Best American books, part 2

PART 1     PART 3 LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS MEN James Agee and photographer Walker Evans The book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men grew out of an assignment the two men accepted in 1936 to produce a magazine article on the conditions among white sharecropper families in the U.S. South during the “Dust Bowl”. It was the time of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” programs designed to help the poorest segments of the society. Agee and Evans spent eight weeks that summer researching their assignment, mainly among three white share-cropping families mired in desperate poverty. They returned with Evans’ portfolio of stark images—of families with gaunt faces, adults and children huddled in bare shacks before dusty yards in the Depression-era nowhere of the deep south—and Agee’s detailed notes. As he remarks in the book’s preface, the original assignment was to produce a “photographic and verbal record of the daily living and environment of an average white family of tenant farmers”. However, as the Literary Encyclopedia points out, “Agee ultimately conceived of the project as a work of several volumes to be entitled Three Tenant Families, though only the first volume, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, was… Continue reading

Best American books, part 3

PART 1     PART 2 THE EXECUTIONER’S SONG, Norman Mailer Norman Mailer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning and unforgettable classic about convicted killer Gary Gilmore now in a brand-new edition. Arguably the greatest book from America’s most heroically ambitious writer, THE EXECUTIONER’S SONG follows the short, blighted life of Gary Gilmore who became famous after he robbed two men in 1976 and killed them in cold blood. After being tried and convicted, he immediately insisted on being executed for his crime. To do so, he fought a system that seemed intent on keeping him alive long after it had sentenced him to death. And that fight for the right to die is what made him famous. Mailer tells not only Gilmore’s story, but those of the men and women caught in the web of his life and drawn into his procession toward the firing squad. All with implacable authority, steely compassion, and a restraint that evokes the parched landscape and stern theology of Gilmore’s Utah. THE EXECUTIONER’S SONG is a trip down the wrong side of the tracks to the deepest source of American loneliness and violence. It is a towering achievement-impossible to put down, impossible to forget.   THE FATEFUL TRIANGLE,  Noam Chomsky… Continue reading

– The Earth is the temple for our bodies –

When I was 15 years old, and before the current generation of Scientific Pantheists were born, I became a Pantheist. Secretly, and sometimes publicly, I declared myself to be a Pantheist. No one knew what I was talking about. Pan means including everything, Theist means God. Everything is God, there is nothing outside of God/ All that is. I am still a Pantheist, yet I find the ground has shifted under my feet. I was, and still am, a “mystical” Pantheist. I do not fit in with the new Scientific branch. Let us not respect something merely because it is old, or because it is established, or because a lot of people believe in it, or because our friends, President, parents, children, believe in it. Let us not respect it because the Church told us it is fact, that it was given to us on gold tablets, by angles, by mediums, written by the hand of God, or passed down from benevolent aliens. Still with me? Good. When I was 15, I started reading a book called: Advanced Course in Yogi Philosophy, by Yogi Ramacharaka. That was his pseudonym anyway. I read it on the way to work, and like… Continue reading

– Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult –

  This is the first Jodi Picoult novel I have read. It will not be the last, for I found it interesting, informative, and totally absorbing. Jodi Picoult has been prolific, writing over twenty novels during the past twenty years. Not flimsy bodice rippers, but real novels. Leaving Time required an extensive gathering of information to give a solid background of support to the characters. The story is set in both Africa and America, often in elephant sanctuary parks. Most people — myself included — do not know much about elephants apart from the obvious things. In this novel, there is a great deal about elephants; factual information, not so much about their physical attributes, but about their psychology; their grieving for dead calves, their memories of events, and their individual characters. Long before the end of the novel, you will come to be fascinated by the life and character of elephants. The basis of the novel is not about elephants, but about a 13-year-old girl’s search for her mother who abandoned her when she was a three-year-old child. The girl, Jenna, has decided that she will track down her mother, believing her to still be alive, and believing that… Continue reading