75 Books 31-35: Fey, Hecht, Rogers, Bailey and Grayling

31. Bossy Pants – Tina Fey

I like Tina Fey, she’s funny, but her humor often feels very shallow to me. I really loved Mean Girls, but I don’t really like 30 Rock very much. The characters don’t seem to have any real emotional touchstones, which makes it difficult to care about the show. It’s a problem I often have with Community, except Community does a better job at having emotional depth than 30 Rock. Which says a lot about 30 Rock. Well, this book has the same problem. It’s funny, at times incredibly so, but it feels so surface level that it’s hard to feel like you’ve done anything with your time when you’ve finished. I wanted to know more about her, her life, her struggles with making it in an industry that doesn’t like women very much, her experiences on SNL and Mean Girls. There wasn’t much of any of that. I can’t see myself rereading it, so I’m going to have to take advantage of that whole sell it back to the airport thing when I go to TAM next month. Which is fine, I just was disappointed. B

32. Doubt – Jennifer Michael Hecht

This book is like forever long, jeez JMH. I think it has single-handedly put me behind on my book goal. More than anything it introduced me to people I hadn’t known about and want to learn more about. Some day, when I have free time or am back to being ahead of book reading schedule, I will want to sit down with it again and take notes on who I want to read more about on Wikipedia. There’s so much here that I feel like I haven’t retained all that much of what I read. It is not a light read, it’s trying to balance depth with breadth, it’s a survey course that would take two semesters to do justice. There are so many characters and philosophies and stories and time periods that it’s difficult to keep it all straight if the figures are all new to you. It is a scholarly work, in other words, it takes effort to get through. A-

33. The Next Ancient World – Jennifer Michael Hecht

To make up for all the time Doubt had eaten up, I decided to read JMH’s poetry book. Mostly because she’d given it to me, and I’d been at a crazy awesome party in at the SCA Summit where she read quite a few of the poems in there. Poetry is difficult to analyze or to review, if you’re not into poetry it’s hard to share any enthusiasm for the subject. I will say this, it is as though TS Eliot was interested only in mythology and sex and had way more of a sense of humor and less need to pretentiously add footnotes to everything. My favorite poem from the book:

History
Even Eve, the only soul in all of time
to never have to wait for love,
must have leaned some sleepless nights
alone against the garden wall
and wailed, cold, stupefied, and wild
and wished to trade-in all of Eden
to have but been a child.

In fact, I gather that is why she leapt and fell from grace,
that she might have a story of herself to tell
in some other place.

A

34. Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality – Jack Rogers

I like to be able to effectively argue my points with the religious, to quote scripture back at them and so on, so when I saw this book I thought it could be useful for defending LGBT rights within the Christian community. I don’t know how well it can do that. Perhaps among moderates, but anyone who still thinks that women are to be submissive to their men, which is a great deal of conservatives, will probably have a hard time with the idea. The point of the book is essentially that the bible can be used to justify any number of things that most Christians now think of us reprehensible: Slavery, subjugation of women, racism, and polygamy. There are passages in the Bible that support all of that, some of it much more direct (in the original language) than any condemnation of the homosexuality. The modern idea of loving, exclusive homosexual relationships isn’t mentioned at all in the Bible in the same way that Penicillin, Stem Cell Research, and In Vitro Fertilization isn’t mentioned — it didn’t exist.

Rogers argues that the way the church evolved on the other issues was to take everything back to the philosophy of Jesus, and if something written in the Bible somewhere didn’t jive with what Jesus said, then it was not as good as Jesus’ words. If Jesus’ commandment is to love God and your neighbor and gay people can be good, honorable people, then there’s no reason not to give them equal access to the church and to marriage rights. But then, if people just used the bible to justify love, forgiveness, and kindness, there wouldn’t be a Religious Right, so we can see how much I’m holding out hope for that set of circumstances. I just doubt that the arguments in this book could be very effective. B-

35. Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin – Frank Bailey

What a fascinating book this was. I have a macabre obsession with Ms. Palin, like so many of the people in the US. She is a polarizing figure, though less and less so as more and more people realize she’s totally nuts. The book was interesting because I learned that it’s not that she’s incredibly stupid, it’s that she’s lazy and a habitual liar. She cannot tell the truth, she just instinctively lies. For example, the question about what newspapers she read could have easily been answered with “I read a collection of news stories gathered for me every morning, primarily from Alaskan outlets.” Instead, she didn’t want to sound like a rural, ignorant governor so she tried to stall and think of a national publication that she could read that wouldn’t make her sound elitist. The New York Times wouldn’t be an option, and she couldn’t think of The Wall Street Journal off the top of her head. B+

 

I tried to read The Good Book: A Humanist Bible by AC Grayling, and I just couldn’t get through it. The Bibley formatting and the lack of attribution and the flowery language… I was just too bored and it was too difficult to read through the formatting. I wanted to like it, because theoretically it sounded interesting, but I just hated it.

Questions I Need Answers to from Christians

How do you resolve the question of suffering? Why do so many people suffer for no apparent reason? Does anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus go to hell? If it’s “free will”, why are we made so poorly in the first place?

Do you think homosexuals are evil? Is the bible literal? Do you think that committing genocide is OK (the flood)? Do you think evolution is false? How do you reconcile contradictions in the Bible? How do you see revelation, do you think the world is going to end and Jesus is going to come back? Should women be silent and obey men? Is polygamy OK or not?

Why do you believe in a god? Why do you believe specifically in the Christian god? Why is Christianity different than the thousands of other faiths that are incredibly similar?

Do you believe that government should be secular or faith based? How do you feel about capital punishment? Was Peter right or was Paul when it comes to the question of following the old laws? Can you wear cloth of mixed fiber? Is slavery OK, because the bible says that it is?

How can a god who is so constantly described as being jealous and having other human foibles and flaws also be described as perfect? How can he commit genocide and destroy cities and people in wrath and also be all-loving and good?

Where did Cain’s wife come from? Was it incest all the way down the ages? Do you think the earth is 6000 years old, like Bishop Usher said?

Why did Jesus kill the fig tree? Why is Judas condemned for doing the one thing absolutely necessary to lead to Jesus’ resurrection?

Do you agree with the church’s policy of torturing and killing Jews? Do you agree with the church’s support of Hitler? Do you agree with the church’s murder of innocent women accused of witchcraft? Do you believe in witchcraft? How do you think the guy who owned the pigs felt when Jesus infected them with demons and drove them off the cliff?

Why do you think the texts included in the New Testament are true and the ones excluded are not? Have you read the lost gospels, have you read the early gospels, have you done any historical research on the origin of the books in the bible? Why would God send his son to a place with a bunch of illiterate desert people instead of to the Chinese?

Do you think it’s reasonable to kill dozens of children for making fun of a bald guy? Is killing all innocent firstborn in Egypt reasonable? Is rape acceptable? Why does Jesus say he will return in the lifetime of his followers?

How can anyone with one of these horrible, painful, easily broken and incredibly gross human bodies possibly believe in “intelligent” design? Everyone’s body sucks. They get sick, they fail, they get old, they get flabby, with hair in places you don’t want, and often no hair in places you do want, it’s easily poisoned, depressed, scarred, destroyed, and doesn’t last very long. Add to that the millions of common diseases that make people miserable — allergies, asthma, diabetes, cancer, heart disease — and the minor irritations we face almost daily — bad vision, imperfect hearing, imperfect memory, itches, aches, indigestion, heartburn, constipation, sore feet, smelliness, and moodiness — how can anyone believe in a good god?