090) The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold, finished August 15
This is, according to its cover, a CLASSIC TIME-TRAVEL NOVEL. And I've read some good one in my days. My trifecta of excellence is To Say Nothing of the Dog, The Time-Traveler's Wife, and Replay. It's too soon to say if this novel will stick with me the way those have, but it was definitely good.six days
Curiously, even when I realized where this essentially plotless book was headed, the arrival of that destination still managed to be strange and satisfying and even surprising. And isn't that part of what a good time-travel novel should do?
Maybe it's necessary that a time-travel novel will have a curious relationship with time, but this one takes is a step further. It claims a 1973 copyright, but it talks about buying Apple stock and Fox having an unusually successful film in 1977.
Poorly aging aspects of this novel can be explained away by its own conceit. But the most obvious "out-of-date"
aspect is its take on sexuality.
Let's keep going with this disjointed and chaotic review, shall we?
I like the way this novel full-up embraces paradox as the story its telling rather than trying to explain it or work through or around it. I like how a seeming error in the first sentence is the key to the whole thing. I like how it dismisses its largeness in small paragraphs to instead embrace its smallness. I'm intrigued how I was much more involved by the heterosexual sex when the author is gay. I like how its plotless solipsism hid what was going on for most of the novel. I like how much the book just doesn't care.
But only time will tell if it is great.
089) Mormonism for Beginners by Stephen Carter, finished August 15
This was sent to me by the publisher and I thought about comparing it to a similar book coming out about the same time, but I never got around to requesting it from the publisher. And then I misplaced this book for several months. So, you know, very professional.most of the damn year
Anyway, I'll admit I was a little leery coming into this. No knock against our author whom, generally, I trust. But I always get nervous when things sacred to me are presented for an audience who may not appreciate that. And I'm not convinced there are always two sides to a story. (For an obvious now example, cf.) So I can be jumpy.
The great news is that Stephen Carter's light touch and generous spirit makes his presentation of even extremely touchy topics like gay restrictions and polygamy and Book of Mormon historicity and racial priesthood restrictions understandable and open---we are free to judge, but we are also free not to judge. I not only enjoyed this book myself, but would give it to my kids to read or a neighbor curious about the Church or a longtimer knocked off balance by Recent Information.
Which isn't to say I view the book as a missionary tool per se, but that I feel its presentation is fair and detailed and respectful and daring.
And, frankly, pretty darn funny at times.
Speaking of funny, Jett Atwood's illustrations are often, essentially, standalone gags. Sometimes they're truly illustrative. And, in that latter category, they often add another layer to what Stephen is saying---as good illustrations can. And sometimes, as in the temple section, they move from her better known style to something more abstract.
Appropriately, I would say.
In short, this is a thoughtful book. Yes, it's funny. Yes, it spends some time among the weeds. Yes, it's filled with cartoons. But it's thoughtful and very well constructed.
The top-level topics in the table of contents are Mormon History, LDS Scripture, Mormon Life, Hot-button Issues,
and This Mormon Life. Each of those is broken down into multiple subtopics.
By the end of this book, the uninitiated will be well prepared to have intelligent conversations on the faith; and the initiated will likely end up with a few new facts they didn't know. For instance, did you know clips of Fantasia were used in the first version of the temple film? Or that the true order of prayer was practices in wards and stakes outside the temple clear into the 1970s? I didn't.
I suppose I should mention if I found any errors. I did, but they were minor and few. For instance, on the same spread as those last two facts, Carter claims that outside live sessions, those doing endowment sessions never move room to room.
Not quite. I submit Los Angeles for your consideration. But none of the vanishingly few errors I saw merit much attention.
In short, the book is well constructed. Friendly and easy to access while providing surprising depth and breadth in its pages. You could do a lot worse than assigning this to an Intro to Mormonism class.
088) Ben, in the World by Doris Lessing, finished August 15
This novel offers a different set of complexities from its forebear, The Fifth Child. Ben, here, is an adult. And he becomes a much more sympathetic charactr, even as understanding him remains largely impossible.a small number of weeks
The narrative voice pulls no punches---Ben may be strange and animal, but it is US and OUR WORLD that is evil.
It's interesting though---the much bigger canvas this novel plays with is ultimately less compelling than the very intimate and domestic story told in the first novel.
087) Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken, finished August 9
I'm not sure what possessed me to look-inside-the-book on Amazon before this was even released, but I did and I wanted to read more and so I put on hold at the library. I didn't really expect to read it. I mean, skim, sure. The takedown chapter of Ted Cruz, you betcha. And when I got it from the library and saw how thick it was, I knew no way would I finish it before it was due (it's new! no way I'll be renewing it!). But surprise surprise. Read it I did.under a week (unless you include reading the intro literally months ago)
My main impression of Al Franken before he ran for Senate was from the titles of his books. And so I rather assumed he was a blowhard evenly balanced with blowhards on the right: a joker who pretended at reality, just with a different set of "facts." And so when he entered the Senate,
my main hope was that entertaining news would come out of it. (Minnesota had not disappointed with Jesse Ventura, after all.) That didn't happen, but when he did show up in the news,
he was acquitting himself pretty well.
Anyway, I learned a lot from this book. And Franken does a fine job establishing ethos that makes me trust him. Were his previous books more current, I might well read them for the facts (though jokes certainly help---how many other senatorial memoirs has Theric read?).
Reading this book also pushed me forward in recognizing the real nature and purpose of politics. Notwithstanding appearances, in fact, politics is the art of getting along.
The book has also pushed me further away from ever desiring to seek office. For all the reasons I would have said it's a bad idea last week.
In short, Franken is an intelligent and amusing guide through his life and the Senate. I hope people outside his normal sphere of influence / politics give him a shot.
Previously in 2017