I attended a book swap party for a friend not long ago. I came home with this book. I’d never heard of it, but how could I not be interested in VonnegI attended a book swap party for a friend not long ago. I came home with this book. I’d never heard of it, but how could I not be interested in Vonnegut?
This short book is wonderful. It’s nothing like I expected and everything I could have hoped for. In it, you follow the story of Howard Campbell Jr, as told by himself while in prison for war crimes committed during World War II. The reality is, he was a double agent, working effectively towards both Nazi and American ends.
The dismaying thing about the classic totalitarian mind is that any given gear, though mutilated, will have at its circumference unbroken sequences of teeth that are immaculately maintained, that are exquisitely machined. Hence the cuckoo clock in Hell—keeping perfect time for eight minutes and thirty-three seconds, jumping ahead fourteen minutes, keeping perfect time for six seconds, jumping ahead two seconds, keeping perfect time for two hours and one second, then jumping ahead a year. The missing teeth, of course, are simple, obvious truths, truths available and comprehensible even to ten-year-olds, in most cases.
What caught me off guard, was how a book that touches on so many of the ugliest parts of war is so full of compassion. The cast of characters is comical. A Nazi/American double agent, an unrepentant white nationalist and anti-Semite, a woman who tries to take over the life of her sister, a Russian spy who abuses his best friend, a drunk, excommunicated priest, and more. All of them sad, broken and ugly but all treated with compassion by Vonnegut. None flatly evil. All conflicted, full of potential but broken by war.
This beautiful book, written in 1903, is about race and America. It is a collection of essays; some history, some critique, some stories, some journalThis beautiful book, written in 1903, is about race and America. It is a collection of essays; some history, some critique, some stories, some journals. They are gathered together to form a comprehensive picture of life for the African American at the turn of the 20th century. It’s author, W.E.B. De Bois was an American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, writer and editor.
Reading this book shook me and, more than once, left me speechless. However, this book is not a shocking book, full of the horrors of racism and America’s dark past. What shook me was the shear strength of character, integrity and humanity of De Bois. His prose is elegant, his observations keen and balanced, his conclusions measured, his stance humble. However, he is not passive, not content with the status quo and not very interested with sacrificial compromise.
After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro… two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife, — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self.
Du Bois has much and more to say about race in America over 100 years later. Similar to Between the world and me, it builds an unshakable picture of life for people of color in the United States. DuBois describes the internal mindset and self image that has developed in a culture with the baggage America has with race. This clearer understanding forced me to wrestle with my own self image and and acknowledge the role being white plays in my understanding of the world. That is why I find this book so important. Genuine opportunities for personal insight as a result of the lived perspective of another person are a gift. I am extremely thankful for the gift that I found in this book.
Rob Bell is excited about a lot of things, but what he is most excited about is the Bible. To those outside of the church there is the perception thatRob Bell is excited about a lot of things, but what he is most excited about is the Bible. To those outside of the church there is the perception that the Bible is rigid and violent. Even those inside of the church have a complicated relationship with it. This book by Rob Bell is a breath of fresh air that tries to cast a vision of the Bible that is bright, hopeful, provocative, and inspiring.
Why bother with such a strange, old book? Because it’s a book about them, then, that somehow speaks to you and me, here and now, and it can change the way you think and feel about everything.
To those who are unfamiliar with Rob’s work, some back story is helpful. He was an evangelical pastor and author. He is a personality who at his very core is a pot stirrer. Like most interesting people who are doing worthwhile work, you will have an opinion about him. He became considered an outsider, and even a heretic, as a result of some of his writings. That hasn’t stopped him from continuing to explore what it means to be a Christian in the 21st century.
His work over the last several years has focused on speaking to those who are outside of the “Church.” It could be those who have never been in it or those who have left it. If you are a content Christian, Rob will seem dangerous to you. I do not think I can convince you otherwise. This book is for those that look at the Church and despair. For those that feel like the Church and the Bible has nothing to offer. For those who are a part of it, but struggle to make the pieces fit and find reason to stay.
In it he gives voice to many thoughts and emotions that I have experienced for years. Giving a clear voice to those emotions disarms them and lays the foundation to build on top of. The end result? After you get used to his quirky style of writing, his statements that seem a little over-the-top, and his weird sense of humor, you’re left with hope and excitement to continue onward....more