June reading update

I read 10 books for this month.

I finished books 2-5 of the John Carter/Barsoom series and I’m done with Burroughs-Mars, not going to check any more of it out.  Unlike Tarzan, which was noblebright, and very pure, Barsoom has a lot more camel’s nose under the tent to it.  Everyone is naked, the imagery (particularly of the various creatures John Carter and various other Martians have to battle) is striking and powerful and influenced quite a few sci-fi writers I read back in the day, but it’s frequently revolting and depraved.  John Carter himself grows increasingly vain and bloodthirsty as the series progresses.  I suspect that’s part of why it’s not as evergreen as Tarzan.  It’s “fetish fuel” and would be hard to film even under current mores as a mainstream series of movies.  The Barsoomian world is sciencey and secular, but also incoherent in its sexual and social morality.

Anyway that was four books down.  I finally read Journey to the Center of the Earth, which was epic and featured one of the most realistically terrifying moments I’ve seen in a book.  I also read Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure story of one of his ancestors.

I was working on and continue to work on some other books, but I got distracted by some new e-releases and read those.  They were the second Alt-Hero comic (which is vastly improved in both storyline and art over the first one) and book 2 in the Saga of the Iron Dragon.  I also started reading Dune and finished it.  I read it once 20+ years ago and I’m counting it as a new read because I’d forgotten most of the characters and plot(s). I also read The Reluctant Dragon which literally just turned up and I realized I’d never read, only seen a cartoon of.  It’s cute.

The current count is 50 down, 50 to go.


May reading update

I read 10 books for this month.

I read the entire Dark is Rising series.  It’s a Narnia-response series, probably.  Explicitly anti-Christian, not what I was expecting at all.  Once you take that into account, the Celtic and Arthurian mythos and the take on magic are pretty good.  It’s five books, that was half my reading for the month.  The rest was the Alt-Hero comic (cheesy, but I expected nothing less from a kickstarter superhero comic), Pinocchio (the original), Wind in the Willows (a very lyrical book), the first John Carter book and Larry Correia’s short story collection.

The first John Carter book (some call it “A Princess of Mars”) was not very interesting.  It was always easy to get to a stopping point with it until the last 1/4, when it picked up.  Larry’s short stories were mostly only ok, due to being heavily licensed fiction stuff of games and such I’m not familiar with.

The current count is 40 down, 60 to go.   I made progress with Hippies of the Religious Right, but not enough to write the rest up until a fortnight from now.

April reading update

I read 8 books for this month.  I read the first three Tarzan books, a 30 year old YA book about a boy surviving in the woods, finished the last Avery Hall book, finished a book of usenet-funny work anecdotes, finished an ebook-only assortment of fantasy stories and finally read the Velveteen Rabbit.  I saw it as a kid, but never read the book.  It’s a very sweet story.

The current count is 30 down, 70 to go.   I am mired in the Burton Arabian Nights translation, which is a very spicy meatball.  I didn’t know that before jumping in.  The first 100 or so pages are pretty q-rated and the KJV stylistic approach makes it even denser of a read.  Will probably finish Hippies of the Religious Right this month.  Not really sure about how I’m going to read the remaining 70 books planned for the year.  T.W.O. unpacked a bunch of to-read history and fiction that I was working on before the move and I’ve been in analysis paralysis on where to start or resume.

I feel like my oldest child.  “I’m allowed to check out two more from the library, but I’m already reading nine books, and I wouldn’t finish them before the return date.”

Saturday update #2

Haven’t written any fiction for the day, but if I manage it today or tomorrow I will post a Monday update.  This week was full of family emergencies that weren’t compatible with writing what I wanted to.  A poll about posting excerpts is below.  It’s worth considering.

Hippies of the Religious Right, Chapter Two: The Counterculture

So in Chapter Two, Shires has a brief discussion of the counterculture.  He drops all the right names (Roszak, Ellul) and along the way breaks down the appeal of the counterculture for what became Christian hippies.

The major thing for the “Chrippies” was that they wanted to keep the Golden Rule, freedom and expressive individualism of their parents’ modernist, secular approach to life and belief, but drop the conformism and money-hunger.  They “logic trapped” their parents by pointing out their obvious hypocrisies.

We in the future now might look at how easily and smoothly hypocrisy is dismissed as irrelevant in general political discourse, but the younger Silents and older Boomers were able to pull off confronting hypocrisy because their parents were in fact behaving in an untraditional way.  The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit was two-faced in a way that was historically rather new and thus freshly and particularly susceptible to cries of Hypocrite.  And the children of these parents took advantage of it, pressing that advantage as hard as they could most chances they got.

When you present an adulterer as a moral exemplar people might think you’re a hypocrite.

But the eagerness to trap their parents and authority figures in nets of hypocrisy exposed something Shires presents rather neutrally, the way in which freedom as a movement and ideal superseded the Civil Rights Movement rapidly.  People born from 1944-1960 had an 86% rate of formal religious training (Sunday school, catechism class, and the like) and while this filled many of them (the future Chrippies, what Shires terms the “spiritually sensitive”) with a longing for faith as a seamless garment, with life and belief as one, in practice they sought freedom from orthodox spiritual direction, instead delving into drugs as a path towards that goal of a seamless garment of life-faith.

The use of drugs for individualized spiritual awakening is an interesting contrast to the Dexedrine housewives of the postwar and 1950s timeframe.  The mainstream use of drugs to enforce conformity, particularly with women’s highly constrained and very modern form of the housewife role, is not mentioned by Shires, being outside the scope of his work.  But it something to consider for the era he’s speaking of.

Shires also discusses the original “We have to be intolerant of intolerance!” that was a prominent theme among these seekers and spiritually sensitive youth pursuing an ideal of pure love.  Weirdly, he downplays the sex-cult aspects that arose out of this love-worship.  He mentions an example of humane, saving love from M.A.S.H. the movie, in which a suicidal doctor is brought back with the love of his coworkers via them staging a pretend Last Supper and dosing him with a sleeping draught…only for him to be revived in “Heaven” where a beautiful nurse has sex with him.  Not exactly Biblically grounded (a recurring phrase Shires uses regarding the spiritually sensitive who became what I’m terming Chrippies or Christian hippies).

Shires describes the nurse as “compassionate and compliant”.  This implicit approval for “free love” with Christian sprinkles explains some of the odder acceptable fringes that flowered in the wake of the Jesus movement and the Christian hippies it produced.

Shires’ own language reveals some telling things about what roles women were to play as some of them rebelled against the artificial and novel form of the housewife role their parents and older sisters were performing.

Anyhow.  On to Chapter Three!

Why we still have globomegacorp, Barnes and Noble edition

They throw crumbs to us and we gratefully accept them.  Barnes and Noble started selling pleasing-looking, original-text editions of classic adult and children’s literature (yes, even including Tarzan and Barsoooooooommmmmmm) for 10 dollars each, 20-25 each for multi-book omnibuses of 3-5 novels.

It’s not something the local bookstore can do.

Anyway there goes the book budget for this month.  But building the youth library just got a little less stressful.

ETA Momnotes: There were a bunch of moms with little kids there.  But the Asian moms had 1 kid and grandma in tow.  They looked suspiciously less harried than the other moms (including me) with 1-2 kids in tow and no other woman there alongside.  One was practically mellow and super chill.  But then grandma was doing all the chasing when her little guy would make a break for a new play area.

The only thing I did different from the other grandma-less moms was tell my kids that I wasn’t going to tail them every step and if they didn’t want to play 10 feet away from me in direct line of sight, then they were going to watch me go through books.  So that’s what they did.  I hope I got 50% less tantrum for standing my free-range ground.  These things are hard to measure.

Hippies of the Religious Right, Chapter One: Modern Culture– Mainstream and Mainline

In the first chapter, Shires begins to lay out the groundwork for his exploration of how the counterculture spun off Christianized hippies.  He does this by pointing to the rise of modernism, with its whispers of neophilia and materialism that carried a clinical yet intense passion for material gain and economic security.  He doesn’t get quite as blunt as what the Third Child study researchers found, that the Boomers’ parents were people who thought hiding your Christian faith was fine if it meant getting a raise. But he does point out that the Boomers’ parents were very invested in Getting Paid and that they accepted the idea that church is just for Sundays easily.

When I started hanging around in evangelical circles, there was a free-floating idea that “Church is just for Sundays” was a recent thing and that in the 1950s, say, it wasn’t like that.  This is completely wrong.  “Church is just for Sundays” is roughly a century old at this point in terms of American religious practice.  By the 1950s it was even codified that there was no particular immorality or degenerancy attached to not attending.

One very interesting thing Shires does in the first chapter is explain that the liberal-material Christian view was an accommodation with the advances of technology and scientific thinking.  He briefly mentions something I’ve encountered in some of the early 20th century American writers I’ve read, the pushback against early-stage Affluenza which predated the counterculture by a couple of generations.  It is beyond the scope of his book, but the post-frontier Nature-love types like Gene Stratton-Porter were forerunners to the counterculture Christian-hippies.

Part of the fallout of the high highs and low lows of technology-driven rapid prosperity was liberal Christianity and wider social mores adopting conformism as a tool against unchecked greed and lust for profits and as a way to preserve economic prosperity and social stability.  They were anti-technocrats, but ones who integrated a technocratic perspective into their faith, secularizing the story of the loaves and fishes as merely a model of sharing.  That watered-down, materialist approach was already a dominant force in American Christianity prior to the counterculture.

The modernist, liberal Christians whose perspective dominated much of the middle classes that Christian-hippies came from were essentially Pelagian individualist materialists.  There was nothing supernatural about God and faith, it was just about love, and further, love that could be expressed by just living a good life and not being too greedy.  There was no Again to be Born.

The “Chrippies” rejected this idea of worship being a Sunday thing and optional at that as too private and self-contained a way to be Christian.  They wanted a more muscular, open, light blazing kind of faith.  Which leads to Chapter Two, a discussion of the counterculture.