Acid for Children by Flea – Book

Acid for Children by Flea – Book

Rock stars, punk stars, even hip hop stars are being pressured to write memoirs. Patti Smith has sort of taken the literary world by storm – she’s next on my list, but Flea’s book called to me first because it was on the reader that didn’t need to be charged. Ridiculous way to pick reading priorities and likely to make you feel like your brain has experienced whiplash, but I can no longer cart around heavy piles of books, and library waiting lists are long. Besides writers make their living when we buy their books, so I like to buy books to show my respect for writers.

Michael Balzary, the bassist in the Red Hot Chili Peppers wrote Acid for Children. His fans know him as Flea. He’s actually quite a good writer whose words do not get in the way of his story. It seemed like I was sitting in a circle of his friends on an adjoining mattress on the floor of the Wilton Hilton as he told the story of his early years, before he became famous. He told the most distressing things as if they were normal events, although he was aware that his childhood was anything but normal. It began in a fairly normal way in Australia, living with mom, Patricia, and Dad, Mick, sister Karyn. In Australia Michael’s pleasures involved enjoying the riches offered by nature in Australia; a boy and his dog. When he was about eight his Dad was offered a great job in the US and the family moved to an upscale suburban home.

Michael’s mother rebelled. She left to live with Walter, a musician/artist who knew many jazz greats and jammed with them, but who could not make a living. He had a substance abuse problem and what was probably a mental illness. He was though, when sober, a far more affectionate person than Michael’s birth father, and when not sober he raged and became abusive and fought with Michael’s mom, driving Michael out of the house. Michael’s birth father and his sister went back to Australia.

Patricia and Walter had no house rules. Michael was free to run and became basically a wild young kid, shoplifting what he wanted or needed, making friends with other young men who liked to take crazy risks, all the while feeling unloved, and sometimes unlovable. Michael and his friends tried every drug, swam in every beckoning empty pool, and partied constantly. I do not know how Michael stayed out of jail or why he didn’t have a long rap sheet of petty crimes. He seemed to make it through a very tumultuous coming-of-age and to arrive safely in adulthood, still somewhat messed up, but with a career as a famous musician right ahead of him.

Michael became Flea when he became the bassist for Fear. He finished high school thanks to a love of music he had learned from the jazz he loved and all the fine jazz musicians he met at Walter’s shabby house. Michael played the trumpet in high school and his love of music kept him in school long enough to graduate. Michael and his friends lived in Hollywood which might explain how they stayed under the radar of law enforcement as they used the city as their acid-fueled playground. Eventually Flea learned to play the bass, and it became his ticket into fame and fortune.

Balzary is quite honest in telling his story; he does not hide the chaos of his early years and he obviously enjoyed much of the chaos, which suited something untamed within him. Looking back he counsels that children should not do any of the drugs he did, that it does damage to young brains. He explains that he eventually became enlightened enough to not try so hard to constantly self-soothe. Readers may find Michael Balzary’s young life too profane for their tastes. While appreciating the honesty Flea offers and his easy style of writing, I agree with his adult self, that children can be neglected by self-absorbed adults when they need oversight the most. Is a chaotic youth necessary to mold a creative spirit? Perhaps creative development does not require quite this level of free range parenting.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Radio X

999 by Heather Dune Macadam – Book

If you decide to read 999: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune Macadam, read it with a whole box of tissues handy. This is not because, as in fiction, authors know how to engage our emotions; this is a nonfiction book and the tears will be real. Despite all the times authors have written about the Holocaust, this story still has the power to horrify us, to remind us of the heroic efforts it took to survive this unimaginable cruelty and brutality, to make us wonder if we would have been a survivor, and to force us to accept that the right set of circumstances could possibly turn any one of us into a monster.

Macadam was studying the first transports to Auschwitz in 1942. She learned that a notice went out in Slovakia that spring requiring 999 young teen girls to pack a bag and report for a physical exam. The notice said that they were going to be employed somewhere just outside Slovakia and would return home in 3 months. A few parents tried to hide their daughters because they could not understand why the government was taking girls. But in the end 997 girls were collected and parted from their parents and from all they knew. Macadam made extensive use of the USC Shoah Archive and the official records in Israel to track down the girls who survived this first transport. Although rumor had it that the girls were going to a shoe factory, they actually were taken to occupy the first buildings at Auschwitz. Their small suitcases were confiscated and they were given the uniforms of dead soldiers to wear and some were given black and white striped dresses. On their feet they had homemade clumsy sandals which they called clackers.

Some of the survivors could not talk about their experiences, some could not remember the details because their minds had blocked them, but there were survivors who felt it was important to tell people what had happened in those camps. How anyone survived I cannot say. The treatment of these girls was insane and inexplicable, apparently only possible because the Nazi’s were convinced that Jewish people were less than human. But they did what they did under conditions of great secrecy, so clearly they knew well how the world would judge them. After these girls, transport after transport of young Jewish women were delivered to Auschwitz, and they, in fact, cleared the ground for the entire concentration camp by hand, without coats in winter, in those awful homemade sandals, and thousands died.

This is the most authentic book I have read so far about Auschwitz and the ‘Final Solution’ given that Macadam spoke with people who had lived there and experienced that nightmare. The slightest small misstep, a bout of illness, an injury could result in death. Eventually the girls with the lowest numbers were given indoor work in Canada, which was the name given to the buildings where confiscated Jewish belongings were sorted. This decision may have been the only reason some of these girls survived. The thing that saved their lives put them right next to the crematoriums which had now been built and operated day and night when transports arrived, eventually leaving people off almost at the entrance to the ovens. The girls could see their relatives and neighbors lined up to be killed. The ashes of other Jews filled the air they breathed. Even the comfort of an indoor job held horror.

When I read The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, I was skeptical of the things the author recounted. I also tended to see Jewish people in the camps who had light duty as possible collaborators. The girls who survived have a lot of guilt about things they did in the camps, but most of them offered a kindness when they could without putting their own life or their own survival in jeopardy. There were girls who were given power as a building supervisor, and some of these girls were dangerous and mean, but the things the girls on this first transport out of Slovakia felt guilty about were unavoidable. Now I believe that Heather Morris was just recounting a story that a survivor told her and that it was most likely as trustworthy as memories of such trauma can be. I read books about the Holocaust because it is the least I can do to honor those who lived through those inhuman camps. But also, so I will always remember that if one deranged human could decide to commit mass murder based on hate or jealousy, or some pathological construct, then it could happen again.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – goodreads.com

Frederick Douglass by David Blight – Book

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David Blight has had me in thrall since December of last year. The author’s style is not to blame for the length of time I spent with Douglass. His style is not obscure, linguistically dense, or pedantic. Frederick Douglass’s life, however, was lived with a passionate density and a dedication to freedom and equality for all Americans of African Descent. It was a life richly lived and in no way ordinary.

How did Douglass make his way from slavery to national fame, treasured by many and hated by some. He believed in the value of hard work and telling an important story, at even the cost of his own health sometimes. In the days before there were radios, getting out a message took more effort, more arduous travel, often by rail, in all kinds of weather, than we can even imagine. How did Frederick Douglass learn to read and speak to crowds? It was illegal to teach slaves to read. It was said that once a slave could read he became useless as a slave. These masters, who liked to argue that the Negro race was inferior in intelligence, were afraid to teach a slave to read and write, to make a hash of their white supremacy claims, which, as Blight admits, linger stubbornly to this day.

Douglass, with some help from his master’s son’s wife, Sophie Auld in Baltimore, the Bible, some friendly white boys in Baltimore, and a book he poured over called The Columbian Orator, taught himself to read and speak, as an orator speaks, with power and effective rhetoric while he was still a slave. Eventually Douglass (born Fred Bailey) escaped north and fell into the helpful hands of some very active abolitionists, who dedicated themselves to speaking and writing against using any humans as slaves. He renamed himself after Clan Douglas from Walter Scott’s poem Lady of the Lake, because he liked their strength, and added an ‘s’ to make the name his own, says Blight. Late in the slave days of Douglass his master died and his estate was broken up. Since slaves were considered property all the master’s slaves were put on display and examined by other slave owners, purchased and hauled away like furniture, or tillers. While Douglass already understood that slavery was wrong, this atrocity imprinted graphically on his mind, along with a memory of being allowed in to visit his mother before she died. Frederick Douglass never knew his birth day and when slavery was done he went to see the Aulds who remained, but no one could enlighten him.

I will not tell you all the names of every abolitionist Douglass met because he knew all of his contemporaries. He was in demand as an orator who used Biblical cadences and even humor to insist that no man should be owned by any other man, that only freedom for all would suit the idealism of the American republic. There were often disputes among abolitionists about whether to advocate peaceful protest or a more robust activism so friends were made and lost and even Douglass changed his views on this, but, even so, Douglass’s focus on freedom and equality for all of the people being held as slaves propelled him through the next 6o years, with time out for a few jobs in the government after the Civil War. Douglass traveled and spoke constantly, first widely in the North and Midwest sections of America, passed from church to church and abolitionist to abolitionist for his own safety, in England, and Ireland, and Scotland (where slavery was already illegal), and again in America.

He spoke up before the Civil War, all throughout the Civil War when he also fought to have black soldiers who would fight for their own emancipation, and he could not rest in the disheartening aftermath of emancipation. He became owner/publisher/writer of a newspaper which included articles from most of the other activists in the anti-slavery movement. He wrote books, autobiographical in content, still in print today and still popular. He struggled constantly to support himself and his family. His wife Anna (Murray), who was born free, and his young children kept a home base that Douglass rarely got to enjoy. He was propelled by his mission and could not sit and rusticate.

Many wealthy abolitionists contributed to keeping Douglass’s newspaper alive and in that way helped support his family. Eventually he moved his family to Rochester, NY. Anna’s garden in Rochester was extensive, productive, and apparently lovely. Some of Douglass’s best friends in the cause and financial supporters were female activists. At least two of these women spent time staying at the Douglass home in Rochester. Ottilie Assing a well-educated German woman, seemed to have been enamored of Douglass and spent summers at the Douglass homes in both Rochester and later in the family home near Washington, DC. Blight found no descriptions of any untoward intimacies that survived, although it is possible to imagine that there may have been some, perhaps when Douglass went to stay at times with Ottilie and her circle. Anna Douglass left no clues about how she felt about these visitors, but Ottilie sometimes complained about Anna.

There is such a wealth of detail in Blight’s biography that if you really want to know Frederick Douglass you need to read Blight’s well-documented book. I will say that I became very nervous about what would happen when Reconstruction was undermined by the assassination of Lincoln (who Douglass knew personally and who he was able to influence and educate about the true conditions of slavery) and the rapid acceptance of former slave states back into the Union. I knew what atrocities ensued and I dreaded watching Douglass’s heart break when emancipation became violent racism. But Douglass was a man of his times and more pragmatic than me. He hated the violence, but he tried to keep the nation on a path to granting equality to freed slaves. He celebrated the 15 th Amendment with a Jubilee even as he grieved the bloodshed, the terrorism, and the lynching that turned the South into a death trap for black folks who tried to exercise their new right to vote. So many battles still to be fought.

But in his final years, even as Frederick Douglass traveled and spoke as often as his health would allow, even as he faced the disapproval from both citizens and family when he married (after the death of Anna) a younger white woman, Helen Pitts, who he had worked with in Washington, even as he represented the federal government in Haiti, – he won the fame and reverence that he had earned in a lifetime of dedication to fighting for the freedom he did not have, for both himself and every black man. Douglass knew women who fought for the rights of women. He knew Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but he was not distracted. The needs of slaves were more pressing in his mind and I don’t think most of us would argue with this focus. When Douglass died in 1895, “the Hutchinson Family Singers, who had many times appeared with Douglass, sang ‘Dirge for a Soldier’: ‘Lay him low, lay him low/Under the grasses or under the snow: /What cares he? He cannot know./Lay him low, lay him low.” – page 753.

I will say that I did not actually read this book; I studied it. The author’s words were so compelling and so impelling that I could not think of rephrasing them. The way the story is told is just as essential to understanding Frederick Douglass as the facts themselves are. It was a pleasure to spend these many hours with Mr. Douglass and the travails and joys of his life. I was told he was a great man, now I know why he was considered a great man. Frederick Douglass would possibly understand the refresher course we are experiencing in racism in America because it has never really been put to rest. But he was enough of an optimist to hope that this might be the last hurrah for white supremacy.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – The Federalist

January 2020 Book List

January 2020 Book List

Book lists around Christmas and the New Year are not always typical in terms of content with regard to book lists from the rest of the year. This month you should look for the book lists that offer up the Best Books of 2019. Every site that reviews books usually has such a list. When you look over the offerings from the NYT you will find the suggestions at the beginning of December were quite lengthy. Since books make wonderful gifts for many readers the list is rounded out with appealing suggestions for books as presents. It is now past Christmas but it’s never to late to give a great book to a book lover and you will find some books for art lovers and those who love the dance world

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Literature and Fiction

The Long Petal of the Sea: A Novel by Isabel Allende

Small Days and Nights: A Novel by Tishani Doshi

Show Them a Good Time by Nicole Flattery

Dear Edward: A Novel by Ann Napolitano

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Little Gods: A Novel by Meng Jin

Topics of Conversation: A Novel by Miranda Popkey

The Black Cathedral: A Novel by Marcial Gala and Anna Kushner

Processed Cheese: A Novel by Stephen Wright

Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick by Zora Neale Hurston

Mysteries and Thrillers

The Vanishing (Fogg Lake) by Jayne Ann Krantz

The Tenant by Katrine Engberg

The Missing American (An Emma Djan Investigation) by Kwei Quartey

The Better Liar by Tanen Jones

No Fixed Lines (22) (A Kate Shugak Investigation) by Dana Stabenow

Lost Hills by Lee Goldberg

The Rabbit Hunter by Lars Kepler

House on Fire: A Novel by Joseph Finder

The Wife and the Widow by Christian White

First Cut: A Novel by Judy Melinek, MD, TJ Mitchell

Biographies and Memoirs

Consider This: Moments in My Writing Life after Which Everything was Different by Chuck Palahniuk

Race of Aces: WW II’s Elite Airmen and the Epic Battle to Become Masters of the Sky by John R. Bruning

Father of Lions: One Man’s Remarkable Quest to Save the Mosul Zoo by Louise Callaghan

Will: A Memoir by Will Self

Imperfect Union: How Jessie and John Fremont Mapped the West, Invented Celebrity, and Helped Cause the Civil War by Steven Inskeep

Building a Life Worth Living: A Memoir by Marsha M Linehan

We Will Rise: A True Story of Tragedy and Resurrection in the American Heartland by Steve Beaven

Uncanny Valley: A Memoir by Anna Wiener

The Magical Language of Others: A Memoir by E J Koh

Nonfiction

Hill Women: Finding a Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian Mountains by Cassidy Chambers

Leadership Strategy and Tactics: Field Manual Jocko Willink

Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything by B J Fogg, PhD

The Third Rainbow: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia by Emma Copley Eisenberg

The Passion Economy: The New Rules for Thriving in the Twenty-first Century by Peggy Orenstein

Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope by Nicholas Kristof, Sheryl Wu Dunn

Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife by Ada Calhoun

Humble Pi: When Math Goes Wrong in the Real World by Matt Parker

History

999: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune Macadam and Caroline Moorehead

Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry that Unraveled Culture, Religion, and a Collective Memory in the Middle East by Kim Grattas

Overground Railroad: The Green Book and Roots of Black Travel in America by Candacy Taylor

Wilmington’s Lies: The Murderous Coup of 1898 by David Zucchino

Information Hunters: When Librarians, Soldiers, and Spies Banded Together in World War II Europe by Kathy Peiss

Mengele: Unmasking the “Angel of Death” by David G Marwell

Transcendence: How Humans Evolved through Fire, Language, Beauty, and Time by Gaia Vince

Science Fiction

The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

The Secret Chapter (The Invisible Library Novel) by Genevieve Cogman

NYT Book Update

12/9/2019

Fiction

Mary Toft: or The Rabbit Queen by Dexter Palmer

The Second Sleep by Robert Harris

10 Best Crime Books of 2019

The Bird Boys by Lisa Landlin

The Chestnut Man by Soren Sviestrup

Conviction by Denise Mina

The Good Detective by John McCain

Heaven My Home by Attica Locke

The Never Game by James Deaver

The New Iberia Blues by James Lee Burke

The Night Fire by Michael Connelly

The Old Success by Martha Grimes

Sarah Jane by James Sallis

Nonfiction

Still Here by Alexander Jacobs (Bio of Elaine Stritch)

Listening for America by Rob Kapilow

Life Isn’t Everything: Mike Nichols, as Remembered by 150 of His Closest Friends by Ash Carter and Sam Kashner

A Month in Siena by Hisham Matar (Art)

Art Books

Climbing Rock By Francois Lebeau

Silent Kingdom by Christian Vizl

Light Break – Photos of Ray DeCarava

The Sound I Saw – Photos of Ray Cavara (Harlem Photographer

Nonfiction

Novel Houses by Christina Hardyment

The Seine: The River that Made Paris by Elaine Sciolino

Art Books

The Lost Books of Jane Austen by Janine Barchas

Nonfiction

The Europeans by Orlando Figes

The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit by Eleanor Fitzsimons

It’s Gary Shandling’s Book edited by Judd Apatow

Irving Berlin by James Kaplan

Texas Flood by Alan Paul and Andy Aledort (Stevie Rae Vaughn)

A Pilgrimage to Eternity by Timothy Egan

I Used to Be Charming: The Rest of Eve Babitz, Ed. By Sara J Kramer

Vanity Fair’s Women on Women, Ed. By Radhika Jones with David Friend

Parisian Lives by Deirdre Bair (Beckett and Beauvoir)

Disney’s Island by Richard Snow

Art Book

Rihanna (Memoir)

Nonfiction

Infused: Adventures in Tea by Henrietta Lovell

Life in a Cold Climate by Laura Thompson (Nancy Mitford)

Janis: Her Life and Music by Holly George-Warren

Horror Stories by Liz Phair

Out Loud by Mark Morris

Dance

Love, Icebox: Letters from John Cage to Merce Cunningham by Laura Kuhn

Ballerina Project by Dane Shitogi

The Style of Movement: Fashion and Dance by Ken Brower and Deborah Ory

12/13/2019

Fiction

On Swift Horses by Shannon Pufahl

Find Me by André Aciman

The Shortlist

Walking on the Ceiling: A Novel by Aysegul Savas

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grimes (family saga)

How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee

Nonfiction

The Man Who Solved the Market by George Zuckerman

Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister by Jung Chang

Battling Bella by Leandra Ruth Zarnow (Bella Abzug)

Return to the Reich by Eric Lichtblau

The Shadow of Vesuvius by Daisy Dunn (Bio of Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger)

12/20/2019

Crime

Just Watch Me by Jeff Lindsay

A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh

Shatter the Night by Emily Littlejohn

Bryant and May: The Lonely Hour by Christopher Towles

Fiction

The Sacrament by Olaf Olafson

They Will Drown in their Mother’s Tears by Johannes Anyuru

Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeeks

Nietzsche and the Burbs by Lars Iyer

The Mutations by Jorge Comensal

Nonfiction

97,196 Words by Emmanuel Carere (essays)

User Friendly by Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant

Busted in New York by Darryl Pinckney (essays)

Essays One by Lydia Davis

They Don’t Represent Us by Lawrence Lessig

The Great Democracy by Ganesh Sitaraman

Of Morsels and Marvels by Maryse Condé

Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey through the Twentieth Century by Sarah Abrevaya Stein

The Cartiers: The Untold Story Behind the Jewelry Empire by Francesca Carter Brickell

12/27/2019

Nonfiction

The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison, Ed by John F Callahan and Marc C Conner

Genius and Anxiety by Norman Lebrecht

The Confounding Island by Orlando Patterson

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (Memoir)

The Depositions by Thomas Lynch

One Long River of Song by Brian Doyle

Great Society: A New History by Amity Shlaes

1/2/2020

Crime

A Small Town by Thomas Perry

Naked Came the Florida Man by Tim Dorsey

The Playground by Jane Shemilt

Fiction

The Heap by Sean Adams

10 Minutes, 38 Seconds, in this Strange World by Elif Shafak

The Corner that Held Them by Sylvia Townsend Warner

Medieval Bodies by Jack Hartnell

The Revisionaries by A R Moxon

The Heart is a Full-Wild Beast by John L’Heureux

The Bishop’s Bedroom by Piero Chiara

Science Fiction

Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender

Homesick by Nino Cipri (Short stories)

Nonfiction

Uncanny Valley By Anna Wiener (Memoir)

Trump and His Generals by Peter Bergen

A Bookshop in Berlin by Francoise Frenkel

The Shortlist

The Sea Journals: Seafarers Sketchbooks by Huw Lewis-Jones

An Underground Guide to Sewers: Or: Down, Through and Out in Paris, London, New York &c by Stephen Halliday

Expeditions Unpacked: What Great Explorers Took Into the Unknown by Ed Stafford

New and Noteworthy

Crossing the Rubicon: Caesar’s Decision and the Fate of Rome by Luca Fezzi

Yellow Earth by John Sayles

The American People, Volume 2: The Brutality of Fact by Larry Kramer

Once More to the Rodeo: A Memoir by Calvin Hennick

Publisher’s Weekly

12/13/2019

I’ve Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know by W. Lee Warren, MD – NF

You Were There Too by Colleen Oakley – F

Naked Came the Florida Man by Tim Dorsey – F

Cesare by Jerome Charyn – F

One of Us is Next by Karen M McManus – F

A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing, and the Fight for Democracy by Jane McAlevey – NF

Waltz into Darkness by Cornell Woolrich – F

The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry – F

Kill Reply All: A Modern Guide to Online Etiquette by Victoria Turk – NF

The Black Cathedral by Marcial Gala – F

Consider This: Moments in My Writing Life After Which Everything was Different by Chuck Palahniuk – Memoirs

All The Days Past by Mildred D. Taylor – F

Spitfire: A Livy Nash Mystery by M. L. Huie – F

Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy by David Zucchino – NF

A Long Time Comin’ by Robin W. Pearson – F

That’s all of the PW Tip sheets that I found in my files this month. You can look for the online.

Trump and the Fundamentalists

After you finish a book as meaty, as full of detail and attribution, as Shadow Network by Anne Nelson, it requires more than one take on the author’s revelations to do justice to the contents. I have not talked about the juiciest bits of this book, (which makes them sound like they are gossip, but they are real). These are the places in the book where the author talks about the fundamentalists and the moment when Donald Trump entered the campaign, and furthermore, the bits where the fundamentalists see that he will most likely win the nomination.

The Council for National Policy had its roots back in the 70’s. It began as a small group of religious leaders and pastors who were worried that the decision to end school prayer (1962) was responsible for a moral nosedive in America. This Council grew in influence and many Republicans and religious leaders have been members and past presidents, although they are not all household names. The CNP inspired many similar organizations of conservative fundamentalists and these groups began to formulate a “wish list” of laws to pass and laws to overturn and courts to stuff. They added a Leadership training program that was very effective and a long list of related groups. Once they knew what they wanted, they decided to analyze fundamentalist voters. They began to devise ways to reach out to fundamentalists and other Christians who would become “Values voters,” to make sure they registered to vote and went to the polls and voted for the candidates the fundamentalists backed.

In the 2016 elections evangelicals (fundamentalists) backed candidates like Ted Cruz and Ben Carson. They certainly did not favor Donald Trump. Anne Nelson tells us that “a group of female conservatives…had sent an ‘anyone but Trump’ letter to Iowa voters, stating, “as women, we are disgusted by Mr. Trump’s treatment of individuals, women in particular.” (pg.191)

She goes on to say, “as far as the movement’s key issues were concerned, Trump’s loose-cannon rhetoric had been all over the place; he was on record saying he didn’t care to challenge same-sex marriage, and he was wobbly on abortion. His religious credentials were spotty, to put it mildly.” For a coalition that depended on getting out the fundamentalist vote, these were poor optics indeed, says Nelson.

But George Barna, who had done the get-out-the-vote groundwork, an enormous investment of time and organizational strategy, technique and networking, Nelson says, could sense the “taste of victory was turning to ashes. Barna claimed his efforts were more successful for taking place, quite unintentionally, off the national radar.”

“If fundamentalists/Republicans won the presidency and kept the Senate in 2016, they would hold the power to reshape the American judiciary and real change would unfold. They could roll back abortion rights, gay marriage and gun laws, revoke environmental regulations, abolish entire federal agencies, assail the IRS restrictions on the tax free status of churches, make decisions on gerrymandering, and redistricting to set the scale for many elections to come.”

She goes on to say, “[b]ut Trump broke through, riding on his uncanny charisma, the caché of celebrity, and a powerful backlash against political business as usual…but with the disadvantages of a seat-of-the-pants organization, lack of donors and infrastructure, or any ground game.” (pg.192)

Nelson tells us that, “[i]n May, soon after Ted Cruz acknowledged defeat, Time magazine’s Elizabeth Dias reported that Tony Perkins (CNP), Ben Carson, and Bill Dallas had begun organizing a closed-door meeting for Trump and fundamentalist leaders.” (pg. 193)

She describes Trump’s speech in January, 2016 at Liberty University (founded by Jerry Falwell) sprinkled with the words ‘hell’ and ‘damn’, so “shocking to young fundamentalist ears”. This was the Two Corinthians moment, she reminds us. Nelson sums it up, “Fundamentalists measured a man’s worth by his church attendance, marital fidelity, and knowledge of the Bible, Trump came up short on every count.”

Nelson tells us that conservatives and fundamentalists did not trust Trump’s business sense either and that Charles Koch even considered voting for Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Barna, the fundamentalist vote-technician, refused to see all his hard work go to waste. He called in a fundamentalist named Ralph Reed, who had been cultivating Trump for years as revealed by Elizabeth Dias of Time magazine. Reed scheduled a dress rehearsal for Trump at a June, 2016 Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington, D.C. at which “Trump praised the right people and listed the correct goals.” (pg. 195)

Then they hosted the big event on June 21, 2016, “A Conversation About America’s Future with Donald Trump and Ben Carson” at which over 1,000 fundamentalist leaders came from all over the country to the ballroom of the NY Marriott Marquis. Ben Carson said, “this is like a chess match and God is the great grand master, sometimes he uses a pawn.” Nelson also recounts ‘Franklin Graham’s back-handed support – Was Trump a sinner? Well, Graham reminded his audience, the God of the Old Testament worked through lots of sinners, Abraham lied, Moses disobeyed God. David committed adultery and had a man killed.”

And then Trump said: “this election is about the Supreme Court. The next president will appoint 2, 3, 4, or possibly 5 life-term Justices…He said all his judges would be vetted by the Federalist Society.”

In the end, Nelson tells us about a man, James Robison in these words, “The movement had come full circle. Robison had brought Reagan to Dallas, and now he delivered the fundamentalist war council to Trump. This was a man who made history yet few Americans outside fundamentalist circles had ever heard of him. (pg. 227)

She finishes this tale about the ultimate acts of rationalization on the part of the fundamentalists and how they came to support this particular American president that, it could be argued, they bequeathed us, by saying,

“As of 2017, Republicans held all the cards, they controlled the White House, both houses of Congress, and thirty-three state legislatures. Furthermore their ranks were filled with fresh blood; the average age of the Democratic House leadership was seventy-two and the Republican was 48.”

“Now with the Republican Senate behind him and the Federalist Society nominations in hand, Trump prepared to fill the vacancies in the courts in record time.”

The Koch brothers wrote a paper called, “Advancing Principled Public Policy” which is essentially a victory lap, “the new administration had overturned the Bureau of Land Management’s Stream Protection Rule, rescinded the fracking ban on federal and Indian lands, and initiated the withdrawal of the US from the Paris Climate agreement. Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court.”

From the Koch point of view “it was ultimately about money, in the form of the Republican tax bill.” (pg. 228) The “victories” Republicans won as a result of agreeing to back Trump have been worth all their compromises in their eyes, but Nelson’s book tells us of the less transparent role fundamentalists played in Trump’s election, and while he may be an affliction to some us, he has not been perceived that way in religious circles to our everlasting astonishment. It’s lucky for these folks, I guess, that now the world is operating under New Testament rules.

See, I told you the story has a lot of juicy bits. All these righteous men being yanked around by want and greed. I did not want you to think that Anne Nelson neglected to write about Trump or neglected to expose hypocrisy in her book, Shadow Network: Media, Money and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right Wing.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – The New Republic

Shadow Network: Media, Money and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right Wing by Anne Nelson – Book

I was attracted to the book Shadow Network: Media, Money and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right by Anne Nelson because I already knew that Evangelicals (white evangelicals in particular) shared Republican ideology, and liked this ideology better as it got more extreme. What I did not know is that Evangelicals, also called Fundamentalists, were prime movers in turning Republican politics into a well-oiled voter turnout machine.

Anne Nelson is on the faculty at the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs. She acknowledges the help of colleagues and students in the end notes. Although I have written on these subjects many times Anne Nelson had access to resources I did not. Her work is important to me because it offers proof that my “cheap seats” interpretations of recent events in our government have merit. It would be more satisfying if the truths did not back up the facts that the church has been meddling in our federal government and that they grew from scratch into a very effective organization, using tools both legal and possibly illegal to get Republicans elected.

Southern Baptists were not leaving the church the way other Americans were. The advent of church-on-TV had given birth to the megachurch phenomenon. Pastors with large numbers of followers became almost religious rock stars. For decades there had been a strong church presence on the radio, especially across the South and Midwest. Stardom can go to your head, at least that seems to be what happened. At first churches met, “convocated,” held conventions, and church leaders talked about the moral decline which they linked to the decline in religious observance in many parts of America. They felt that religion would cure our moral “slippage.” They were angered that it was no longer legal to pray in school. They began to understand that their numbers and their media network gave them power to change the things they did not like about America. Their natural allies were the Republican Party, even more so with the advent of the Tea Party.

Evangelicals began to found a series of social organizations which were ostensibly formed to deal with aspects of America’s slippage, things like the disintegration of the nuclear family, abortion, contraception, the exclusion of religious teachings from school, the increasing concentration of power at the federal level when it could benefit the church’s ability to thrive if power was concentrated instead at the state level (small government).

Evangelicals came to see that if they could get Republican voters to the polls they could get everything they wanted because the Republican agenda matched the Evangelical wish list. They eventually went digital and collected data on a house-by-house basis in places that leaned right.

One problem with this (among many) is that these groups are classified as 501 c3 (nonprofits for religious reasons) and 501 c4 (nonprofits for social welfare reasons). These groups, in order to keep their tax exempt status, are not supposed to be partisan or participate in getting members of any particular party elected. These groups, in an incestuous relationship with the Republican Party and rich Republican donors like the Koch brothers and the DeVos family, were violating their tax exempt status, not to mention colluding to have an outsized effect on our national, state, and local politics. This story is essentially a political thriller, except its real.

Anne Nelson’s very interesting book may not be to everyone’s taste but should be read by anyone who believes that we should participate in our democracy/republic.

NB: This is even more relevant given that an article in Christianity Today backed removing Trump from office.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/december-web-only/trump-should-be-removed-from-office.html

 

The Rise of Magicks by Nora Roberts – Book

Although I found fault with the adolescent atmospherics in the second book in Nora Roberts most recent trilogy which began with Year One and continued with Of Blood and Bone, I decided that I enjoyed the first two books enough to want to read The Rise of Magicks, the last volume in the trilogy. (It could just be that, like Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory, I am unable to leave something unfinished.) I liked this last volume almost as much as I liked the first volume. Although I don’t believe in magic or even ‘magicks’, there was enough universal cultural commentary relevant to the times to keep me hooked. And I will confess that one of my guilty pleasures when it comes to reading was a love of the romance genre, especially the Regency romances of Barbara Cartland and Amanda Quick. I blame this on (or credit this to) my sister who loved these books so much. Although I rarely crave this particular genre these days, I’m guessing that particular endorphin pathway is still neurologically strong. Nora Roberts trilogy has enough romance to reengage those particular neurons and she does it with all the delicacy some of those Regency romances entailed.

When the seal that holds magick away from humans is broken in Scotland and both good and evil magic are loosed on the world they come in the form of a virus. Many die from this virus, millions, and the world is thrown into chaos. Some humans begin to learn that they have morphed into magical beings and some other humans, who have no magic are horrified by these magical humans and see them as abominations. They capture them and put them in containment centers where they devise experiments with various deviant purposes. So we have a culture that is dealing with the ‘others’, aliens, and it is not a proud moment in fictional human history, but which has some parallels in the real world.

Lana and Max, the first generation heroes, are witches who are being hunted by a group called the Purity Warriors, and by magical people who chose the dark side, the Dark Uncanny. They decide to halt their desperate escape at a small town which they, along with other first generation virus survivors, will turn into a community called New Hope. But this final book is the story of Lana and Max’s daughter, Fallon Swift, known far and wide as The One. And she is a refreshingly down-to-earth female heroine even though she is trained by her own Merlin and her path to power resembles the Arthurian legends (but this Arthur is a girl/woman). This final book in the trilogy, The Rise of Magicks is full of war and of love. This time Duncan and Fallon are grown-ups, no longer teens, and if you were frustrated that they each went their own way at the end of Book 2, then you will find it was worth the wait. While these are not the great American novel(s) they are an entertaining and addictive read delivered by a really talented, and very prolific, writer.

December 2019 Book List

December 2019 Book List

I decided not to put together a book list for December, although I may do that later when life slows down. But here are links to lists of the best books of 2019.

New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/books/notable-books.html

Amazon

https://smile.amazon.com/article/twib/best-books-2019.html

Publisher’s Weekly

https://best-books.publishersweekly.com/pw/best-books/2019

 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – Book

As it had been many years since I read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, I wanted to read it again before I read her new sequel, The Testaments. The Handmaid’s Tale was written in times when women’s reproductive rights were a hot topic, although not at the height of the women’s consciousness movement. The birth control pill was greeted by women with relief and sighs for the freedom it gave women to avoid unwanted pregnancies. It also seemed to offer women the same sexual freedom that men exercised, although that freedom proved to be somewhat more illusory than women thought for a number of reasons, some having to do with the fact that we still live in a male-dominated society, some having to do with sexually transmitted diseases, and some having to do with social disapproval and the need to maintain a “good” reputation. The pill was greeted very differently by the church, especially the Catholic Church and the Pope. In 1973 the Supreme Court allowed for legal abortions in the United States in the now famous/infamous Roe v Wade decision and the reactions of women and the church were pretty much a repeat of the reactions to the birth control pill. I know – all this history – what a way to make a really good story really boring. The actual history is important, however, to any deep understanding of this very original tale. These women’s rights were always controversial although The Handmaid’s Tale was written in 1985, when these new rights for women were less startling.

I like science fiction and The Handmaid’s Tale is, in a way science fiction and it is certainly dystopian. It predicts a time in near-future America when men of religious faith decide that the new freedoms for women are not what God intended. Women are not meant to be equal to men. They are meant to be wives and mothers and submissive to their husbands. These men stage a revolution against the United States of America. They manage to kill the president, scatter Congress and nullify the US Constitution. They win enough territory in the middle of America and most southern states, except Maine, California, Florida and Texas, to form a new nation, the nation of Gilead.

Offred is a handmaid in the new nation of Gilead. She used to be a free American woman who was having an affair with Luke, a married man, who later divorced his first wife and married her (I tried to find her original name but did not find it). They had two children. Venereal disease and a viral weapon against mumps had rendered many men sterile and women often had problems conceiving or delivering healthy offspring. Population was declining. Women who had borne healthy babies were very desirable to the new nation of Gilead. They would suspend women’s ID cards and credit cards and make them unemployable and then they would kidnap them and reeducate them to be Handmaids in Gilead. It is not easy to turn a woman who has experienced freedom into what is basically a sex slave in a distinctive red habit hemmed in by about a million rules and almost as many Eyes (spies). Offred is not a happy camper.

Of course you may have watched the TV series which I have not seen yet, but you really ought to read the book. It’s a classic. Choosing a name that would have fit right into Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales was not an accident. Here we are, almost 50 years after the Supreme Court made it legal to have an abortion, woman’s choice, and we still find concerted efforts, trickier but less militant, to overturn women’s rights to make important decisions about their own reproduction. We find many states passing laws that force clinics to comply with regulations that large hospitals can barely afford to comply with and when the clinics cannot meet the new requirements the clinics must close (TRAP laws), We find Evangelical churches that argue that even contraception is against God’s law. Federal courts are being stuffed with Conservative judges using as bait the overturning of Roe v Wade, and now marriage freedom. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood has never been more relevant.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Secret Safe Books

November 2019 Book List

November 2019 Book List

I have a recurring dream. I am escorted to a well-appointed studio apartment with all the new books for the month piled on every available surface. I am given a key, a valet robot who can cook and clean, and an AI virtual presence to handle my business and social interactions. I can read as long as I like but I can’t take any books out of the apartment and if I leave I can’t come back in. Am I obsessed? Actually this is a dream that could turn into a nightmare. However if you could take books out into the world with you and if you could come and go as you please, it might just be perfect.

Amazon

Literature and Fiction

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern  F*

This is Pleasure: A Story by Mary Gaitskill F

On Swift Horses: A Novel by Shannon Pufahl F

Girl, Woman, other: A Novel by Berndine Evaristo F*

The Innocents: A Novel by Michael Crummay F

Find Me: A Novel by André Aciman F

The Revisioners: A Novel by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton F

The Confession Club: A Novel (Mason) by Elizabeth Berg F*

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson  F*

Mary Toft: or The Rabbit Queen: A Novel by Dexter Pullman  F*

Mysteries and Thrillers

The Lost Causes of Beale Creek: A Novel by Rhett McLaughlin, Link Neal

Broken Glass (A Nik Pohl Thriller) by Alexander Hartung and Fiona Beaton

A Christmas Gathering by Anne Perry

Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens

The Family Upstairs: A Novel by Lisa Jewell

Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry: A Novel by Mary Higgins Clark

The Siberian Dilemma 9 (The Arkady Renko Novels) by Martin Cruz Smith

An Equal Justice (David Adams) by Chad Zunker

A Minute to Midnight by David Baldacci

36 Righteous Men by Steven Pressfield

Nonfiction

Vicksburg: Grant’s Campaign that Broke the Confederacy by Donald L Miller

Valley Forge by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin

Acid for the Children: A Memoir by Flea, Patti Smith *

When the Earth Had Two Moons: Cannibal Planets, Icy Giants, Dirty Comets, Dreadful Orbits, and the Origins of the Night Sky by Erik Asphang

Our Wild Calling: How Connecting with Animals can Transform our Lives and Save Theirs by Richard Louv

The Beautiful Ones by Prince

Hymns of the Republic: The Story of the Final Years of the American Civil War by S. C. Gwynne

Checkpoint Charlie: The Cold War, the Berlin Wall and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Iain McGregor *

Canyon Dreams: A Basketball Season on the Navajo Nation by Michael Powell

The Great Pretender – The Undercover Mission that Changed our Understanding of Madness by Susannah Cahalan *

The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West

User Unfriendly: How the Hidden Rules of Design are Changing the Way We Live, Work and Play by Cliff Kuang with Robert Fabricant

Why Are We Yelling: The Art of Productive Disagreement by
Buster Benson

Don’t Be Evil: How Big Tech Betrayed its Founding Principles – and all of us by Rana Foroohar

Volume Central: Hearing in a Deafening World by David Owen.

Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Deep by Rivers Solomon and Daveed Diggs

The Pursuit of William Abbey by Claire North

Call Down the Hawk (The Dreamer Trilogy, Bk. 1 by Maggie Stiefvater

Star Wars – Resistance Reborn: The Rise of Skywalker by Rebecca Roanhorse

Made Things by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Fate of the Fallen (Shroud of Prophecy) by Kel Kade

New York Times Book Update

Oct. 4 th

The Topeka School by Ben Lerner F

Sarah Jane by James Sallis – Crime

Bloody Genius by John Sanford – Crime

Gallows Court by Martin Edwards – Crime

The Bird Boys by Lisa Sandlin – Crime

Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis F

Akin by Emma Donoghue *

Growing Things by Paul Tremblay – Short stories – Horror

The Cabin at the End of the Lane by Paul Tremblay – Horror

Sealed by Naomi Booth – Horror

Nonfiction

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

A State at Any Cost: The Life of David Ben-Gurion by Tom Segev

What was Liberalism? The Past, Present, and Promise of a Noble Idea by James Traub

The Stakes – 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy by Robert Kuttner

The Accusation by Edward Berenson

Scarred by Sarah Edmondson – Nxivm

Super Pumped by Mike Isaac (Uber)

The Anarchy by William Dalrymple

Oct. 11 th

Fiction

The Shadow King by Namwali Serpell

The Sweetest Fruits by Moneque Truong

A Pure Heart by Rajia Hassib

The World that We Knew by Alice Hoffman

A Man in Love by Martin Walser (Göethe)

The Shortlist – Love and War in European Fiction

Country by Michael Hughes

Will and Testament by Vigdis Hjorth

The Girl at the Door by Veronica Raimo

Nonfiction

Transaction Man by Nicholas Lemann

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

The Second Founding by Eric Foner

Beaten Down, Worked Up by Steven Greenhouse

Homesick by Jennifer Croft (Memoir)

Fashionopolis by Dana Thomas

We are the Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer

Syria Secret Library by Mike Thompson

A Polar Affair by Lloyd Spencer Davis (promiscuous penguins)

New York Times does Halloween but I don’t.

Nov. 1 st

The Old Success by Martha Grimes – Crime

Death in Focus by Anne Perry – Crime

Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay – Crime

The Quaker by Liam McIlvanney – Crime

Grand Union by Zadie Smith – Short Stories

The World Doesn’t Require You by Rion Amilcar Scott

Fiction

Olive Again by Elizabeth Strout

Girl by Edna O’Brien

Call Upon the Water by Stella Tillyard

Lampedusa by Steven Price

Nonfiction

Edison by Edmund Morris – Bio.

To Build a Better World by Condoleezza Rice and Philip Zelikow

Sontag by Benjamin Moser – Bio.

Who is an Evangelical? by Thomas S. Kidd

The Immoral Majesty by Ben Howe

The Problem with Everything by Meghan Daum

The Economist’s Hour by  Binyamin Appelbaum

The Marginal Revolutionaries by Janek Wasserman

The Shortlist – 3 Memoirs by Famous Women

Inside Out by Demi Moore

Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years by Julie Andrews with Emma Walton Hamilton

Touched by the Sun: My Friendship with Jackie by Carly Simon

Publisher’s Weekly

Oct. 7 th

Salt Show by Julia Armfield

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir by Nikki Grimes

Older Brother by Mahir Guven, trans. from French by Tina Kover Europa

American Radicals: How Nineteenth Century Protest Shaped the Nation by Holly Jackson

How We Fight For Our Lives: A Memoir by Saeed Jones

Passing: A Memoir of Love and Death by Michael Korda

Anti-Social: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation by Andrew Marantz

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia

Cosmosknights: Book One by Hannah Templer

Commute: An Illustrated Memoir of Female Shame by Erin Williams

Oct. 14

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi trans. from Arabic by Marilyn Booth (Oman) F

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me by Adrienne Brodeur

The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson NF

Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha F – based on true case

Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA by Amaryllis Fox Memoir

Music: A Subversive History by Ted Gioia History

One Hundred Autobiographies: A Memoir by David Lehman Memoir

The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols: Adapted from the Journals of John H. Watson, MD by Nicholas Meyer F

The First Cell: And the Human Cost of Pursuing Cancer to the Last by Azra Razer NF

Salvaged by Madeleine Roux Science Fiction Thriller

It Would Be Night in Caracas by Karina Sainz Borgo trans. from Spanish by Elizabeth Bryer (Caracas, Venezuela) F

Olive Again by Elizabeth Strout

Oct. 21

All This Could Be Yours by Jami Attenberg F *

The Peanut Papers: Writers and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the Gang, and the Meaning of Life – Edited by Andrew Blauner (Essays, Poems, Cartoons) (Valentines to Charles M. Schultz)

The Night Fire by Michael Connelly F

The Deserter by Nelson DeMille and Alex DeMille Thriller *

Initiated: Memory of a Witch by Amanda Yates Memoir

Janis: Her Life and Music by Holly George-Warren Biography *

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell Thriller

Edison by Edmund Morris Biography

The Promise by Silvina Ocampo trans. from Spanish by Suzanne Jill Levine and Jessica Powell F

The Fragility of Bodies by Sergio Olguin, trans. from Spanish by Miranda France, Bitter Lemon Crime

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys (Franco, Madrid) F

Famous in Cedarville by Erica Wright F

Oct. 28

Blue Moon: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child F

The Lives of Lucien Freud: The Restless Years, 1922-1968 by William Feaver Biography

Overview: A New Perspective of Earth by Benjamin Grant Photos

Blood: A Memoir by Allison Moorer Memoir

Shadow Network: Media, Money and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right by Anne Nelson NF*

The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada, trans from Japanese by David Boyd F

The In-Betweens: The Spiritualists, Mediums, and Legends of Camp Etna by Mira Ptacin NF

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson (humor) F

Nov. 4

The Movie Musical! by Jeanine Bassinger NF

The History of Philosophy by A. C. Grayling NF

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert (“a contemporary page-turning winner”) F

In the Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Mava Machado (same sex domestic abuse) Memoir

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern F

The Book of Lost Saints by Daniel Jose Older F

The Arab of the Future 4: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1987-1992 by Riad Sattouf, trans. from Frenchy by Sam Taylor Autobiography *

The Siberian Dilemma by Martin Cruz Smith (Arkady Renko #9) by Thriller

Love Unknown: The Life and Worlds of Elizabeth Bishop by Thomas Travisano Biography and Literary Study