Dec 04

Abraham, by Bruce Feiler

This is an interesting book that looks at the common patriarch of the 3 major monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity & Islam. First Feiler goes through and talks about Abraham, what we know, what we don’t, then he starts talking about “all the different Abrahams” that we have. Put another way, each religion, and indeed, each time period, tends to ascribe different characteristics to Abraham and apporpriate him for various things. He spends a lot of time talking about the relationship between Isaac and Ishmael and Abraham, and how that’s viewed through the different lenses, as well as the divide between Hagar (Ishmael’s mother) and Sarah (Isaac’s). The most interesting comparisons for me were of the story in which God calls Abraham to sacrifice Isaac — how in some readings, it’s viewed as God’s test of Abraham’s faith, in other’s it’s viewed as Abraham testing God, and in yet others, the reading is that Abraham actually did kill Isaac, but Isaac came back to life.

I found this book much easier to read than Karen Armstrong’s A History of God, but of course not as deep. I found intersting his focus on how we all interpret historical figures in general, and on how Abraham is an almost perfect vessel for this.

Good book. I’ll try to read Armstrong’s The Battle for God next, although I’m having some trouble with the form and substance of her writing these days. (Just too esoteric & contextualized.)

Dec 04

Amazing Prose: The Grapes of Wrath

Well, I’m not done with it yet, but this amazing book deserves some “in the middle” posts. I’m about halfway through Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and am absolutely blown away by it. This book makes me want to linger on every word, read chapters twice. Just flat unbelievable. I can’t believe that I’ve never read it before. The thing that’s amazing to me so far is the way that Steinbeck captures the large (what was happening to America during that period) and the small (the details of the Joad family as they head from Oklahoma to California). Just amazing.

Here’s something from chapter 5, where he’s talking about the banks and the companies pushing out the families. Listen:

Some of the owner men were kind because they hated what they had to do, and some of them were angry because they hated to be cruel, and some of them were cold because they had long ago found that one could not be an owner unless one were cold. And all of them were caught in something larger than themselves. Some of them hated the mathematics that drove them, and some were afraid, and some worshiped the mathematics because it provided a refuge from thought and from feeling. If a bank or a finance company owned the land, the owner man said, the Bank–or the Company–needs–wants–insists–must have–as thoughthe Bank of the Company were a monster, with thought and feeling, which had ensnared them. These last would take no responsibility for the banks or the companies because they were men and slaves, while the banks were machines and masters all at the same time. Some of the owner men were a little proud to be slaves to such cold and powerful masters.

What’s incredible to me is how perfectly that describes a million different situations in our lives today. Anytime you’ve stood in line at the DMV, or tried to get your airline ticket changed, or tried to explain how an American isn’t the same thing as the American government.

Anyway, I’ll post more before I’m done, no doubt. Just thought it was worth mentioning that I’ll run out of superlatives by the end.

Dec 04

Practical Demonkeeping, by Christopher Moore

Like Fluke, but about demon possession instead of whales. You get the picture. But a pretty funny book, and Moore’s first, I think. I’d put him in the category of folks like Christopher Buckley or Dave Barry in the sense of madcap, ridiculous adventures that have a bit of sci-fi in them.

Dec 04

Fluke, by Christopher Moore

Another slightly fluffy novel for me — quick read from Christopher Moore about whale researchers in Hawaii that realize some funny things are going on (like whales having “BITE ME” scrawled on their tails) and go from there. Good book to read during your 27 hour trips to Nashville.

Dec 04

Nashville in 27 Hours Flat

First, let me say that we had a great Thanksgiving, and really enjoyed spending time with Mom, Bampa, and Myra.

Second, let me say that getting to Nashville totally and completely sucked. Here’s a quick rundown of our lovely trip:

– got to the airport 2 hours before our flight, which was supposed to leave at Noon PST

– boarded our flight 2 1/2 hours after it was supposed to leave due to weather in Chicago, where we were connecting through

– sat on the plane on the tarmac for 2 hours waiting for Chicago

– 4 hour flight; uneventful. but no movie. arrived 10:30p CST at ORD (figured we were late for our 7:15p flight to Nashville, but amazingly it hadn’t taken off yet)

– spent the next 2 hours on the plane from SJC on the tarmac in Chicago, because all the gates were full — they were very very behind on the deicing machines

– got into O’Hare at 12:30a, and (hooray!) our Nashville flight still hadn’t left, so we went over to the gate (it’s worth mentioning here that O’Hare was absolutely packed with people — a lot of them sleeping on airport-provided cots in the hallways)

– waited for 90 minutes to board our plane to Nashville when they canceled it — the crew had been working for too many hours. good law. bad timing for us.

– so we took a very bad taxi to a hilton that we had already booked (yay!) — got there at 3a, slept until 6a (in our clothes — no bags), when we caught a taxi back to O’Hare

– this time we were delayed boarding for an hour and then, guess what, sat in the plane on the tarmac for 2 hours while we waited for the fuel truck.

– got to nashville where we were met by Bampa at something like 1p on Thanksgiving. waited an hour for our luggage. nope.

– had a great Thanksgiving dinner at Mom’s. was perfect. seriously.

– had our bags delivered around 10p to Mom’s house. took showers. changed clothes.

Tough trip. But we’d do it again. Probably. ­čÖé