Author Topic: What have you read lately?  (Read 45136 times)

mamselle

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #675 on: November 17, 2021, 05:03:55 PM »
Agreed.

Madeleine L'Engle has some OK things, although I didn't like them as much as I did her children's work.

And as you say, she's not contributing to her corpus anymore, either.

What's hard, I think, is work that has the serious soul-wrestling dimension that one finds when trying to live out the life of faith, but that isn't reduced to the kind of hackneyed, pat answers one gets in all the 45-page 'miraculous wonders' works, as you say.

A friend who's a writer is also trying to work on something (between chemo treatments) along those lines; the three of us in her prayer support group also recently looked at a book that her minister's wife just published.

It's apparently doing well enough on Amazon, but we were each dismayed at how trite it was.

It's sort of the same as the search for life partners if you're both a person of faith, and someone who values intellectual depth and nuance.

It's hard to find folks who engage with the difficulties while neither selling the significance of faith down the river, nor using it as a magic crutch to resolve the issues superficially, or failing to address the emotional depths they may go to.

Maeve Binchy, the Irish writer, did that in some of her earlier books; "Light a Penny Candle," and "Echoes" got at some of those things.

But she's also gone, now, for which I'm sorry, too...

M.

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Reprove not a scorner, lest they hate thee: rebuke the wise, and they will love thee.

Give instruction to the wise, and they will be yet wiser: teach the just, and they will increase in learning.

ergative

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #676 on: November 17, 2021, 10:42:55 PM »
What's hard, I think, is work that has the serious soul-wrestling dimension that one finds when trying to live out the life of faith, but that isn't reduced to the kind of hackneyed, pat answers one gets in all the 45-page 'miraculous wonders' works, as you say.


Michael Faber's The Book of Strange New Things has a lot of Christian worldview in that book from the perspective of a pastor who buys into the whole personal/emotional support component of pastoral care, rather than the explicitly religious theology. I thought it was a very thoughtful exploration of how people lean on faith in difficult times when they are far away from home and helpless to do anything for the people they love. And I thought the book was very, very well-written, but I hate apocalypse novels so the sneaky apocalypse left a really bad taste in my mouth. And, I suppose for people who do not share my tastes, you should know that the conceit is that the pastor is invited to go on a missionary trip to an alien planet to teach the aliens about Christianity, so it's pretty solidly scifi.



smallcleanrat

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #677 on: December 04, 2021, 10:32:40 PM »
Uh...stumbled upon some internet chatter around a book titled Johnny the Walrus by a conservative media personality I'm not very familiar with named Matt Walsh. He's posted a video of himself reading the book aloud to a group of very young kids (who seem to do an awful lot of blank staring).

From the Amazon promo blurb:
Johnny is a little boy with a big imagination. One day he pretends to be a big scary dinosaur, the next day he’s a knight in shining armor or a playful puppy. But when the internet people find out Johnny likes to make-believe, he’s forced to make a decision between the little boy he is and the things he pretends to be — and he’s not allowed to change his mind. From Daily Wire personality and bestselling author Matt Walsh comes a timely tale of innocence, identity, and imagination.

It's styled as a children's book for the preschool/kindergarten age group (illustrated board book with story told in rhyme), but I'm so confused as to whether it's actually aimed at children or is meant to be a satire for adult readers (something in the realm of Go the F*** to Sleep).

Judging from the book itself, it seems the latter. But the marketing (like that video) and some of the chatter makes it seem as if this was really intended for children.



The storyline involves a kid putting socks on his hands for flippers and wooden spoons in his mouth for tusks as he playacts being a walrus. I think it's supposed to be clear that he is playing, not that he actually believes he's a walrus or that he actually wants to be a walrus. Unfortunately, people on the internet convince his mother that the right thing to do is accept his professed identity and take him to a doctor to discuss "transitioning" to his new walrus life.

The doctor explains that now Johnny must eat worms, wear his spoons and socks at all times, and wear gray make-up. There are pictures of the kid crying, complaining that the worms are gross, the make-up itches, and wearing the spoons all the time is painful. There is a menacing illustration of the doctor holding a gleaming saw while suggesting turning feet into flippers.

Eventually, the mother tries to take Johnny to the zoo to live full-time, and it's there that the zookeeper saves the day. He tells her that Johnny is a little boy, NOT a walrus.

MOM: "But if I believe that, they'll say that I'm phobic!"
ZOOKEEPER: "Protecting your son, ma'am, is what's most heroic."



The hype includes a lot of cheering for 'speaking the truth against the trans agenda' or 'giving the woke cultists a taste of their own medicine', and it certainly "works" as a book for adults who want to point and laugh and say 'yes, this is exactly how stupid SJWs sound.'

But for actual kids? Do 4-6 year-olds even know words like "phobic" or "bigot" (another word used in the book)? There's an illustration of protesters holding signs saying things like "Let Johnny transition!" Does that even mean anything to kids this young?



Even as an allegory for how some people perceive transgenderism, it's really, really weird.

I thought the common argument was that children are too immature to fully understand their own identities and that parents need to be MORE assertive with their children. If a boy says, "I'm a girl" it's the parents' job to tell them, "No, you're not." Else all they're doing is reinforcing his confusion.

But in this book, it's the mother insisting Johnny is a real walrus and that Johnny must live as a real walrus (even if Johnny himself is resisting the whole way).

This is a conservative talking point I hadn't heard before.

Are there many people who imagine there are vast numbers of modern parents dragging their weeping, protesting children in for medical transitioning (with doctors blithely indifferent to the fact that the child is clearly unwilling)? Do they think it's become common for little boys to be forced into dresses despite their frequent pleas of "No, Mommy, no! I was just playing pretend at home! I don't want to dress like a girl all the time?"

Do they think this is what people are talking about when they push for "acceptance" of trans people?

???

mahagonny

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #678 on: December 05, 2021, 04:16:01 AM »

The storyline involves a kid putting socks on his hands for flippers and wooden spoons in his mouth for tusks as he playacts being a walrus. I think it's supposed to be clear that he is playing, not that he actually believes he's a walrus or that he actually wants to be a walrus. Unfortunately, people on the internet convince his mother that the right thing to do is accept his professed identity and take him to a doctor to discuss "transitioning" to his new walrus life.

The doctor explains that now Johnny must eat worms, wear his spoons and socks at all times, and wear gray make-up. There are pictures of the kid crying, complaining that the worms are gross, the make-up itches, and wearing the spoons all the time is painful. There is a menacing illustration of the doctor holding a gleaming saw while suggesting turning feet into flippers.

Eventually, the mother tries to take Johnny to the zoo to live full-time, and it's there that the zookeeper saves the day. He tells her that Johnny is a little boy, NOT a walrus.

MOM: "But if I believe that, they'll say that I'm phobic!"

ZOOKEEPER: "Protecting your son, ma'am, is what's most heroic."

this one sentence (Bolded) is the key.
It sounds like the author is making the point that the new progressive ideology pressures people to believe it is wrong to state 'I understand that there are two genders: boys and girls. I am a boy, though I may have fantasies that delve into any number of things. But I understand they are make believe, and deep down, I fine with boyhood. But not because someone requires me to accept boyhood arbitrarily. Rather because boyhood chose me.' Which is true. Progressives don't merely want the option to dismantle the concept that there are two genders in their own thinking, but they want to be able to require everyone to hold that view. And he might have added, from this pressuring people, and prevailing at it, would come political power and the establishing of the left as the only people to put your trust in morally, because they now believe they  have a blank check which they think they can use to subtract beliefs from your mental bank account any time they decide the ideas are not useful to them and their agenda. But ultimately it doesn't work, because reality always shows up and says 'boo.' And the progressive becomes odd man out.
The boy and the mother are pawns in this arrogant winner-take-all game that they never elected to be part of. And that's what he's making fun of or warning us about. The moralizing from the left, and their in-your-face mission to mainstream ideas that just a short time ago were anything but mainstream. So I think suspect book speaks agaINST THAT TYRanny.
My attitude, as a somewhat reluctant convert to conservativism, is if people need validation for their gender-is-nothing-but-a-continuum views, they can keep that need to themselves rather than insert that need into the personal lives of others. It's a free country. But don't bug me, and watch yourself around my children.
Of course, I'm non-binary, non-racially specified in real life. Try slinging mud at me. I have no identity.

Of course I could have it wrong. Sometimes an allegory is more effective than an argument when it conveys ambiguity and leaves the ball in the reader's court as far as determining the ultimate meaning.

Bill Maher has a show where explains that he is not phobic about this or that, merely because he chooses something else.  That's because have meaning. They are not your personal Play-Dough to mold into anything you want.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2021, 05:01:50 AM by mahagonny »
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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #679 on: December 05, 2021, 04:44:45 AM »
My attitude, as a somewhat reluctant convert to conservativism, is if people need validation for their gender-is-nothing-but-a-continuum views, they ought to keep that need to themselves rather than insert that need into the personal lives of others.

But if that's the case, shouldn't it also work the other way around? If people need validation for their gender-is-immutable views, they ought to keep that need to themselves rather than insert that need into the personal lives of others.

downer

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #680 on: December 05, 2021, 04:47:33 AM »
Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse by Dave Goulson.

Insect populations have crashed due to a number of reasons, including global climate change, herbicides and pesticides, and the loss of habitat. The central point of the book is that the insect apocalypse, which to a large extent has already happened, will lead to a plant apocalypse, which will in turn mean that human life on earth is largely unsustainable except in far reduced numbers.

My main criticism of the book is that Goulson's proposals for avoiding the terrible future seem unrealistic. Public policy has done little to address these issues internationally, and there's not much sign that anything is going to change there before it is far too late.


"Change takes courage." Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

mahagonny

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #681 on: December 05, 2021, 05:06:39 AM »
My attitude, as a somewhat reluctant convert to conservativism, is if people need validation for their gender-is-nothing-but-a-continuum views, they ought to keep that need to themselves rather than insert that need into the personal lives of others.

But if that's the case, shouldn't it also work the other way around? If people need validation for their gender-is-immutable views, they ought to keep that need to themselves rather than insert that need into the personal lives of others.

It can easily work that way if progressives would just stop inserting their personal needs into compulsory public education, which they won't, because they are arrogant jerks. And they've got teacher's unions to fortify them now, because unions are illegitimately the property of the democratic party, despite how their members feel. So now if you want to advocate for a square deal for a college professor, you've got to also advocate for radical leftism.
The radical left is choosing culture war because they think they can win it by splintering the opposition into disparate factions.
I don't need validation for my views. I just need school choice even if I'm not wealthy, so I can use my God-given right to raise my children and have them attend schools taught by people with whom I can work with as a team.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2021, 05:30:34 AM by mahagonny »
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ergative

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #682 on: December 05, 2021, 07:16:12 AM »
I've been reading Mud and Glass by Laura E. Goodin. It's a very entertaining academic farce, which is zany and fluffy and yet also feels deeply accurate to academia. Our main character hasn't got tenure yet, so she and her untenured friends are constantly trying to get free food because they're so broke. A student transfers late into her class with all the appropriate paperwork, along from an apologetic note from his academic advisor--not for the late transfer, but because everyone knows what a pain the student is, and then the rest of the day everyone--including the professor's mother--drops by to commiserate about how they'd heard she has Danny in her class, and how sorry they are to get the news. None of the freshmen did the reading over spring break because of the predatory mold infestation in the library--you should see what it did to the head librarian!--and so on. (That's actually a valid excuse, because this is an SFF fluffy zany thriller., and the head librarian does in fact look quite rough after the predatory mold got done with her.)

Parasaurolophus

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #683 on: December 05, 2021, 08:05:29 AM »

The storyline involves a kid putting socks on his hands for flippers and wooden spoons in his mouth for tusks as he playacts being a walrus.


It's too bad, because there's almost a good children's story there, in the classic style of children's stories. He dresses up as a walrus and goes around insisting he is one, and the people around him take him at his word. But then he encounters the stumbling blocks of walrus food he doesn't like (shellfish, obviously; where the fuck did worms come from?! Unless they're benthic worms? I mean, if we want to go along with worms, we need to add cucumbers. And shellfish.), the spoon-flippers are tiring, etc. And we end with the parents comforting him in some way--maybe the father grows a handlebar moustache to show him he can be an incognito walrus, or something.
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smallcleanrat

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #684 on: December 05, 2021, 03:27:40 PM »

The storyline involves a kid putting socks on his hands for flippers and wooden spoons in his mouth for tusks as he playacts being a walrus.


It's too bad, because there's almost a good children's story there, in the classic style of children's stories. He dresses up as a walrus and goes around insisting he is one, and the people around him take him at his word. But then he encounters the stumbling blocks of walrus food he doesn't like (shellfish, obviously; where the fuck did worms come from?! Unless they're benthic worms? I mean, if we want to go along with worms, we need to add cucumbers. And shellfish.), the spoon-flippers are tiring, etc. And we end with the parents comforting him in some way--maybe the father grows a handlebar moustache to show him he can be an incognito walrus, or something.

Funny part of the author's reading is when he gets to the part about the kid complaining that the worms are gross. Author comments, "See, look. He doesn't want to eat worms," and one of the kids in the audience pipes up and matter-of-factly mentions he's eaten worms himself. Walsh kind of glances at him, doesn't seem to know how to respond, then continues reading as if nothing had happened.

I'm still baffled by the implication that the issue is kids who are NOT trans are being forced into a trans identity. The illustration of the doctor's office includes a diploma with the words: "University of Doctoring: Woke Doctor." Which, again, fits in to a satirical work written for adults, but not in something intended for very young children.

Parasaurolophus

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #685 on: December 05, 2021, 03:36:27 PM »

The storyline involves a kid putting socks on his hands for flippers and wooden spoons in his mouth for tusks as he playacts being a walrus.


It's too bad, because there's almost a good children's story there, in the classic style of children's stories. He dresses up as a walrus and goes around insisting he is one, and the people around him take him at his word. But then he encounters the stumbling blocks of walrus food he doesn't like (shellfish, obviously; where the fuck did worms come from?! Unless they're benthic worms? I mean, if we want to go along with worms, we need to add cucumbers. And shellfish.), the spoon-flippers are tiring, etc. And we end with the parents comforting him in some way--maybe the father grows a handlebar moustache to show him he can be an incognito walrus, or something.

Funny part of the author's reading is when he gets to the part about the kid complaining that the worms are gross. Author comments, "See, look. He doesn't want to eat worms," and one of the kids in the audience pipes up and matter-of-factly mentions he's eaten worms himself. Walsh kind of glances at him, doesn't seem to know how to respond, then continues reading as if nothing had happened.

^^ That's delightful!



I realized I haven't updated November yet, so:

Helge Ingstadt - Westward to Vinland: The Discovery of Pre-Columbian Norse House-sites in North America: A first-hand look at Ingstadt's discovery of Leif Erikson's houses at L'Anse au Meadows. This was a really cool read, and I learned a lot. It was interesting to read in light of everything we know about that site now, but also in light of the climate crisis (a lot of it is environmental description, which is pretty fascinating). Also interesting anthropologically for the instances where women and Indigenous people come into the story.

Agatha Christie - Hallowe'en Party: This is a fun one (though not the best-written), but I'd forgotten it's set in the sixties (the ITV adaptation is set in the 1930s). That makes a lot of sense, actually.


It's a paltry list, I know, but I was busy.
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ab_grp

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #686 on: December 15, 2021, 08:31:43 AM »

So we started on the fourth book of a series we've been reading, Iron Gold (Pierce Brown).  Like the previous books, it is taking a bit to get into, and the protagonist is a bit much.  Still, I've enjoyed the others once the story gets going, so I will hang in there.  Without giving too much away, this one seems to focus on rebuilding a society in the aftermath of a great war between the castes.

I started reading the first in the series (Red Rising, was it?) and had the same opinion, but couldn't be bothered to plough through.

We finished this book last night.  I'm going to stop referring to him as the protagonist and just call him the main character at this point.  He somehow manages to be even more annoying in this book! How does he do it?! But the nice thing is that he is no longer the only narrator.  Many of the chapters (most?) are from other characters' viewpoints, which definitely saved the book for me.  Again some good new characters are introduced, and the story is pretty interesting.  It went in a different way than I had expected.  Although they have built a republic to replace the hierarchical caste society that had been in place, it didn't go off without a hitch, and now there are cracks in that infrastructure that lead to some intriguing conflicts.  There is also more action taking place in other locations than in the previous books, and it was nice to learn more about the story and history from the other characters (the "other side" in some cases).  It wasn't a mindblowingly great novel, but I am still interested to read the "final" installment.  We'll see if in the end it's all been worth having to travel along with Captain Ego.

Now we're back to the Wool trilogy with Dust, supposedly also a final book.  So far it's hard to recall what happened to who when since the second book went back in time and this one is in the timeline of the first one.  I'm hoping to finish this series and get to more of The Expanse before I hear any future plot points or reveals from the TV series.


apl68

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #687 on: December 15, 2021, 10:14:49 AM »
Agreed.

Madeleine L'Engle has some OK things, although I didn't like them as much as I did her children's work.

And as you say, she's not contributing to her corpus anymore, either.

What's hard, I think, is work that has the serious soul-wrestling dimension that one finds when trying to live out the life of faith, but that isn't reduced to the kind of hackneyed, pat answers one gets in all the 45-page 'miraculous wonders' works, as you say.

A friend who's a writer is also trying to work on something (between chemo treatments) along those lines; the three of us in her prayer support group also recently looked at a book that her minister's wife just published.

It's apparently doing well enough on Amazon, but we were each dismayed at how trite it was.

It's sort of the same as the search for life partners if you're both a person of faith, and someone who values intellectual depth and nuance.

It's hard to find folks who engage with the difficulties while neither selling the significance of faith down the river, nor using it as a magic crutch to resolve the issues superficially, or failing to address the emotional depths they may go to.

Maeve Binchy, the Irish writer, did that in some of her earlier books; "Light a Penny Candle," and "Echoes" got at some of those things.

But she's also gone, now, for which I'm sorry, too...

M.

Rumer Godden's In This House of Brede and Mark Salzmann's Lying Awake (reviewed above) are among those rare exceptions.  They both deal with the sisters in a convent environment.  Wonderful books.  If you're in the mood for a big read about a large cast, In This House of Brede is a good choice.  If you want a shorter read focused mainly on its protagonist, but still with a lot of spiritual meat in it, Lying Awake is your book.
The people who lived in darkness have seen a great light;
A great light has shined upon those who lived in the shadow of death

And the Word became flesh, and lived among us

apl68

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #688 on: December 15, 2021, 10:30:01 AM »
A Short History of the Middle East:  From Ancient Empires to the Islamic State, by Gordon Kerr.  This arrived with a batch of recent donated books.  It's part of a series called "Pocket Essentials" that gives overviews of big topics, like the history of this or that region, or World War I.  It seemed very concise and well-written--a good primer to a big subject.  Then I was reading its treatment of ancient Israel and learned that "The Kingdom of Judah, with its capital at Jerusalem, prospered during the reigns of rulers such as Omri, Ahab, and the later dynasty of Jehu." 

Omri, Ahab, and Jehu were all rulers of the northern kingdom of Israel, not the kingdom of Judah!  A few minutes' work by either the author or an editor in any standard reference work on the subject would have prevented that error.  It's one of the biggest howlers I've ever seen in what purports to be a work of history.  I immediately lost all faith in either the author or his editors, assuming he even has any.  How many other foul-ups like this might there be lurking that I wouldn't know enough to catch, let alone the average lay reader who doesn't share even my limited background of knowledge on the subject? 

I didn't even read the rest of the book, for fear of what other misinformation I might accidentally imbibe.  It was a rare case where I decided I couldn't in good conscience put something in the library book sale room.  It's going into File 13 instead.  I have no plans to check out any others in this series.  Goof-ups that fundamental in what is supposed to be a reference book are inexcusable.
The people who lived in darkness have seen a great light;
A great light has shined upon those who lived in the shadow of death

And the Word became flesh, and lived among us

mamselle

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #689 on: December 15, 2021, 10:38:28 AM »
Might make an interesting Bible Study book: Ask the participants to figure out where the errors are and how they could have gotten in it.

M.
Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.

Reprove not a scorner, lest they hate thee: rebuke the wise, and they will love thee.

Give instruction to the wise, and they will be yet wiser: teach the just, and they will increase in learning.