Hi all. Sorry for being such a slacker about the regular monthly reading selections. I promise I will try to get it back on track soon. (I know, I know. “Do or do not. There is no try.”)
Anyway, to make up for my slackerism, I want to post about some new books that I’m reading. I found them all in the new books section at my local Borders, believe it or not. I also check out the atheism section regularly, and it has been expanding! The other day, I found a big, fat, green Qur’an blocking a large pile of Christoper Hitchens’s god is not Great. So I put the scripture book back in its place (no, not in the fiction section, although I was tempted).
Here are the new books that I found this week:
Everything You Know about God Is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Religion by Russ Kick is an oversized, fat anthology that has something to piss off everyone, but is mostly written with good humor and style. It even includes a short comic by Neil Gaiman. Not all of the 50 contributors are atheists or skeptics, but they all have interesting things to say debunking the dogma of mainstream and extremist religion.
The second book I’m reading is by one of my favorite authors, Steven Pinker. The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window Into Human Nature is intersting to me because it’s about the human brain and language. I am always interested in different perspectives on language because I’m a writer. And Pinker never fails to deliver fascinating insights. (I’m particulary fond of his chapter in The Language Instinct that is dedicated to dissing grammer mavens, those pissy English teachers we all had in high school.) This book, although I’ve only read one chapter, will not disappoint. It even has a chapter on framing! Oh my. (If that means nothing to you, go to scienceblogs.com and search for the term.)
I’ve got to end with an excerpt Gregory Maguire’s new novel, What-the-Dickens. (For those who don’t know, he’s the author of Wicked and Son of a Witch.) The new book is about a rogue tooth fairy and a family struggling to get through hurricane Katrina. Here’s a bit that introduces the family:
[Dinah was t]en, and in some ways, a youngish ten, because her family lived remotely.
For one thing, they kept themselves apart â€” literally. The Ormsbys sequestered themselves in a scrappy bungalow perched at the uphill end of the canyon, where the unpaved county road petered out into ridge rubble and scrub pine.
The Ormsbys weren’t rural castaways nor survivalists â€” nothing like that. They were trying the experiment of living by gospel standards, and they hoped to be surer of their faith tomorrow than they’d been yesterday.
A decent task and, around here, a lonely one. The Ormsby family made its home a citadel against the alluring nearby world of the Internet, the malls, the cable networks, and other such temptations.
The Ormsby parents called these attractions slick. They sighed and worried: dangerous. They feared cunning snares and delusions. Dinah Ormsby wished she could study such matters close-up and decide for herself.
Dinah and her big brother, Zeke, were homeschooled. This, they were frequently reminded, kept them safe, made them strong, and preserved their goodness. Since most of the time they felt safe, strong, and good, they assumed the strategy was working.
But all kids possess a nervy ability to dismay their parents, and the kids of the Ormsby family were no exception. Dinah saw life as a series of miracles with a fervor that even her devout parents considered unseemly.
“No, Santa Claus has no website staffed by underground Nordic trolls. No, there is no flight school for the training of apprentice reindeer. No to Santa Claus, period,” her mother always said. “Dinah, honey, don’t let your imagination run away with you.” Exasperatedly: “Govern yourself!”
“Think things through,” said her dad, ever the peacemaker. “Big heart, big faith: great. But make sure you have a big mind, too. Use the brain God gave you.”
Dinah took no offense, and she did try to think things through. From the Ormsby’s bunker, high above the threat of contamination by modern life, she could still love the world. In a hundred ways, a new way every day. Even a crisis could prove thrilling as it unfolded:
– Where, for instance, had her secret downslope friends gone? Just imagining their adventures on the road â€” with their normal, middle-class families â€” made Dinah happy. Or curious, anyway.
Funnily, Maguire claims this book is “silent on religious matters”. Hmmm.