Tuesday Reading Roundup

“Dan Wakefield gives a list of Vonnegut readings for making life decisions” (Onion AV Club) by Andrea Battleground. A close friend and editor of Vonnegut gives very specific and entertaining reading recommendations.

“The Debt: When terrible, abusive parents come crawling back, what do their grown children owe them?” (Slate) by Emily Yoffe. An important read as Mother’s Day approaches, especially for pastors. Churches have made (some) progress in becoming more sensitive to those who wish they were mothers, those who have miscarried, and those who have lost children to death, but this article makes me wonder how we are addressing the pain many experience when they think of their own mothers.

Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones. Although this is not an “authorized” biography, in this interview on The Nerdist, Jim Henson’s son, Brian, says that even he learned things about his father which he never knew by reading this book. Frank Oz says the same on the book’s cover. I’m no Muppets superfan (although my family’s Christmas movie is A Muppet Christmas Carol), but I am loving this book.

“Literary Style: 15 Writers’ Bedrooms” (Apartment Therapy). Capote, Woolf, Hemingway, and 12 others’ personal (and often professional) space.

On the Trinity by Saint Augustine. I am proud to say that I will finally finish this tonight. Hopefully I’ll also have a post around a lengthy quote up soon too.

“The Questionable Link Between Saturated Fat and Heart Disease” (WSJ) by Nina Teicholz. The best I’ve read giving a decades-long history of the science and social side of no-fat dieting.

“Republicans and Democrats are more divided on race today than in 1985” (Vox) by Ezra Klein. Lots of helpful visualizations here too.

Sabriel by Garth Nix. Sabriel is a young woman whose father is a necromancer, the good kind, concerned with keeping Death from entering into Life, helping the Dead to find their rest. When something happens to her father, Sabriel is forced to step into his shoes before she is ready. Wonderful, quick read with inventive takes on everything in it. Heck, Lloyd Alexander blurbed for it.

“Stop Calling Clarence Thomas an ‘Uncle Tom'” (Washington Post) by Jonathan Capehart. “Sure, the n-bomb is a kick in the groin. But being called a ‘Tom’ is a kick in the stomach…”

“Zen and the art of keeping the NHS bill under control” (Guardian) by Madeleine Bunting. Jon Kabat-Zinn continues his giant influence as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is weighed in the UK as part of National Health Services.


Tuesday Reading Roundup has been a regular feature of this blog and its predecessor for several years. Entries must: 1) Have been read by me in the previous week; 2) Have been particularly interesting, thought- or conversation-provoking, and/or entertaining.

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“Tuesday” Reading Roundup

“Ascetic Aesthetics: How Gerard Manley Hopkins Found Beauty in Dogma” (First Things) by Julia Yost. The author argues against the mainstream of criticism which says GMH’s sonnets took a nosedive as he became older and more dogmatic, reminding us along the way that Hopkins was one-of-a-kind: “The slate slabs of the urinals even are frosted in graceful sprays.”

The Bible Salesman by Clyde Edgerton. Maybe lighter and less hilarious than some of Edgerton’s others, but this would be a great one to pack along on any beach vacations you may have coming up.

“How Rwanda’s Paul Kagame Exploits U.S. Guilt” (The Wall Street Journal) by Howard W. French. The popular messages we hear and want to hear of the success of reconciliation are an oversimplification of the rampant corruption and inability to deal with its past that Rwanda is still reckoning with twenty years after genocide. This article is a must-read.

“Is Richard Dawkins Leading People to Jesus?” (The Telegraph) by Damian Thompson. While I don’t seek out arguments with atheists, I do appreciate a good atheist argument. Dawkins indeed disappoints on that count, as those who have “converted” under his teaching have experienced. Thompson writes, “If I were a conspiracy theorist, I might conclude that Prof Dawkins secretly converted to Christianity decades ago, and then asked himself: ‘How can I best win souls? By straightforward argument, or by turning myself from a respected academic into a comic figure fulminating against religion like a fruitcake at Speakers’ Corner, thereby discrediting atheism?'”

The New Testament, Revised Standard Version. This week I finished reading the NT in the RSV, a translation which I enjoyed but thought I might love. One thing wonderful and new about this time through was that day when my reading plan meant I finished Revelation 22 and then flipped back to continue with Genesis 1 in the same sitting.

Saga, Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. One of those where the art and the writing fight it out on every page to see which can be the best, everyone who has ever liked any sci-fi anything ever should at least check out this series.

“Why I’m a Pro-Life Liberal” (The Week) by Elizabeth Stoker. The pro-life leftist position maintains that human life is so significant, so inherently valuable, so irreplaceable that it should be the central subject of political concern.” Believe it or not, @e_stoker received some responses on Twitter over this one. Except for a couple bits, I agree with the whole thing.

 


Tuesday Reading Roundup has been a regular feature of this blog and its predecessor for several years. Entries must: 1) Have been read by me in the previous week; 2) Have been particularly interesting, thought- or conversation-provoking, and/or entertaining.

Finding the Exxon Within

When I first saw Maria Bamford, what I saw–despite some funny bits–was a comedian whose comedy seemed to consist of, “I’m weird!,” and I wasn’t particularly interested. But I kept hearing interviews in which other comics would talk about how great she is, so I kept trying to listen and learn.

In particular, I listened to a Nerdist interview in which she opens up about her time in a mental institution. The way that she described her decision to go to a place where she would be protected when she wanted to harm herself, the days spent there in safety and boredom, complete with harmful and idiotic comments from visitors trying to help, helped me to notice that she has something–many things–to say, and that her comedy is her art of saying those things well.

Her albums certainly have comedic bits, but her craft is intensely observed stories about mundane things as well as the more raw things which we experience as mundane and don’t recognize for their depth.

She’s not as anti-religious or anti-Christian as a comedian like David Cross (whom Bill Maher does not touch in scorch-the-earth hatred of the religious right), but it is one piece that does deal with religion which I wanted to share with you.

The following is my own transcribed excerpt of her appearance on Bullseye with Jesse Thorn (the MaxFunCon 2011 episode):

I’m trying to believe in God, because I know it feels good. This is what I think it feels like: you know when you’re in a Third World shantytown at midnight, and you’re terrified. But then off in the distance you see the glowing logo of an international conglomerate. And you just feel like, ‘Whoo, everything’s going to be okay. Someone’s looking out for me.’ Perhaps we all need to find the Exxon within.”

Now certainly, if you’ve read any other post on this blog, you know Bamford and I feel differently about religion. But her joke (and reading it is not as good as hearing it) puts together such a complex understanding of religion, organized religion, organized religion and power, organized religion and money, religion and the West, religion and colonialism, all packed so tightly together. And, more important than all that, it’s funny.