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27 September 2011 @ 12:26 am
Books What I Have Read  
I'm still working on My Favorite Band Does Not Exist. Once again, the fact that this is a bedtime book with smaller print (*koff* Boy, I hate admitting that's a factor) slows things down.

I'm about 1/3 of the way through One Of Our Thursdays Is Missing. How much do I love the reference to "Lost Positives"? I've said many times that when I'm disgruntled... I need some new gruntles. Looks like Fforde has had similar thoughts. ;)

I finished Twilight Watch, and enjoyed it BUT felt that Anton should have been a little more pained by how things turned out. Pained on a personal level. :(

I also finished Under The Banner Of Heaven, by John Krakauer. This book is on the history of the early Mormon church, and the many current fundamentalist offshoots of Mormonism. Krakauer tries to be as fair as an outsider can, including providing context. There was a lot of distrust and bloodshed both from and toward Mormons in the Church's first fifty years or so (unfortunately consistent with much of the U.S. as a whole). Krakauer discusses Smith's desire to broach polygamy to his young church, which caused problems then and since. I pity Smith's wife, who went from having to endure her husband's philandering to having to house his paramours under her own roof!

Interestingly, Smith's support of polygamy and his doctrine of personal revelation (a hallmark and special attribute of the religion) sowed the continual problem of fundamentalist splinter groups. Polygamy, and the subjugation of women, is very appealing to a lot of men. The early church offered both of those, as well as a very clear sense of separation from the rest of society. Several men have felt themselves called by revelation to become leaders of new (fundamentalist) sects of the church, and voila—yet another splinter group.

This is utterly maddening to the official Mormon church, but there isn't a lot that can be done.

Krakauer's book follows the thread of two brothers who murdered a young mother and her baby in the furtherance of "God's will," based on a revelation that one of them had (a revelation rejected by the leaders of the brothers' sect, and one which marked not people who were thwarting the sect's future but who had thwarted the elder brother's individual happiness). The final chapters of the book get into the details of the trial, and the expert testimony used to draw a distinction between mental illness and spirituality. That part is especially fascinating, because it is a slippery slope to call one person's unfavorable beliefs "crazy" when the beliefs stem from faith-based thinking, especially ones well-rooted in the person's particular church. The trial managed to delineate the difference very well, I thought.

In the afterward, Krakauer mentions a former B.Y.U. history professor, Michael Quinn, who has written books disagreeing with the church but who is still very much a believer. Quinn has been excommunicated from the church for apostasy, which is probably readily evident in the quote below. But as an agnostic, I found this a wonderful description of how an intelligent, logical person maintains his faith against the "defects" in the faith's history/doctrine/etc:

"The writers of the Old Testament presented the prophets as very human vessels, warts and all. Yet God still chose them to be His leaders on earth. That's how I see Mormonism: It is not a perfect church. It has huge flaws, in both the institution and the people who lead it. They are only human. And I have no trouble accepting that. It's all part of my faith."

I mentioned this book to my Dad, though it's on a touchy subject (my Dad was raised in a Mormon family, and his ancestors were among the early Mormons, though he never believed any of the teachings himself). He asked me to hang onto the book for him, which I couldn't do because it's a library book.

Segue: this summer, my Dad mentioned that he has never had a library card. Never. He grew up during the Depression, in a small town outside of Salt Lake City. I ask you, how is it smart NOT to have a library card? Even now, he and my mother buy books they haven't read and movies they haven't seen. My mother boxes up books she's read to ship off to a friend in Florida, who does the same. They have this whole trading system worked out, and what boggles me is that there is already an existing system that achieves that quite well.

Needless to say, my Dad never used the video store or Netflix system either. I find the whole thing mystifying, not to mention pack-rattish…

mercurybard on September 27th, 2011 11:35 am (UTC)
You're reading the Watch series?

I enjoyed all of them, though the series was very uneven throughout. Twilight Watch was where Anton's humanity really started to slip away, which makes sense because he's turning into a very powerful Other. But it also made me said. The fact that Kostya was the antagonist really illustrated it--their friendship across party lines was one of the things that made Anton unique.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Bookshalfshellvenus on September 27th, 2011 05:06 pm (UTC)
Slowly, over time, I've read the series. The middle one was strangely structured (another LJ friend says there was a co-author, which had visible impact). I've enjoyed seeing the difference in viewpoints between the Dark and Light sides, and how manufactured much of their battle is (i.e., based on brainwashing).

Kostya's reasons for doing what he did demonstrated as stridently as possible that Anton really never understood that "Dark" was a relative term. Kostya was as idealistic as they come, and apparently never actually evil. And somehow, I feel as if that went right over Anton's head. Not the reader, just Anton.

I was glad that, even in the final series and with underimages revealed in deeper levels of Twilight, that Edgar still remained essentially adorable. He really grew on me in the "Day Watch" book. :)
realpestilence: piglet yellrealpestilence on September 27th, 2011 12:05 pm (UTC)
But you have to give library books BACK!

~is appalled

The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on September 27th, 2011 05:07 pm (UTC)
If you REALLY LIKE THEM and want to reread them, you can buy them. But if you're trying them out to see how you feel about them, for the love of god, cycle them through! :0

(I need an appalled icon). ;)
alienmom: leverage parkeralienmom on September 27th, 2011 03:11 pm (UTC)
and all the money they spend to be pack-rattish! instead, they could buy ice cream! LOL
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: heh-hehhalfshellvenus on September 27th, 2011 05:10 pm (UTC)
Or, you know... just push the clutter out on a rotating basis.

The pack-rattishness apparently is one of the risks of growing up in the Depression-era. There's a fear of parting with "things" (it's like parting with "security").

But as the executor of their estate down the road (and living 8 hours away)... letting go of unneeded possessions NOW really suits MY needs better. *is selfish* *and purges possessions regularly, thanks to parents' and younger sister's example*
cindy: the dean show - a boy and his bookstsuki_no_bara on September 27th, 2011 04:52 pm (UTC)
>>I pity Smith's wife, who went from having to endure her husband's philandering to having to house his paramours under her own roof! <<

that makes it sound kind of like he had a wandering eye and came up with a religious justification so he wouldn't have to keep it in his pants. hmph. interesting how some very basic tenets of the official church lead to splinter groups, tho.

i read krakauer's into the wild years and years ago and liked it, and apparently into thin air is supposed to be good too.

i am baffled as to how your dad never had a library card. was there not a local library where he grew up?
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Bookshalfshellvenus on September 27th, 2011 05:18 pm (UTC)
that makes it sound kind of like he had a wandering eye and came up with a religious justification so he wouldn't have to keep it in his pants. hmph.

Smith warred with his issues of lust, and periodically would frequent brothels. But Krakauer was very firm on the fact that Smith was a religious man who wanted to be upright and pure, and so the revelation of polygamy most likely arose from his subconscious as the word of God (and seemed entirely real to Smith) rather than as a calculated creation.

That's part of the problem with "revelation"-- it's very a very powerful and important part of the Mormon faith, and brings enormous meaning to its followers. But knowing how the subconscious mind works... it can be hard to separate spiritual inspiration from wishful thinking. There is a desire within and without the Mormon church not to assume that those are the same thing. To the non-religious person like me, well, I know what I think about that. But to people of faith? One hopes they believe there is a distinction.

Into Thin Air was _really_ good. Possibly better-written than Into The Wild, but I'll always have a soft spot for that because it's a tragedy on such an individual scale, and was also my introduction to Krakauer (courtsey of a New Yorker reprint of the article from Outside Magazine that predated the book).

i am baffled as to how your dad never had a library card. was there not a local library where he grew up?
Perhaps not in his tiny town. Later, as a grownup, I think he just couldn't be bothered to "learn the system". Or something. Who can explain the weirdness of his choices regarding books and movies? They have the veneer of fear-based decision-making to me. Or just major irrationality... :0