (it started with one atheist and one Christian, but expanded to include other religions) to debate their beliefs, and he hosts/referees this. It has led to some phenomenal guests either appearing in the show or in his being able to contact and interview; for example, famous types like Derren Brown and Richard Dawkins on behalf of atheists, and people of the stature of Alister McGrath and William Lane Craig on behalf of Christianity. The thing is, and what is so refreshing, is the respect and devotion almost, that Brierley pays to the ‘opposition’. There is no doubt he is a Christian and where his loyalties rest, but it is clear too that the best arguments for atheism have seriously challenged his position, his beliefs, and he has had to do some very heavy wrestling to be able to remain standing in his faith.

What we get in this book is a wonderfully respectful account of the very best arguments for atheism, often using the words from the ‘expert’ atheists themselves; and we get some of their adversaries’ ripostes and gems of wisdom too; and we get Brierley in the middle trying to make sense of it and, critically, truly anxious to avoid trivialising the matters or ever appearing smug about them. Towards the end of the book he observes, perhaps ruefully, but accurately: “In the end, nobody gets argued into the kingdom of heaven”.

Because he starts from this respectful, opening, and listening base, the net result is that I think this is one of the best books on apologetics I have read – and I have read a lot. There is a clarity here which is a joy to read, and especially to follow his thinking as it emerges. It would be too much to describe all that he covers, but in my view there are 4 main (‘main’ in the sense that ordinary people can get it – not just philosophers and theologians) arguments for the existence of God and subsequently of Christianity: one, the argument from design and the structure of the cosmos; two, the argument from the existence of objective morality; three, the historical argument, which includes discussion of the Bible and other related historical documents; and four, the one that Quakers especially like, the argument from personal experience. The pros and cons of each of these arguments are superbly covered in this book, and I found myself gaining new insights and perspectives from reading it.

For example, he quotes Os Guinness tellingly: “The Christian faith is not true because it works; it works because it is true”. Or, take the surprising riposte to atheism’s most effective argument against God, the problem of pain and suffering. Brierley, whilst exhibiting due compassion and humility in the face of what often appears to be its full enormity, then turns its cutting edge wholly against the atheists themselves: “Within Christian belief, suffering is at least a mystery we can hope to make sense of. In atheism, it is simply meaningless.” That – that – is perfectly put. It’s all very well atheists going on about ‘How can a loving God allow …” but what do they offer by way of exchange? Absolutely nothing at all, except we die, we rot. A more hopeless and useless position, it seems to me, cannot be imagined. If the situation of human life is bad with Christianity, then, Brierley is suggesting, atheism only makes it far worse.

There are nuggets of insight and information everywhere in the book. I was amused towards the end by a statistic that Brierley quotes that, despite the disproportionate noise that atheism makes, on a global level atheism is shrinking as a proportion of the world’s population: “In 1970, atheists made up 4.5% of the world’s population. That figure shrank to 2% in 2010 and is projected to drop to 1.8% by 2020”. However, Brierley certainly doesn’t wish for them not to exist! Au contraire, he fully acknowledges what he has learnt from them, and how their existence how sharpened his own Christianity; for the truth is, it is so easy to become complacent about religion and dismissive of other people’s perspectives, and to retire into private spiritual ghettos. The Dawkins of this world, then, provide – despite their intentions – a salutary wake-up call to Christianity to get its act together, and to get its thinking right.

Finally, there is a lot in this book – since I have already mentioned Dawkins – about science and its supposed incompatibility with God. Clearly, Brierley rejects this notion and adduces a lot of authorities and ideas which also reject it too. But there is a wonderful quotation which he uses as an epigraph to Chapter 2 that is worth quoting in full: “The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you”. This is attributed to Werner Heisenberg. How wonderful, how appropriate!

If you are interested at all in strengthening the intellectual basis of your Christian faith, then I strongly recommend you read this book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 10, 2017 10:53 AM BST

Sonnets for Christ the King
Sonnets for Christ the King
Offered by Audible Ltd

5.0 out of 5 stars Joseph Charles Mackenzie is a new and major poet - read these sonnets - awesome!, 21 May 2017
It was Stephen Fry who said of the sonnet: “The ability to write them fluently was, and to some extent still is, considered the true mark of the poet”. How true; to expect each poet to write an epic is too much; and to be able to write a haiku is too trivial; and to write free verse is nothing; but in the strange and seemingly limitless flexibility of the sonnet form poets can demonstrate the most complex – and, contrariwise, most simple - thoughts and emotions, as well as delineating almost every shade of human experience. Looking back over the last five hundred years of the English language almost all the truly great poets have produced memorable sonnets whose impact has been lasting and profound. And as well as the sonnet speaking in its own individual voice, we have whole collections of them, most notably Shakespeare’s 154 (although if we include sonnets appearing in his plays, there are more), wherein the work begins to assume epic proportions as a kind of narrative emerges in which topics and themes are explored in relentless precision and beauty. Certainly, I regard the ability to construct a sonnet of beauty as second only to writing epic poetry in the canon of English literature.

We have, then, Sonnets for Christ the King by Joseph Charles Mackenzie, a name familiar to readers of The Society of Classical Poets. Currently the work is in audio book form, although I have been privileged to see an advance electronic copy; it comprises 77 sonnets in all. What to make of this? How good are they? Where does Joseph Charles Mackenzie stand in the pantheon of poets?

First, a digression. The number – 77 – is important. Indeed, every detail is important to true poets. Those of a quick disposition will have noticed that the number 77 is half that of the number Shakespeare wrote: 154. And Mackenzie uses the Shakespearean structure rather than the Petrarchan. Albeit obliquely then, there is already a vaunting claim to be heard. But more than that, for the spiritual poet numbers always assume massive significance. The sonnet in its two most important incarnations in the English language – the Petrarchan and the Shakespearean forms – is always 14 lines long (ignoring for the matter of this analysis aberrant forms such as the Meredithian sonnet – 16 – and the Curtal (Hopkins) – 7, and such like). 14 is 2 x 7 and 7 is the perfect number. Being the perfect number is no accident, but why is 7 the perfect number? It is the perfect number because it is the sum of 4, which represents the Earth and all that is in it, the four corners, the four cardinal points, and Heaven, the divine Trinity. It is the harmony and addition of the two, representing completion. (And for those left wondering, why is there 8 and 9, then 8 is an upside sign for mathematical infinity and represents the Resurrection – the new life beyond the current Heaven and Earth. Jesus is usually described as being resurrected on the third day on which he rose again, but the third day considered from the beginning of the week in which the Passover occurred is also the 8th day. The number 9 represents the re-harmonisation of all things as symbolised in the Ascension of Christ).

Moreover, numerologically speaking, 14 and 77 are both, reduced to their single digit, 1+4 = 5 and 7+7 = 14 = 1 + 4 = 5. The sonnet structure and the number within the sequence are represented by the number 5. This, theologically, represents ‘grace’ – hence the day of Pentecost: 5. When the Spirit descends. What Mackenzie is doing is revealing the descent of the Muse as an act of grace within the structure of the poem. He is also referring to an older tradition, too, whereby the Spirit of God is feminine: as in Wisdom (Proverbs Chapter 8) who was “at the beginning of His way, Before his works of old”. In other words, so far as we can use human language to describe the inexpressible, Wisdom – the Spirit of God – was no created ‘thing’, but She was with Him “from everlasting I was established, From the beginning ...” and She it is who is the Christian equivalent of the Muse. These numbers are important, then, and we see them in various structural ways within the poem; too much to explore in detail now, but for example, the last 14 sonnets (Sonnets 64-77) are all entitled ‘First [then 1-14] Station’ followed by a brief description of what each station entails. So there is in Mackenzie’s work not a random rag-bag of poems but an architecture – a cosmos if you will – that attempts to reflect the bigger cosmos of which we are all a part.

The collection, Sonnets for Christ the King, contains, I think, some of the best sonnets, and so poetry, published since World War 2 that I have read. His work is actually quite, quite brilliant, yet quirky and strange too! Perhaps the strangest thing of all is that he is able to write poetry which is entirely discursive, and yet it still be poetry.  We are so used to post-modern poets writing cryptogrammatic verse with obscure imagery, recondite diction, and indulgent, complacent solipsism that we can hardly believe it when someone says clearly what they want to say and tells it like it is - at least like it is for them. But the beauty of this great poetry is, even if we don't agree, don't share his theology, the poet in him gets to us emotionally. There is simply so many wonderful lines and ideas in this collection.

The first thing to get, then, is that this poetry is highly devotional; Mackenzie is clearly a devout Christian and Catholic, and the fundamentals of these two highly interrelated positions permeate the whole collection. If this were purely a fundamentalist text - banging a simplistic drum as it were - that would be off-putting to the casual reader. But this is not: this is true poetry because bound up in it is the emotional resonance by which real poetry disarms the critical intellect. A good example would be in Sonnet 6, one of my favourite 7 of the 77 we have. Called ‘El Castillo Interior’, the poem explores the inward, spiritual journey in a series of bold Images, beginning with a castle with ‘seven rooms … lit’. Each room provides its own challenge: ‘In one room serpents, in another wars,’ until finally we come to a room of prayer, and there at the centre he concludes with this amazing couplet:

And there in the center, where I lie dead,
To Love my very being says, 'I Thee wed'.

That - that - is so simple, so paradoxical, so profound; a cri de coeur when all human resource fails, and the soul cries out. And what it cries, of course, entirely justifies the archaic 'Thee', as it invokes the language of the wedding service. This is a poem that repays many, many re-readings.

And on the subject of ‘many’, many poets disappoint with their endings; they start well, have something interesting to say, but somehow can't get to a satisfying conclusion. Not Shakespeare's sonnets, though, and not Joseph Mackenzie’s: his sonnets specialise in superb concluding couplets that could almost be standalones, so aphoristic and powerful are they. Here are three good examples:

Sonnet 11: Song of the Magi
We followed in the fullness of the night,
And found the fragile Origin of light.

Sonnet 35: Adventus 3
And you shall understand that all along,
The cries I filled the desert with were song

Sonnet 58: Ego Sum – and here I must give the preceding quatrain because – frankly – it is too exciting to omit:
I do not know why some men cannot see,
Or why they kill what they pretend to love;
I only know that this great verb, ‘to be,’
Can only enter thought but from above,

And pray, with sorrow’s cloth upon my head,
That I shall not be found among the dead.

This leads on to a consideration of Mackenzie's attitude to the Christian story; and it is one that I consider the nearest approximation we can get to the 'truth'. Namely, that the whole narrative is both literal and mythical at the same time. To be literal but not mythical is to limit its application; to be mythical but not literal is to circumscribe its power. We see this plainly in not just the specifically Christ-bits of the narrative, but in all the other Biblical and theological allusions he makes.

Take Sonnet 62: Ennui. 
Had Adam never turned his mind away
From Life, or genuflected to mere dust ...

This clearly treats the Garden of Eden story as both literal and mythical: it recognises what virtually all early cultures recognised, that at the beginning humanity was involved in some aboriginal calamity which is why, unlike the gods, we die. It's why the early civilisations believed not in progress but regress; that the Golden Age was long gone and now we lived in an age of iron. Religion - religions - is the only, and necessary, appropriate response to that calamity. But Mackenzie see the Eden story as only a poet can: instead of the ‘fruit’, now we have Adam turning 'his mind away' (and notice the brilliant line break which mimics the turning) from 'Life' - not stuffy old God. And then the genius word 'genuflecting' - Latinate, obscure, perfect - by way of contrast with all the other simple words: Adam effectively genuflected his own thinking - distorted it in other words - and the choice of diction here precisely mirrors that dire choice he made back then. In our choice of words - since they express or represent our choice of thought - we live or die. This level of writing is onomatopoeic or mimetic not only in diction but in structure and cast of thought, which is why it is so compelling.

And to elaborate just a moment on that fact, the choice of Shakespearean sonnet form is perfect for dialectics: thesis, antithesis, with a structural concluding couplet often providing the explosive, unexpected and illuminating synthesis. From the big architecture to the sonnet form, down to each loving line Mackenzie has crafted.

So, on the topic of lines, here are some beauties that I must share:

Sonnet 25: Ode to Autumn
“O rich intoner of our Mother’s grief”

Sonnet 28: Regnum Meun Non Est De Hoc Mundo
“And maggots stop the purchased mouth of praise”

Sonnet 38: The Adoration of the Shepherds
“The barn was warm though human hearts were cold”

I could go on, but I think my drift is clear: this is major poetry by a major poet, although it is so un-mainstream, anti-secular, purely devotional one cannot see the chattering media ever embracing. But what of its faults?

No whole work of poetry is perfect in its entirety; as Pope commented, 'even Homer nods'. And to put this in context, Gerard Manley Hopkins is one of my favourite poets, and I regard some of his lines and complete poems as some of the greatest in the English language; but there are passages in Hopkins where he gets carried away by his own metrical theories, by his super-ingenious cleverness, and by the sheer infelicity of lexical choice. So, in case I am thought to be too uncritical of Joseph Mackenzie's collection there a number of small - not for me important - elements that slightly jar. One, is the occasional penchant for archaic diction: mayst, 'tis, which I would not myself recommend. Also, his use and sprinkling of foreign languages, especially but not only, Latin, tends to make his work appear more highbrow and elitist than it really is. Others may complain of his use of big abstractions, signified with capital letters, like Love, Beauty, and Truth. Plato has indeed returned, and the modern world won’t like it, for like Pontius Pilate they like the question ‘What is truth?’ better. But these are minor caveats to my way of thinking; the poetry is a gold mine of multiple treasures, and anyone studying what Mackenzie is doing will learn a massive amount, quite apart from experiencing some absolutely beautiful poetry.

Finally, let me urge Mackenzie to get this book out as a hardback! I know he likes the oral tradition, but I cannot be alone in preferring to read a good-feel hardback book. And so that only leaves me to say, please go and access your version of this great work. It took forty years at least after Hopkins’ death for his work to be appreciated, so let’s hope Mackenzie gets due recognition long before that fact.

360 Degree Feedback: A Transformational Approach
360 Degree Feedback: A Transformational Approach
by Elva R Ainsworth
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.48

5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive Book on 360 - Read this if you intend implementing a 360 program, 12 April 2017
I have to say at the outset that 360 Feedback is a book that has surprised me; I was expecting a somewhat dour and tedious tome, but instead I have found a wonderfully informative book with many outstanding features. To name a few of them: the book is thorough, erudite, fluent, insightful, practical, compassionate as well as being passionate - Elva is a true advocate of the 360 Feedback process; not only has she read deeply in and around the topic, but she has also, as her text makes clear, done some serious work with serious organisations in enabling them to gain considerable benefits from the process. On top of all that, Elva has a real talent for one-liners or one sentence that perfectly encapsulates the core of what she wants to say. For example, "Acceptance of things the way they are is the route to happiness and satisfaction", or "if you are highly commercial, for instance, you are highly unlikely to be very empathic". This is a very direct and effective style of writing.

So what does the book cover? There are 11 chapters and we start with understanding change and what the conditions are for true, transformational change. Some of this may be familiar, but sometimes it is necessary to go back to basics: be clear on intentions, understand forces of resistance, design the intervention that leads to change that sticks - because it forms new actions, new habits. But from this base we move into 360 Feedback in chapter two and what it provides: data. Citing Craig Mundie, "Data is becoming the new raw material of business", she goes on to identify the kind of data that works - that works at triggering effective change. For HR this data must be: Reliable, Valid, Credible, and Opinions, which a 'well-constructed 360 tool' provides, must comply with these three criteria. Step by step Ainsworth draws out the implications of data: what does it tell us, and what does it mean should be done? Alongside this, there is also plenty of illustrations of the kind of distortions that creep into data analysis, and which must be resisted.

Chapter 3 goes into the deeper philosophy of 360 Feedback and it is great to report that Ainsworth's reading is not just the usual management suspects; she has read widely across a whole range of fields, so that, for example, Ken Wilbur becomes a frequently quoted guiding light in her deliberations. Then in chapter 4 we learn how to construct a 360 feedback assessment tool. There is some fabulous advice and insight in this chapter and anyone in HR or elsewhere seriously wanting to construct their own assessment must read this chapter. For example, the advice on the number of questions likely to be useful in covering a competency: 12 for leadership being a minimum but still too many, so then how to go back and re-define the competence. This chapter is quite brilliant in enabling the reader to understand how a 360 Feedback tool needs to be constructed.

Now the focus shifts: in Chapter 5-7 we consider how the feedback makes the individual subject feel, for if they are left feeling negative, then the whole process has become counter-productive. This is a huge issue; for it will come as no surprise that it is very easy for human beings to take a dim view of the process that is being done to them. We come to explore Ainsworth's best techniques for preventing mishap, then. Effectively, the advice is really relevant not just to consultants, but all managers and coaches who have to feedback any aspect of an individual's performance, but in this case it is specifically feedback from all across the organisation. There are too many good ideas to cover in this short review, but perhaps for me the most striking observation are the ones about the double-sided coin of listening and asking good questions. Doing this kind of work really does require advanced interpersonal skills, including the ability not to be phased under pressure.

Chapters 8-9 explore how the data can be misinterpreted and what to do about it. Finally, in chapters 10-11 we cover getting buy in from a 'partner in the cause', preferably someone senior; and a chapter on getting us to realise that unless 360 Feedback is integrated into some higher purpose is will not fulfil its potential for the organisation. It is in other words a feature contributing - hopefully - towards a much bigger benefit. All in all, then, a fabulous book.

That said though, I have to say that I have 3 reservations, not about the book per se, but about 360 Feedback generally; the book does not remove my reservations.

First, 360 Feedback seems to me, despite the claim that it can be done for 'nothing' -   "It can be delivered at no cost" - an incredibly expensive undertaking. Forget even the cost of consultants and do it yourself, still the time taken to construct a really effective - reliable, valid, credible - instrument would be enormous; time taken to brief and get buy-in would be even more; and then we have all the time taken getting people to report on each other; and then the time taken to analyse the results and ensure correct data interpretation; followed by feedback and implementation itself. Phew!  I mean, who can afford all this?

And second, I dislike 360 Feedback for another reason: namely, it seems to me a usurpation of the manager's central function - to give feedback to his/her team members in order either to improve performance or enhance personal/career development. Why are we paying managers to do that if we need 360 Feedback to cover its tracks? Put another way, why aren't the managers better? It's as if we have a problem but rather than tackling the real problem we sort out another one instead.

But third, and this is where the book alas - because it is so good - only reinforces my prejudice: you need a PhD to implement 360 Feedback!!! How the everyday HR professional can find the time to master all the knowledge and skills they are going to need to make this happen flies in the face of reality so far as I am concerned. Sure, there will be those few - as there are for some a-typical psychometric or other esoteric tool or idea - who will love this stuff: indeed, getting their CEO to sign off on it will all be part of their own personal development programme - job done - but I cannot see this ever becoming mainstream as dynamic as it potentially is.

Thus, I conclude that this is a wonderful book, well worth reading, and mining for good ideas, but I am sceptical as to whether this really is a viable solution for any organisation (unless it has very deep pockets) to use to transform itself. There are other, I think, more effective tools, but here's to Elva Ainsworth: I love her expertise and her enthusiasm, they are very contagious!

The Entrepreneur's Guide To Book Marketing Success: Grow Your Business, Become The Expert & Own The Space You're In
The Entrepreneur's Guide To Book Marketing Success: Grow Your Business, Become The Expert & Own The Space You're In
by Georgia Kirke
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.77

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great new book to help authors market more effectively, 27 Jan. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This timely booklet of 62 pages may be just what you need to pep up your own marketing and brand, and/or simply do the thing it promises: namely, get your book out there and enable it to become a “strategic business development asset”.

I have to say at the outset that I was intrigued to read this book, since writing (I have had over 30 books published) and publishing (and my books have been with many of the major publishers such as Pearson and Routledge as well as self-published via Lulu) have been central preoccupations of mine for well over 30 years. The thing is: if you are published by a major you tend to assume that they are responsible for marketing your book, and so do nothing yourself; and if you self-publish, by the time you finish writing the book, you often have very little energy left to promote it. And to be honest too: many authors suffer from the idea that their writing is intrinsically interesting so that they simply have to write and publish and – voila! – their merits will be discovered. Alas, such a fantasy is delusion at best, and dangerous at worst. Many fine books have been published only to disappear entirely from view for the want of adequate marketing and sales.

Like any other activity designed to make money, publishing is a business (albeit a weird one!) and one needs to consider not only the alpha (writing the book) but also the omega successfully getting it to market). Does Georgia Kirke’s slim volume help you do that?

The answer has to be a resounding yes: this is an amazingly helpful and straightforward book. Its brevity is a strength, especially for busy business people who need to get to the heart of the matter quickly. In order to turn your book into a ‘strategic business development asset’, then, Kirke recommends four pillars or four assumptions that she unpacks: one, that ‘your book marketing and the quality of the book’s contents are of equal importance’. That seems to me very hard and very realistic: marketing a book that contains nugatory content is pointless. Two, taking the long view pays. In other words, one has to be strategic; it’s a bit like pets – they are for life, not just Christmas! Three, book marketing works best with a plan. Hardly a revelation that, but actually so important to stress because so many people think they can make it without one. Four, one size doesn’t fit all. And this is true too: if there were just one way of making a success of book publishing, then everyone would be doing it. One needs creativity here as much as anywhere else if one is to make an impact.

With these assumptions established, then, Kirke goes on to unpack the three stages of publishing self-promotion. Many good ideas and pieces of useful advice follow. My own favourite, which shows me that Kirke really knows her stuff, is in her advice on becoming an Amazon best seller. As she comments: “you can become a bestseller for all of half an hour or so, by tagging your book in less popular categories, arranging for a load of them to be bought on the same day it comes out and lining up reviews for publishing day’, but as she then realistically comments: “achieving bestseller status in that way may not do much for you”. Her view – which I echo – is that “you’re therefore better off focussing on how you can reward your readers for picking up your book in the first place, making the read so valuable they talk about it, share it and most importantly, action it”.

But I have saved the best for last. The really outstanding feature of Kirke’s book is the final chapter, and the book is worth its price for this chapter alone. Indeed, it is barely a chapter in the traditional sense: it is a list of 80 marketing tools and ideas to promote your book, and they are quite superb. I went through all of them and realised that in my time I had only actioned about half of the 80 – that there were 40 or so ideas that my wife and I would now need to review that could be extremely useful to the promotion of my books. So time to be busy and action stuff!!

Thus, I wholly recommend Georgia Kirke’s to any author, but especially to self-published authors who want to create an extra edge for the promotion of their books. This is a must-read.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 27, 2017 12:09 PM GMT

In The Now
In The Now
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars If you love the Bee Gees, buy Barry Gibb - it's Fab, 26 Nov. 2016
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This review is from: In The Now (Audio CD)
More genius from the most talented of the three genius Bee Gee brothers. Yes the voice isn't quite what it was, but great songs, fabulous productions, and deeply satisfying CD

Apple iMac 21.5" Core i3-540 3.06GHz 8GB 500GB DVDRW WiFi iSight Webcam Bluetooth OS X Sierra (Certified Refurbished)
Apple iMac 21.5" Core i3-540 3.06GHz 8GB 500GB DVDRW WiFi iSight Webcam Bluetooth OS X Sierra (Certified Refurbished)
Offered by hoxtonmacs
Price: £449.99

5.0 out of 5 stars iMacs Wonderful and Very Superior to PCs, 26 Nov. 2016
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After 20 years of Microsoft, I have switched entirely now to Apple - and this iMac is a revelation. I love it. And it is so superior in every way to Microsoft I can scarcely believe it has taken me so long to switch. I'd recommend an iMac to anyone who wants a machine that does what you want it too and seems to understand what you want to do!

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