Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bookmarks for January 2006

The semester started and life got a little nuts, but here goes:

Wilda gave me a bunch of books, mostly mysteries, last time I was visiting her and Granddad. Recently I picked out the stack Jonathan Kellerman's Blood Test (1986). The story centers on Alex Delaware, a psychologist who helps locate a boy who has disappeared, with his family, from the hospital where he is being treated for cancer. Despite some flaws in the narrative (namely a sub-plot that just appears and disappears whenever it is convenient and a murder that seems to have taken place without the reader being told about it, as if a chapter is missing), this could be an interesting read.

My problem with Blood Test is that it demonstrates much of what is wrong with modern psychology (or rather, modern psychologists). The professionals are self-centered, judgmental people who cannot tolerate anyone who see the world through a different lens than them. Drawing particular ire from Delaware is anything related to religion. Kellerman sets up the usual straw men and women so readers can draw the conclusion that anything religious is harmful at least and corrupt at best. There is no single character or moment where anything valuable in religion is considered. The attack is not very subtle, and not at all fair. But I've not known many in the business of psychology to be honest or fair about this subject. There is an almost religious fervor in their need to eridacate all spirituality.

I've only read one other book by Kellerman, Monster, and I did like that book quite a bit. I certainly hope this novel is not indicative of his oeuvre.

The January issue of Poetry contains an interesting "Exchange" between Meghan O'Rourke, J. Allen Rosser, and Eleanor Wilner on the subject of Women's Poetry. They discuss what women's poetry is and whether we even need the term. They also discuss how the category, if it is one, has changed since early anthologies devoted to poetry by women. Normally I'm put off by such conversations, usually being made quickly and painfully aware that I am an outsider, perhaps even an enemy just because I am male. However, I found this well worth reading. It is the beginning of what is an important discussion in the larger set of debates concerning various categories of literature.
I hesitate to say this, but I do wonder what this might have been like with one male voice added to the mix. I'm not saying it should have happened, but I would like to have heard not just a male's ideas on this subject, but the reaction to his ideas from the other members of the panel.

As for the poems in this issue, I did like both poems by Mary Karr. I'm happy, as I noted in the previous Bookmarks, when I see honest spirituality addressed so beautifully. I think I'm becoming a fan. Here is a link to more of her work published in the archives of the Poetry website.

I was confused (and sometimes disappointed), on the other hand, by some of the other poems, most notably Thylias Moss's "The Subculture of the Wrongfully Accused." I must admit, however, that I may just not be used to how she has written. It likely deserves more energy than I orginally put into reading it.

The Slow Reads: Did finish Coles' The Call of Stories and have been mulling my way through a book of stories and plays by Anton Chekhov. Have finished three of the little volumes inside. My favorite piece so far is "The Black Monk."

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