Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Starting Again

Plain Secrets, the Amish book, was very good. It was an excellent use of a personal account to tell a broader story about a society. It's a little strange that he opens with a preface about how everyone who talks about the Amish gets it wrong and has their own agenda--either about oppressive religious societies or about the wholesome goodness of leaving behind our consumer culture. But I have to say, his story isn't that different. He sees the good points and the bad points, and you could say that his occasional waxing philosophical about being in touch with the earth is not so much idealizing as...well, I can't think of a better term. He does acknowledge the restriction of Amish life, but not in any kind of real critique.

I also finished Ever, another by Gail Carson Levine. It's a pretty good YA book, and I enjoyed it very much--a sweet romance about two young people who need to find themselves. But the most interesting part, I thought, was a really interesting angle on religious critique that it takes. It's a story told from two points of view; one is that of a girl who lives in a monotheistic culture, who's been promised as a sacrifice to their somewhat overbearing God who is everywhere and nowhere. The other protagonist is actually a god from another country, where the gods are more of the Greek and Roman variety--they have powers, but limited (he can see and hear from far off, and as god of the winds has control of them and can fly. That's about it.) They go among their worshipers occasionally, and are much more humanistic.

He's pretty sure her God doesn't exist, and, being in love with her from afar, is angry that she's going to be sacrificed and wants to do something about it. But he can't be absolutely sure that her invisible God doesn't exist, so his options for action are limited. The agnosticism of a god is a whole new take on theological debate; it was interesting.

And now I'm not in the middle of anything. I've just started a religious memoir and the English history book I have, but neither of them seems quite light enough to match my current attention span. I have Hogfather, but I can't plow through Terry Pratchett--it's like being caught in a funhouse. I have The Buffalo Soldier, by Chris Bohjalian, but that's going to be very sad and solemn.

So maybe I'll have to dive into my Personal Library Renaissance now. I have American Gods, by Neil Gaiman, and World Without End, which Brenda recommends (and lent me, and I still have), and Children of God by Mary Doria Russell. So many things to choose from, but any involves beginnings. I'm not great at beginnings.

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