January 31, 2006

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, January 2006

Attention conservation notice: I have no taste.

Ken Bruen, The Guards
I don't usually like the hardboiled PI school of detective novel, and making the PI an Irish drunk didn't promise to make it any more appealing. But this was extremely good, due mostly to Bruen's prose style and ability to avoid sentimentality. I actually read this in one sitting...
Steven Saylor, Murder on the Appian Way
The back-story of Cicero's Pro Milone.
Patricia A. McKillip, Od Magic
Andrew P. Vayda (ed.), Environment and Cultural Behavior: Ecological Studies in Cultural Anthropology
1969 reprint collection. Lots of cool old stuff — Geertz on Indonesian agriculture, Kroeber on North American culture areas, Barth on the Swat Pathans and their neighbors, etc. No doubt tremendously out of date.
Leslie Forbes, Waking Raphael
Wonderfully-written and absorbing literary mystery novel. I'm not sure what to make of the way the darkness of the Fascist past is routed by the combination of an overly-proper Englishwoman and a motley collection of (more-or-less-ex-)Communists.
Martin Meredith, The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence
While I was reading this, Danny Yee wrote a review that makes the points I would've, except for this: one of the most depressing aspects of this history is its repetitiousness. (Read on the recommendation of Alex Mallet.)
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Dance of Death
When I find myself stuck in an airport with nothing to read (don't laugh! it happens!), I look for something new from these two because, unlike their competitors, they have some brains underneath the formulas. Their latest is fun, though not, I think, one of their best, and probably not very satisfying if you haven't been following their (hitherto loosely connected) series. I give them points for killing off a long-running character, though I won't say which one.
Barbara R. Rossing, The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation
A serious, mainline-Protestant (specifically, Lutheran) interpretation of the Book of Revelation, and the apocalyptic parts of the Bible more generally, as a call to make this world, which its Creator loves, a better, a redeemed, place. (Cf. Tuveson's Millennium and Utopia, on the historical roots of the ideal of progress in early modern Europe, not referred to be Rossing.) Explicitly aimed against the Left Behind books and similar nonsense, though not so blunt as Slacktivist's writings to that end. Since vast numbers of our fellow citizens accept that mythology uncritically, it's useful to know arguments against it which start from premises they're more likely to accept. — It's quite correct, and probably helpful, to hammer the point home that the full dispensationalist/Rapture mythology only appeared in the 19th century (though there were medieval predecessors for the dispensations, in Joachim of Fiore and his followers; I don't know if there's a historical connection). There's absolutely no reason to believe it was the doctrine of the early Church. However, it seems very implausible to me that the early Church believed in anything others than the sudden, rapidly-approaching and violent end and replacement of this world. I don't think Rossing (and similar authors) adequately addresses the possibility that the apocalyptic writers were speaking in symbols and had profoundly weird millenarian beliefs, that John of Patmos was ranting against Caesar in code, and that he believed there would be no more sea, but glass. — In any case, whether we should be trying to improve this world does not really depend on the correct reading of Revelations any more than it does on the correct reading of the Satyricon.

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur

Posted at January 31, 2006 23:59 | permanent link

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