Thursday, December 17, 2009
The second man is the author himself, at this time wet behind the ears and just getting into philosophy—not to mention maybe someday the priesthood.
The third man, the man who brings the book, is another priest about which not much is known. Because the book was for Jung’s close friends, it had been passed along for almost forty years just between a few men and in that way the third man encountered The Seven Sermons to the Dead.
The “sermons” themselves are baffling poetry, credited to Emperor Basilides—a seventeenth century alchemist and Gnostic who taught extensively in Alexandria—the ancient world’s most progressive and mystical city, located in Egypt (where east meets west). The book itself was beautiful—expensively bound, hand-written in German, and with a long unused Gothic typeface.
Dr. Jung, writing in the voice of ancient Basilides, published the rare little volumes in 1916. He kept it quiet because to be Gnostic, or even associated with such philosophy, was long considered heretical throughout history. No doubt, Jung felt he could not come forward with these as his specific beliefs.
“The dead came back from Jerusalem, where they did not find what they were seeking.”
Thus starts the Seven Sermons, the “dead” being those who have not reached individuation i.e. knowledge of the self. These are lost people, who conform to society rather than embrace their own unique and dichotomous spirits. Jung, in the voice of Emperor Basilides, continues throughout to “teach”, because he is implored, about the mysteries of universe, man, god, and spirit.
The first sermon deals with the “pleroma” or that which surrounds and fills all things. This ether has no qualities because it is all qualities. In general, I think he’s talking about space and the essence of the universe itself. The nameless and intangible something in which we are all suspended and out of which we are all created. By definition, as unique beings, we must by nature differentiate ourselves from this pleroma, this nothing and everything in which all qualities are contained. If we were to let ourselves become absorbed even in thought about it, we should cease to be.
”All things which are called definite and solid are but relative, for only that which is subject to change appears definite and solid.”
“We die to the extent that we fail to discriminate.”
“But if we know how to know ourselves as being apart from the pairs of opposites, then we have attained to salvation.”
It is implied in this first sermon that this endless potentiality of pleroma can influence a man to become either extreme on a spectrum of opposing forces—light/dark, good/evil, masculine/feminine. Instead, by transcending these forces and disallowing the projection of our own ideas on what is basically a faceless universe, a man can become truly what his nature has designed for him to be. All it takes, is listening to the self’s true desires and not letting anyone or anything stand in the way of progress to that growth.
To this day, these sermons have not been fully explored and there is too much to go over each individually or I would risk writing a novel myself. I recommend this book for anyone who is tired of the traditional “faith” around them--someone who is seeking a harmonious and balanced way of looking at the universe and our place in it as essential and unique beings. And also, someone who wants to consider an idea which allows for the attainment of their full potential.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Pinker's assertion is that humans are born with an instinct to learn language, and a specific window in which we are optimally prepared to learn it-- which is why people who learn second languages later in life learn more slowly, and have thicker accents. He also brings up the sad cases of those poor folk who have been raised without language, in insanely neglectful and abusive households. They can never learn any language as well as someone who is raised with it, though some have invented languages of their own.
Another particularly interesting aspect of this book was Pinker's propensity for bringing in examples from other languages. I liked it when he used examples from Japanese, since I've studied it, but there were some absolutely fascinating examples from various African languages as well. It's wonderful to see these wildly different languages broken down into their component pieces to find out that they are not so different after all.
I would definitely suggest that anyone interested in linguistics read this book-- I am sure I have not done it justice.
And I suppose I should mention now that I am not fond of the cover art at all. The cover of Dead Until Dark was the best of the lot. After that, they switch to a strange, stylistic, almost childish style. I've also never been a fan of the little starbursts on the cover of books that proclaim that they're in Oprah's book-of-the-month club, or now a new HBO series, or a movie, or whatever. I think I would prefer a similar notice inside the book somewhere... or even just inside the cover. It's just such an eyesore. Ah, well.
Dead to the World : The Viking vampire Eric loses his memory due to a curse, and is put in the unique position of being the only male character in the series (so far) who has the opportunity to fall in love with Sookie twice. We learn a little more about witchcraft, and fairies.
Dead as a Doornail : We get a better look into the werepanther society in Hotshot. Sookie puts on her detective hat again.
Definitely Dead : Sookie's estranged cousin Hadley, who had become a vampire and the consort of the Queen of Louisiana, is murdered. She leaves all of her possessions for Sookie to go through, and Sookie is drawn into intrigue after intrigue. We learn a little more about witches and Wiccans.
All Together Dead : There is an important vampire convention, and Sookie is dragged along as an accessory of the Queen.
From Dead to Worse : Oh my goodness, it ends with such a tweest! I can't wait for the next book to come out.
Sorry for the extremely short 'reviews,' but as I said, they are all written very similarly, and if you like one, you'll like the rest. Also, I finished them quite a while ago, and just haven't gotten around to writing about them.
I would definitely recommend both the HBO show and the book series. They go in such different directions, but each in interesting.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Don and Richard become friends and soon they are zooming all over the countryside together, offering rides and making more money then Richard would normally make in a single season. There's just something about Shimoda that makes Richard feel as if he's known him all his life. Living the good life, Richard doesn't think to leave until all the little miracles start becoming noticeable--no squashed bugs on Don's plane, the tight impossible turns he makes, and the fact that he never once fills up for gas. When he confronts Shimoda, he is immediately invited to know all the things only a messiah is supposed to know. These things come conveniently in a "Messiah's Handbook", which Shimoda digs out of his cockpit and throws to Richard without ceremony. At first thinking Shimoda is crazy, Richard soon learns that no matter where he goes or what he says, Shimoda is one step ahead and determined that Richard understand he is the real deal.
It soon becomes apparent that Richard has been chosen to take his place. Throughout the book we get glimpses of not only why Shimoda quit being the new messiah, but also into the handbook and its "wisdom".
Philosophical, otherworldly, and at times downright crazy--still I carried this book around in my back pocket for months when I first read it years ago. Picking it up again, I see how it inspired me to see myself as powerful as any Christ, and as capable of miracles. Illusions is a weird and ofttimes confounding novel, and I'm sure it will be viewed with skepticism in the least, ridicule at the most. I love this book because of it's uniqueness, the author's ability to place himself entirely within a fictional story, and because of D. Shimoda--the unforgettable and reluctant messiah.
"Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they're yours." (Messiah's Handbook p. 100)
Friday, September 4, 2009
You know what else makes Sookie bitter? When Bill uses the computer for top-secret vampire stuff and doesn't shower her with attention. He doesn't even tell her what his top-secret vampire stuff is about! So when he leaves, on more top-secret vampire business, she feels so betrayed and hurt and it's the worst thing that has ever happened to her, ever, ever, boo-hoo-hoo, etc.
When she finds out that it is past the time that he should have been home, and she hadn't known when he was due back, and other vampires know more about the situation than she does, she feels even more hurt and betrayed, and it can't possibly get any worse, but then oh my god somehow it does get worse! Sookie mopes through the beginning of the book, sighing about how her life, evidently, wasn't worth sharing, and lamenting that Bill had "had some faith in [Sookie], no matter how faithless he might have been himself." This moping period isn't quite as painful as the one in the Twilight series, but it's close.
Another thing that bothered me: it's strange that the exotic vampire Chow, who is "Asian," has a Chinese name and Japanese yakuza tattoos. I guess I'll let that one slide, though, considering that Sookie lives in northern Louisiana and says that Chow is the first person of Asian descent that she has ever met. (That ignorance is probably reflected in Ms. Harris, as authors of these kinds of novels almost always seem to put a lot of themselves into their heroines.) That is just incredible to me. How can you go your whole life, until you're 25 or 26, not having met anyone of Asian descent?
Anyway, all complaints aside, I enjoyed this book, as I enjoy all of the Sookie Stackhouse books. We get to learn a little bit more about shifters and Weres, and Sookie meets more men who can fall in love with her.
One out of one pretty sweet Yakuza tattoo!
Thursday, September 3, 2009
This book continues to follow perky Sookie Stackhouse on her adventures with her vampire boyfriend, Bill. Bill's boss, Eric, who owns the vampire bar Fangtasia, sends them off to use Sookie's telepathy to solve a mystery over in Dallas. In the past, she helped him find who was embezzling from his bar by reading the minds of humans who worked there. Now, she's being sent to Dallas to investigate the disappearance of a very old vampire named Godfrey (originally Godric), and to see whether the rabid anti-vampire faction of Christianity known as the Fellowship of the Sun had anything to do with it. (Funfact: Just found out that the Fellowship has a website: http://www.fellowshipofthesun.org -- hilarious! The production value on the videos is way too high for it to be realistic, though. Tee-hee!)
Now, this brings to mind another difference between the show and the books. In the show, it seems like they pull fewer punches with their fairly graphic sex scenes. But when you look at several specific incidences, it seems that some things are too extreme even for HBO. For instance, Sookie was molested by one of her uncles when she was a child. In the book, she tells Bill that he never penetrated her (obviously, since her hymen was intact for their first time), but in the series, they change it to her saying that he never touched her-- just held her in his lap and thought creepy thoughts about how she didn't have any hair on her body. Still gross, yes, but miles away from what happened in the book.
Also, when Sookie finally meets Godric in the series, he is a wise, almost Buddha-like vampire. He shows much more mercy, compassion, and understanding than any other character in either version of the series. In the books, though, he seems merely apathetic and bored with life-- he shows a disconnect with all beings, living or undead.
On to more complaining about Sookie getting mad about things I don't understand!
I believe this example comes from the second book-- if I err and it is from the first, I apologize. I lent both books to a friend right after I finished them, so cannot go back and check, or get exact quotes, for that matter.
This conversation occurred when Bill was driving Sookie to Fangtasia to meet with Eric. Bill bought a strip mall, if I remember correctly, that had several stores in it. When he told Sookie that she could go into the clothing store and pick out anything she liked, telling the salesperson to put it onto Bill's tab, she became furious with him. She was absolutely outraged that he would treat her like a 'kept woman,' and when the car mysteriously stopped, she jumped out and stormed off into the spooky woods, planning to walk all the way home. She ignored his calling to her, and when she began to have misgivings about her safety (as she heard creepy noises following her), she tried to tell herself that she was doing the right thing, and how dare Bill offer her free things and try to get her back in the car.
She is pretty awesome.
One, two, three out of three inexplicable love interests! Ah! Ah! Ah!
Saturday, August 29, 2009
However, more recently I've discovered the guilty pleasure that is the Southern Vampire series, by Charlaine Harris.
Dead Until Dark is the first book in this series, and I liked it. I just finished re-reading it (and the second book-- I probably should have written this review before I started reading the next one..) after having seen up through Season 2 episode 10 of the HBO series based on the books, True Blood. My memory is awful, so I thought I should go back through the books and see just how true to them the show is.
The show goes much more deeply into some side-plots than the books do, but I think that it only adds richness and makes it more interesting. The minor characters are also more fleshed out and defined, again adding a new dimension.
Dead Until Dark focuses on the heroine, Sookie Stackhouse, and her 'disability,' which is telepathy. I think that Charlaine Harris might be overdoing her quirky character a bit much sometimes, making her a tad unbelievable. For instance, Sookie is always referring to her telepathy as a disability. Now, I understand that it's made her life harder, and she would rather not know everything that everyone around her is thinking, but 'disability'? That word just conjured up all the wrong images. I think a better route would have been the more obvious blessing/curse dichotomy, especially since Sookie proves herself time and time again to be a religious person.
Also, Sookie has never been in a serious relationship, because of her 'disability.' Since vampires are a 'blank spot' for her telepathy, they are some of the few people she can feel comfortable around. So when the vampire Bill wanders into the bar where she works, Merlotte's, she is instantly attracted to him (and the calming mental silence around him). However, once she is in the relationship, she seems to be quite a bit higher maintenance than one might have assumed. She takes offense at the strangest things, and gets her knickers in a knot for no reason I can see. I suppose it might be merely a writing device to differentiate between the usually cool vampire, Bill, and the hot-blooded human, Sookie, but I think that her 'reasoning' for starting tiffs with Bill is poorly thought out, even though the story is told from her perspective. It paints her as quite an irrational person, which is odd, especially since her telepathy supposedly gives her such great insights into human nature.
The foundation of the relationship of Sookie and Bill seems to be just that she can't hear his thoughts and that he thinks she tastes remarkably good. Oh, yes, and of course all of the incredible sex. Honestly, with all the fights they have over nothing, I can't imagine much else holding them together. It is quite possible that they have long, meaningful talks that the reader is not privy to, but if that's the case, they seem to forget about them pretty quickly when Sookie decides Bill isn't letting her be her own assertive self.
Bill, too, seems to have some strange personality quirks, in that he doesn't seem to have much of a personality. Perhaps it's just that he is so opaque to Sookie, who is used to reading everyone's mind. As the reader, we only know what Sookie knows-- that may be the base of the problem. Maybe.
Sam Merlotte, too, seems to be a somewhat flat character. He is Sookie's boss and owner of the bar, Merlotte's, and is defined first and foremost by his longing for Sookie-- Lord only knows why.
Flightiness of women and blankness of men aside, this book is quite entertaining. I enjoy seeing the hierarchy and power plays of the vampire society, how some vampires choose to 'mainstream' and try to join human society, and the sneak peeks that Sookie gets into the thoughts of those around her.
One out of one bloody mess!
Thursday, August 20, 2009
There is a series of grisly murders, apparently committed by wolves that aren't quite like normal wolves. Therefore, Harry Dresden, freelance wizard and sometime helper to the Special Investigations section of the Chicago PD, gets called in to lend his professional expertise.
Despite being the only wizard listed in the Yellow Pages, Harry often has a difficult time finding employment. He seems to be living the life of a broke college student most of the time, especially when his contact in the Chicago PD, Murphy, is avoiding him. His detective work seems to be the only steady employment he has, and Murphy has trouble asking for help. She also seems to have trouble trusting anyone. Harry is burdened with many secrets of the arcane world, but Murphy can't seem to accept that, and is personally offended when he doesn't tell her all of the forbidden knowledge that he has, or when he tries to keep her in the dark to protect her. His chivalry sometimes does not go too well with her fierce independence.
Either this time Mr. Butcher cut down a bit on the hard-boiled, sarcastic comments, or I've just become more accustomed to them and didn't notice them as much. Either way, I thought that this book was a bit better than the first, though it was still rather heavy-handed with the introspection as characters tried to work through their trust issues. At one point, Harry even has a conversation with himself in a dream as a way to work through the hectic events that had happened up to that point. Call me hard to please, but that seemed a little hackneyed.
Four out of five wolves!
Monday, July 27, 2009
Maybe it’s because my husband watches the Food Network when I want to watch Law and Order reruns, but I quickly tired of the cooking theme in Janet Evanovich’s new Stephanie Plum novel, Finger Lickin’ Fifteen. Readers familiar with the series already know Stephanie only orders in for food and Lula makes a mess of everything she touches, I was looking for more. Evanovich’s books are the ones I pick up when I want an easy read with frequent laugh out loud moments and lots of sexual tension. Fifteen had the laughs but this time the only sizzling was in the kitchen or on the grill.
Lula, the loud and large ex-ho in Stephanie’s life, witnesses a murder (think head flying action), while Ranger, security pro and sexual tension source, experiences a series of break-ins at his clients’ homes and businesses. Stephanie assists them both while tracking down her own bounty hunter cases in her own hilarious bumbling fashion. Getting sucked into Lula’s crazy bar-be-que sauce cooking scheme is understandable and provided those moments where I giggled and snorted my way though Evanovich’s wonderful descriptions. Stephanie, dressed in a hotdog costume and falling down repeatedly, was some of the written word’s physical comedy at its best. But I struggled with the plot line when Ranger seeks Stephanie’s detective prowess; the man is the epitome of security and bounty hunting skills. Seeing him in a weakened position may have been where the current of sexual tension died for me. I found it easier to believe a man could get beheaded in broad daylight and Stephanie and Lula could lose yet another criminal to a second floor window escape than to think Ranger would ever need her help.
By and large, the novel achieved what it set out to do. Although at times predictable - Stephanie spent a lot of nights in Ranger’s bed and muttered about his salads and lack of pie, granny was toting her gun in inappropriate settings, and cars were destroyed every other chapter– Evanovich is still innovative. Who knew so many elderly women would look forward to a daily neighborhood flasher, and cross-dressing firemen would work as fast food mascots to pay for their sequined tops?
The ending wrapped up a bit too suddenly. I felt myself running out of pages and wondering if ten more might have been able to provide readers with a more satisfying adversary for Ranger. Carrying his problem to the next novel might have been a better choice. With Stephanie ending the novel back with her steady lover, Joe, I’m not too excited for what book sixteen will bring. I think I’ll go back and enjoy my favorite taxidermy squirrel bombs and Ranger in Stephanie’s bed instead of picking up number sixteen when it hits the shelves.For a list of all the Stephanie Plum novels and a chance to name book sixteen, visit Janet Evanovich’s website.
Friday, July 10, 2009
First of all, absolutely necessary to understanding the spirit in which this book was written, one must read the introduction open-mindedly before moving forward. The subject of human evil is one too difficult and prevalent to merit no explanation as to why anyone would try and write a book about it. The introduction explains why Dr. Peck chooses to speak of human evil from a Christian perspective, but aimed for all people to consider, regardless of their faith (or lack thereof). This is a book about human evil, but not about religion—since evil transcends all boundaries and is prevalent in all mankind. Personally, I am relieved by how the author makes no pretenses about his own beliefs, and also mentions that the book will probably offend WAY more fundamental Christians then it ever will anyone else. (Let’s face it: it’s remarkably easy to offend most Christians.) Instead the author attempts to approach the disease of evil from a moralistic viewpoint—morality being separate from individual religious identity.
Like most books from a psychiatric perspective, People Of The Lie uses case studies from real patients to make a point—however, confidentiality demands that not much is realistically cited. This is fine with me, since I’m not a purist for data. If you are, though, this might tickle your skepticism a bit. The personality types so defined do meet with reality in that I think everyone could recognize someone they know in what he lays out with the case studies, so all together I do find them effective.
Dr. Peck seeks to approach evil in a multi-faceted way. Moreover, he recommends approaching as many things in life as possible with a multi-faceted view. The more simplistic and basic a concept is—such as evil—the more elusive it becomes, the more mysterious. In fact, he posits that such seemingly ingrained features of mankind are never fully understood. We approach them with all the tools at hand, reaching the best knowledge on the subject we can obtain. The closer we approach such mysteries, the more we don’t understand.
“Then why try to understand? The very question speaks the language of nihilism, since time immemorial a diabolic voice. Why do or learn anything? The answer is simply that it is far better—both more fulfilling and constructive—to have some glimmer of understanding of what we are about than to flounder around in total darkness.” –Peck, p. 39.
This book is amazing and a must-read for anyone interested in the depths of the human soul—particular the dark and disturbing aspects.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
In Richard McCann’s Mother of Sorrows the short stories read more like memoir than fiction and each carries its own sadness. They link together well or can be read individually, both creating a picture of a single life and segmenting it into different time periods. The foreknowledge of the dead father (if you read the stories in order) gives “The Diarist” a heart wrenching sadness that surpasses the sorrow of any other piece. The image of the destroyed car and the angry father stand out brilliantly through McCann’s descriptive language and the intense connection he forms between the reader and the young boy. The mother, as a character, is much harder to define and pin down than the father, thus making her more realistic, more frustratingly human. Her presence tinges every aspect of the boy’s life and makes me wish he could pull away.
The brother, Davis, comes about slowly, developing a little more in each story until his life is told as well. “Fugitive Light, Old Photos” gives quick glimpses of Davis’ life, after his death. The mother is grieving again, she is constantly grieving throughout the book, and it is difficult to imagine her happy or fulfilled. “My Brother in the Basement” shows more about Davis; McCann uses the similarities between the two brothers seem to highlight their differences. Davis had been close to their father, a man’s man; while the narrator coveted his mother’s attention. Yet both are gay and it is the narrator who hides his sexuality from his mother, fearing her reaction after his brother’s disastrous coming out. The two brothers seem much closer in this story than in the previous ones, in “My Mother’s Clothes” they were opposed, although this may have been because Davis was resisting the urges the narrator gives in to.
The standout story is “Some Threads Through the Medina”. The drifting writing style perfectly depicts the narrator’s confusion and frustration with his growing sexual urges. He does not know where he is or where he plans on going but simply feels the desire to keep moving. The story is beautifully written and although it is difficult to keep straight at times I believe the intention is to give off the same feelings the narrator experiences. The reader feels a bit lost, floating from memory to memory with no idea of the places in between.
Knowing the bare bones of McCann’s life I see how closely the narrator in Mother of Sorrows resembles who he has been. With so many memoirs exposed as fabrication I understand the urge for caution, painting your own past is dangerous ground and with this book labeled fiction McCann is able to take liberties otherwise off limits. But perhaps if readers and critics alike could remove the restrictions on memoir, poignant stories like these could be embraced as the writer’s truth with no one quibbling about the details.
Friday, July 3, 2009
It's a tale of a wizard detective-for-hire in Chicago. His business isn't doing very well, but he does occasionally get work helping out the Chicago Police Department, as when they find two people with their hearts exploded out of their chests mid-coitus. When things of an obviously magical nature are involved, he is their go-to man, as he's the only wizard listed in the Yellow Pages.
The supernatural aspects of the book-- vampires, faeries, the methods of magic-use-- don't seem to be incredibly innovative. Rather, Butcher sticks mostly to the classics, drawing from established mythology and lore, Paganism, voodoo, and the like. He hints at things that have happened to the main character, Henry Dresden, in the past, and at an organization in the magical world that I look forward to learning more about.
Some aspects of the writing do seem a tad overdone, like Dresden's hard-boiled, sarcastic inner monologue and his contact in the Chicago PD's tough-woman-in-a-man's-world demeanor, but I believe it is Butcher's first novel, so much can be forgiven. Besides, I don't think it detracted from the overall quality of the book to any significant degree.
Also, on Dresden's staff on the cover of the book, it looks like there is some backwards katakana (one of the phonetic alphabets of Japanese) spelling out matorikkusu. Matrix? My tricks? Just some random symbols chosen for the aesthetics of the thing? Not sure.
I look forward to reading about more of Dresden's undoubtedly shenanigan-filled cases.
Four out of five magic wands!
Monday, June 29, 2009
I've always liked this book. It entwines the real world and a bizarre, mythical world in a way that I find quite intriguing. Like a dream, the mythical world has its own set of complex rules that always remains just out of reach of the reader. (Or perhaps just me.)
Another thing I like about this book, though some might say that it makes it a little too two-dimensional, is the clear separation between good and evil-- at least, at first. On one hand we have Rose, the battered housewife who makes a break for it, and on the other is Norman, the abusive, insane, and bigoted murderer of a husband. Norman has no redeeming qualities that I could see, and it is creepy but fascinating to get a glimpse into his mind.
I'm a little torn here as to whether or not I should include spoilers in these book reviews. It seems rather short without discussing more of the plot or some specific imagery I may have found especially moving. This is my first stab at it... please bear with me. Assuming anyone reads this.