Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Bookmarks for March/April 2008

Drift and Pulse by Kathleen Halme. I should have waited, I suspect, until summer to read this book. I wanted so to like it, but found most of the poems rough going. I felt like I needed, for most pieces, degrees in anthropology and biology to get what was going on. Wonderful, beautiful and thought-provoking lines in places, but the overall experience was not good. I should try this again later when I have more ability to concentrate on these interesting metaphors than I do with eight classes to teach. But right now the book is overdue, and I have to get it back to the library.

The Innocent Man by John Grisham. This is a much needed book. Yes, DNA evidence has helped exonerate many people of crimes they did not commit. But DNA is only part of this story. There are other stories to tell here. First, there is story of pride and arrogance, not only by police and prosecutors in the case of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz, who were sentenced for the brutal murder of Debra Sue Carter, but of many citizens of the small town where the events take place. This is also, of course, the story of Williamson's ordeal, not only at the hands of a justice system bent on failure, but also his torture and neglect. It is also, sadly, the story of mental illness. While the first two elements of this tale certain got my interest, it is the plight of Williamson as a mental patient that intrigue me most.

The Truth (with Jokes) by Al Franken. Don't let the jokes fool ya: Franken is outraged at how Bush and his cronies hijacked the United States and may have done harm that will take years to undo (if that is even possible). But unlike certain so called voices for the people who have no sense of humor, Franken must make us laugh in these dark times. And laugh you should (unless you are one of those he harpoons, and as I said, they don't have a sense of humor. Well, some do, but it is pretty darn sick). Read here about how one conservative tells his voters he is going to fight to make abortion illegal and then supports forced prostitution and forced abortions. Read about how Americans were made to cower so much in fear that Bush could easily make them believe they much go to war for him.

Through Painted Deserts
by Donald Miller (2005). Some time ago, I recommended Miller's Blue Like Jazz. This is not as striking a book, but I do think it is worth reading. It is a revising of the memoir Prayer and the Art of Volkswagon Maintenance. Miller claims he added back, in the rewrite, "authentic" material his original publisher did not wish to keep because of their "market." Okay, fine.
I think this book is written specifically for guys like me, people who read books like this, and wonder how anyone gets up the guts to leave everyone and everything behind to take a trip. A mixture of annoyance and envy marked some of my reading, thinking that I could never take such a trip, even though my heart and soul would be better off for having taken the journey. But that may be the point. Not so much that I need to do this thing, but that perhaps all of us need something like this, not to happen to us, but for us to experience so that we can put our spiritual lives, so easily neglected, back into perspective.

Night by Elie Wiesel (1960). Night is a powerful memoir of Wiesel's experience during the Holocaust, and I wish I had read it many years ago. I recall my wife and picking it during a bookstore excursion, and for some reason, it sat on the shelf. One day I picked it up and began to read. Of course, the story of the horrors of the Holocaust, told from one who has been there, is certainly compelling. But I was also drawn to the relationship between Wiesel and his father, and how his father's life and death continued to haunt him. Thus, this book is one of those "must read" books, not only because of what it chronicles about one of the worst atrocities in history, but also because it puts human faces on that atrocity which keeps us from merely shaking our heads. We are encouraged to hope and work toward a better world.

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