Monday, February 16, 2009

This Week at the Library (16/2)

Books this Update:
  • How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill
  • Deer Hunting with Jesus, Joe Bageant
  • Shatterpoint, Matthew Stover
  • A World Waiting to be Born, M. Scott Peck

I began this week by continuing in Thomas Cahill's entertaining Hinges of History series. In focusing on transition points of history, Cahill now addresses the oft-forgotten contributions of the Irish to preserving the western heritage during a time of turbulence. He introduces us to the waning Roman Empire, and with him we watch Europe's transformation into early feudalism as uncouth barbarians wander around sacking cities and generally being poor neighbors. After elaborating on what was lost, he takes us to Ireland, to a Christian church that has followed a different path than the Roman church, to monasteries where pagan literature is copied freely, without being subjected to censorship. Cahill's book covers the growth of Irish Christianity and its influence on the newly stabilizing Europe, but sadly it does not end on a happy note: at the council of Whitby, Irish Christianity is rejected in favor of Roman Catholicism, and the coming of the Vikings will lead to the destruction of the monasteries that kept the western flame alive. Cahill writes well, and the book was a pleasure to read.

Next I indulged in a little science fiction by Matthew Stover titled Shatterpoint. The book is set very soon after the Battle of Geonosis in the Star Wars universe, and tells the story of Mace Windu. Master Windu is forced to join the "My Padawan-who-is-like-family turned to the Dark Side, and only I can save him/her from him/herself" club. Windo journeys to the jungle world of Haruun Kal, where the conflict between the Republic and the Seperatists* is being fought between two bitter guerrilla armies in a science fiction version of the Vietnam Conflict. While the book is primarily a combat novel, the first part of it does give the reader insight into Mace Windu's character.

Following this, I read Deer Hunting With Jesus, a brief book about the class war in the United States. Author Joe Bageant hails from the poor white working class of America -- the one clinging to its guns and bibles -- and tries to explain to his liberal friends and associates just who these people are who adore Sarah Palin so. He predicts the current financial crisis while writing on guns, folk religion, violence, healthcare, and the false allure of the Republican party to this industrial base. The book is funny and sad at a times. Since I'm from the same class as Bageant, I was already familar with the content, but those who do not share that background may find it to be quite thought provoking.

I finished the week with A World Waiting to Be Born, a psychiatric analysis and prescribed treatment of American society. Author M. Scott Peck sees the decline of civility as the source of the world's woes. He defines it as behavior conducive to organizational health, and defines organizations so loosley that marriages, families, and work groups are considered organizations. In the first third of the book, he hammers out a thought-system that involves meditation, deity-centered ethics, and a search for greater empathetic awareness (he calls it "Group Consciousness", which sounds either New Age or Borg to me) of one's fellows. I can't say I agreed with everything he said (subscribing to the humanist ethics he maligns), but it was definitely an interesting read.

Pick of the Week: How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill

Quotation of the Week
: "Outside of [child-rearing], the only other valid reason to marry is for the friction." - M. Scott Peck, amusing my occasionally sophomoric mind unintentionally.

Next Week:
  • On the Good Life: Selected Writings from Cicero, Cicero
  • The Gifts of the Jews, Thomas Cahill
  • Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome, Robert Harris
  • 10 Things Your Minister Wants To Tell You (But Can't Because He Needs the Job), Oliver Thomas

* Do you suppose if they won, they'd be known as the Rebellion and the republic as the Empire?

1 comment:

  1. I just noticed that the "Next Week's Reading" is actually two weeks advance! Heh.


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