Saturday, July 29, 2017

Book Review: The Box: Uncanny Stories

The Box: Uncanny Stories by Richard Matheson
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The title story in this collection is by far the most interesting and is the story to which I will devote the focus of this review.
To those who know anything about Sartre’s philosophy knows that Sartre proffered that as we mature, it becomes evident that we are simply hiding behind various “masks” as a kind of cloak to escape the radical freedom we are condemned to. The box in this story, as in sartres most famous play No Exit, is a room that exposes us as to who we really are, no more hiding.
The box allowed Norma to see a future that she hadn't seen before. It made her see her current happiness as somehow lacking, incomplete. And much like Eve in the garden of Eden, after having been tempted with a better future, she partook of the fruit and condemned them both.
The final question in the end is can we ever really know someone? But the answer to that question is obvious. A better question is since the prohibition against any transgression generates the very desire to transgress it, are we in fact fated to always push the button?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Book Review: Pet Sematary

Pet Sematary by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is about the very human inability to accept that death is forever.
But its not about death itself. Its about the fear that replaces the fear of death, and that fear is the fear of the return of the dead. Such a replacement is obviously a defense mechanism, which is probably why King's novel is so popular and why the ideas that form the basis for this novel are so persistent in folk and popular culture. Death is an issue the American family and society will not face, at least not head on.
At its heart is an idea that we all secretly feel is true: our safety is an illusion. No matter how warm and safe the Creed family home feels, it can be invaded at any moment by death. Louis sentimentalizes death as a natural part of life, but when it suddenly reaches out and claims his daughter’s cat, his son, and his wife, his first reaction is to fight it at all costs. His being at peace with death was a lie, and so was his sense of safety. In fact, the Creed family is built on lies. Rachel has kept the death of her terminally ill sister, Zelda, a secret for years because it traumatized her too deeply and now she and her parents pretend her sister never existed, convinced that this shameful secret will destroy their family if it’s talked about. Louis, for his part, has kept secret his father-in-law’s attempt to bribe him not to marry Rachel. Their family unit only feels safe and secure as long as they keep these secrets from one another. As long as they don’t think about the Micmac burial ground behind their house. As long as they don’t think about death.
This book tells us that a secure identity, one that’s stable and reliable, usually turns out to be a lie that we believe in because it’s convenient, not because it’s an immutable fact.
King’s point in this story is that there are older forces out there, forces that come with the territory, and they’re right beneath the surface, waiting to claim us when they’re ready.
Therefore, it’s not horror that is the act of imagination but our reality—family, home, economic security—that is imaginary. These things exist purely as an act of faith, we believe in them against the evidence of our senses. Because if we don’t then we look down and see that there’s nothing to keep us from falling screaming into the void.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Book Review: From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our Lives

From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our Lives by Robert Fulghum
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We have a compelling urge to merge with the infinite and ritual is one of the tools we use to help us transform the ordinary into the holy. It's how we all make sense out of our lives and give it's events significance.
Rituals are also our lifeline to the divine. The divine here meaning an abyss. Nothing out of which something was made. The divine also implies not only a negation or a divine abyss, but the divine as indifferent to the human, and so ritual helps us lessen the impact of this negation.
Family gatherings for instance are not so much a celebration of the way things really are, but a ritual of hope - aimed at how we devoutly wish things to be.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Book Review: Tuesdays with Morrie

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To be told that we should think more of love and less of money is no doubt correct, but it's hard to put such advice into practice unless it is accompanied by some understanding of why we ever did otherwise.
Despite the obvious charm and good nature of both author and subject, in the end, the exhortations fall flat. Just as a well-meaning statement like ''We should all live in peace'' doesn't help avert wars, ''Tuesdays with Morrie'' finally fails to enlighten.
Morrie simply becomes for the reader a blank screen allowing them to project their own imaginations onto him, so they may experience what it might be like to die. But there is no catharsis in this and no lesson has been learned.

Book Review: Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War

Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War by Joe Bageant
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The American working class is dead and we are headed toward corporate feudalism.
The elite are going to keep freezing us dry, giving us just enough to live on and no more. We are very much seeing a real and serious struggle between those who have and are trying to get more and those who have not and are likely to get even less.
But I reserve my deepest scorn, and my greatest resentment, for the social forces that oppress millions of the working poor — chief among these is the woeful standard of education in rural America, which I believe, as does the author, is a purposeful strategy of the middle and upper business classes, which is one of the most efficient and cost effective ways to keep the lower classes low.
The class war is fought cold - with words, reproaches, snubs and deliberate mishearings - between mostly urban liberals and largely rural conservatives, who snipe at each other from class-segregated homes, bars and schools and while it may be true that working class poor people primarily vote against their own self-interests, they do so only by default, the reason being is because the left refuses to embrace them and at every turn they only wish to openly mock and blame them for all of societies ills. And if this causes some people to turn to an easy and self-destructive alternative, be it conservative politics or opioid painkillers, it isn’t because they lack the intelligence or strength of character to improve their own lot. It’s because false promises and cheap drugs are the only things the rest of America exports to Appalachia in plentiful supply.
I defy anyone to read this book and go right on satirizing rednecks, white trash, or Republican-voting working class people in quite the same way as they did before.