Thursday, May 31, 2018

Stuart Hall: Conversations, Projects and Legacies. Julian Henriques and David Morley with Vana Goblot (eds). Goldsmiths Press. 2017.

Stuart Hall: Conversations, Projects and Legacies is a record of a conference held on 28 November 2014 at Goldsmiths, University of London, to celebrate and commemorate Stuart Hall and his intellectual and political legacy as an academic, public intellectual and friend. Split into six parts, the book is a gathering together of insights into Hall’s work, which spans subjects including multiculturalism, ethnicity, race, nationhood, diaspora, postcolonialism, media representations and cultural theory, and also includes reflections on its relevance to contemporary society. Through speeches given by friends and former colleagues, this posthumous Festschrift praises Hall as a founder of Cultural Studies, outlines his contribution to the discipline and demonstrates his influence upon others’ research. This review is divided in themes, beginning with Hall’s legacy.

Within the collection, several writers attend to Hall’s enduring legacy and the elasticity of his work. Bill Schwarz eulogises the interdisciplinary nature of Hall’s research: its versatile applicability and adaptability to a smorgasbord of disciplines. James Curran remarks on Hall’s interpretation of the media’s role in the maintenance of the status quo through the preservation of power structures which champion specific and unchanging sources as the definers of the news, and therefore reality. Hall’s appropriation of Antonio Gramsci’s theory of cultural hegemony, the upkeep of which relies upon consent rather than violent coercion maintained by cultural norms that develop into ‘common sense’, presented the media as a site of competition where opposing ethnic, gender and class ideologies are conveyed through conflicting expressions.

Angela McRobbie ruminates on Hall’s particular contribution to understanding the welfare state by considering his analysis of its reformation under the governments of Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and David Cameron. Hall highlighted the power of the media and culture in the dismantling of the welfare state, which has resulted in the widening of social inequalities. McRobbie shows Hall’s understanding of the potency of words in the constitution of society’s moral climate through the entrenching of political meaning via mediatised imagery. McRobbie magnifies the relevance of Hall’s work to contemporary society, where it is sorely needed to interrogate the media’s role in the construction of ‘common sense’ as well as notions of the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving poor’ (59).

Hall is described as redefining politics by broadening it to encompass culture with its complex questions and considerations of representation as well as the ‘ever unfinished conversation of identity’ (130, original emphasis). Charlotte Brunsdon praises Hall’s gift of enabling others to see ‘the complexity and the broader significance of what they were trying to apprehend’ (151). Legacy is not just about what he thought but ‘how he ‘‘did thinking’’- with others, in constant dialogue, a practice of exploring, of learning, of teaching, of making thinking’ (152). Hall’s collaborative nature is crystallised in the fact that he drew upon knowledge from a range of fields to illuminate a specific case. One discipline produces limited optics, whereas a holistic stance allows for a case to be studied and evaluated from various angles to produce richer interpretations, and this stands as lesson for multidisciplinary work within and beyond academia.

Hall’s conjunctural analysis is another major theme in the book, with several writers explaining its application in research. Conjunctural analysis deals with heterogeneous contradictions and multiplicities by addressing ‘specific contexts and constellations of issues’ (71). John Clarke clarifies that a conjuncture is the concentration of social, political, economic and ideological contradictions. David Morley also advocates ‘singularities and local detail’ (49) over abstract theorisation for meaningful research. This is particularly poignant in studies where categories of experience such as race, ethnicity and gender are interrelated and can only be robustly interrogated through conjuncturalism. For example, Avtar Brah writes that Hall understood that racism is not an abstract entity, but rather has an intersectional relationship with other social forces such as class, gender and sexuality in a particular historical period (176), and this is echoed by David Edgar who comments that Hall ‘anticipated the treatment of Muslims today’ (96). Thus, racism must be investigated contextually and conjuncturally. Here there is acknowledgement of Hall’s appreciation of the plurality and particularity of theory and the need for its context-specific use.

In her chapter, Brah highlights Hall’s co-authored work, Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State, and Law and Order, as a conjunctural analysis of the ‘‘‘crisis of the social order’’ of pre-Thatcherite years’ (175). Hall brought an understanding of ‘Thatcherism’ to the public (which emerged from the crisis of Powellism) and of its morality, which validated ‘authoritarian populism’ (175). Hall criticised Thatcherism as harking back to British colonialism and imperialism and popularising moral panic around the ‘racial dilution of national character’ (175). As Iain Chambers makes clear, here Hall’s work is particularly potent and applicable in the analysis of anti-migrant sentiment and Brexit in the UK and of the migrant and refugee crisis occurring in Europe. Hall’s dealing with ‘non-authorised versions of modernity […] which drew British culture into unsuspected combination’ (241) inspires Chambers’s view of the influx of migrants and refugees as a destabilising force who may ‘contaminate and creolise the landscape’ (246), resulting in dominant narratives being disrupted by interfering ‘counter-histories’ (246).

Angela Davis, who gave the keynote speech at this memorial conference, honours Hall’s ‘capacity to bridge intellectual gaps, to traverse theoretical and political positions’ (255). Like Brah, she highlights the continuing relevance of Policing the Crisis, especially in its interrogation of the militarisation of policing and the justification of racialised state violence. Davis therefore calls for the continued conjunctural analysis of race and crime in contemporary society.

Certain contributors look at the wide-ranging global appeal of Hall’s work and its adaptability for other countries, political systems and cultures. For example, Liv Sovik writes that Hall’s work was and still is appropriated in Brazil, where he can be read as a ‘Marxist high theorist’ and a ‘reception and media studies theorist’ in the context of diasporic studies (234). Kuan-Hsing Chen speaks of the empowering influence of Hall’s work in East Asia where it was exported and utilised to scrutinise ‘local political configurations’ and invigorate ‘nascent autonomous social movements of the left’ in Taiwan (238). Hall’s work is transposable because it can be translated idiosyncratically into different contexts, which makes it effective in political analyses.

The final section of the collection, ‘Biographies and Institutional Histories’, concentrates on a photo essay by Mahasiddhi (Roy Peters) with words by Bob Lumley. Hall is commended as an inspiration for a ‘new generation of artistic work in film, video and photography concerned with matters of race, ethnicity and culture’; and the contributors are typified as owing him an ‘intellectual debt’ (270). This point is made elsewhere in the volume, where artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah talks at length about Hall’s influence on the black arts movement in eighties Britain (185). Part Seven is comprised of photographs of those whose lives were touched by Hall, and excerpts of how Hall’s research and his personality influenced their own work, including Frank Mort (Professor of Cultural Histories, University of Manchester) and Dick Hebdige (Professor of Art Studio, Film and Media Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara).

Overall, the book’s intention is encapsulated in the Afterword by Catherine Hall, the feminist historian who was married to Stuart Hall: to provide a record of a day remembering Hall, celebrating his work and ‘holding onto what Stuart had meant and would continue to mean for us’ (304). It is clear that Hall will be remembered as more than an academic: here, he is memorialised as a public intellectual with a commitment to problem-solving. The purpose of this comprehensive collection on Hall’s influence is also to celebrate him as a kind friend and to begin ‘a new series of conversations, debates and lines of enquiry that will take the legacy of Stuart Hall’s particular type of cultural studies through into new areas for the future’ (270).

MADAME BOVARY Provincial Ways By Gustave Flaubert Translated by Lydia Davis 342 pp. Viking. $27.95

Poor Emma Bovary. She will never escape the tyranny of her desires, never avoid the anguish into which her romantic conceits deliver her, never claim the oblivion she sought from what is perhaps the most excruciating slow suicide ever written. Her place in the literary canon is assured; she cannot be eclipsed by another tragic heroine. Instead, each day she will be resurrected by countless readers who will agonize over the misery she brings herself and everyone around her and wonder at Flaubert’s ability to, godlike, summon life from words on a page.

The power of “Madame Bovary” stems from Flaubert’s determination to render each object of his scrutiny exactly as it looks, or sounds or smells or feels or tastes. Not his talent to do so — that would not have been enough — but his determination, which he never relaxed. “Madame Bovary” advanced slowly, as slowly as it would have to have, given an author who held himself accountable to each word, that it be the right word, of which there could be only one. “A good sentence in prose,” he wrote, “should be like a good line in poetry, unchangeable.”

As Lydia Davis describes Flaubert’s work habits in the introduction to her translation of the book that “permanently changed the way novels were written thereafter,” Flaubert’s attention to detail was as painstaking as humanly possible. He spent up to 12 hours a day at his desk, for months at a time, discarding far more material than he kept and reporting as little progress as a single page per week. Given the pressure Flaubert applied to each sentence, there is no greater test of a translator’s art than “Madame Bovary.” Faithful to the style of the original, but not to the point of slavishness, Davis’s effort is transparent — the reader never senses her presence. For “Madame Bovary,” hers is the level of mastery required.

Having taken to heart the advice of his best friend, the poet Louis Bouilhet (to whom he dedicated “Madame Bovary”), Flaubert settled on a mundane topic to suppress his admitted “tendency to wax lyrical and effusive in response to exotic materials.” (An early draft of “The Temptation of Saint Anthony” was so purple Bouilhet suggested he burn it.) Adultery, financial ruin: these dramas played out in every social circle, Flaubert’s included. Emma’s fate is borrowed from two real-life cautionary tales, the adultery and suicide of Delphine Delamare, and the heedless extravagance that bankrupted Louise Pradier. If the plot was a simple enough equation, adding one vain, selfish act to another until they collectively resulted in disaster, the demands Flaubert placed on his execution of the narrative were severe and absolute.

Readers cannot like Emma Bovary, and yet they follow her with the kind of attention reserved for car wrecks, whether literal or metaphorical. How can a covetous, small-minded woman, incapable of love and (as she feels no true connection to anyone) terminally bored by her life, fascinate us as she succumbs to one venal impulse after the next? Flaubert commands his audience’s attention by rendering every aspect of Emma’s life — he called his novel “a biography” — with such skill that readers need not willingly suspend disbelief. Whether or not they admire Flaubert’s masterwork, they cannot doubt its trenchant, often uncanny realism.

On the face of it, Emma Bovary’s life assumes the shape of that of another celebrated heroine. Anna Karenina has a repellent husband, embarks on an affair with a man who ultimately betrays her love, and commits suicide. But Anna is sympathetic; her tragedy results as much from her circumstances (a woman who must yield to the conventions of 19th-century Russian society) as from her character. Married to an unfeeling man 20 years her senior, Anna doesn’t smother the passion Vronsky awakes in her. Her innate decency cannot overcome her hunger for love. Readers root for Anna and watch Emma with increasing horror, because Emma forces us to confront the human capacity for existential, and therefore insatiable, emptiness. Fatally self-absorbed, insensible to the suffering of others, Emma can’t see beyond the romantic stereotypes she serves, eternally looking for what she expects will be happiness. Anna remains vulnerable to her husband’s threat to take away the son she loves; when Emma isn’t being actively cruel, she ignores her daughter, motherhood having turned out to be one more reality that didn’t measure up to her fantasy of it.

Emma doesn’t have character flaws so much as she lacks character itself. She’s a vacuum, albeit a sensitive and sensual one, sucking up every ready-made conceit. As a convent student Emma mistakes her “ardent veneration for illustrious or ill-­fated women” like Joan of Arc for a religious vocation, dreaming of voluptuous sacrifices perfumed by incense. Contemplating her future with Charles Bovary, she wanted “to be married at midnight, by torchlight,” expecting matrimony to teach her the meaning of “the words ‘bliss,’ ‘passion’ and ‘intoxication,’ which had seemed so beautiful to her in books.” Seduced by Rodolphe, Emma feels her most intense pleasure alone, before a mirror, when she looks at her newest self and repeats over and over: “I have a ­lover! A lover!”

As for that lover, after taking Emma riding into the woods and ravishing her there, “­Rodolphe, a cigar between his teeth, was mending with his penknife one of the bridles, which had broken.” This sentence is worth a day’s work, if that’s what it took Flaubert to assemble the details necessary to illuminate so critical a moment in Emma’s plummet. The dastard’s teeth already sunk in a subsequent gratification of his appetite; the phallic penknife; the broken restraint; the experience of drawing a previously chaste woman into adultery so unaffecting that his attention has already strayed to a routine chore: what more is needed to confirm ­Rodolphe’s base nature? The seduction accomplished, it’s only a matter of time before he casts Emma aside, before she takes and is disappointed by another lover, before she falls prey to the money-lender Lheureux.

Flaubert’s “scorn for the bourgeoisie,” whose essence he intended Emma to represent, was based, above all, in its tendency to unconsciously appropriate and serve existing sentiments. Because Emma never questions the validity of her fantasies, borrowed from romance novels or inspired by attending an aristocrat’s ball, she embraces the terms of her disappointment over and over again. Turning her back on the real love she is offered, Emma is always waiting for someone or something better, at the very least the next distraction from her restless ennui. Her 19th-century death — after swallowing the one thing to permanently satisfy hunger: poison — might occur in any age, including our own, and summons less grief than gratitude. At last she has solved the problem of herself.

It is a shame Flaubert will never read Davis’s translation of “Madame Bovary.” Even he would have to agree his masterwork has been given the English translation it deserves.

Flush (Oxford World's Classics (Paperback)) UK ed. Edition by Virginia Woolf (Oxford University Press)

Through all her days as a novelist Virginia Woolf has been straining to burst the trammels that are the accepted limitations of most writing people. In her famous Hogarth pamphlet, "Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown," read before the Heretics Society at Cambridge, she launched a formidable attack upon the reputation of Arnold Bennett. The novelist of the Five Towns, she granted, was an adept at knowing the kind of house Mrs. Brown lived in, the trams in which she rode, the dishes and spices upon her table, the flowers in her window box, the news in the daily papers she read; but where, asked Mrs. Woolf with a note of mock supplication, was the essential Mrs. Brown, the real Mrs. Brown?

If the world has generally returned an answer compounded of the question of jesting Pilate and the philosophy of Bishop Berkeley, that has not prevented Mrs. Woolf from pursuing her psychological inquiries through many novels from "Jacob's Room" to "Orlando." She has tried to reduce fiction to a poetical record of "states of consciousness" - and her success has varied precisely as the individual reader varies in regarding subjective floating images or the concrete dishes and spices upon the table as the more "real."

In her efforts, sometimes agonized, to get at the hidden core, the inner springs, of life, Mrs. Woolf must often have felt the inadequacy of mere words. And in "Flush," which is a brilliant biographical tour de force that brings the cocker spaniel of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to life, she confesses as much. In seeking to record the states of consciousness of a dog, Mrs. Woolf is more successful, it seems to us, than she ever was at adumbration of the psychic life of human beings.

And the reason is easy to see: a cocker spaniel sees, feels, hears and smells - all without the use of classifying language. Mrs. Woolf can present the world of Flush as a delicious or a fearful floating spectacle of scent, sight and sound - and there is no great need of orderly Arnold Bennettish catalogue.

"It must be admitted," says Mrs. Woolf, "that there are very few authorities for the foregoing biography." We do not know exactly when Flush was born, but we do know that he came into the possession of Miss Barrett of Wimpole Street in the Summer of 1842. He lived with her in an atmosphere of eau de cologne in the back bedroom, forgetting his romps and is hare hunts to become the solace of the invalid poet of "Sonnets From the Portuguese." When Robert Browning came to call, the jealous Flush twice bit him in the leg, but Robert forgave such patent devotion to Elizabeth. And, in time, the jealousy was transmuted to affection, as Flush became the Brownings' dog in the bright air of Florence and the Apennines.

Flush consuming Elizabeth Barrett's chicken and rice pudding, Flush stolen and hidden in a Whitechapel slum, Flush sniffing the Spring breezes in Regent Park, Flush growling at Robert, the suitor; Flush sick on a Channel boat, Flush lying in the hot Italian sun, Flush made wild by the redoubtable Tuscan fleas, ands Flush dying after a particularly frightening dream - all this serves as excuse for some of Mrs. Woolf's most sensitive writing. "Not a single one of his myriad sensations ever submitted itself to the deformity of words," says Mrs. Woolf of Flush; and in recreating primitive dog consciousness Mrs. Woolf has a holiday that all but releases her, the civilized woman of Bloomsbury, from bondage to "the deformity of words." She doesn't have to describe Florence in particularizing terms of the Uffizzi galleries, the bridges over the Arno, the paintings of Giotto; instead, like Flush, she can know it in its essentials of "marmoreal smoothness" and "its gritty and cobbled ro! ughness ***." She romps with primitive sensation as Flush must have romped over the bean fields near Reading before he went to live with the Barretts in stuffy London.

This is not a "cute" book for those who like to swoon over pets. Mrs. Woolf does no yearning over Flush. The life of the dog gives her an opportunity to indulge in some delicious Shandyesque writing, in contrarious non sequiturs for the sake of rambling off the path. There is one paragraph of amused humor which fixes Wimpole Street forever in its nineteenth century setting; it is the familiar essay at its best, hidden away in a book about a dog.

In the notes which she tucks away at the back Mrs. Woolf wanders into a discussion of "the demure, the most inhumanly correct British maids who were at that time the glory of the British maids who were at that time the glory of the British basement." She also muses over the Carlyles' dog, Nero. Did Nero jump from the top floor at Cheyne Row in a canine attempt at suicide? Did Tamas get on his nerves? Or was he merely pursuing a bird? Mrs. Woolf wonders, in this connection, whether dogs, like their masters, can be divided into Elizabethan, Jacobean, Hanoverian and Victorian dogs - whether, in short, a history of civilization could be presented from a dog's-eye view. If it is so to be presented, we hope Mrs. Woolf will do it.

The charm of Flush is so great that it leads one away form the Brownings. This book is, obliquely, a retelling of the most famous Victorian romance among the poets; and Mrs. Woolf would be the one to give that story its final fillip by glimpsing it from a dog's point of view.

Mrs. Woolf's "Flush" is not the only "Flush" on the market this Fall. In "Flush of Wimpole Street and Broadway" (McBride, $1.50), Flora Merrill has told the story of the spaniel who "created" the role of Flush in the Katharine Cornell play, "The Barretts of Wimpole Street." An appealing enough dog story, "Flush of Wimpole Street and Broadway" is none the less something of a come-down after Virginia Woolf. Elizabeth Barrett's letters to Robert about the original Flush are woven into the actor Flush's story; by these the reader may observe how Mrs. Woolf has used reality as the basis for fantasy and whimsy.

Outsmarting Apartheid: An Oral History of South Africa's Cultural and Educational Exchange With the United States, 1960-1999 by Daniel Whitman (Introduction), Kari Jaksa (Contributor) ( SUNY Press)

Inspiring oral history of the impact of cultural and educational exchange between South Africa and the United States during apartheid.

For almost forty years, under the watchful eye of the apartheid regime, some three thousand South Africans participated in cultural and educational exchange with the United States. Exposure to American democracy brought hope during a time when social and political change seemed unlikely. In the end the process silently triumphed over the resistance of authorities, and many of the individuals who participated in the program later participated in South Africa’s first democratic elections, in 1994, and now occupy key positions in academia, the media, parliament, and the judiciary. In Outsmarting Apartheid, Daniel Whitman, former Program Development Officer at the US Embassy in Pretoria, interviews the South Africans and Americans who administered, advanced, and benefited from government-funded exchange. The result is a detailed account of the workings and effectiveness of the US Information Agency and a demonstration of the value of “soft power” in easing democratic transition in a troubled area.

Outsmarting Apartheid is a major contribution to the study of ‘soft diplomacy.’ It is a wonderful picture of how the public diplomacy section of an embassy works and the positive impact it can have on advancing US interests. The detail of daily life under apartheid for South Africans of all races is fascinating and will become more important as memories of that period recede.” — John Campbell, author of Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink, Updated Edition

“This book fills an important void in the literature—it provides great insight, from the point of view of actual participants, in the dismantling of apartheid and the construction of a postapartheid democratic system in South Africa.” — John Mukum Mbaku, author of Corruption in Africa: Causes, Consequences, and Cleanups

Goldingay, John. Reading Jesus’s Bible: How the New Testament Helps Us Understand the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2017. 262 pp. Pb; $24.00. (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company

John Goldingay has recently written several short, popular level bo)oks. IVP Academic published his Do We Need the New Testament? (2015) and A Reader’s Guide to The Bible (2017). In both books Goldingay argues the Old Testament (or First Testament in Goldingay’s book) is the foundational for a proper understanding the New Testament. As he observed in Do We Need the New Testament?, few Christians would actually question the need for the First Testament, but they are usually ignorant of the contents beyond the basic “Sunday School” stories. Goldingay rightly observes, “in a sense, God did nothing new in Jesus” (Do We Need the New Testament?, 12).

This new book from Eerdmans develops this theme from a slightly different angle. In order to connect the New Testament to the First Testament, Goldingay lays out a series of themes (Story, Promises, Ideas, Relationships and Life) and develops three or four New Testament texts to illustrate how New Testament writers stand on the foundation of the Law and Prophets. This is the point of the title, Jesus and the writers of the New Testament not only read the First Testament, but use it as the bedrock for their theology and practice. For each of his themes, he will begin with a text from Matthew and then expand to other New Testament texts to show the importance of the First Testament for understanding the New Testament.

First, he argues Jesus is the climax of the story of the First Testament. In some ways canonical approaches to Scripture have helped theologians to keep the whole story of the Bible in mind, but not everyone approaches the Bible with that narrative in mind. He begins his chapter with four examples which demonstrate how the New Testament writers were thoroughly immersed in the narrative world of the First Testament (Matthew 1:1-17; Romans; 1 Corinthians 10; Hebrews 11). Goldingay then traces the general narrative of the First Testament.

Second, the First Testament contains the promises fulfilled in Jesus. Although this is clear in the first two chapters of Matthew where there is a “fulfillment formula,” the story of Jesus in the Gospels constantly points the reader back to the First Testament. After surveying the fulfilment texts in Matthew 1-2, Goldingay then turns to the promise-fulfillment motif in Luke-Acts. The chapter concludes with a survey of the Prophets with special attention to these promise.

Third, the First Testament provides the images and metaphors the New Testament writers employ to understand Jesus. Goldingay offers the example of Jesus’s baptism where the words from heaven echo the First Testament reminding the reader this is the same God who spoke the similar words to Abraham. In fact, the whole story is rich with metaphors drawn from the First Testament. He then turns to Romans, Hebrews and Revelation in order to show these three diverse writers (and genres) all draw on the First Testament as a metaphorical database. The chapter concludes with a nine page biblical theology of the First Testament in the new.

Fourth, the relationship of God and his people in the New Testament is drawn from the First Testament. Goldingay points out many parallels between Jesus’s relationship with God and the wilderness generation (Matthew 4:1-11) and the Beatitudes. He relates the Beatitudes to the Psalms as a response to God, then shows how other New Testament writers use the Psalms (Ephesians 5-6; Revelation 4-5; Hebrews 11). He concludes with a series of meditations on how God’s people respond to their God in both testaments (Remembering; Studying; Commitment; Celebrating; Protesting; Interceding, Arguing; Confessing; Trusting; Questioning; Thanking).

Finally, Goldingay also argues in this book the First Testament is the foundation for Jesus’s moral teaching. He returns to the Sermon on the Mount in order to discuss Jesus’s interpretation of the Law and interprets for his disciples. Goldingay then offers a brief overview of New Testament ethics in terms of virtues (integrity, for example) rationales (experience, for example) and topics (wealth for example). Each of these examples show the New Testament writers stand on the foundation of the First Testament, although some seem to stretch the original text to fit the New Testament ideal For example, Jesus clearly demands servant leadership from his disciples and demonstrates this by washing their feet (John 13). This kind of servant leadership is clear in the Pauline letters as well. But does the First Testament really support this idea? Goldingay says “in Eden Garden everyone was a servant” (p. 245). Possibly, but that is not at all evident in Genesis 2-3. His illustrations are mostly negative (the kings were not servant leaders) so God promises a real servant will come in the future (Isaiah 53).

Conclusion. The title Reading Jesus’s Bible is somewhat misleading, but the subtitle (“How the New Testament Helps Us Understand the Old Testament”) captures the essence of this book well. The book is an attempt at an integrated, whole-canon understanding of God and our relationship with him in the present era. Goldingay continues to promote the significance of the First Testament for Christians and this book will help readers to see the connections between the Old and the New. In fact, for Goldingay, there is no “Old and New,” the whole canon is the story of God.

Goldingay, John. Do We Need the New Testament? Letting the Old Testament Speak for Itself. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2015. 184 pp. Pb; $22.00. Link to IVP (IVP Academic)

John Goldingay is one of the foremost Old Testament scholars. His ICC commentaries on Isaiah 40-55, 56-66 in the International Critical Commentary series have established him as an excellent exegete and his “For Everyone” series (WJK) demonstrates his heart for communicating the Old Testament to lay-people reading the Bible. His massive three-volume Theology of the Old Testament (IVP) and The Theology of the Book of Isaiah (IVP) established Goldingay as a scholar interested in doing serious biblical theology. Yet Goldingay is not an ivory-tower scholar, he serves as an associate pastor at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Pasadena. What is more impressive to me, he lists on his vitathat he took his wife Ann to see Bob Dylan in 2002.

Do We Need the New Testament? is a scholarly, yet personally challenging look at the difficult problem of how the New Testament Christian approaches the Old Testament from a man more than qualified to write a book subtitled “letting the Old Testament speak for itself.” Since this is a lengthy review, I will break it up over two days.

In his introductory chapter, Goldingay explains his provocative title, “Do We Need the New Testament?” The title is of course intended to attract attention to the fact many Christians ignore the Old Testament, or the First Testament as Goldingay consistently calls it in the book. While few would actually question the need for the First Testament, Christians tend to be ignorant of the contents beyond the basic “Sunday School” stories. But as Goldingay rightly observes, “in a sense, God did nothing new in Jesus” (12).

In chapter 2 (Why is Jesus Important?), Goldingay wants to dispel any black/white contrast between the “Old Testament” and the teaching of Jesus. Popular Christian has created a loving and kind Jesus who stands in stark contrast to the wrathful God of the Old Testament. Part of the reason for this contrast is a lack clarity on what the Torah actually teaches as well as mis-characterizations of Judaism as a dour, works-oriented religion. While Jesus does have some distinctive teachings in the Gospels, he is usually consistent with the First Testament. His focus is on Israel and his ministry is consistent with Moses or Elijah and Elisha. Jesus fulfills the purpose of God in his death and resurrection, a purpose revealed in the First Testament.

Even though Jesus declared God’s kingdom has begun, Goldingay points out “in none of the Gospels does Jesus tell his disciples to extend the kingdom, work for the kingdom, build up the kingdom, or further the kingdom” (34). This is absolutely true, although popular preaching and worship media seems to think “bringing in the kingdom” was part of the Great Commission!

After connecting Jesus with the First Testament, Goldingay describes how the Holy Spirit was Present in the First Testament. As with the previous two chapters, this is a response to a commonly held belief that the Holy Spirit was inactive or rarely active in the First Testament. Part of the reason for this is the emphasis on the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, especially in the letters of Paul. Goldingay shows several texts in the First Testament which demonstrate the activity of a holy spirit (Ps 51, Isa 63:7-14, Joel 2). For Goldingay, God’s giving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is a fulfillment of his promise to Abraham to bless all the nations. He concludes this chapter with a short discussion of the need for the First Testament after the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. As he points out, while the New Covenant is initiated, the Holy Spirit has not yet fully written the Torah on the minds of believers.

In chapter 4 Goldingay from theology to a narrative reading of the whole Bible. He refers to the “Grand Narrative” of Scripture, but his interest in this chapter are the “Middle Narratives.” A middle narrative “articulates a memory of the past on a smaller scale” something like a “middle axiom” in philosophy. These are the supporting narratives for the Grand Narrative and are therefore important for the structure of the overall story of the Bible. But as Goldingay points out, Christians omit the contributions of the First Testament in their retelling of the Grand Narrative about Jesus. As he points out, “The Bible is not a live letter to us from God;” it does not describe a personal relationship between God and individual believers. It is the story of God’s faithfulness in redeeming humanity.

This emphasis is seen more clearly in several middle narrative in the First Testament. He outlines Genesis-Kings, Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah, Daniel; and Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel as there important “middle narratives” which have increasingly specific ways God will redeem the world from sin. In the New Testament, he considers the Gospels and Acts, Romans, and Ephesians as examples of middle Narratives. It is remarkable Ephesians is included since the book is often overlooked as deutero-Pauline, but Goldingay rightly points out Ephesians describes God’s will in the present age as a mystery: “What God has been doing in history as a whole is a secret now revealed” (85).

Goldingay, John. A Reader’s Guide to the Bible. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2017. 186 pp. Pb; $18.00. (IVP Academic)

Having contributed the ICC commentary on Isaiah 40-55 and a massive three-part theology of the Old Testament, John Goldingay has more recently written several short, popular level books. In 2015 IVP published his Do We Need the New Testament? and Eerdmans has recently published Reading Jesus’s Bible. In his new A Reader’s Guide to The Bible, Goldingay synthesizes the varied content of the whole Bible under the headings of story, word, and response.

Goldingay has two chapters of introduction before discussing the three genres of the Bible. First he summarizes the events of both the Old and New Testaments in a short 16 page chapter. He begins with Abraham to Moses, Moses to David, then David to Exile. He includes a quick survey of the intertestamental period, and only briefly the history of the first century. Although this is a reader’s guide to the Bible, his summary chart on pages 19-20 ends with the rise of Greece and only identifies Old Testament books and characters. His second introductory chapter concerns the land of the Bible. Like his survey of the history of the Bible, Goldingay favors the geography of the Old Testament. To be fair, the geography does not change between the testaments, but there are many locations which only appear in the New Testament.

In the second section of the book Goldingay surveys the “story of God and His People.” This is an overview of what are normally considered to be the historical books of the Old Testament. He breaks the material into Genesis through Numbers (ch. 3) and Deuteronomy through Kings (ch. 4). This might strike some readers as odd since Deuteronomy is part of the Torah. But Goldingay recognizes the book of Deuteronomy casts a long shadow over the four major historical books (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings), which are often referred to as the Deuteronomic History. He covers the post-exilic books of Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah into a frustratingly short six page chapter, followed by a four page chapter on the “short stories” of the Old Testament, Ruth, Esther, Jonah and Daniel. He then devotes a fifth chapter in this section to the story of Jesus and the church (the Gospels and Acts). For most Christian readers it might be a shock to see the history of the New Testament boiled down to only one-fifth the story of the Bible, but Goldingay is true to the content of the whole Bible, the story of Jesus in the Gospels and the church in Acts is only about 60 years (with almost half of that time the un-narrated events prior to the ministry of Jesus).

The third section of the book concerns God’s word to his people. Here Goldingay covers the Law in Exodus through Deuteronomy (ch. 8); the prophets (Isaiah through Malachi, ch. 9); the New Testament epistles (Romans through Jude, ch. 10); some of the wisdom literature (Proverbs and Song of Solomon, ch. 11) and “visions of the seers” (Daniel and Revelation, ch. 12). In these chapters Goldingay attempts to place those sections of the Bible which are not narrative back into the story of the Bible from section two of the book. As anyone who has taught a Bible Survey class knows, it is difficult for students to place the less-than-familiar prophets into the well-known stories of the Old Testament. These books make the most sense when they are in fact put into the proper historical context. For each book in these sections Goldingay offers a brief paragraph or two commenting on the contents of the book and connecting back to the larger story of the Bible. Larger books like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel receive a few pages, the Minor Prophets are only given a short summary each. The letters of Timothy, Titus, Philemon and 2 John are all dispatched in an eleven line paragraph.

The third section of the book deals with Israel’s response to God in the Psalms and Lamentations (ch. 13) and other wisdom books (Ecclesiastes and Job, ch. 14). Like most brief surveys of the Psalms, Goldingay examines several psalm types, including the most common, lament. As Goldingay himself recognizes, it is “slightly arbitrary” to treat Job and Ecclesiastes in a different chapter than Proverbs. When I teach the Wisdom Literature I usually use these two books as examples of the wisdom life gone wrong. Along with several Psalms which lament the absence of God, Goldingay considers these two books as a kind of protest literature for people who have responded to Law and Wisdom yet still suffer unexpectedly in this life.

Conclusion. In his epilogue to A Reader’s Guide to the Bible, Goldingay offers a short response to Christians who question the need for the Old Testament. This is similar to his Do We Need the New Testament?, but obviously more brief. In fact, this epilogue encapsulates my two minor criticisms of the book. First, it is far too brief. Although I realize it is written for the layperson and it is only intended as a sampling of the contents of the Bible, I think a quest for brevity kept Goldingay from providing enough material to really satisfy. This book is a very light hors d’oeuvre to the feast that is the study of the Bible. Second, I think Goldingay spends too much time arguing for the importance of the Old Testament for the Christian reader. This is a point with which I wholeheartedly agree, but this book seems to emphasize that point far more than necessary.

Nevertheless, this book will make an excellent introduction to the Bible for a layperson looking to get the big picture of the story of the Bible as well as how the various other types of non-story fit into the that story.

NB: Thanks to InterVarsity Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Discussing Israel Paperback – December 21, 2017 by Johan Eary (XLIBRIS)

This work is a compilation of debates on the recurring scourge of anti-Semitism, which is once again rearing its head in Europe and in the USA, in relation to the situation of Israel and the rest of the Middle East. The objective of the book is to provide readers with arguments (pro and contra) Israel and to show how sometimes arguments, which are critical of Israeli policies and of Zionism, are in reality motivated by base anti-Semitism.

Thebes (Modern Plays) by Gareth Jandrell (Author), Sophocles (Author), Aeschylus (Author) (Methuen Drama)

I mean, what is Thebes? A theocracy? No. A meritocracy? Certainly not. A monarchy? Kind of. A patriarchy? Less and less so. Thebes is many things, and to revolutionise that? Well, how?
From Oedipus to Antigone, the story of Thebes remains a fascinating exploration of fate, morality and chaos, two and a half thousand years after the saga was originally written.
The first domino falls as Oedipus realises he has unwittingly fulfilled a cruel and unusual prophecy. As control of Thebes is handed to Creon, his sons fight each other for the kingdom and his daughter Antigone is determined to serve the honour of her family to the bitter end.
This version weaves together Sophocles and Aeschylus to present the full, visceral and bloody account of the Oedipus dynasty.

The Oresteia (Modern Plays) by Rory Mullarkey (Adapter), Aeschylus (Author) (Methuen Drama)

The translator (E. D. A. Morshead) was an Oxford don active in the late Victorian period. At the time Oxford had a more than a fair share of eccentric academics, but comments by his students indicate that he was a standout in this academic sub-species.. No small accomplishment given the competition including other luminaries such as the Rev. Spooner, eponymous unwitting progenitor of the 'Spoonerism!' Morshead's translations of Aeschylus are rendered in a late Latin-ate high Victorian style employing an archaic and often obscure vocabulary as well as a contorted prose style. The cumulative effect results in a translation that makes for painful reading at best, and is often all but incomprehensible! Pity his poor students. Not recommended except for insomniacs seeking a cheap alternative to Ambien or some other sleep-inducing nostrum. Though in my opinion ;they would be far better served by a good 'tot' or two of brandy!

Aeschylus (/ˈiːskᵻləs/ or /ˈɛskᵻləs/; Greek: Αἰσχύλος Aiskhulos; Ancient Greek: [ai̯s.kʰý.los]; c. 525/524 – c. 456/455 BC) was an ancient Greek tragedian. He is also the first whose plays still survive; the others are Sophocles and Euripides. He is often described as the father of tragedy: critics and scholars' knowledge of the genre begins with his work, and understanding of earlier tragedies is largely based on inferences from his surviving plays. According to Aristotle, he expanded the number of characters in theater to allow conflict among them, whereas characters previously had interacted only with the chorus.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Sarah Kane: Complete Plays: Blasted; Phaedra's Love; Cleansed; Crave; 4.48 Psychosis; Skin (Contemporary Dramatists) Paperback – February 22, 2008 by Sarah Kane (Methuen Drama)

Sarah Kane's collected plays represent an underestimated force in theater. Much like the work of Elfriede Jelinek or Ntozake Shange, Kane takes a private pain (losing oneself in another or testing the limits of proclaimed love) and creates a verbal landscape that the audience must inhabit, either by force of shock or noble acceptance of empathy. In either case, her plays must be reckoned with upon finishing. I think perhaps the most intriguing and powerful to me was 4.48 Psychosis, her final and posthumously performed play. There are no defined characters because who cannot claim a piece within the multitude of confessions that the play really unfolds as. Brutally honest and intentionally confrontational, this play, above the others, embodies the last possible moments of hope in anyone's life. Kane's characters rarely make the choice to latch on to these moments, but they are there and cannot be ignored.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: The Play (Modern Plays) Reprint Edition by Mark Haddon and Simon Stephens (Methuen Drama)

Christopher John Francis Boone is a fifteen year old boy who lives with his father, loves animals, and doesn't understand human emotions-including his own. With help he has learned what makes him feel :) good, like orange crush and licorice laces, and Toby his rat and starring up at the stars at night. And he knows what makes him feel :( bad, like new places, people, too much information, or anyone touching him. But he doesn't understand a lot of the faces that Siobhan from school shows him or Mr. Jeavons the school psychiatrist asks him about. Christopher is different from a lot of other teenage boys and he goes to a special kind of school with other special students. He doesn't like to be compared to them because he thinks a lot of them are stupid, but he's not allowed to use that word or call them that according to what his mother used to say or Siobhan at school, he's supposed to say they have learning difficulties or that they have special needs (but that's stupid too because everyone has learning difficulties). But it is his book so he can write what he wants in it. He's keeping this book for his investigation. He's investigating like Sherlock Holmes and he is investigating a murder. There was a murder on his street of Wellington the big poodle at Mrs. Shears house, which is right down the street from his house and Mrs. Shears is a friend of their's and so was Wellington because Christopher likes dogs. The Police and Siobhan says that killing a dog isn't the same thing as killing a human and they don't investigate or search as hard for things like that because it isn't a human, but Christopher liked Wellington and he thinks dogs are just a good as humans, in fact he likes them more.

This is a book written from the first-person point of view of a fifteen year old boy with autism and a very good understanding of facts and numbers (maths). He focuses and relies on the here and now, the real things of this world, and math problems. He doesn't like idioms, similes, metaphors, slang, or imagination. Facts are much more preferred, thank you. The book starts on the night that he finds Wellington skewered with a garden fork on Mrs. Shears front lawn, an event that he is later blamed and questioned about. He determines that he has to find out who murdered Wellington and the life that he thought he knew and was comfortable with swiftly begins to unravel. For a boy who doesn't understand human emotions a lot of events puzzle him and he has a hard time coping and understanding why some people do and choose the things that they do, it's not logical, even if it is human.

Mark Haddon does a remarkable job at capturing the mindset and ideas of an individual with autism and expressing it in a way readers can relate to. This book illustrates how some mindsets can be different. Where some individuals focus on feelings, others enjoy literature, and still others are focused on numbers and facts, things that are measurable and recordable, like Christopher. Sometimes different mindsets make certain things easy for individuals to understand while other topics and ideas are alien and something that makes ones' head spin. This is a tale of murder, mystery, a hidden past, and an unsure future of a boy who likes to deal in absolutes and certainties. But all it takes is one variable in the equation to change for the outcome be to a different world entirely.
Overall this book is really well-written and an interesting read. Highly recommended for those working with individuals with autism or other neo-neurological learning disabilities. Also a good read for those looking for different perspectives or books that make you question the writer/reporters point of view.

Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money Hardcover – October 26, 2009 by Rabbi Daniel Lapin (Wiley)

Rabbi Daniel Lapin's wisdom has helped untold numbers of people, including me, grow in our business, family, and spiritual lives. In Thou Shall Prosper, Rabbi Lapin has done it again. This book tells it like it is in a helpful, honest, hopeful, informative way. He offers valid, useful information based on ancient wisdom and modern experience.

There is a plethora of great business advice in this book. It is amazing to get a glimpse into thousands of years of Jewish culture and how it relates to business success and then how it is transferred from one generation to the next. This book is required reading for anyone wanting to be successful in business.

Lapin distills this ancient Jewish history and wisdom into ten key points listed below;
1. Believe in the Dignity and the Morality of Business
2. Extend the Network of Your Connectedness to Many People
3. Get To Know Yourself
4. Do Not Pursue Perfection
5. Lead Consistently and Constantly
6. Constantly Change the Changeable While Steadfastly Clinging to the Unchangeable
7. Learn to Foretell the Future
8. Know Your Money
9. Act Rich: Give Away 10 Percent of Your After Tax Income
10. Never Retire

Business Secrets from the Bible: Spiritual Success Strategies for Financial Abundance Hardcover – March 3, 2014 by Rabbi Daniel Lapin (Wiley)

Rabbi Lapin has a way of challenging the reader to consider simple truths that are hidden in plain sight.

Some of my favorite examples so far:

My boys and I particularly enjoyed one section where the contributions of Mother Theresa were compared with those of Bill Gates. I won't give away the lessons of that section -I'll let the book do that for you.

The lessons about the negative effects of donations is something I've never heard taught anywhere else, and yet the case is made quite convincingly that "giving" doesn't necessarily benefit the receiver the way so many of us assume it does - actually the effect can be devastating in many cases.

The lessons on specialization vs. general skills was eye opening. I've always been impressed with people who "know a little bit about many things, but aren't necessarily great at any one thing." Lapin makes a strong Biblical case for specialization however in a way that I'd never considered before.

This ISN'T merely a book of common sense. It will likely challenge many of the "common sense" assumptions you have about the "right" way to do business and manage your life and money. The book helped me uncover some bad habits - as well as some habits I was unnecessarily beating myself up over b/c I was unknowingly applying timeless Biblical standards.

Admittedly I've only read the first several chapters of this book, but I had to jump on Amazon and express how excited I am about Lapin's latest even if I don't read another word (trust me - I'm not stopping here). You won't regret grabbing this one - especially if you appreciated his previous book 'Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money' (another winner by Lapin).

Betty Crocker's Cook Book for Boys and Girls Hardcover – by Betty Crocker (Author), Gloria Kamen (Illustrator) (IBRCookBooks) (IBRChildrensBooks)

I couldn't believe it when I saw that this cookbook was available as a "new" book (authentic reproduction) again. I received it - probably as a birthday gift? I don't remember - when I was a young child, about 50 years ago. I have always been a cookbook reader, and I spent many happy hours as a child reading this book. So when I saw that it was available again, I eagerly bought a copy for the sake of nostalgia.

As an object of nostalgia, I would rate it 5 stars. It looks exactly like the original, and has the same durable and convenient hardcover spiral binding that I remember. Although if you look carefully, you can tell that the cover is from a "photo of a photo," as the image isn't quite as crisp as an original would be. Also, the green glossy material used on the inside of the front & back covers was not in the original. However, everything else about the book is a perfect reproduction.

As a 21st-century cookbook for children to use, I'd probably give it only 3 stars. There is a lot about cooking that has changed in the 60 years since this book was first published:
* Our understanding of nutrition has improved significantly
* We encounter a greater variety of ingredients, especially fresh produce, in our stores
* Our food landscape has been enriched by many contributions from nearly every continent and every corner of the earth (I had definitely never heard of hummus or chiles rellenos when I used to read this book on lazy summer afternoons), and
* Rather than seeing canned/highly processed foods as exciting miracles of modern culinary technology, we now see them as the less healthy and less tasty versions of food.

This cookbook is definitely rooted in the food styles, tastes and knowledge of its mid-20th-century era.

That being said, this was a very, VERY good children's cookbook for its era. The recipes are creative, attractive, and often whimsical. There is a LOT of information for a budding cook who doesn't want to just learn a particular recipe, but actually wants to learn how to cook - such as cooking methods and terminology, types of utensils, safety guidelines. It piques the interest through extras like the illustrations (including many gorgeous full-page color glossy photos of finished recipes) and the sidebar tips from the 12 kids who were the "Junior Testers" of all the recipes in the book.

So, bottom line:
1. If you are an adult who was in love with this book as a kid, buy it.
2. If you are thinking of buying it for a child in your life today, I would say go ahead and buy it for its instructional value in the basics of cooking, but give the child a more contemporary children's cookbook at the same time.

The Energy Bus for Kids: A Story about Staying Positive and Overcoming Challenges Hardcover – August 21, 2012 by Jon Gordon (Author), Korey Scott (Illustrator) (Wiley)

An illustrated adaptation of the bestselling business fable, The Energy Bus, teaches children the benefits of staying positive

In this illustrated adaptation of the bestselling fable, The Energy Bus, author Jon Gordon shows children how to overcome negativity, bullies and everyday challenges to be their best. The Energy Bus For Kids is a story that will teach kids how to find their inner motivation and pass on that positive energy to others.
  • The Energy Bus For Kids presents five rules for the "Ride of Your Life"
  • Teaches kids how to fuel your ride with positive energy
  • Shares with kids how to love the people you share your journey with and how to enjoy the ride
Positive kids become positive adults. So get kids on the Energy Bus and infuse their lives with a newfound vision, attitude, and positivity.

George is a regular kid having a bad day. He woke up sleepy, skipped breakfast, and then nearly missed his bus. But when Joy, the bus driver, puts on the brakes and invites him on board, his attitude starts to change. Joy helps George understand that he has the power to choose his attitude. If he believes in himself, has a positive vision for the future, and fuels his ride with positive energy, he'll find the strength to overcome any challenge.

In this illustrated adaptation of bestselling fable The Energy Bus, author Jon Gordon takes children on an enlightening and inspiring ride that will positively impact them at school and home. The Energy Bus shows kids how to overcome negativity, bullies, and everyday challenges to be their best and share their positive energy with others. When you get kids on the Energy Bus, you'll infuse their lives with vision, hope, love, and positivity.

The Official ACT Prep Guide, 2018: Official Practice Tests + 400 Bonus Questions Online 1st Edition by ACT (Wiley)

I’m a Harvard graduate, ACT perfect scorer and full-time tutor who has taught the ACT for nearly 20 years.

We’ve been waiting since 2011 for a newer edition of the Real ACT Prep Guide, and at long last, it’s here: the 3 new tests in this book reflect the minor changes to the ACT Reading and Science portions, and most importantly, the major changes to the new ACT essay (Writing) section. All 3 tests also include answer explanations, and for the first time ever, the book is also offered as an instant digital download from the Kindle store at a discounted price. (Although the Kindle version--accessible not just for Kindle owners but on nearly any device with a screen--is admittedly very convenient and environmentally friendly, I would still recommend that you buy the physical book, because the actual ACT is still a paper-based test.)

This book continues to be the most essential preparation guide for the ACT, because it is the only source of official test questions—the practice ACTs in all other books are nothing more than subpar imitations of the real thing. Seeing that this updated version of the ACT has already been around since the September 2015 administration of the exam, the publication of this book is long overdue…but it’s better late than never.

The book contains only 3 new tests, which is why I’m removing one star from my review, but again, that’s better than only 1 new test (google “Preparing for the ACT Test 2016”), which until now is all that was available. Combine the 3 tests in this book with the Real ACT Prep Guide, 3rd Edition The Real ACT Prep Guide (Book + Bonus Online Content), (Reprint) (Official Act Prep Guide), and the free online test mentioned above, and you’ve got 9 official ACT tests total. Yes, the 5 ACT exams from the 3rd edition are now (slightly) outdated, especially the old essay sections (Writing Test), which should be ignored, but these older versions of the test are still quite helpful for practice. Combine them with the 4 other tests available for free online (google “ACT Action Plan - McElroy Tutoring” for links), and you’ve got a healthy dose of 13 official practice tests that should be sufficient for a full ACT preparation.

Unfortunately, there is some significant overlap between the Real ACT Prep Guide, 3rd edition and the questions in this book, especially in the Math and Science sections. There is also some overlap between the recently released ACT Tests and the April 2015 / June 2015 versions of the test, but I wouldn't worry about that: those two tests were not publicly released, so most students don't have any way to obtain the April and June 2015 ACTs, despite the fact that copies were made available to students who took the tests.

It's not a perfect solution, and yes, it would be nice to be able to practice with 13 distinct ACTs instead of 3 new ones and 9 old ones with a significant number of overlapping questions, but for now it’s the best we have, and it’s the highest number of real ACTs that have ever been available. Let’s hope for another batch of updated tests to be released sometime before the end of 2016, but again, 4 ACTs in the new format is far better than only 1.


English - exactly the same (45 minutes, 75 questions). Mostly grammar, paragraph structure and punctuation.

Math - exactly the same (60 minutes, 60 questions). A broad survey of high-school math, with questions ordered from easy to hard.

Reading - almost exactly the same (35 minutes, 40 questions), but the new ACT now includes Dual Passages (google “Preparing for the ACT Test 2016”, open the PDF, and scroll to pages 36-38 for an example of what the dual passage looks like).

Science - almost exactly the same (35 minutes, 40 questions, mostly data interpretation and graphs/charts), but the exact order and types of questions/passages have been modified slightly.

Writing (Essay) section - much different! Instead of 30 minutes to write, you are now given 40 minutes, and instead of being given only a prompt and an assignment, you will now be provided with a prompt, an assignment, and three different perspectives on the essay.  You are then asked to evaluate at least one other perspective on the issue, to provide your own perspective, and to explain the relationship between your own opinion and at least one other perspective, using examples, analysis and logic. (In the words of the ACT, students are asked "to develop an argument that puts their own perspective in dialogue with others.")

The new essay will be scored out of 12 points.  It will also be given a grade of 1-4 in the following areas:  Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, & Language Use and Conventions (also known as the "IDOL" rubric).

I’ve been hearing plenty of stories about students getting very low essay scores relative to their other scores. Ignore the essay at your own peril! For more information on the essay, I suggest a google search--you may end up on my website.

Also, please note that the ACT essay is optional (same for the new SAT), but that many colleges either require or recommend it, so be forewarned if you are planning on skipping that portion of the test.

When it comes time to re-try the questions you answered incorrectly, I recommend that you either buy a 2nd copy of the physical book to keep blank, or that you print out fresh copies of the questions using the Kindle version (this option is not currently offered on Kindle, so you may have to find a way to convert to PDF first, or simply take screenshots of the pages you need, using the desktop version of the Kindle software). It's what I call a "blind review": going over all the questions you got wrong without first checking the correct answer/explanation, or seeing any of your previous work. In my opinion, blind review is one of the key facets of effective test prep. Thus, you should only mark your answers as correct or incorrect (this is easier when working with a partner). Most importantly, don't indicate the correct answers on the test before you get a chance to review them.

In contrast, if you go over questions by checking the correct answers right away, then you can fool yourself into thinking that you understand them fully, when in fact you are still prone to those types of mistakes. The best way to know for sure is to try the questions again, from scratch, *without* the aid of the answer key or the answer explanations. Only then should you confirm the correct answer and read the explanation provided.

SAT vs. ACT:

These days, many students prefer the ACT to the SAT Official SAT Study Guide (2016 Edition) (Official Study Guide for the New Sat). But the College Board has been fighting back by inflating SAT scores and making other efforts to make the SAT more palatable for students. For example, one major reason to consider taking the New SAT instead of (or in addition to) the ACT is that the SAT allows you more time per question than does the ACT. Thus, if time management is a major issue, then the SAT might be a better test for you:

SAT Reading = 1.25 minutes per question (75 seconds)
ACT Reading = .875 minutes per question (52.5 seconds)

SAT Grammar (Writing and Language) = .8 minutes per question (48 seconds)
ACT Grammar (English) = .6 minutes per question (36 seconds)

SAT Math = 1.4 minutes per question (83 seconds)
ACT Math = 1 minute per question (60 seconds)

Here are my top recommendations for ACT Practice and Strategy, ranked from most helpful to least:

1) This Book.
2) The Free Online Practice Test from ACT (google “Preparing for the ACT 2016”)
3) The Real ACT Prep Guide, 3rd Edition: The Real ACT Prep Guide (Book + Bonus Online Content), (Reprint) (Official Act Prep Guide) or The Real ACT (CD) 3rd Edition (Official Act Prep Guide)
4) The 3 other Official ACTs available for free online (google “ACT Action Plan - McElroy Tutoring”)
5) The Ultimate Guide the Math ACT: Ultimate Guide to the Math ACT
6) For the Love of ACT Science: For the Love of ACT Science: An innovative approach to mastering the science section of the ACT standardized exam
7) Mighty Oak Guide to Mastering the ACT Essay: Mighty Oak Guide to Mastering the 2016 ACT Essay: For the new (2016-) 36-point ACT essay
8) The Complete Guide to ACT Reading: The Complete Guide to ACT Reading
9) The Complete Guide to ACT English: The Complete Guide to ACT English, 2nd Edition
10) ACT Quantum Free Math Videos - explanations to every question in the 3rd edition of the Real ACT prep guide, plus the 4 additional tests available online
11) Barron’s ACT, 2nd Edition: Barron's ACT, 2nd Edition (Barron's Act (Book Only))

For those of you who will be taking the ACT with accommodations, you should also know that extended time is more flexible than on the SAT.

On the SAT, extended time is allocated on a per-section basis, but on the ACT with extended time, you are given 6 hours to allocate your time among the sections however you choose, so long as you complete each section in the order provided. You can not go back after you’ve finished a section, but you can, for example, take much longer on the sections that are difficult for you.

This feature is a definite plus for those who are approved for extended time, but some have suggested that the scoring curve may have become tougher on the ACT in recent years as a result. Thus, it's nice to have some newer tests with updated score conversions that more closely reflect the current demographics of the test.

The ACT is administered six times a year, on varying days: September, October, December, February, April and June.

Three times a year, the ACT offers what's called the Test Information Release (TIR), which--unlike the other test dates--allows you to order an actual (paper) copy of the questions, along with your answers. Sign up for the Test Information Release in advance if you can--it costs extra, and takes about six weeks from the time you receive your scores online, but it's still worth it. (You can also order a copy of your essay afterward, which requres an additional form and fee.)

Currently the TIR is offered in December, April and June. Thus, these are the best three months to take the test, because otherwise there will no way to review your incorrectly answered questions.

Good luck with your studies! Please leave any questions or comments below and I will be sure to respond.

Dinner with Churchill: Policy-Making at the Dinner Table Hardcover – January 9, 2013 by Cita Stelzer (Pegasus Books)

Politicians, especially leaders like Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, often seem to live at an Olympian-level, far above day-to-day concerns as they direct great matters of state. But the art of diplomacy on the biggest of issues often depends to a surprising degree on small gestures and quiet, personal connections. Cita Stelzer opens the door to a little-explored aspect of how Churchill used the simple act of dining to achieve political aims. Working to bring the U.S. into the war against Germany, forging an Allied strategy towards the invasion of Europe, and confronting the Soviet Union's post-War ambitions includes, it turns out, careful attention to both maps and menus; to military movements and seating charts. Ms. Stelzer demonstrates that Churchill used all the tools in his arsenal (and all the dinner selections at his disposal) to forge policy and to advance his art of persuasion. We know that Churchill was a great statesman; this portrait demonstrates, as well, that he was a man with whom it would have been delightful to share a meal.

A colorful and eloquent look at Churchill as he has never been seen before. With fascinating new insights into the food he ate, the champagne he loved, and the important guests he charmed, this delectable volume is a sumptuous and intellectual treat.

A friend once said of Churchill “He is a man of simple tastes; he is quite easily satisfied with the best of everything.”           

But dinners for Churchill were about more than good food, excellent champagnes and Havana cigars. “Everything” included the opportunity to use the dinner table both as a stage on which to display his brilliant conversational talents, and an intimate setting in which to glean gossip and diplomatic insights, and to argue for the many policies he espoused over a long life.

In this riveting, informative and entertaining book, Stelzer draws on previously untapped material, diaries of guests, and a wide variety of other sources to tell of some of the key dinners at which Churchill presided before, during and after World War II– including the important conferences at which he used his considerable skills to attempt to persuade his allies, Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin, to fight the war according to his strategic vision.

40 B&W Illustrations

Papyrus: The Plant that Changed the World: From Ancient Egypt to Today's Water Wars 1st Edition by John Gaudet (Pegasus Books)

A wonderful book that should be in the personal library of every student and lover of Africa. As a scientist, Dr. Gaudet has succeeded in making the complex science of papyrus and the habitats where it occurs accessible to lay people. Along the way, he has told us the wonderful story of Africa, the role papyrus played in shaping the Egyptian civilization, and the promise papyrus can still fulfill for future gene rations if it is wisely managed throughout Africa. Highly recommended!

At the center of the most vital human-plant relationship in history, Papyrus evokes the mysteries of the ancient world while holding the key to the world’s wetlands and atmospheric stability.

From ancient Pharaohs to twenty-first century water wars, papyrus is a unique plant that is still one of the fastest growing plant species on earth. It produces its own “soil”―a peaty, matrix that floats on water―and its stems inspired the fluted columns of the ancient Greeks. In ancient Egypt, the papyrus bounty from the Nile delta provided not just paper for record keeping―instrumental to the development of civilization―but food, fuel and boats.

Disastrous weather in the sixth century caused famines and plagues that almost wiped out civilization in the west, but it was papyrus paper in scrolls and codices that kept the record of our early days and allowed the thread of history to remain unbroken. The sworn enemy of oblivion and the guardian of our immortality, it came to our rescue then and will again.

Today, it is not just a curious relic of our ancient past, but a rescuing force for modern ecological and societal blight.