Readerly Rambles: 08/15/2012

What I’ve Read:  Monday night I stayed up way too late to finish Deborah Blum’s Ghost Hunter’s: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death.  This is a book that I’ve checked-out of the library at least three times, yet I never made it to actually reading it.  I’m so glad I finally picked it up because I was riveted. 

Blum explores the Victorian and Edwardian fascination with Spiritualism and focuses on a small group of English and American scientists, philosophers, and psychologists who attempted to make the exploration of the spiritual an actual science.  Despite the scientist prodigious work, lengthy research and experiments,and skeptic’s eye, the scientific community pretty much blackballed those in psychical research even though some of the scientists went on to win knighthoods, prizes, and many other distinctions for their innovations in biology, chemistry, and physics.  Blum explores the scientifc communities backlash being grounded in the schism between Darwinian theories of natural selection and evolution  and religion.  Science wanted nothing to do with religion and strongly viewed religion as a sign of weakness in man.  James and other scientists, however, viewed the belief in religion, afterlife, or spirits as something that helps Man aspire to morality and they questioned the ideal of a soulless society.

In addition to all of the scientific information, Blum also details eerily details of unexplainable psychical phenomena and showcases the many fraudulent spiritualists that teemed the streets of London and New York. 

If you loved Sarah Waters’ novel Affinity, enjoy science history presented in a narrative fashion, and have an interest in the Victorian / Edwardian era, then you will greatly enjoy this book.  But, in the words of Reading Rainbow, “don’t take my word for it!”

What I’m Reading:  I’m nearly done with my volume of ghost stories.  I’ve read 11 of the 16 stories and I’m confident enough to say that this is the most finely chosen ghost story anthology I’ve ever read.  One story was humorous and another not frightening but intriguing, but the rest of the stories have scared the living daylights out of me.  In fact, Friday night I was at home reading, with a mug of tea in hand, and the kids were asleep.  Sam was out for the evening and I was enjoying a lovely night of solitude.  It began to rain and that rain turned into a storm; or, as my grandma would say, ” a gullywasher.”  Lightening cracked and a river seemed to be forming in my front yard.  I heaved off the couch to make some more tea (decaf, of course) and while walking to the kitchen I glanced outside the sunroom window.  At that moment, a huge bolt of lightning cracked across the sky illuminating the rivulets of water forming outside.  I was reminded of the scene in the Woman in Black film with the dead ghosty children in the rain.  I scared myself to death, ran to my bedroom, and decided to not look out the window.  The stories had put me in a creeped out mood and then the storm just did me in.  To compound the horrors I realized I was out of decaf Earl Grey.

What’s Up Next:  I’m going to change things up a bit and read a parenting book and some literary fiction.  I interlibrary loaned a copy of Mayim Bialik’s attachment parenting book entitled Beyond the Sling and I plan on starting Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot.  August is shaping up to be an excellent reading month.

Happy Reading, y’all!

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One comment

  1. I enjoyed The Marriage Plot. It really appealed to my English major tendencies.
    The interlibrary loan is surely my downfall. I go a little crazy and end up with 6 or 8 books in my request queue. Then they all come in at the same time…sigh…

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