Laurie King is a prominent fiction writer. She is the author of the highly-popular Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes dries, the Kate Martinelli series, and...moreLaurie King is a prominent fiction writer. She is the author of the highly-popular Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes dries, the Kate Martinelli series, and a number of stand-alone novels. A number of her works feature religion or theology in an important way, reflecting King's interests and academic background; she received a BA from UC Santa Cruz in Religious Studies and earned an MA from UC Berkeley's Graduate Theological Union in Old Testament Theology. Both degrees required a thesis, and My Thesis Being… publishes the texts of both.
A BA thesis, when required, is not the task required by master's and doctoral theses; a BA thesis is usually the equivalent of an advanced paper that is a short but comparatively thorough survey of a particular topic. In her BA thesis, King took as her subject the figure of The Trickster or Fool, as he shows up in the West. She used the topic of the Trickster or Fool as an integral part of her book "To Play the Fool", one of the Kate Martinelli series.
For her Master's thesis, King took on "The Feminine Dimensions of Yahweh", a result, as she says, of "it being the 80s, and I being a woman with two small children…". As she says, it wasn't earthshakingly innovative at the time, but it is a pretty extensive and thoughtful look at how images and concepts of the feminine are incorporated into Yahweh throughout the Hebrew Testament. She divided her examination into three sections: 1) imagery which is unambiguously taken from that of a woman's body and physiological functions (such as nursing a child) 2) concepts and images of the goddess figures of worship in the Near East in countries with direct contact with ancient Israel and 3) the figure of Wisdom which, in the Hebrew Testament is personified as feminine.
In both "A Monstrous Regiment of Women", the 2nd in the Mary Russell series, and "A Darker Place", a stand-alone novel, King used her interest in the feminine aspect of the Divine as part of these novels, greatly enriching both.
I found both theses fascinating. For over 60 years, I have been interested in theological and religious questions, and the sorts of topics that King explores and the way she goes about it appeal to me. Second, I consider King to be one of the best writers alive. Someone who had attended formal writing classes at a major university once told me that there are two aspects to fiction. One is the ability to tell a good story and the other is the ability to write well. There are many fiction writers who tell good stories but don't write well. King is one of the few in my opinion who does both superlatively well.
Her theses will have to speak for themselves. They are too long, too detailed to do much more than give summaries as I've done here, borrowing literally from King's introduction. But out of sheer personal interest, I'll make a few comments.
I was surprised to find out that the Trickster is a world-wide figure; I had thought that he was the more or less exclusive property of Native American traditions. I've read fairly widely in Native American traditions, particularly Hopi and Northwest Native American creation cycles, and was familiar wight he Trickster from them. But I had no idea that he shows up, for example, in African traditions.
I found King's expositions of the goddess worship of Astarte/Anat/Innanna really fascinating. I knew something of Astarte but had no idea of the depth of the myths surrounding her and just how broadly drawn a figure she was. I loved the inclusion of the humans of these goddess figures--mad them very much more real in my eyes.
Wisdom, as she appears in the Book of Sirach, is one of my favorite Hebrew Testament figures. I loved King's treatment of her, showing both the very personal and yet very abstract character of Lady Wisdom. I was also surprised to find out how wisdom was first conceived--as practical knowledge and ability, later evolving into the ability to judge right from wrong. For me, this part of the thesis was the most interesting, due primarily to personal interest.
Finally, a word about King as a writer. It's really clear to anyone who has read King's fiction that she has a particular style that never really gets informal but somehow appears to be, so much so that her writing is incredibly accessible. That style shows up very clearly in her theses, making me wonder if great writers aren't born, not made (without taking away one bit of credit to the blood, sweat, and tears of hard work that goes into any good piece of writing). The topics of her theses are not every day reading or sound bites from CNN, but with a minimum of interest, these rather arcane subjects are not only accessible but absorbing. That's quite a feat to pull of.
The formatting of the book is primitive, given what it is and the difficulty of adapting Greek and Hebrew characters to e-book limitations. Bibliography, yes, index no. No Table of Contents. It's meant to be interesting background to those of her fans who want to know more "backstory", as it were, to some of King's fictional works. For that alone, it's well worth reading. It's also worth reading if you have any interest in the topics covered. But they are academic works, and that has to be kept in mind no matter how well-written they are. So, not for everyone, but certainly for those with any interest, well worth the effort. (less)