Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
Fun book focused on understanding Arabian Nights, though quite long
on 4 February 2015
Review courtesy of www.subtleillumination.com
In Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights, Marina Warner examines the presence of enchantment and magic in everyday culture, and the reasons for its continued persistence despite its difficult co-existence with science. To do so, she studies how the perception of magic and imagination has evolved over history in the context of the Arabian Nights, and worries magic has been made more comfortable for Western audiences through the exoticisation of Oriental material.
She begins each chapter with a chosen story from the Arabian Nights, and analyzes it in detail before moving on to its larger implications. For me, this was actually the highlight of the book: I haven’t read the Arabian Nights in years, and having someone explain the context of the stories was fascinating. She covers Shahrazad’s gradual move from stories of men wronged by women to stories portraying women as victims, eventually earning the Sultan’s forgiveness for all women and his agreement to stop executing one per day.
The book, however, is almost impossible to take good notes on: she moves directly from Mongolian Shamanism to Obama’s Dreams from my Father, all in the context of understanding dreams. Such tangled webs make for interesting reading, though some chapters seem to lack relevance. That said, her thesis on the importance of imagination is one I am sympathetic to, and the framing of the issue in Arabian Nights is excellent. All of us might be better off if we were a little more willing, even in this rational world, to indulge in magic, both strange and everyday.