This was my text in a graduate seminary class in the Old Testament which was especially good because my professor was the very same Samuel Schultz. IThis was my text in a graduate seminary class in the Old Testament which was especially good because my professor was the very same Samuel Schultz. I therefore have difficulty separating the book from the class... and the class was difficult beyond belief. Our only other text was the Bible which we read very carefully. It is sometimes difficult to recall that we read the entire OT in one semester.
Schultz was very old school: tests consisted of 10-20 names of people or places or sometimes ideas such as "Abrahamic covenant." It was left to us to write what we knew and there was little margin for BS.
Usually the second page of the test was a map of the Mideast with a few dots. We were required to name the places and name the prophet, king, or judge associated with it, including dates and the significance of the associated events.
One of the things we discovered was the professor Schultz knew his Hebrew very well....and Aramaic. (It was in fact his explanations of Aramaic which prompted my own flirtation with the language for which I am grateful.) We would often attempt to catch him on a double or vague meaning of a certain passage and he would explain the various meanings followed, typically, by what he said was the correct one in a particular case. One did not argue when he was firm on an issue.
The studies which stand out for me were Deuteronomy and Judges, the latter being by far the most difficult because the test included naming each judge and explaining the details of his/her life and times. I secretly renamed it "The Book of Chaos," and I am not far from complete accuracy in saying this because of its diversity as well as its details. Couldn't someone have put them together in some linear fashion?
Concerning the book alone, I am tempted to say that it serves the purpose of being a survey or overview of the Old testament well. However, one misses the completeness and attention to detail of the author if one does not stop at each reference and read the accompanying passages for amplification and explication. In one sense it is a very adequate book, but in another it is a very daunting, detailed and complete discussion of a variety of issues, not only of history but of social interactions as well as theology. One finishes understanding that the Jews have a master and protector and He will continue to protect them. That reaffirmation is certainly worth the great time this book takes to read....more
**spoiler alert** I took my time with this book because I wanted to be able to evaluate it accurately. The thesis is, after all, that Solomon's (and H**spoiler alert** I took my time with this book because I wanted to be able to evaluate it accurately. The thesis is, after all, that Solomon's (and Herod's) temple weren't where we think they were, that what is traditionally called "Temple Mount" is really the historical location of a Roman Fort called Antonia, home to the tenth legion. One can understand why I wouldn't consider this light reading, despite the easy manner in which it is written.
As a (very) minor Bible scholar, I was enthused with the thesis of the book. As with most books I read openly, I desire the thesis to be true and try to examine the data from as many different angles as I can. Hence my several copies of Josephus' works (and others which are perhaps more arcane,)were getting close examination because they were often used as references. What is that old line my father used to say when he took me to ball games? "You can't tell the players without a program!" He said it in this funny voice which still makes me laugh. Anyway....
Upon consideration, I think the best part of this book is that it isn't written by a Bible scholar per se... and in saying that I mean no disrespect. The author admits in interviews that what allowed him the ability to follow the trail was his experience in investigation of criminal activities. Indeed, Cornuke puts together a string of evidence which, while perhaps not absolute as TV forensics would have it, seems to me to be an extremely strong argument for his thesis. I give this book 5 stars because it impresses me with its considerable care to detail. I must have followed a dozen maps of Jerusalem including topographical, to check and recheck the data which he presented. Insofar as the conversations with experts in the field are concerned and the existence of several tunnels, (although he includes some remarkable pictures of rooms apparently beneath the original temples,) I have to take his word for it: I haven't seen them myself, but I have little doubt that this fits into the data which I have gleaned in my studies of the archaeological digs in the area.
All is not perfect, however. Cornuke adds, near the end of the book several different synopses of different subject matters, issues which he has written about and studied at length. One of them pertains to the Ark of the Covenant. Cornuke maintains that it exists now in Ethiopia, something which has been claimed now for years. However, I find his argument lacking on this point where he claims that Neco, Pharaoh of Egypt, was instrumental in moving it to Ethiopia for safekeeping. While I am aware of what appears to be the Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia, I am not convinced of the possibility of the path it would have taken at that particular time. I also believe that, even during the reign of bad kings, there would have been faithful priests who would have fought to protect it and keep it in Israel. I place more faith in Jeremiah and 2 Maccabees 2:4-10. In addition several priests have secretly claimed to have seen it and I suspect that it is hidden in the caves of Jerusalem. Admittedly, I have no real evidence for the latter statement.
One can read this book in various ways as it is an easy read, at least insofar as one is not stopping to check the data which the author cites. I don't think there is any value in reading this kind of book without understanding the value of the quotes, but that's my opinion. In summary, the most important outcome of Cornuke's thesis is that the area which he maintains contains the old temples' ruins is completely under Jewish control. That means that there would be no discussion of knocking down the Dome of the Rock to build it. I am not suggesting that it would be the easiest thing to accomplish, (and overcoming the traditional view of the temple mount will be considerable,) being able to build the third temple has just had a very difficult hurdle removed. God seems to have a wicked sense of humor about all of this....more
**spoiler alert** I found this little book at a coffee shop and read it in several afternoons over a few weeks time. As usual, it did not disappoint.**spoiler alert** I found this little book at a coffee shop and read it in several afternoons over a few weeks time. As usual, it did not disappoint. The greater questions that it poses are remarkably similar to the ones being asked today, albeit more noisily. There was a time, I suppose, back in my undergraduate years in which I was far more idealistic than I am now. More than anything in life, we ought to ponder on what are memories are and, in being honest with them, understand that some are perhaps less desperate and more cohesive in their structure than others. Still, there are others by which we end up living, to paraphrase Thoreau, through desperation. We wonder what is to be done to correct things and we reach out and seize that which is available. In those, one almost wishes he/she could plead public intoxication in their defense. Authentically, of course, one ought just be embarrassed.
I cannot fathom living through the solitude of the Cold War struggle, especially as an operative, no doubt a despairingly lonely existence. It is almost repulsive to think of the lives spent in supporting a continuously changing framework of global truth, some facets simply fading from existence and others raising themselves to prominence. Even if one had the sequence of events correct, one would be hard pressed to suggest that the cheerleaders for such activities must be fundamentally amoral if mot immoral, no matter which side one selected.
This book deals with the greater concept of punishment and idealism, how for the want of a way to make the pain go away, some choose... or rather are helped to choose paths which are suggested as benign. One is hard pressed to understand such choices without undergoing some of the horrors of mid-20th century warfare and its causes and even if we read about it, perhaps it is still not enough. For example, I read daily about growing Antisemitism in both America and Europe and I am forced to bring to mind the photos which Eisenhower insisted on taking, that the future world should not forget. Well, today in our world, apparently we have not forgotten, but we have not remembered either. We merely want something else which does not fit conveniently into such past truths. Better get the identity of the cheerleaders this time!
Technically, I enjoyed the author piece together clues to something no one was quite sure was there, especially under the auspices of authority which always wants things clean and neat. The author is a master writer and this little tome is a classic well worth reading, if only because one must read all the words....more
**spoiler alert** I had the great fortune to stop by my local bookstore the day after they had received a number of books from an estate sale. I wante**spoiler alert** I had the great fortune to stop by my local bookstore the day after they had received a number of books from an estate sale. I wanted to select them all, of course, because they were books from the days when people, well, read good books or perhaps I may say without giving offense, classic books. Judging from the signature inside the covers, they all belonged to the same woman and they were all dated from the late 19th and early 20th century. There were various partial collections of some great names, names which no one reads all that much any more. Being in such a place always reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode titled "All the Time In the World," a veritable feast of what is wonderful in humanity, without Serling's bitterly ironic ending. Still I selected several with which I was not familiar and set about to peer into the lives of others, in several senses.
Nevertheless, I digress away from the book, which is historical fiction and a pivotal point, according to experts, in Balzac's career. I had to read about the uprisings in Brittany after the French revolution and even then, the history is difficult to follow. As with any civil strife, this group (royalist) is angry at something another (republican) group does and therein lies the end to it unless you wish to delve into the details of the Chouan uprising. It is not uninteresting, but it does become detailed for our purposes here. In 1793, a group of royalists banded together against the republic. However, the insurrection was put down and within two years the royalist forces had been routed. Still pockets of resistance remained and therein lies this story.
This book takes place during 1799 in Fougères and begins with the army attempting to put down a Chouan uprising. Naturally the army would like to strike the critical blow and end the fighting. Naturally it doesn't exactly accomplish this.
Balzac has been criticized for his boring commentary on military campaigning and, indeed, some parts do plod along. However, I gathered that this was for the most part from the skill of the writer. The greater part of the book is a love story between an aristocratic young woman and a Chouan loyalist, recently returned from hiding in England. It seems that the government has placed a price on his head so the return is not only of the utmost importance but of critical secrecy. Where Balzac truly shines, however, is in his character development. One can hardly imagine him writing more accurate people. warts and all. There is a certain idealism, of course, but then we are writing a love story. There is treachery and villainy. Ultimately one is reminded of Romeo and Juliet especially at the end with the plot twist. Although the entire book centers around the romance of Montauran and Marie de Verneuil, it does little to overwhelm it. Balzac is a master at weaving the various issues in and out so that ultimately you wonder whether anything besides the love affair matters very much at all.
This book is said to have gone through three revisions, the last of which is said to be both much more sympathetic to the royalist position and also, far more expansive in his treatment of women. As such, one might enjoy reading an earlier version for comparison, but as it is, this is a superb book which deserves far more credit than it deserves, in my opinion....more
**spoiler alert** My brother's pastor suggested that he might enjoy this book, presumably because it evokes or will evoke integral issues about core v**spoiler alert** My brother's pastor suggested that he might enjoy this book, presumably because it evokes or will evoke integral issues about core values in our lives and he suggested I read it along with him. First, I found this book of five stories easy to read, despite some of the most beautifully descriptive (and often meandering) prose I have read in quite some time. The literature itself is a work of art and for that reason alone this book deserves four stars. These stories center around the fictional town of Port William, Kentucky, largely believed to represent Berry's fictional childhood town of Port Royal, KY and near where Berry presently works on his farm and writes. These are portraits of rural life and and rural values. In another Berry book, The Unsettling of America he argues that industrial agriculture and the assumptions on which it rests are wrong, root and branch; I argue that this kind of agriculture grows out of the worst of human history and the worst of human nature. Let me suggest that Berry is still arguing the same major points about American life in this collection of stories.
The most demonstrative of this point of view is the title story Fidelity. In it, Berry contrasts his Kentucky rural foundational values with a character represented by the twisted and modern world in the part of a detective from the State Police. The following dialogue illustrates:
"What I represent? What do you think I represent?" "The organization of the world." "And what does that mean?" In spite of himself, and not very cooly, Detective Bode was lapsing into the tone of mere argument, perhaps of mere self-defense. "It means," Henry said, "that you want whatever you know to serve power. You want knowledge to BE power. And you'll make your ignorance count too, if you can be deceitful and clever enough. You think everything has to be explained to your superiors and concealed from your inferiors.....What I stand for can't survive in the world you're helping to make, Mr. Bode."
It is hard to make an argument against what Berry is advocating, at least in principle and in context. He argues for the authenticity of life, one which is uncomplicated by the false idols of the world of vague desires, personal subterfuge and unbridled luxury. In fact he even makes one of the characters, the subject of Fidelity, appear near sainthood even though he never marries the woman by whom he has a child. In this sense, of course, Berry is demonstrating that living should not be the issue of personal failings, but the issue of being good and faithful stewards, both to the place in which we live and to one another. In essence, Berry is evoking a new kind of resurrection Christianity, not through the liberal quotations of Biblical literature, but through living it as closely as possible.
In the end, this becomes my greatest criticism of Berry's work. For example, he talks about a community in which the children move away from rural farm life in order to realize dreams in the big city. I can't help but think that I would have been one of the first children who wanted to move away from 18 hour days, irregular crop yields and the general lack of amenities. The real issue is whether this "authentic" close to the earth hard living is the only way in which to understand our great gift of life by the grace of God? I don't think so.
Berry is a rabid dog when it comes to the industrialization of agriculture and, in general, the world including the open criticisms of the socio-economic issues of warfare. I don't wonder whether this is something about which we have to be careful, but is this supposed to spark a mass exodus back to the land with its corn pone characters and fundamental values? Hence I am at a loss to understand the real meaning of these stories for me except in the respect that I admire the way in which they are written and I enjoy, to a lesser degree, the subject matter of human values in rural America.
I just don't know much about rural America and that's what it comes down to. I have no idea whether these people are authentic or they aren't, but I do know that I have very little in common with them. I could neither plow fields nor make curtains and cook for the farm hands without going absolutely nuts. Perhaps a great number would feel the same. Said in another way, can I see any of these characters having this kind of discussion about this book?
Hence the book gets 4 stars because the words are chained together in some incredibly beautiful strings. The stories, at their core, are almost like hymns. However, I just can't support the thesis contained in them, as tempting as it is: returning to the Berry's agrarian fundamentals is just too easy an answer for the complicated question of alienated living....more
**spoiler alert** This is the book John le Carré was always born to write. As much as I have truly enjoyed his work in the past, the present work is a**spoiler alert** This is the book John le Carré was always born to write. As much as I have truly enjoyed his work in the past, the present work is a kind of culmination of everything he has learned as a writer and, more importantly, everything that the West has not learned about itself. It is a tale about two young idealists, Ted Mundy and Sasha, meeting in Berlin, one British, raised in Pakistan, and one vaguely German. I cannot help but thinking that the slightly misshapen German reminds me of the character from Gunter Grass' The Tin Drum, Oskar Mazerath. Ultimately each discovers that his upbringing has involved more than moderate deception on the part of their respective fathers. What is known as the Cold War has interested me from the first time that I heard about it, probably in high school. At first, I was naturally fascinated by the romance and danger of what it was like to be a spy. I was curious, early on, why the Ian Fleming novels depicted people in a far different manner than did the James Bond movies, for example. Ultimately I came to understand that spying must be a lonely... and thankless business. More than anything else, the present book drives this issue home in an important way. This book pulls no punches in talking about Western conceit, especially that of America. Le Carré has made it clear that he thinks that America has gone completely mad with his 2003 publication by the same name. In that sense this book is disagreeable because it makes one squirm. then again, I think there is much worth squirming about.
Accepted too readily, the criticism of Cold War conduct is meaningless, but understood with discomfort, perhaps there remains hope. Was Viet Nam the wrong thing? Was Korea a grand mistake? Did we have alternatives than to turn our attention away from ex-Nazis in post war Germany? We have read about the protests and and the disillusionment and even the phenomenon of nuclear fear in most things post war. Perhaps today we still live with many of these. But what of the opposing side? Was the side of peace and capitalism, dirty hands though it may have had, necessarily doing what it ought, not more than a match for the Soviet Union, the Chinese and, today, for the terrorists of Islam? Le Carré makes it clear that the modern post Cold War rules have changed but that we have not developed workable strategy to fight against the West's latest nemesis. Worse, the case may be made that in manipulating things in order to win at any cost, we have created a present world far more dangerous (and dishonest!) than any we might have conceived in the past. Still one wonders whether le Carré is not just connecting the dots of a very complicated puzzle very few of us understand. Ultimately this book is not one of right and wrong, although clearly the writer has some strong feelings about the errors committed in the past and the ones of the present. Our two protagonists, for example, are set up to be killed and shown to the world as people with connections to Al-Qaeda. One supposes that the author believes that things such as this are manufactured all the time. Still waiting for answers concerning Benghazi, understanding that there is more than meets the eye, I think his suspicions are at least reasonable. Can one merely throw up one's hands in the face of subterfuge? I suggest that regardless, one is required to have tenets of belief.. and those foundations make one weak or strong, depending on how one is willing to defend those principles.
What this is about, and what makes it an excellent book, is that it is about people who have dedicated their lives for the ideology, even when it lets them down a time or two and even functionally destroys their hope for the kind of life for which they are fighting. It is not, therefore, the glories of what they are doing which become important for the two main characters, but the loneliness and the sacrifice which they give up willingly for what they believe. Just as it is inconceivable to our two friends, it is meant to be inconceivable to us that all the truth and goodness of what we thought we believed has been sold out in the name of money and power. In doing so le Carré paints a portrait in which not only are there no winners, but there are no heroes either; both sides will then become disciples of the devil's lies. That leaves only the lives of individuals to make the difference....more
I picked this off a shelf of a used bookstore, recalling the stir that it had made many years ago, hoping to use some of the material for a radio showI picked this off a shelf of a used bookstore, recalling the stir that it had made many years ago, hoping to use some of the material for a radio show. When I read it over 20 years ago, I was not able to distinguish possibilities in the WW II era: I was young and pretty much everything was black and white to me. The great question remains whether the great political entity known as the Catholic church might have done more for the plight of the Jews or was it better for it to do as much as it could to maintain relations with the Hitler regime and thus work behind the scenes to do what it could? One might as well ask whether the Catholic church is a political entity or a religious one: the answer is, of course, an emphatic "Yes!" Pope Pius XII may have been silent, as others have said, but he was not inactive. He is credited with saving better than half a million Jews through various means. One of the things which Hochhuth gets exactly correct, according to every source I can find, is that Pius was unable to save Polish clerics from being exterminated. I ask how much more effective it would have been for him to have demanded that the Polish Jews be released? The Deputy remains a highly flawed work (especially as a play) and one which especially myopic in its observations, despite a mountain of quality research. There is significant historical evidence to suppose that Catholicism held Jews in no great esteem, certainly since before Augustine, excluded from the promises of the Abrahamic covenant. Still, Hochhuth does an admirable job in displaying insights into the horrors of the age. It is a work which still needs to be read, albeit cum grano salis. For that alone it deserves 4 stars.
This book is very well researched. With that said, I am not entirely sure that its conclusions are completely viable. the writer has a tendency to extThis book is very well researched. With that said, I am not entirely sure that its conclusions are completely viable. the writer has a tendency to extrapolate from the general to the particular in various cases. When dealing with history, this can both be dangerous and reveal a particular bias. One case where he does this, for example, is in supposing that the Vatican probably does have a great deal of Second Temple artifacts because they have been less than honest about other issues concerning the Jews. The reasoning, if not completely fallacious, is worrisome. While I do not doubt that the Vatican treasures are far beyond what we might otherwise imagine,especially in regard to rare volumes, I tend to take the Vatican's response in 1998 that they never had the temple treasures. these arguments, while detailed and scholarly, have been made elsewhere and seem cogent. That being said, I am fascinated by the way in which the author approaches different issues. To be fair, much of this is incredibly boring to the non-scholar, but manages a very reasonable argument in each case. I am truly anxious to see where the book goes in the next 400 pages. ___________________ Having completed this book, one should know that it is somewhat exhausting to read carefully. While I do not agree with the author's conclusions in many places (and this is difficult when one recognizes that a great deal of the latter book depends on earlier argu7ments, I have to admit my complete admiration for the author and his topic. The greatest difficulty I have is that the author has many different points to make instead of just one. Thus one must almost agree in some places, disagree in others and allow further time to consider others. The author makes an excellent an almost exhaustive argument for the coming Petrus Romanus. If he arrives according to even a modicum of the data which the author argues, it will be no less awe inspiring. On the other hand, if 2013 comes without him making an appearance, then perhaps the arguments are in error. We shall see....more
Eric Metaxas writes with a great deal of scholarly precision. he understands the German mind extremely well, especially in all its pre-war idiosyncrasEric Metaxas writes with a great deal of scholarly precision. he understands the German mind extremely well, especially in all its pre-war idiosyncrasies. Metaxas tells a story not so much about an individual as the history of Europe of the 20th century and Bonhoeffer's reaction to it. We meet a person we know, extremely disciplined and devout, but also a kind and fun-loving personality. Bonhoeffer made the difficult choices, often second guessing himself, but in the end, arriving at the only place he was determined to be, the foot soldier for God.
This book was a long and involved one, often sending me to secondary sources to verify some point which I suspected might be in question. I never found him to be incorrect about anything and perhaps the only criticism I could legitimately level at him was that our opinions of different personalities might vary a bit. All in all, it was hard to say that this well documented work was anything except excellent, far better than I would have guessed. That is not because I had doubts about the author but only because I was familiar with Bonhoeffer's works and thought.
Still I was pleasantly surprised to read not a sycophantic portrayal of the man, but one which was clearly of admiration and respect without removing the warts. Beyond anything else, we learn that Bonhoeffer had boundless energy and constantly wrestled with the great problems of life. Had he only given us the principles of cheap and costly grace, we should have been more than satisfied, I would think, but he gave us so much more, especially works of enduring beauty which remain a monument to his courage, fortitude and allegiance to the Deity. Let us pray that when our own time comes, we should be able to do as well....more
**spoiler alert** To say that I was deeply impressed by this book is an understatement: I found it a truly profound work, albeit a very difficult one.**spoiler alert** To say that I was deeply impressed by this book is an understatement: I found it a truly profound work, albeit a very difficult one. There are, of course, two ways in which to read a book of this caliber. One can simply read the story line and judge it in its entirely or one can stop and examine the events and people about whom the author is speaking. I believe predominately in the latter.
As a story line, I found the book wanting, not only because of the flashbacks, but because you, first, didn't much like the narrator and main character and, second, you were always wondering why the story was wandering off in another direction. Eco is always a difficult read and I have long suspected that he realizes that he is difficult to read and adheres to this style for personal purposes of private glee. The author, (unfortunately at the end of the book,) adds some explanatory details about which chapter covers which years as if he were feeling guilty about the complexity of the subject matter, but I feel this adds nothing of consequence. The other additions are helpful and accurate. The drawings are, all in all, quite excellent and serve to amplify the point being made in given moments, assuming one were skimming words. Thus I was not entirely sure of their purpose in such a work.
The book begins with an unreliable narrator, the one major character, the author claims, did not actually exist. From this point, we depart into the seedy life of subterfuge, political incest and horror; I say this not to make the list complete, but to keep it moderately concise. While I would be tempted to give this book five stars, (and I may in any case simply because it covered so much exciting ground in detail without losing sight that it was a story,) I could not help sometimes placing my tongue firmly in my cheek thinking that Eco had somehow discovered the great twisted and mysterious path of the Protocols of Zion's manufacture. That is the skeptic in me.
Still we arrive at this point after slogging through the details of the unification of Italy and even the Dreyfus affair, each of which could have a reader reading outside the book for longer than it takes to read the book itself! While I am reasonably sure that any moderately educated person knows the highlights of each of the major events in the book, it is quite a different thing to understand whether the author is providing the facts of the matter or is playing loose and free with how he interprets them. Still one does not have to worry that this book is in the same league with, say, The Da Vinci Code: there is a notable difference between scholarship and house painting. Eco is nothing if not a scholar, but one is never sure whether something has, perhaps, been omitted in order to solidify his argument.
Lastly anyone interested in the customs and manners and food of late 19th century Paris is in for a real treat. Being a fan of French (and Italian) cuisine, I found it beneficial to research most of the dishes he mentions. Some are naturally icky to the modern palate, but most sound so exquisite one wishes nothing but to be able to dine there. If, on the other hand, you think The Outback, Olive Garden and Red Lobster is great food, just forget my mentioning it. the last thing I found interesting is the number of different names they had for whores, depending on their social standing. One wonders whether the situation was one of degradation, initial social status, situational ethic or the greater aspiration of some. One initially tends to think of clever capitalist whores as either immoral or an aberration of social conscience.
What seems undeniably clear is that Eco weaves the details in such a way as to make his conclusion possible, that of the creation of the Protocols of Zion and its subsequent effect on world politics. This seems true not only for Russia's 20th century Jewish antipathy but also Hitler's insistence on the Protocols' legitimacy....(with the rationale that it was because so many maintained that it was a faked document,) This book remains a legitimately great story. Since reading it properly (in my opinion) was a consummate wrestling match, for that reason alone I will have to consider whether it is truly a great book. ...more
**spoiler alert** This is an insightful look into Franklin's character written clearly by someone who is much enamored with the man....and for good re**spoiler alert** This is an insightful look into Franklin's character written clearly by someone who is much enamored with the man....and for good reason, for the most part. Franklin seemed to possess remarkable sense of self control in the things he did in his life and he combined that with an equally remarkable sense of timing and patience. My sole criticism is that this book seems to jump around a bit and then become bogged down towards the end in details which seem relatively uninteresting. In that respect, it is like the author had begun to reconsider the kind of book he wanted to write, but didn't bother returning to the beginning. I have never known what to make of Franklin as a whole. This is someone who had such an influence on affairs and people of his day that it is not stretching the truth in the least to say that the United States would not have become what it did. On the other hand, I suspect I see that he wrestled a great deal with his spirituality, especially when it came into conflict with the practical side of things. While not a new piece of information, although Franklin's wife begged him to return from France, he did not and did not do so even to attend her funeral. I cannot help but think that such a man is too cold and calculating to ever admire, especially when he is begging a French woman to marry him across the ocean. One wonders whether he really had such a check on his inner self or merely learned the trick of keeping such well masked from the people who might mention it in the wrong circles. Still do people because they are famous become more guilty of sins or bad judgment? Washington had his (probably) Lucy Fairfax and Franklin had his French women. Say what you will about his character, he was the one who twice saved the young country by entreating both the Continental Congress and the Constitutional convention to join together in prayer. Even after this book, he remains an enigma of enormous talent and stature....more
Marshall waves a rich and beautiful tapestry using intense research, especially that of the oral tradition. I kept thinking on the legitimacy of thisMarshall waves a rich and beautiful tapestry using intense research, especially that of the oral tradition. I kept thinking on the legitimacy of this oral tradition throughout and wondered why this was apparently more effective than it was in written form. The answer, and I think Marshall's book gives us this answer, is that the oral tradition is more effective in allowing this person to remain alive for us. While it is true we find a great deal about the man, including all that made him a man of his people, we find a surprisingly authentic person in Crazy Horse and the author as well. It reminded me of the stories of the great reciters of Homer, poets who would be valued by their abilities not just for a story, for the story was essentially already made, but for teh efficacy in relating the exact tale. This requires far more than understanding but true commitment to the subject matter. It is, at the same time, like an actor and like playing the part of the reality. In toto, I was equally impressed by the story telling abilities as well as the background. On the negative side, I found it difficult to recall much of the language and found myself referring back to earlier parts of the book. It is not like one were reading Hebrew, and it certainly isn't absolutely necessary for the enjoyment of the tale, but it does embellish it a great deal. ...more
Sassoon is one of those names one remembers because it sounds vaguely funny. When first introduced to him, probably in high school, I recall there beiSassoon is one of those names one remembers because it sounds vaguely funny. When first introduced to him, probably in high school, I recall there being a joke about a bassoon. Still we knew he wasn't a really great poet because...well because he didn't sound like more than a relative to a hairdresser. Then again his portrayal of war, and that is all we knew of him at the time, was disturbing. He described war in such stark detail that one could feel the rumble, smell the death and decay and wonder how one ever got in such a mess in the first place. It left me longing for Keats in my immature heart and mind. I remember being told the story of him overcoming an enemy position and then, instead of calling for reinforcements, sitting down and reading a book. Secretly I admired him for that (more than the poetry we were reading anyway!) because it was a statement that we make our own peace and it often doesn't come easily. At the time, of course, I was too inhibited to say such things. I was glad to read a review of these and have the time to take them down off the dusty shelf. At this time in my life, they strike at my heart for Sassoon is a poet who, in the true sense of a prophet, has said, This is the world you have created...and it will get worse unless you do something. He presents the stark reality of life during war with sentimentality clinging as a human frailty. After this introduction, one would be hard pressed to call him anything other than "the war poet." Still he deserves to be called...and read so much more.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a hero of mine, without a doubt. While many of us question the kinds of decisions we would make in a given place, Bonhoeffer leDietrich Bonhoeffer is a hero of mine, without a doubt. While many of us question the kinds of decisions we would make in a given place, Bonhoeffer left us no doubt which is the way of sacrifice, much like the writings of Boethius. While he is quite capable of admitting his fear and sense of indecision even when in jail awaiting what he senses (correctly) will be his execution, his profound outpouring of love for Christ is raised to the point of both magnificence and self abasement in a remarkable way. Following Bonhoeffer on his path of growth is truly overwhelming and impressive....more
While this is a superb and intricate history of the man, one gets to see him with all his warts, so to speak. This doesn't suggest that I have any lesWhile this is a superb and intricate history of the man, one gets to see him with all his warts, so to speak. This doesn't suggest that I have any less respect for John Calvin as either a theologian or a writer, but I was constantly reminded how human we each are. Indeed, Gordon seems to remind us that Calvin, with all his intensity and hatred of certain things, is more than a bit like the apostle Paul.
While this may sound like a trite remark, I have to give credit to Calvin's Institutes to waking my otherwise sleeping mind to the special relationship man has with God and thus God with man. Calvin even in translation, speaks to the soul of mankind in a way in which other theological writers can never do. While I never doubted the focus Calvin had as a person, the development of his relationships with Farel, Viret Bullinger and Melanchthon are well documented by primary sources for the most part. In other words, first and foremost, this is a work of excellent scholarship rather than masquerading for what passes as scholarship these days. Today it may seem tedious to discuss splitting what appears to be a single hair, but upon which the entire issue of the Protestant Reformation hinged,the differences of opinion as regards the Lord's Supper. Still it was Calvin who vainly tried to bridge the gap between the Swiss Reformed and the German Lutherans. Gordon does not restrain himself from discussing the man's successes as well as his failures, in essence appearing very much like a modern day Paul, had we the information to fill in the gaps. At the bottom of it, however, one is left with little doubt that beyond everything, Calvin was a humble servant of Jesus Christ. It would have been easy for such a great thinker to be considerably less humble about such....more
I was dubious when I first picked this book up, but it was recommended by someone I respected and I thought it might be a nice respite from more serioI was dubious when I first picked this book up, but it was recommended by someone I respected and I thought it might be a nice respite from more serious concerns. Hence my surprise when I found a delightfully morbid account of who Oswald was and how he lived. Without any further amplification, the simple portrayal of the facts of his life sent chills down my spine. I have since seen so many men and a few women of a similar outlook, fringe players, essentially loners, but somehow capable of becoming powder kegs without much provocation. When one speaks of cause and effect in the modern world, one must be careful when applying these to humans: as in the case of Oswald, certain issues seem to have triggered the natural inclination towards an activity which would probably not occur in a well balanced socially responsible individual. I always felt that DeLillo weaved a very interesting and convincing argument in this book. In spite of its length, I am fonder of this one than I am of the few others I have read by the same author. ...more
I am pleased to say that my book group has completed the 12th book this week. It has been both an inspiring read and one fraught with difficulties. WhI am pleased to say that my book group has completed the 12th book this week. It has been both an inspiring read and one fraught with difficulties. While Milton's language (and ideas) remain consistent throughout, different subject matters receive greater focus and it is all too easy to think that these receive the greater justification. Thus this book is about the fall of mankind, otherwise known as the story of the Garden of Eden, but it also includes an ....interesting... and highly interpretive view of the before and the after.
Setting the stage of the "before" causes greater problems than anything else. Milton believed he was a prophet: he would dictate the poem (he was blind by the time he was well into it at least) and he claimed that while he slept he received the inspiration. While there is nothing wrong with expressing that dreams come from God (something I believe happens to be true) one cannot help believe that Milton's constant reference to classical literature tends to confuse the issue. He set out to write an epic poem in the style of Homer or Virgil. While he was much closer to the Aeneid, one ought to be astounded at the man's sheer ability to recall details from his classical training. If nothing else, he displays a degree of erudition not only in classics, but in the studies of Greek, Latin and Hebrew commentators which is truly awe inspiring. When I first read parts of this in high school I just thought he was long winded. In truth, I haven't changed my mind in that regard. He sometimes narrates for pages in difficult 17th century English poetry to make a relatively simple point. I think it does nothing to recommend him to say that the entire Neo-classical (aka Augustan) age of writers did the same thing. Cicero himself drives me crazy with how long he goes on to make a point and there are of course others. The Aeneid itself is a long winded highly speculative effort at justifying Romans and their attitudes toward the world. Virgil wasn't a bad poet, but the Aeneid isn't one of his best efforts ... and he knew this...but I digress as usual. (Try the Georgics or the Eclogues for some top notch poetry!) Anyway Milton set out his important effort as the following: "to justify the ways of God to men" (Book I 26.) Naturally this is difficult to understand in the 21st century because there are so many difficulties with his premises along the way. Still it is Milton’s point of view that: "The end of learning is to know God, and out of that knowledge to love Him and imitate Him.” How does one read and understand this when he places such a roadblock before the secularists who have been so consummately trained in universities for the last 25 years? While a believer myself, I discovered that most of the arguments against PL's point of view tended to be in Milton's premises. As a point of logic, it is difficult if not impossible to speak about an argument's conclusions by arguing first about his premises. I find this tendency among the enlightened maddening. Take the book at its value first, evaluate whether it follows from the premises... and THEN you may go back and argue about what he meant in a given premise! Sheesh! Thus while it is important whether Milton has succeeded in his poetry and in the epic style, we ought to principally evaluate Milton’s desired outcome against whether his path has been faithful and accurate. This requires our understanding of Milton’s belief system, not whether what Milton believed was right or wrong. I have discovered that this is exceedingly difficult for a generation which believes itself to be more highly enlightened than John Milton. So when you accept his premises, did Milton do the job he set out to do? I think he definitely did…and some twenty years ago my answer would have been negative. So the good news is that one of us is evolving although I doubt I am creating a new species. As a whole, one ought to think of Paradise Lost like a TV recording where the fast forward has occasionally gone berserk: Some of the 12 books seem laborious and slow while others are simply delightful. An early chapter, where Satan is fighting with God’s angels and goes off and invents cannon, made me laugh hysterically. It was, without intending denigration but rather expressing my delight, simply enthralling. Still it just doesn’t sound quite as regal as Isaiah, now does it? The last two chapters are another excellent example of holding one’s interest: while I knew that the last two books were essentially a narration of the history of man in the Bible, Book 11 dragged and suddenly Book 12 became inspiring. I even went back and read Book 11 again to ensure I wasn’t mistaken. The really odd thing was that Book 12 was like the DVR being set on FAST forward on a program of the history in the Bible. The other issue is that it was masterfully done, even noting the difficulties of history between the Testaments (roughly 350 years) which gave us King Herod. There was no doubt that Milton was a scholar and the he read the Bible correctly. But here’s the oddity and the really fascinating thing about PL: Milton’s exposition of the Bible, especially the latter parts of it, as opinionated as he is, is remarkably closer to SOME of the few things which people talk about today. For example, if you ask a so-called Christian where he or she expects to spend eternity with God, he or she will probably tell you heaven. The problem is that it is this world which is remade…and God will reside with us in the New Jerusalem. One would think this would not be a difficult thing as Revelation even gives us the dimensions of the New Jerusalem. Still Milton gets it right and most people think we go up in the sky for an eternity and fly around like angels. Weird, huh? For my part I suspect that C. S. Lewis was a lot closer to what it will be like in his book, The Great Divorce. Indeed Milton himself says in the great work, “What if earth Be but the shadow of Heaven, and things therein Each to other like, more than on earth is thought?” Well congratulations John: some of the things you wrote about are tough to imagine, but then I have to grant you a little bit of fun. Still what amazes me is how much more brilliant he became over the last twenty years. Pride is one of those things that one tires of polishing sooner or later. Maybe it’s a good thing I gave up my agnosticism.
**spoiler alert** I have long postponed reading Christopher Isherwood for some odd reason or another. I think it was because I never really discovered**spoiler alert** I have long postponed reading Christopher Isherwood for some odd reason or another. I think it was because I never really discovered that there was a lot of attention given to them in book discussions over the years. Nevertheless, I have learned what I was missing. I have always been fascinated by Berlin, mostly because it has always seemed a bit out of the ordinary. Germans themselves are an odd combination of pure rigor and gaiety, something which doesn't make much sense until you experience it. One day they are yelling at you about leaving the wrong waste can by the driveway or not cleaning your windows and the next day they are inviting you for a beer or some schnapps. Still Isherwood's Berlin is the one which gave us Cabaret and the first thing I noticed, this after four selections, is that only "Berlin Stories" was well named. Other than this, he had, apparently no talent for naming his books. Even when they were altered, as for the American market, they were less than satisfying titles. For example, the Last of Mr. Norris would seem to be a story about the demise of a man, but it isn't. Nor does this character disappear forever. Still it is a lovely novel about Isherwood's relationships, closely paralleling his diaries of the early 30's. I enjoyed the story about the politics most, discussing early flirtations with communism, despising the heavy handed tactics of the Nazis, the surprisingly ineffective right wing conservatives. It was strange to see this and then oddly see the Nazis rise to power even after the communists held power briefly. I found the underworld gaiety mildly interesting, although one gets the feeling that there was quite a bit more of illicit sex than is described. While we are treated to some mild S&M, fetishism and even hints of homosexuality, one gathers that Isherwood himself was more involved than he indicates. It isn't that he doesn't make it subtly clear he is a rump ranger, but that he appears to be one of the most naive persons on the planet, combined with a stubborn streak the size of Vermont. I never understood why he was doing anything, apart from trying to please a friend. It all seemed very restrained. As a result, one never gets quite why the title character is doing anything: he is merely present and fills in the scenes but it is maddening to read about someone with commitment issues of any kind AND less passion about anything happening around him. Perhaps the title of his play, I am a Camera , suggests what he may have been all about. Simply put, while all the other characters are somewhat vibrant and real, the narrator is dull as dishwater. He gives English lessons and does translations, but that's about it. He is interesting around others but never seems interesting in and of himself. Hence while the book is fascinating in its insight to the era, it lacks the dimension to make it truly a good read. ...more
I was ill prepared for this collection of essays, appearing much like disparate thoughts pursued in great baffling detail. I learned quickly that theI was ill prepared for this collection of essays, appearing much like disparate thoughts pursued in great baffling detail. I learned quickly that the focus was not only literate and scholarly, but detailed and multi-faceted. Saying that I was impressed just with the writing is an understatement, and frankly, I was probably expecting someone to raise yet another mildly bizarre theory about O'Connor, God and the South. Each piece is not only a remarkable piece of scholarship in itself, but is well balanced and thoughtful in the extreme. I did not read this linearly but only after reading Demonic Nihilism: the Chief Moral temptation of Modernity did I begin to admit that this book might be placing pieces of O’Connor’s thoughts together in a learned and articulate way. I finally picked on A Roman Catholic at Home in the Fundamentalist South and was overjoyed that what seemed at first like several different viewpoints really did have a wonderful cohesion to it. One can, of course, read this without ever having read books like I'll Take My Stand, a tome well known to students of American history for the past half century, but it would make as much sense to read this without having read O'Connor. Indeed this book goes a long way to explain what O'Connor said repeatedly, that the South was Christ-haunted, though not Christ-centered. Perhaps this haunting is what secularists see all too often in people's lives when they play the hypocrisy card...and maybe, although it makes little difference to the reality of God, it is a rational warning of our own occasional religious sophistry, knowing what zeal should be but falling short of the mark. Though I was at first puzzled by a predominance of H.L Mencken's criticism of the South, and being a Southerner, bristling somewhat under the familiar learned onslaught, Wood uses these criticisms as springboards to provide the subtlety necessary to separate the wheat from the chaff.. Moreover, this book suggests that our country in all its diversity has festering issues with which it has dealt with dishonestly and that O’Connor’s ideas of mutual acceptance and love for one another probably makes the most sense for a real solution. As usual, though these Christian thoughts may be stated in a very few words, it is their application which is the most difficult to employ. Thus this book suggests that is only through our past failures in history that we may hope to become re-dedicated to the sovereign source in our hearts by which we might finally overcome them. ...more
**spoiler alert** I had the great pleasure of recently meeting Professor Wiesel and having several short conversations with him. It was such a pleasan**spoiler alert** I had the great pleasure of recently meeting Professor Wiesel and having several short conversations with him. It was such a pleasant experience that we promised to continue our association. However I was in the unfortunate position of not having read Night... something which I shall have to remedy shortly.
I finished this powerful story the day before yesterday and I still feel more like blinking at it than anything else. Thousands, perhaps even millions of words have been written concerning man's inhumanity to man, but the candor of one who as a fifteen year old can not only watch his father slowly die in a concentration camp, but feel empty inside afterwards is beyond words. It is beyond comprehension also, and yet it is unifying in a base way. I wish that the world would remember this story but antisemitism is once again raising its ugly head in the world. Wiesel writes: Not far from us, flames were leaping up from a ditch, gigantic flames. They were burning something. A lorry drew up at the pit and delivered its load-- little children. Babies! Yes, I saw it...saw it with my own eyes...those children in the flames. (Is it surprising that I could not sleep after that? Sleep had fled from my eyes.) It is unimaginable that when we look in the mirror each day, we are looking at the species capable of such atrocities. If we find the above repugnant, and I am powerless to imagine anyone who might tacitly approve of such, how much more should one desire to fight to ensure that this never happens again? One day when we had stopped, a workman took a piece of bread out of his bag and threw in into a wagon. There was a stampede. Dozens of starving men fought each other to the death for a few crumbs. The German workmen took a lively interest in this spectacle. When he is freed from the camp and recovering in the hospital, he finally gains enough strength to look at himself in the mirror on the opposite wall. From the depths of the mirror, a corpse gazed back at me. The look in his eyes, as they stared into mine, has never left me. These last lines pose a question to us. The greater question today is whether we will let this vision ever again appear. I pray that we will not....more
**spoiler alert** I have been troubling over a way in which I might summarize this troubling book and I have decided that it is best represented by a**spoiler alert** I have been troubling over a way in which I might summarize this troubling book and I have decided that it is best represented by a well known Pascal quote: "lus je vois l'homme, plus j'aimie mon chien. Yes, that is the positive aspects of this book in a nutshell. In fact, when the protagonist’s dog, Fox, was killed, I cried, unable to stop for several minutes. The rest is a depiction of a social fabric which has torn itself to rags and threads of pseudo-value. This is a difficult book, one would almost call it deceptively erudite as Houellebecq throws out concepts and ideas as if he were handing out menus to a deli on a busy New York street. It seems odd that one should have to read Schopenhauer and Nietzsche and even Heidegger before one can truly understand he is saying but, alas, it seems true: even his jokes, which are extremely funny, are so arcane that they often seem transparent. For the first half of the book, I filled up pages and pages of quotes, even the dirty ones, because I found them all so intelligent and wonderful. After that, it wasn’t quite that I was bored with the idea as I was beginning to wonder where the book was going. In truth, close to the end, I suspected that it wasn’t going anywhere and would do something “poetic” like hang the reader out to dry. In truth, it almost did. If I understand this any better than I did before I read it, I believe that the Epilogue was written first and then he constructed the entire book around the character. If I had a criticism of the book, I might argue that it isn’t a perfect fit either, but that would be quibbling. As with Particles, none of the characters is very admirable, least of which is the protagonist. He is a sexist loutish pig, but someone not out of character with the modern day man who sees wealth and sexual power as the pinnacle of expression. In fact it was easy to recognize the women too, fixated on being anyone but themselves, all the time insisting on their freedom to become something that meanders into nothingness without a care in the world except the self’s expression. It is a rather ugly look at, it finally strikes one, the modern world and where mankind seems to want to go right now. If it takes one longer than 100 pages to realize that he or she is looking in a mirror, one has perhaps missed the entire point. H. has devised a kind of science fiction in which the self is created in a neo-human way through copying DNA. You don’t find that out until about 200 pages has gone by and in the meantime you are reading about these people like Daniel 1,9 and Daniel 25,1 and all these other people with numbers after their first name. I almost went back and started again convinced I had missed something but I hadn’t. It’s just slow in coming and in the meantime he is hawking Schopenhauer (the concept of the infinite life cycle) and making fun of people like Teilhard de Chardin and Hegel. I didn’t quite get why he didn’t like Hegel, but maybe he was too much of a Schopenhauerian. I even considered that Houellebecq himself was one of the neo-human forms of Schopenhauer. Maybe that is one of the only ways in which this book makes sense anyway. This book affects you deeply when you read it, especially if you take it to heart, something on the order of reading Dickens, except that no one really wins out in the end. The Island is, after all, only a possibility, a place where one might live, even after becoming neo-human, but my skepticism tells me that he doesn’t think it either likely or something which will catch on. Play that dirty music, white boy! Still he mentions Spinoza twice and it made me think of how he meant to evoke his spirit…and then I realized that this was a positive hidden thing. One gathers that the possibility of modern society rediscovering the meaning of living is probably pretty slim. Still, even as this is an indictment of our modern age, I couldn’t help but think of Dante’s Paradiso in Canto 29 where he says, “I would not have you doubt, but have you know surely that there is merit in receiving grace, measured by the longing to receive it.” Perhaps then even this diatribe against what we have become in our little planet has the solace in understanding that our acknowledgement of our hubris is the beginning of a better way. At least we have the sense to know that our pets are more deserving than are we.
My least favorite Grass book. Although brilliant commentary, I had trouble with the imagery which was not only sometimes beyond me but was heavy handeMy least favorite Grass book. Although brilliant commentary, I had trouble with the imagery which was not only sometimes beyond me but was heavy handed and repetitious. Still it is a worthwhile read just for its social commentary especially on twenthieth century Europe and especially Danzig. This volume is missing the delightfully sardonic Humnor of The Tin Drum and even The Dog Years, of which it was once a part. It deserves to be split off, of course, and it is worth reading although the story seems to meander a great deal. this frustrated me because I wondered whether it had a point or whetherthe author was just writing oin order to hear himself think. In addition, the slapstick seems contrived especially considering the somber feelings of the reader by the time it is finally encountered, so one laughs weakly. Still as social commentary of WWII Europe from several viewpoints, it is invaluable....more
I just finished this book in what has to be the third or fourth reading in my life. Still I am amazed to be able to say that I read it with astoundingI just finished this book in what has to be the third or fourth reading in my life. Still I am amazed to be able to say that I read it with astounding clarity this time. It is not that Lewis is difficult to read, although clearly he delights in the creation of lengthy thoughts stuffed into a several lines without a period, but that he enjoys truly creative English. One could, I think, read several lines of any of this to someone who didn't speak English and he or she would delight in the very erudition of the sound of it. It is sometimes so delightful that one forgets the meaning of it. I remember being rather young when I first read this book and when I saw that one of his chapter titles was Men Without Chests I thought it might be a science fiction book about strange prosthetic requirements. Frankly even now I think it would have been so much more straight forward of him to call it Men Without Heart although someone might suppose that would be about contrition at Valentine's Day. Still once one gets past his interesting use of terminology (Imagine a theistic man in the 1940's referring to the Tao without supposing he was taking mescaline!) and the book is extremely insightful. In fact, I was somewhat amazed that this book seems indeed perfectly prophetic today. Among other things he explains the origins of what I consider unthinkable activity today, such as running away from an accident in which someone is hurt. Indeed, having no Tao makes more sense than anything in explaining a despicable yet all too common act today. When he speaks of technology, I half expected think this discussion outdated but instead it is the opposite. While man often suggests to himself that he is busy mastering nature because of his profligate use of technology, Lewis suggests it is the opposite and that mankind is enslaving himself. All in all, this is a series of superb lectures which work on one's brains as if they were dialogues with the man. His thoughts are those as a man with whom you are having a wonderful conversation perhaps with a little iced tea in the shade. This is a truly wonderful book, prophetic as well as profound, and I am glad to have finally come to grips with it so that I can see it thusly. ...more
**spoiler alert** This is a brilliant book, one which is both penetrating and difficult for the reader. One must understand this book as an allegory a**spoiler alert** This is a brilliant book, one which is both penetrating and difficult for the reader. One must understand this book as an allegory and at the same time indulge in the real walk of the German people. It is a story, in essence, which Germans could not bear to say aloud, but were disposed to accept in this telling. It is a book of both joy and shame and even some horror for those who cannot accept huge quantities of people suffering unjustly. Perhaps this book is anti-war also, but in another regard, one has to ask how a seriously flawed Weltanschauung is to be overcome except through war. I have always considered it odd that perhaps the two greatest perpetrators of war in the twentieth century have been the Germans and the Japanese, both of whom have displayed such focus in their world view at the time. The main character, a perpetual dwarf named Oskar Matzerath narrates the entire Nazi rise to power with dispassionate verve. Grass writes with such wit that it is oftentimes difficult to grasp the seriousness of what he is saying. Fortunately there is a glossary in the back. I read this in high school at the request of my brother who was a bit older. I had no idea that this kind of thing was what the war was about because at age 16, I thought it about other things with a good bit more grandeur. It shocked my youthful sensibilities and ultimately I am glad it did. More than anything else, this is a book which means to kick you in the butt, to ensure that you stop lying down and taking the government handouts at the expense of others. He warns correctly that pigs which get used to eating for free will soon find themselves on the spit over a fire. That's a good lesson for a present day people whose government is promising things while penalizing a group which is responsible for all our ills, the greedy rich. Unfortunately, it just doesn't look like we have learned our lessons from history. The platitudes of acceptance sound much like prewar Germany to me. ...more
I wasn't sure what to make of this book the first time I looked at it. For lack of a better term, I thought of it as an idealistic rant, albeit trulyI wasn't sure what to make of this book the first time I looked at it. For lack of a better term, I thought of it as an idealistic rant, albeit truly heroic and well written. The problem was that I had already read The Clash of Civilizations by Samuel Huntington and frankly I thought he was pretty much correct. Even if he wasn't, I had no doubt that dippy Islamist control freaks were set on molding the relatively ignorant masses to their way of thinking. As a matter of fact, that is one view I haven't changed in the last ten years. The problem has just gotten worse.
When I read the book for a book club, this time I spent some more time examining what she said as history. Bhutto makes very good points concerning the substantial commonality of Judaism, Christianity and Islam: all have a common father in Abraham. Abraham fathered his first son Ishmael by his wife's handmaid (at her insistence since she was around 90) and then miraculously Isaac by his ancient wife Sara.
However, Ishmael, later the traditional father of Islam, is driven away and it is Isaac is nearly sacrificed to God by Abraham. Traditional Islam says that Isaac stole Ishmael’s birthright and the Jews rewrote the story. However, in the Qur’an, it simply states tat Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son. The son is not named. The problem comes when Muslim scholars assume that it was Ishmael who was meant even though it does not state that it was he. I mention this issue, first because most people just don’t understand the foundation, but also because this, in a nutshell, is what the modern fight is all about. It’s not religion, but control of the hearts and minds, kind of like NBC would like.
It is Bhutto’s point of view that education can overcome this ignorance and then everyone can get together and play nice. I would tend to agree, but there are some very wealthy and powerful Islamists who don’t find it to their benefit that the common people actually find out what is really going on. Yeah, yeah, I know: Israel is somehow evil and nasty! What a bunch of punks! Once again, it’s about control more than it is about religion.
If you think of about 500 years ago when Tyndale was burned at the stake (strangled at the same time oddly enough) for translating the Bible into English, then you have the idea of what it means to have religious control (Henry VIII) over people. In England, oddly enough, some 3 years after his death, they decided it was a good idea after all and produced An English Bible and then, finally, the King James version in 1611. This latter Bible, by the way, used almost all of Tyndale’s translation. Sorry William!
The best part of this book is when Bhutto takes Huntington’s paper by the horns and wrestles with it. She makes very valid points and I agree that these things could happen if only some people would get their collective heads out of their Islamic butts…and the US will continue giving Pakistan money. I really wanted to agree with her too, but then there’s one minor point: the Taliban had her executed before she could ensure that women in Pakistan could actually have the right to tell some misogynist asshole they were forced to marry to take a hike! Along with that, I really can’t understand what these people are going to do to raise their standard of living unless they grow more poppies or invent some new software which takes the world by storm. In fairness, this woman knew that they were after her and that she would probably be killed but she returned to Pakistan anyway. I admire women who stand up and tell morons to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. I think she was right too. I just don’t think that there is enough goodness left in this world to counter all the evil schmucks that are already here, in Pakistan as well as in the West. God bless her for being brave enough to try and also for writing this idealistic book: maybe one day, some other woman will read her book and figure out what to do. I’m still an idealist because I have faith that things will ultimately be different. ...more