Somehow I'm not surprised Orson Scott Card and Stephanie Meyer don't recognize an uninspired sequel when they see one. ++++++
That's my one-sentence reSomehow I'm not surprised Orson Scott Card and Stephanie Meyer don't recognize an uninspired sequel when they see one. ++++++
That's my one-sentence review.
And it came to pass that we had a talk with the neighborhood Mormons today, and they bestowed upon us the Book of Mormon. And it came to pass that we are slowly making our way through it, checking to make sure we haven't too hastily judged it. And it came to pass that, so far, god seems like every bit as cruel of a dictator as he ever did in parts I and II. I'm going to do a real review later, but for now, know that, as long as you feel IN YOUR HEART god wants you to break into someone's house, steal his/her Sacred Tablets, and then cut his/her head off, it's okay.
Don't know about you, but that's a load off my mind.
Honestly, I'm glad that on that day several weeks ago, the Mormons stopped by. It's a good thing they came over and talked to us about their religion.
They think stupid things, preciousss. . . They believe Jesus came to Americas and talked to the Indians. . .
Yes, but they were very nice.
The Mormonses want to sell you their religion. They think your atheism isn't good enough.
Yes, but from their point of view, my life is missing something. They can't help feeling that way, just like I can't help feeling like their lives are missing something. They think I'm missing god. I think they're missing sanity.
They think womanses can't preach, and they mock them by saying it's separate but equal. It's bullshit, precioussss. They think good people gets lighter skin, and dark people are being punished. Since the Latter Day Saints formed, they've changed their positions on just about everything, even though god's will should be a permanent thing. Nobody can provide any archeological evidence supporting any of their claims about ancient cities, golden tablets, or even the cultures that existed at the time their book was supposed to have been written. The Book of Mormon has people riding horses at a time when horses weren't in the U.S., has people using steel when nobody knew how to forge it, had people using compasses before they were invented. It's a fat turd of badly written lies and plagiarised Bible passages. . . preciousss.
Yes, there's all of that. But then, if we hadn't met them, Joy and I wouldn't have sat around discussing spirituality that one Sunday.
(Joy and Michael sit on the couch, holding hands, eyes closed.)
Joy: Dear father, uhhh...the Mormons convinced us to try praying to you, to see if we feel your presence or anything...thank you for sending the Mormons by, and....for giving us each other, and also our dog, Athena....Thanks for our jobs, and food, and the television, and whatever else I'm leaving out. I don't understand why you're male. And why, assuming you authored the Book of Mormon, you left out mrs. god. They say there's a holy mother, but in order to protect her, god hasn't spoken of her. That doesn't make any sense, and we think they're just making shit up.
Anyway, We said we'd ask some questions, so here they are: are the Mormons telling us the truth? And do you exist? And are you a male? Okay. That's it. Amen.
Michael: When I try to communicate with a greater presence, I sometimes feel a little something. But, when I picture Jesus on a cross, or Joseph Smith translating tablets, I don't feel anything. I just don't see any reason we have to give it a name, give it a sex, give it a personality, whatever.
Joy: See, I spent the first sixteen years of my life praying and trying to feel something. It's not like I haven't "given god a chance," so I don't even know why we're going through this. We're just humoring them.
Michael: You know, maybe there IS a god, and he IS selective about who gets to go to happyland. But, maybe he's put all of these earthly ideas of god here to serve as golden calves, and only those who use the abilities they've been given--their rational thought, and an adherence to a true morality--only those people will get into happyland. Maybe that's what it is.
Joy: We should start going back to that Unitarian Universalist service. If we have a kid, we won't want her to grow up without any understanding of what religion is. We should be upfront with her--
Michael: Or him--
Joy: --about being atheists ourselves, but I don't want her--
Michael: Or him--
Joy: --to be forced into anything like I was as a kid.
Michael: Yeah, we should start going back. That one church we went to that one time had all sorts of volunteering. We can go protest the 1070 bill and get arrested!
After talking to them, we started thinking about spirituality again, and we've both been feeling a little better about existence since then.
But it's bullshit, preciousss. The book is half "And so it came to pass," and one third "exceedingly," and the other third tripe.
But, Evil Half, that comes out to--
Shut up about my maths.
Well, the book sucks. It really does. But, despite all of the negativity between its covers, the people who follow the tradition still seem to be very nice people. And only good came from the two meetings we had with our Mormons.
They haven't given up on you yet. When they do, they'll eat your sooooouuuuuuuuulllll...
Shut up, Evil Michael. Leave now and never come back.
///ungracious segue into the final part of the review///
Greatest hits from The B.O.M.:
3 Nephi 7:8 And thus six years had not passed away since the more part of the people had turned from their righteousness, like the dog to his vomit, or like the sow to her wallowing in the mire.
2 Nephi 9:33 Wo unto the uncircumcised of heart, for a knowledge of their iniquities shall smite them at the last day.
2 Nephi 14:1 And in that day, seven women shall take hold of one man, saying: We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel; only let us be called by thy name to take away our reproach.
And, finally, my very favorite:
1 Nephi 18:2 Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men.
So this is where all of Cormac McCarthy's commas ended up!
Alright, so this was attempt #2 at the Scarlet Letter, and it was successful. This time, ISo this is where all of Cormac McCarthy's commas ended up!
Alright, so this was attempt #2 at the Scarlet Letter, and it was successful. This time, I had the brilliant idea of skipping the vast introduction and getting straight to the story. This proved the key to getting through the sucker.
I still had to roll my eyes in the first chapter when Hawthorne offered me (the reader) a rose, which is the particular moment in my first reading that I found so cringingly tacky that I cast away the book and dismissed Hawthorne as a hack. That was, of course, presumptious of me, and I realized this after getting into an argument with Joy where I tried to argue Hawthorne's hackness based upon the one and a half pages (and an introduction) that I'd actually read. She, on the other hand, had read this one and House of Seven Gables.
Needless to say, I lost the argument.
And, I vowed to study and return for revenge. And now, I am ready. Unfortunately, you won't get to see that battle royale, because she hasn't logged onto Goodreads in many moons. That battle is destined to take place in meatspace. (As opposed to cyberspace.) But, if any of you are Hawthorne adorers and wish to smite me with your defense of his work, you're welcome to. Just bring it.
Actually, though, once I was about 50 pages in, I got used to the flowery, tell-not-show style, and ended up enjoying the book, despite the way each of his sentences went on and on, with many a comma, when he could've just as easily broken them each up into a more compact, focused statement, but, yet, he chose not to, and instead made his sentences long as shit.
The story goes something like this: a woman whose husband isn't in America becomes pregnant. Thus, since the husband isn't around, everyone knows she's an adulterer, and she is convicted of the sin, and is forced to wear a scarlet 'A' on her clothing. She wears it on her dress above her heart, not on the ass of her shorts where the girls nowadays wear their lettering. (Is anyone else confused about why gray shorts would say "Pink" across their ass? Is it irony?) She bears this Scarlet Letter without complaint and remains strong, despite the way she is treated by everyone around her. And she doesn't reveal who the baby daddy is. Therein lies the real drama.
The father of the baby is actually a minister, and he is gradually being destroyed by the guilt. The dynamic aspect of the story lies less in the evolution of Hester and more in the way guilt threatens to destroy the father. The ultimate message (which Hawthorne is kind enough to point out with big neon arrows and preface with "THIS IS MY MESSAGE, PAY ATTENTION," or something of the like) is to be honest and don't harbor dark secrets, because dark secrets will corrupt your soul, and perhaps make you drop over dead.
I'll be honest and say that I was fairly entertained for most of this book. But, do I think this is a classic? No, I do not. A historical artifact, yes, but not a relevant classic for the 21st century. You see, all of the characters have one emotion . . . no, wait. I'll go through this systematically. Hester is occasionally struck with guilt, but usually approaches her unfortunate situation with a somber determination to bear the guilt as best she can. Her daughter, Pearl, has almost no distinct personality, referred to alternately as an elfin creature or a little demon. She is often referred to by the author as a symbol of Hester's sin, and usually her character is nothing more than this. On the rare occasion the little elfin demon has any dialogue, she never sounds like a child, but always talks with the same eloquent prose that all the other characters speak in. Then we have the minister, who is a creature entirely besotted with guilt, wallowing so completely in his moment of weakness that it apparently overruns his life entirely. Then, we have his housemate, who has a wonderful Dickensian sort of name like Thomas Creepyguy or something like that. HE is ALSO a representation of guilt, and is actually Hester's husband (apparently he was too busy to show up until after she finally decided to cheat on him). His entire goal is to cause the minister to suffer endless guilt because of that one crazy spring break night when everyone had a bit too much tequila.
I say all this to point out that we have an impressive lack of complexity with most of the characters here: we have two goodguys, one badguy, and a symbolic child. Now, the instance of infidelity on the table is one that is hardly offensive: her husband was a mean ugly hunchback that abandoned her. The minister was unmarried, nice and handsome. The husband continues being an evil prick throughout the story, just to make sure we get that he's an evil prick. So, we're barely wrestling with a moral dilemma when it comes to the infidelity.
Thus, we have some flat characters with clear goodguy / badguy status. This doesn't sit well with me. Then, we have the fact that most of the novel is the narrator's voice telling us everything the narrator wants us to know about the situation and learn from the situation. Without subtleties of character to wrestle with or the opportunity to ruminate on the author's meaning, what is there to talk about? (Clearly that isn't stopping me, though.) I guess Hawthorne doesn't make me work as much as I expect to when I sit down with a book because he tells me everything about the characters and doesn't let me intuit their motivations and their weaknesses through their actions or emotions.
And, once you see how everything resolves, it seems like . . . hmm, what's the word. . . bullshit. **SPOILER ALERT** What happens when the minister decides to reveal his sin? He dies. Flat out dies. Out of relief for not having to bear the sin any longer, as far as I can tell. I mean, give me a fucking break. Really? And what rubs me even more the wrong way than the melodramatic climax is the fact that a better alternative that made complete sense was offered: the two of them discuss running off to a different place where Hester can forget about her scarlet letter, and the two of them can be happy together. Alas, this isn't the ending they get, because the minister bites the final taco right when they could've been redeemed: after he'd admitted his sin to the whole village.
I don't mind unhappy endings. But I don't like any endings that seem melodramatic either in their darkness or their happiness. I don't buy the ending, possibly because I don't know anyone who has died from relief.
One thing that this novel illustrates very well is the paranoia that plagued the puritans in Olden Tymes. Witness: the little girl who may or may not be a demon! The old witch lady dwelling in the forest and holding strange pagan rituals! A scarlet 'A' that manifests in the evening sky, and is noticed by more than just Hester! And, of course, the fact that a sin can wither away a person until he's on his death bed in seven years! It all makes me quite glad to have been born at such an enlightened time, when such a range of information about science and history is readily available; a time when the vast majority no longer act primarily on ignorance, and don't base their beliefs on myth and hearsay . . . oh. Hmmm.
I thought about two stars, and I thought about four, and I decided three was a fair score. For what it is, this book is done well. Poetic descriptions were often spot on. The book does much without being unnecessarily long. And, the characters all worked as part of the exploration of guilt, although not necessarily as, you know, people. So, the book has a few things going for it and a few going against it. Since I don't think it's weak enough to put in my "craptastic" folder, I'm going with three stars.
Who would I recommend it to? Umm, anyone who wants to be prepared for Hawthorne debates, should they suddenly arise at the dinner table.
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