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Showing posts from July, 2015

The Roman Empire: A lot of stuff happened there probably I guess

Should I know more shit about the Romans? I should probably know more shit about the Romans. It was just never emphasized in my education. I've picked up most of what I know through osmosis, but I still have no idea about any emperors except "Nero and Caligula were bad, but maybe Nero wasn't that bad, but wait, he probably was." And Hadrian had a wall named after him. Hadrian was an emperor, right? Probably. Sounds like it. Rome seems like something to know about because AT THE VERY LEAST our culture is shockingly similar to theirs, and maybe we can all learn something, etc etc. Who from the past would have adapted the best to 21st century American life? Romans. Romans would be all over selfie culture and Instagram and foodieism. All. over it. And we could probably understand each other pretty damn quick, as opposed to someone from the 14th century in England, where it'd be all like "Excuse me, I must go dump my chamber pot into yon busy street."

How Jesus Became God: Bart Ehrman, I don't TRUST you

Bart Ehrman is an agnostic author who writes a lot about early Christianity, usually with intended-to-provoke titles like Misquoting Jesus and Forged .  Forged is about how some of the New Testament books are not by the person we think they are, only as usual, Ehrman is sensationalizing where there's no need to, as it was common practice at the time to write under the name of your teacher. There wasn't some scurrilous man or woman sitting there going "Ahahahaha I shall write this letter as Paul and ALL SHALL BE FOOLED." Or maybe there was, I dunno. But I don't think Ehrman can know their motives. ANYWAY. My church book group has been going strong for maybe four years now. We started off reading about the Gnostic Gospels, and since then we've done Karen Armstrong's Case for God (which I suggested and did not read); Prophetic Jesus, Prophetic Church (also did not read); something about Christians in the Middle East (ditto); and How the Irish Sav

Alice + Freda Forever by Alexis Coe: "She was wholly without that fondness for boys that girls usually manifest"

In 1892 in Memphis, Tennessee, 19-year-old Alice Mitchell slashed the throat of her ex-fiancĂ©e, Freda Ward. The subsequent trial focused not so much on the horror of what she had done, but on the defense's argument that her engagement to a woman meant she was clearly insane. Alexis Coe's book Alice + Freda Forever is short and has a bangin' cover. She's clearly done a lot of research, and lays out the story clearly and chronologically while not getting mired in the historian's pitfall of injecting too much detail. She goes from the murder to the trial to the questioned fate of Alice Mitchell (spoilers: she died in an insane asylum, but whether it was of natural causes or suicide is unknown). I like true crime and I like lesbians and I like the 19th century, so this seemed immensely far up my particular alley. There is some frustration, as Alice Mitchell's feelings are never really  known. She kept no surviving journal from her months in jail, so t

Armada by Ernest Cline: Gamers! iiin Spaaaaace

Do you guys remember Ready Player One ? Do you remember how AMAZING and fun it was and how you wanted to re-read it even though you rarely re-read books because omg there are SO MANY BOOKS and life is finite, so how can you justify the time? Remember all that? Right, so that guy wrote another book. Armada  is basically Ender's Game  + The Last Starfighter , and Cline definitely puts a lampshade on that particular aspect. The main character, Zack is in high school, plays video games all the time, and is very very very much obsessed with his dead dad. Then one day he looks out the window of his classroom and -- hey, it's one of the spaceships from the main video game he plays, which is called -- wait for it -- Armada. So the book goes from there. There're some pop culture references thrown in, but honestly...while entertaining enough, this one let me down a bit. I couldn't help thinking that part of the reason Cline's insane number of referenced copyrighted

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari: "We should take solace in the fact no one has a clue what's going on"

According to a study by the University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo[...], between 2005 and 2012 more than one third of couples who got married in the United States met through an online dating site. Aziz Ansari's book Modern Romance surprised me a lot. Mainly because I do not really like Aziz Ansari. I've watched his standup specials. I've seen almost every season of Parks & Rec . I have been exposed to all sorts of facets of Aziz Ansari as a performer, and I mainly find myself annoyed by him. SO. When I tell you that I really enjoyed his study on how people form romantic relationships in this day and age, know that if anything I approached it with a negative bias. But I wanted to read it because 1. Books by comedy writers are the shit. 2. I have done so very much dating via the internet and I wanted to see his conclusions. 3. Penguin emailed me and asked if I wanted to review it, and I did not buy a stuffed penguin from the Penguin Books truck

Daisy Miller by Henry James: Americans are gross, but also maybe not?

Henry James is one of the most maddeningly frustrating authors I've ever encountered. I also keep coming back to his writing, so I'm inclined to think there's something there that I'm just missing. I have read and not really enjoyed or understood the following: Daisy Miller Washington Square The Ambassadors The Golden Bowl (half of it -- found my freshman year copy with "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here" scrawled on the title page) The Turn of the Screw I feel like that's a pretty good representation of his works, although I'm willing to try The Golden Bowl  again, because I was 14 when I tried it and it's entirely possible my brain was pretty garbagey then. this is another possibility My main issue with James is that he decides what he's going to say in his book, and then he shrouds it in a fog of vagueness and ambiguity. His BFF was Edith Wharton, who did not  do this. Her books were also far more successful than his. COINCI

Small town? DARK SECRET? Let's round up these books please.

I was listening to a true crime podcast this morning on my walk to work, and one of the hosts was talking about a "small town community with a daaaark secret" and my immediate reaction was "I LOVE small town communities with dark secrets!" And probably of dark secrets. And who. does. not. love them.  So , in the interests of gathering up potentials, DO YOU KNOW OF ANY OF THESE BOOKS. I read The Fever by Megan Abbott last year, which was in that vein. There's also Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix, which I read in my early teens and thought was the cat's pajamas. The internet suggests Salem's Lot , but any mention of Stephen King horror novels terrifies  me, so I'm just not sure that's gonna fly, internet. I can handle Willow and that's about it There's also Peyton Place  by Grace Metalious, which I've only heard of because there was a movie in the 1950s starring Lana Turner, but if it's small tow