This week's acquisitions
* The Emperor's Giraffe and other Stories of Cultures in Contact, by Samuel M Wilson.
You can read his giraffe story, in which one is shipped from Bengal and the other from Africa to China here. It deals with the way in which China, apparently having the military/economic power to conquer the world, instead decided to draw back into itself. (A story also fascinatingly, if controversially, explored in Gavin Menzies's 1421: The Year China Discovered the World, which concludes the Chinese fleet completed a global circumnavigation.)
The blurb says the book overall examines 23 moments in history "when two cultures previously unknown to each other, first came into contact. Focusing on individuals caught by chance in pivotal times and places, Wilson explores the ways in which seemingly small decisions made during the initial contact period between two cultures have had a huge impact on the course of history." ... not quite the "Great Man" theory of history, more like the "bumbling man".
* Young Medieval Women, Katherine J. Lewis, Noel James Menuge and Kim M Phillips, which contains the delightful quote from a York ordinance of 1301: "No one shall keep pigs which go in the streets by day or night, nor shall any prostitute stay in the city." (p. 172)
* The Creation of Feminist Consciousness: From the Middle Ages to 1870, Gerda Lerner
* The Diary of a Provincial Lady, E.M. Delafield, Virago, 2003, originally published in 1930, which is my current bedtime reading, a delightful text for that. Inevitably Delafield is billed as the "Bridget Jones" of the time, but she's a much better writer, and very clearly feminist.
She is delightfully caustic about human behaviour (including her own) and the book is a wonderful lesson that you can write a great book about anything at all, even the most apparently dull, provincial life.
"Receive a letter from Mary K. with postscript: Is it true that Barbara Blenkinsop is engaged to be married? and am also asked the same question by Lady B., who looks in on her way to some ducal function on the other side of the county.
Have no time to enjoy being in the superior position of bestowing information, as Lady B. at once adds that she always advises girls to marry, no matter what the man is like, as any husband is better than none, and there are not nearly enough to go round.
I immediately refer to Rose's collection of distinguished Feminists, giving her to understand that I know that all well and intimately, and have frequently discussed the subject with them. Lady B. waves her hand - (in elegant white kid, new, not cleaned) and declares That may be all very well, but if they could have got husbands they wouldn't be Feminists.
I instantly assert that all have had husbands, and some two or three. This may or may not be true, but have seldom known stronger homicidal impulse. Final straw is added when Lady B. amiably observes that I, at least, have nothing to complain of, as she always thinks Robert such a safe, respectable husband for any woman.
Give her briefly to understand that Robert is in reality a compound of Don Juan, the Marquis de Sade, and Dr Crippen, but that we do not care to let it be known locally.
Cannot say whether she is or is not impressed by this, as she declares herself obliged to go, because ducal function "cannot begin without her". (p 56-57)
A tag: [books]