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11/19/23 EMT | Main | Double Standard! Thy Name Is...Everyone!
November 19, 2023

Sunday Morning Book Thread - 11-19-2023 ["Perfessor" Squirrel]

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Welcome to the prestigious, internationally acclaimed, stately, and illustrious Sunday Morning Book Thread! The place where all readers are welcome, regardless of whatever guilty pleasure we feel like reading. Here is where we can discuss, argue, bicker, quibble, consider, debate, confabulate, converse, and jaw about our latest fancy in reading material. As always, pants are required, unless you are wearing these pants...

So relax, find yourself a warm kitty (or warm puppy--I won't judge) to curl up in your lap, and dive into a new book. What are YOU reading this fine morning?


THANKSGIVING NOTE:

I feel very blessed to be able to do what I do on the Sunday Morning Book Thread. The encouragement from the COBs and Moron Horde is nothing less than exceptional. I could not do this week after week without it. THANK YOU for participating in the Sunday Morning Book Thread! Your own contributions in recommendations, pictures, and creative works of your own is what makes this place (AoSHQ) so special. I am grateful to each and every one of you who reads the Sunday Morning Book Thread. I encourage lurkers to delurk once in a while and post your own thoughts and recommendations on reading, books, or just life in general. Who knows? You might have an opportunity to become a COB yourself someday...

PIC NOTE

Today's pic of the reading room at Boston Public Library comes courtesy of a website that floated up in one of my web browser article feeds. I didn't go looking for it on purpose. "Why We Need Public Libraries Now More than Ever" is your typical woke-Leftist pap about how libraries are essential community centers in many urban areas. Lending out books is only a small part of what libraries do now. Of course the author gratuitously mentions the efforts to censor or ban books without providing any context for why certain books might be considered for removal from a library's shelves. He also neglects to mention how the homeless tend to use library computing centers...

EPIC INSULTS

Every once in a while I come across a passage that fascinates me. Insults tossed from the hero to the villain are particularly interesting because the hero often can deliver them in such a way as to highlight the pathetic nature of the villain they are facing. This usually helps the hero in some way as they get inside the head of the villain. In Jim Butcher's The Olympian Affair, one of the characters (not the main hero) decides to begin a Heel-Face Turn when he realizes that the king whom he serves has sent an honorable man to do a dishonorable task. His "ally" in his quest is a woman who is bonkers insane and is working on behalf of an ancient evil being that drove humanity to seek shelter in the giant citadels known as "Spires." Now she's taken control of a massive superweapon that threatens all of humanity. Colonel Espira is horrified by the uses to which she has already committed this superweapon. At the end of the novel, he's decided that he's had enough of Madame Cavendish's evil plans and delivers the epic insult below, knowing it will most likely result in an excruciating death for him and his men:

"Madame Cavendish," Espira suddenly said in a cold, clear voice, "I find your person repulsive, your actions reprehensible, and your offer selfish, insulting, and in the main unremittingly stupid. Only an idiot would so much as consider extending anything like trust to you, and only a fool would believe in your simplistic blandishments. Moreover, madame, while I am sure your opinion of yourself is very high, I cannot help but think that such an opinion can only be the result of an intense denial of reality so severe that you actually believe you rise to the level of the most debased humanity. I can assure you that a creature of your nature can never aspire to such giddy heights as that of the most pathetic wretch exiled to the surface of the world. You would do me and the rest of the world a great kindness, madame, if you should exit your disgusting, stinking, venomous tank, proceed to the main deck, and hurl yourself over the side of the ship."

The Olympian Affair might as well be retitled Epic Insult: The Novel because insults are a major theme running through the story. Two very significant duels between heroes and villains are arranged as a result of carefully staged insults designed to elicit a specific response. Naturally, the heroes prevail, but they both pay a price for their actions, which may last their entire lives.

Sometimes an epic insult is needed for the hero to buy time or to regain some measure of strength against the villain, especially if the hero is in a weakened position. Insults do wonders for throwing your target off their game. The more personal, the better. Of course, the downside is insults can cause your opponent to do something rash that makes the situation worse. It's always a gamble, but sometimes it's worth it to see the look on their face, even if it's the last thing you see before you die. Spit in their face if you can.

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BOOK SALE BY MORONS

Hans G. Schantz has an open invitation for Moron Authors to join an online book sale for Black Friday. I know there are authors around here who are asking how they can move some books. Well, here's an opportunity for you!

If you're a based author who'd like to sell some based books, join in our Black Friday Based Book Sale.

Offer one or more at $0.99 or free, I'll add it to the list, and we all promote them.

DM's open on Twitter (@aetherczar).

Details below.

https://wiseofheart.substack.com/p/coming-soon-the-big-black-fridaycyber

MORON RECOMMENDATIONS

Due to my Parish's Mass times, I don't get very many opportunities to read the Book Thread "live" anymore. However, I always enjoy it and you're doing a great job! I would like to recommend another book to the Catholic members of the Horde:

St. Austin Press (saintaustinpress.com) reprinted Frederick Knecht's A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture a couple of years ago. This a true facsimile reproduction of the 1930 English edition, and has all illustrations and maps. This commentary was originally intended as a supplementary text for teaching the Roman Catechism (i.e., Catechism of the Council of Trent). Thus, rather than giving an exegesis on every verse of the bible, the commentary on Bible history is used to support and amplify various doctrines of the Catholic Church. Each chapter is fairly short, often a few pages, and divided in 3 parts: Bible passages (sometimes paraphrased), commentary and an application (i.e., a lesson or meditation).

Instead of a conventional index, Knecht's Practical Commentary uses a concordance based on the Apostles' Creed and the Ten Commandments. The writing style is generally clear and direct; however, some of the word forms are archaic (e.g., "Noe" instead of Noah), and English spelling is used. I have numerous Bible commentaries in my personal library, but Knecht's fills a different niche. I highly recommend this book.

The physical characteristics of the book are quite nice. Green cloth-covered boards and sewn binding. The paper is bright white and semi-gloss stock. Amazon does sell this book as a hardcover option for a paperback published by Aeterna Press (be warned: that version is an OCR scan missing the illustrations and concordance). You can apparently buy direct from St. Austin Press if you don't want Bezos to get your money; I didn't have the publisher's information at the time, so I ended up buying from Amazon.

Sincerely,

Retired Buckeye Cop

Comment: I know there is a fairly large contingent of Catholic Morons around here. If you are looking for something to add to your biblical resources, this might be just what you need.

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Got a few chapters into Cannery Row by Steinbeck. Despite Wolfus' good description last week I was surprised. Instead of a single narrative Steinbeck uses short chapters of inner dialogue and painstaking description of the people and area to build an understanding of Cannery Row. I suspect the accumulation of these vignettes will add up to the story. It's different but I like the approach so far even though the overall place isn't jolly. I do appreciate the half cynical and half amusing tone he uses.

Posted by: JTB at November 12, 2023 09:10 AM (7EjX1)

Comment: Authors can sometimes surprise you when they use different narrative devices to tell a story. Steinbeck is a skilled enough writer I'm not surprised he could write in a variety of styles to suit his purposes for the narrative.

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This week I read (most of) The Seedling Stars, a Gollancz "SF Collectors edition" of James Blish's "pantropy" stories pretending to be a novel. The bulk of the book is his novella "Surface Tension" with a couple of sorta-related short stories to explain to the reader about the idea of genetically engineering humans to live on non-Earthlike planets.

Pretty good stuff, especially when Blish sticks to nice crunchy hard-SF worldbuilding about what it would be like for microscopic humans living in shallow ponds on an alien world. When he ventures into social science things get less good. The tyrannical world government in the first story is -- no kidding -- the Port Authority. As in the NY Port Authority. A tyranny of unelected bureaucrats would be great, but that particular bureaucracy just seems snicker-worthy.

Blish knew his biology, but it's all pre-Crick and Watson biology, so instead of genetic engineering it's done by "selective breeding of germ cells" and tinkering during development which somehow gets inherited.

Still, a classic.

Posted by: Trimegistus at November 12, 2023 09:42 AM (78a2H)

Comment: I can't say I've read much, if any, James Blish. I do have his story "Surface Tension" in at least one anthology around here. I should pick it up and read it. One of the challenges of the early science fiction writers was that science kept marching on, often quite rapidly, so it's not surprising that he would get the details wrong in some of his stories simply because science had not advanced far enough yet to reveal the hidden mysteries of the universe. Today's science fiction can get pretty bizarre because some of the extrapolations of today's technology to the far future are very weird indeed.

+++++

My recommendation this week is African Founders: How Enslaved People Expanded American Ideals, by David Hackett Fischer, who is the author of the marvelous book Albion's Seed. The book details the experience of black Americans from the time of the first arrivals in the early 17th century, to the Civil War. His thesis is that black Americans, rather than being the passive recipients of violence by whites, interacted with the broader American society, both as slaves and as free men, and made a real contribution to the fashioning of American culture and polity. It is a rebuke to the "woke" myth of wicked white perpetrators and passive black victims - a myth that is both historically false and condescending to blacks. The author also shows how the presence of enslaved people in America forced Americans to confront the full meaning of those words in the Declaration about all men being equal and having unalienable rights.

African Founders is an important book, deeply researched, well organized, and gracefully written with minimal jargon (and lots of maps). Highly recommended!

Posted by: Nemo at November 12, 2023 10:50 AM (S6ArX)

Comment: It's a shame we don't teach this stuff in schools anymore...African Americans indeed made important and lasting contributions to the fabric of America. They deserve to be recognized and honored for those contributions. But not at the expense of the Europeans who also contributed. Back when America truly was a melting pot, we'd take a little from culture A, add some culture B, and maybe a dash of cultures C and D. The result was a vibrant, powerful idea that all men are indeed created equal, made by God in His image.

More Moron-recommended reading material can be found HERE! (1000+ Moron-recommended books!)

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WHAT I'VE ACQUIRED THIS PAST WEEK

The local public library had a book sale right before Thanksgiving week. Fortunately, I will be taking off most of next week from work (except Monday), so that means I should have some extra time for reading. I was good this time and only brought home one bag of books:

  • Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams -- I have a paperback version, but I thought I'd upgrade to the hardcover edition for $2.
  • Hercule Poirot's Casebook by Agatha Christie -- This is a collection of all of the Hercule Poirot mysteries she wrote. Agatha Christie has been highly recommended around here, so again I'll give this a read for the low, low cost of $5.
  • Micro by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston -- Most everyone here is familiar with Crichton. Richard Preston wrote a rather horrifying book called The Hot Zone documenting the release of a nasty virus similar to Ebola here in the United States.
  • Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffery Cranor -- I'd seen this at Barnes and Noble and had been intrigued, but shied away because I didn't know if I'd like it. For the price I paid for the hardcover edition today ($2.50), I can at least give it a shot.
  • Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein -- I know this has been recommended many times by the Horde, so I figure I should probably read it.
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley -- I actually have two other copies, but this is the only one that doesn't have annotations in the margins. The other copies were clearly used in English literature courses.
  • What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz -- Thought I'd give one of his regular horror/thriller/mystery novels a try. I read Odd Thomas and enjoyed it well enough.
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien -- This is the third time I've bought Lord of the Rings. This one is a nice trade paperback edition as a boxed set. It will make a great "reading copy" and my fancier copy can stay on the shelf.

WHAT I'VE BEEN READING THIS PAST WEEK:

  • In Conquest Born by C.S. Friedman -- A personal vendetta between sworn enemies threatens the stability of the galaxy. Surprisingly decent book, with lots of intrigue and mad schemes as both sides attempt to out do one another for control of the galaxy. Heavy Star Wars/space opera vibe to it.

That's about all I have for this week. Thank you for all of your kind words regarding the Sunday Morning Book Thread. This is a very special place. You are very special people (in all the best ways!). The kindness, generosity, and wisdom of the Moron Horde knows no bounds. Let's keep reading!

If you have any suggestions for improvement, reading recommendations, or discussion topics that you'd like to see on the Sunday Morning Book Thread, you can send them to perfessor dot squirrel at-sign gmail dot com. Your feedback is always appreciated! You can also take a virtual tour of OUR library at libib.com/u/perfessorsquirrel. Since I added sections for AoSHQ, I now consider it OUR library, rather than my own personal fiefdom...

PREVIOUS SUNDAY MORNING BOOK THREAD - 11-12-23 (NOTE: Do NOT comment on old threads!)

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