The attention of many, if not most people, who see the title The Autobiography of Satan: Authorized Edition will be drawn to the word Satan. ActuallThe attention of many, if not most people, who see the title The Autobiography of Satan: Authorized Edition will be drawn to the word Satan. Actually, the key words are authorized autobiography. Autobiography is crucial because countless stories have been written or told about Satan's life, motives and deeds. And while it would seem that any autobiography would, by definition, be authorized, the term here signals the deceit of the other stories and seeks to confirm this isn't a fabrication.
We all should understand that even this authorized autobiography is fictitious. Yet a 2013 poll indicated that 57% of Americans believe the devil exists. In another poll that year more Americans expressed belief in the devil (58%) than evolution (47%). For William Glasser, president emeritus of Southern Vermont College, the time evidently seemed ripe for Stan to publish an autobiography.
Glasser, who combined his Ph.D. in English with a minor in comparative religion, advances a thoughtful premise. While certainly written from a freethinker's perspective, The Autobiography of Satan isn't predicated on some sort of grand clash of metaphysical beings. This is seen from the outset, as Satan flickers into existence when a prehistoric hominid puzzled over the spark created when he struck two rocks together. From this point forward, Satan's story is that of and shaped by human history.
Even since prehistory, man faces the enduring shroud created by what we know and explaining what we don't understand. For just as long, man has looked to gods for and as the answer to what mystifies us, including the problem of good and evil. Glasser traces the evolution of religious beliefs and how the unknown was transformed into and maintained as the exclusive province of the gods. Because this was outside human dominion, it was forbidden knowledge. And Satan contends that even the Garden of Eden, whether real or apocryphal, was conceived to keep man "distracted from becoming aware of your deplorable ignorance."
In ceding the unknown, humans chose "to deify their ignorance." And since the gods possessed all knowledge, some entity had to be responsible for enticing people to dare question or seek that which they -- or their religions -- considered beyond man's ken. Moreover, since man deemed gods the source of good in the world, he needed to ascribe evil (the definition of which changed despite supposedly being the province of any particular religion's deities) to some entity. Man piled all this on Satan's shoulders, even though the reality was he was not cast out, waging war against any god or spawning evil in the world.
The only foe Glasser's Satan has is "exalted ignorance." And that is where hostility exists between Satan and religion. History as recounted by Satan is replete with efforts by religions to restrict knowledge and investigation because "they were fearful of what you might discover beyond the borders of their own beliefs." According to Satan, considered by nearly all to be an expert in the field, the suppression of knowledge and free inquiry is "the true source of evil in this world."
Satan's recounting weakens as Glasser moves us into the present and even the future. Although shrewd and at times droll, the book also stumbles with perhaps too frequent, and occasionally trivial, interludes of dialogues between Satan and his scribe, Wag. Still, approaching Satan, or the concept of Satan, as a struggle over knowledge and not a battle between good and evil heightens the level of discourse over conventional notions of Satan. Granted, many will claim Glasser is simply vilifying religion. Yet anyone embarking on The Autobiography of Satan without preconceptions will find an intelligent, well-reasoned and insightful exploration of historical ideas and their evolution.
It will be easy for Trumpists and conservatives to ignore Brooke Gladstone’s new book. Not only is she a member of the mainstream media, she's spent tIt will be easy for Trumpists and conservatives to ignore Brooke Gladstone’s new book. Not only is she a member of the mainstream media, she's spent the last 30 years working for two bastions of biased liberal media, WNYC and NPR. They’ll justify their dismissal of the book with fleeting perusals, its reviews or perhaps the subtitle. And even if they took the time to read it, they'll dislike it because it invokes writers such as Hannah Arendt and discussions of demagogues, totalitarianism and authoritarianism. Yet such a lapse is indicative of what she believes is happening today.
The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time is a succinct consideration of an era in which reality is the core of an “epic existential battle.” In assessing why this battle exists, Gladstone doesn’t lay blame entirely at the feet of Trump and his supporters (although they are assigned plenty). She builds her analysis using diverse sources, including Arendt, philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, journalist Walter Lippmann, Thomas Jefferson, Philip K. Dick, Oliver Swift and 17th century poet John Milton. She believes human nature helped create our confused reality.
We mistakenly believe facts are reality, she says. Even when two people are presented with the same facts, though, they filter, arrange, prioritize and view them through their own values and traditions. Ultimately, reality “is not necessarily the world we would like it to be, … it is simply the kind of world we expect it to be.” Yet another part of the problem is that just as we sift facts, other elements of our political system affect what we sift.
As part of career spent covering the media, Gladstone has spent nearly 20 years co-hosting On The Media for years, a weekly radio program billed as examining how the "shapes our world view." In the last election, the media fell victim to what she calls Trump's "canny use of the demagogue's playbook." Using a number of Trump's campaign statements and an analyzing his use of Twitter to "embed his realities," The Trouble with Reality suggests the media's approach to an unprecedented campaign style made things worse. Gladstone argues that the Trump campaign's methods left the media "darting this way and that after shiny objects, too frantic to cull the crucial from the trivial, never pausing for the big picture that, in any case, they would not have recognized."
Yet The Trouble with Reality may reinforce the growing lack of trust in the mainstream media. Gladstone correctly notes, for example, that "reporters should have laughed less and reported more" during the campaign. Perhaps more concerning is the suggestion that Trump's hostility toward the press has created an animus that will create a new golden age of journalism. Trump's election, Gladstone says, has "blocked the appearance of objectivity at all costs" and turned Washington reporters into war reporters. Yet one of Trump's core arguments against the press is that it lacks objectivity. (Actually canceling press briefings would be a miscalculation as it would not only heighten the animus, but give “war reporters” more time to work on their marksmanship.) Perhaps it is just her phrasing that causes concern. It's crucial the media change its conspicuous tendency to accept statements at face value and fail to fact check. Yet any hint that the press is discarding objectivity has significant ramifications for media credibility.
Of course, Gladstone also sees Trump as a significant source of "our reality trouble." She seeks to explain what allowed Trump to so resonate with voters during the campaign. At the same time, the book regularly quotes and applies guidelines used to assess totalitarianism and demagoguery, suggesting Trump is both. As for what helps create reality for Trump supporters, she says he struck a "classic authoritarian deal" with them.
You can bask in my favor and recognition, in the promises I make and the license I bestow, and all I ask in return is that you believe whatever I say, whenever I say it. Even if it is false.
This certainly evinces a basis for people accepting the "fake news" and "alternative facts" motifs apparent since Trump's inauguration. It also helps explain why she suggests that the path toward repairing reality isn't agreeing on what it is.
Given that we each view identical facts from different perspectives, it is difficult, if not impossible, to agree on the truth, on reality. While Gladstone suggests that activism is a route for those so inclined, she believes gathering more facts from people and places with which we are unfamiliar is important. Even if those facts don't change our minds, it may allow us to comprehend how or what another person accepts as reality. Whether she's right or not, the suggestion is certainly better than viciously berating and maligning each other, whether publicly or online.
Although case studies are a well-recognized form of scholarship, in the nonfiction aisles of retail bookstores it can become a sobriquet for “war storAlthough case studies are a well-recognized form of scholarship, in the nonfiction aisles of retail bookstores it can become a sobriquet for “war stories.” Their presence and popularity grew immensely with the popularity of books by neurologist Oliver Sacks. Many authors, though, have difficulty equalling his prowess.
Mark Rubinstein deftly avoids the many pitfalls of the genre in Beyond Bedlam's Door: True Tales from the Couch and Courtroom, his second book of vignettes from his four decades as a psychiatrist. It follows the same format of his first such book, last year's Bedlam's Door:True Tales of Madness and Hope. Both tell the stories of a variety of patients, each followed by an "Afterword" addressing the particular issues or conditions at play. In this way Rubinstein seeks to not only make each patient's story personal and relatable but to explain psychiatric conditions and their ramifications for the individual, their family and society.
Bedlam's Door, a term used when an emergency room becomes "a revolving carousel of psychosis," portrays patients Rubinstein encountered at various medical facilities. Beyond Bedlam's Door is just what its title and subtitle suggest: accounts of his work outside the institutional setting, whether treating someone in private practice or as a forensic psychiatrist.
Rubinstein uses an almost parable-like approach in the 21 stories in Beyond Bedlam's Door to illustrate the diversity of psychiatric issues and what psychiatrists do. Among the topics he explores are professional malpractice, the difficulty of treating adolescents, the importance of doctor-patient boundaries and the difference between crossing those boundaries and violating them. His method of recounting patient histories in the form of reconstructed conversations provides a foundation by which Beyond Bedlam's Door intelligibly explains and demystifies a variety of mental health issues, from panic attacks to depression to post-traumatic stress disorder. More important, Rubinstein shows that the stories of his patients really weave “a tapestry of human thinking, feeling and behavior” in which “we see reflections of ourselves.”
Rubinstein's background as a forensic psychiatrist -- a psychiatrist who works with attorneys, courts, or other parties involved in actual or potential litigation -- also allows him to provide an inside view of the interplay between law and psychiatry. He furnishes easy to understand explanations of various psychiatric issues in the law. For example, Beyond Bedlam's Door concisely and coherently spells out the recurring question in workers' compensation cases of "physical-mental" and "mental-mental" injuries. Likewise, he describes the job of an expert witness, the so-called "gunslinger" expert and how forensic evaluations differ from evaluating a patient for treatment.
Beyond Bedlam's Door sporadically repeats information from Rubinstein's prior book, at times verbatim. To be fair, that likely is simply the nature of the beast when it comes to describing and explaining mental health conditions. Some may also be put off by the fact that while the reconstructed dialogue makes the book more literary, it can also feel artificial. That said, Beyond Bedlam's Door is a top-notch look at the reality and relevance of psychiatry in today's America.
I grew up about 200 miles due west of Minneapolis. When I was young, a weekend family trip to watch the Minnesota Twins was almost a ritual. Like anyI grew up about 200 miles due west of Minneapolis. When I was young, a weekend family trip to watch the Minnesota Twins was almost a ritual. Like any elementary school boy, the players were among my first idols. Pitcher Jim "Mudcat" Grant was one my my favorites.
Given my age, I assumed his nickname had something to do an affinity for catfishing. His lore dates it back to 1958, his first year with the Cleveland Indians. He actually got the name four years earlier when he entered the minor leagues. Some white teammates began calling him "Mudcat," saying he had the face of a Mississipi mudcat.
Racism was generally tolerated in the 1950s and baseball, "America's Pastime," was no exception. Yet civil rights would be a core subject for the sport as the country entered the Sixties. John Florio and Ouisie Shapiro proffer that baseball was a microcosm of America during that time. Their book, One Nation Under Baseball: How the 1960s Collided with the National Pastime, takes a chronological approach in seeking to portray the influence the decade had on baseball and vice versa. Often exploring political and cultural issues as much as baseball itself, they believe that by the end of the 1960s the sport "resembled a new America."
Although Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color line in 1947, the vast majority of spring training camps were in Florida, where Jim Crow laws prevailed. Housing and even seating in the ballparks were segregated. It was not until 1964 that every team had integrated housing for spring training in Florida. One Nation Under Baseball lays out who and what brought the values and objectives of the civil rights movement to the forefront in baseball. Integrated housing for ballplayers wasn’t the sole impact. The Atlanta Braves became the Deep South's first major league baseball team when it joined the National League in 1966. To help obtain the franchise, the city prohibited segregated seating and facilities at sporting events. As one writer later observed, such events were "many people, black and white, first shared public restrooms, sat in the same sections ... or drank at the same fountain."
Yet racism wasn’t eradicated. The Minnesota Twins, originally the Washington Senators before owner Calvin Griffith relocated the team in 1961, was the last to desegregate spring training. In speaking to a Twin Cities service group years later about his decision to move the team to Minnesota, Griffith said black people didn't go to ball games and the Twins "came here because you've got good, hardworking, white people here."
Such comments also reveal the increasing divide between the owners' 1950s thinking and the players. In addition to civil rights, the generation gap was also an element of how baseball and the country mirrored each other in the Sixties.
The conflict was perhaps most personified by Bowie Kuhn, legal counsel for the owners and later Commissioner of Baseball, and Marvin Miller, who became executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association when it was recognized as a labor union in 1966. Before Miller negotiated baseball's first collective bargaining agreement in 1968, the minimum player salary was $7,000. The agreement would boost that more than 40 percent, just one step in the decade's road to ending owners dictating player salaries.
Florio and Shapiro, who also wrote One Punch From the Promised Land: Leon Spinks, Michael Spinks, and the Myth of the Heavyweight Title, detail the role of the so-called "reserve clause" in the standard player's contract. The clause essentially allowed a team to renew a player's contract year after year if it didn't sell or trade him to another team. Unless a player could negotiate a raise, his choice was to accept the contract offered by the team or quit, giving owners an overwhelming advantage in contract negotiations and enabling them to keep salaries low. The control it granted over a player’s life led some players to view it as a form of salary. One Nation Under Baseball examines the efforts of players like Dodger pitchers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, who collectively held out before the 1966 season, and Curt Flood, who would sit out a year and later file but lose a lawsuit challenging the reserve clause. Although the reserve clause did not die until 1975, these were the crucial steps that would lead to players being able to control their own destiny through free agency.
The book also uses Jim Bouton's Ball Four to exemplify the establishment vs. anti-establishment sentiment that grew in baseball. Although not published until June 1970, the book was a tell-all written during the pitcher’s time with the New York Yankees and Seattle Pilots in 1969. The book detailed real life in the majors, including teams providing amphetamines to players and players drinking and womanizing. Believing the book was a harmful kiss and tell, Kuhn launched a campaign to discredit Bouton. After an excerpt was published in Look magazine, Kuhn met with Bouton and Miller, wanting the pitcher him to issue a statement saying the tales in the book were exaggerated. Bouton refused. The book would spend 17 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and rank as one of the New York Public Library's Books of the Century.
Clearly, the Sixties changed baseball and One Nation Under Baseball uses extensive research and sources to survey the time. The bibliography is 15 single-spaced pages, not counting nearly 60 personal interviews the authors conducted. At times, though, it feels as if Florio and Shapiro couldn’t quite decide whether to focus on baseball or social history. Granted, the book provides crucial information to demonstrate the role of the civil rights movement, the rock generation and politics in changing baseball. Yet tangential details abound, more than is perhaps necessary for the narrative. For example, there are lengthy excerpts from speeches by John Kennedy and Martin Luther King, stories of the Beatles in America, and accounts of Muhammad Ali's fights and misfortunes. Certainly, these are part of the olio of the Sixties but the extent of detail overwhelms their correlation to the subject.
For those with some familiarity with 1960s baseball and its personalities, One Nation Under Baseball is a reflective and entertaining read. Likewise, those with a general interest in baseball history and the 1960s will find the book useful. Others, particularly those looking for a sharply focused analysis of the evolution of baseball during the time, may be disappointed. What was really happening in baseball, and at arenas everywhere, was the sensibilities of the rock generation infiltrating sports.