Tag Archives: The Bible

A Super Tuesday Reading List

The presidential primary season, when we pick the candidates who will compete for our nation’s highest office, is inevitably among the dumbest times in our history. And while we’re not historians, it’s a safe bet that 2016 is among the dumbest we have seen. Today is Super Tuesday, when multiple states cast their votes in this spectacle of our shame, so to smarten up the place a bit, we decided to recommend a few books to the supporters of the various candidates.  We want everyone to have an opportunity to tune out the [unintelligible yelling] and enjoy some good reading.

Hillary Clinton

HRC Book GIF

Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under Steaming Pile of Politics

America’s Ten Favorite Books are Better Than You Expected

FlagBooks

Among the embarrassing surveys of how few Americans can find Ukraine on a map and/or the dismal polls of people who believe the Senate should be controlled by Republicans, this week saw the release of a cultural indicator that actually bears good news.

Tuesday, Harris Interactive published the results of a poll asking Americans which books they love most. The survey — which last ran in 2008 — revealed that The Bible, by God, was America’s favorite. No surprises there, as other studies have clearly shown that Americans largely identify as Christian. The good book maintained the #1 spot it held in 2008, while Gone With the Wind also kept its ranking, coming in again at #2. The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter collections (each counted as one book, which is not altogether sporting, if you ask me) traded positions in the #3 and #4 spots, with Potter taking higher honors this year. Other books that appeared on the 2008 list did not fare as well — which is actually the best part. A number of blockbuster novels on the previous list were replaced by a handful of American classics.

Perhaps most interesting is the way the changes from ’08 to now sync up oddly well with the typical evolution of many American readers.

In 2008 we read like eager young adolescents, just starting to take on “big” books (as in 300+ pages, ostensibly written for adults) and devouring anything that caught our interest. This explains our 2008 affinity for Stephen King’s The Stand (#5); the Dan Brown books (Da Vinci Code #6 and Angels and Demons #8); and of course, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, a hallmark of enthusiastic youngsters and Congressional staffers discovering the nascent thrill of thinking that they are thinking for themselves.

In 2014, we stepped up our game. We are now reading like older, slightly more sophisticated adolescents.  The Stand has been displaced by To Kill a Mockingbird in the #5 spot, followed by #6 Moby Dick, #7 The Catcher in the Rye, #8 Little Women, #9 The Grapes of Wrath and #10 The Great Gatsby.

This trend indicates that, in the last six years, our nation must have felt the influence of a really important English or Drama teacher, someone who helped us figure out a lot of stuff we were going through recently and who we’re never going to forget. If the trend holds, we should all be getting into experimental fiction and Annie Dillard by 2020.

Whatever the case may be, we should all just be happy that Atlas Shrugged has fallen off the list. For those of you who think that’s bad, well, the last poll was taken in 2008. You know whose fault this is: 

– Michael Moats

Leave a Comment

Filed under Hooray Fiction!

Dyer Maker

FA And Sons

FA review tag

At the center of the many characters and plot lines in David Gilbert’s new novel & Sons is an aging New York novelist named A.N. Dyer. Dyer’s debut work about young men in a Northeastern boarding school is an American classic, beloved by almost all who read it, most of whom do so as teenagers. Dyer has been deeply secluded in his New York apartment for years (in the opening scene at a funeral, some attendees have brought books to try and get signed). He has been in trouble for a dalliance with a much younger woman. And within 25 pages he has  referred to someone as a “sporty bastard.”

The parallels to J.D. Salinger here are obvious. There are other touches throughout the book. Characters crying at the natural history museum. “Fuck You” scrawled on a ceiling. A rain-soaked scene of emotional release at the Central Park carousel. One character, Jeanie Spokes, who works at Dyer’s literary agency and handled correspondence to the famous author, seems to be based on a woman who worked at Salinger’s literary agency and handles letters to the famous author. Dyer’s live-in nurse Gerd bears a passing resemblance to Salinger’s last wife Colleen, a nurse.

But & Sons is not a novelization of the imagined life of J.D. Salinger, and the famously reclusive author is only the most well-represented of several literary fathers here. Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Hooray Fiction!

Great Moments from the Sunday Book Review: The Book of Books

FOR THEIR CHRISTMAS DAY ISSUE, the New York Times Sunday Book Review is running an essay by Marilynne Robinson, author of “Gilead” and “Home,” about “What Literature Owes the Bible.”

You don’t need to be a particularly pious or especially bookish to see what Robinson sees in both the Good Book and good books:

There is a cosmic irony in the veil of insignificance that obscures the new and wonderful. Moments of the highest import pass among people who are so marginal that conventional history would not have noticed them: aliens, the enslaved, people themselves utterly unaware that their lives would have consequence. The great assumption of literary realism is that ordinary lives are invested with a kind of significance that justifies, or requires, its endless iterations of the commonplace, including, of course, crimes and passions and defeats, however minor these might seem in the world’s eyes.

The “aliens, the enslaved, people themselves utterly unaware that their lives would have significance” are the heroes (and anti-heroes) from Salinger, Franzen, Kate Walbert, James Joyce, David Mitchell, Jennifer Egan and of course Robinson, among others (not to mention Star Wars and Harry Potter). David Foster Wallace may not adhere strictly to literary realism, but few authors are more focused on the significance Jesus’ “the least of these.” More:

The great problem for Christianity is always the humility of the figure in whom God is said to have been incarnate, and the insistence of the tradition that God is present in the persons of the despised and rejected…In its emphatic insistence that the burden of meaning is shared in every life, the Bible may only give expression to a truth most of us know intuitively. But as a literary heritage or memory it has strengthened the deepest impulse of our literature, and our ­civilization.

Read “The Book of Books” by Marilynne Robinson.

1 Comment

Filed under Hooray Fiction!