January Book Round-up

Keeping a running review list of all the books that I am reading this year, I present: January, which was very effing slow, because I am reading about 8 at once, and also because omg GRRM is not capable of making a book whose audio is less than 5000 years long.

A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5), George R.R. Martin

Everyone told me to read these books, and I resisted, because I don’t like high fantasy. With the exception of Lord of the Rings, much of which I skip through, I am not a fan of the stuff—magic, anyone in armour, castles, magic, wizards of any sort, MAGIC, old timey amenities, magic, and anything to do with dragons. If there are elves or dwarfs in there, it’s even worse. I don’t mind Dragonlance, in small quantities, because I have a soft spot for Kender.

Ugh. Dragons.

But I liked these books. I liked how NOT magical they are. I liked some of the intrigue. To get a few things out of the way:

1. I subscribe to the theory that the three headed dragon is Daenerys, Tyrion (son of Aerys and Joanna), and Jon Snow (Son of Rhaegar and Lyanna)
2. Jamie and Brienne are BFFs forever and should retire to Tarth to spend the rest of their days just kicking it. They come out of retirement whenever Things Need To Be Done. Sex is optional.
3. I didn’t really care about Catelyn or Robb, so when they died (which you know is coming because internet), I was like, whatevs.

Wrath of Angels: The American Abortion War, James Risen and Judy L. Thomas

Disclaimer: If you didn’t already know, I disdain the anti-choice movement with pretty much all of my being, so they don’t get any sympathy from me.

I admit that I grew up in the Assemblies of God, who are covered in this book a little bit, so by the time I came along, the evangelicals were just getting sucked into the abortion protest machine. I was rather illuminated that the whole thing sprang out of Catholic Vietnam protesters, and the way they tried to focus the resistance as non-violent sit ins etc. I’d like to blame evangelicals for the escalation of dickishness, but I can’t—it was mainly a few insane-o Catholics, like Joseph Scheidler, Michael Bray and Joan Andrews, a woman who served time in jail for storming clinics and doing things like injecting chemicals in the walls so that the building had to be evacuated.

After hearing that an eleven-year-old Chicago girl was scheduled for an abortion, Scheidler and his followers formed a picket line at the hospital specifically to put pressure on the girl and he mother. He later shrugged off criticism that he was heartless: “Everybody had this image of this skinny little girl. She was a big girl. It wasn’t like it was going to kill her to have a baby.” [emphasis mine]

But even the non-violent protesters had nothing symbolic in mind, really. John O’Keefe. The founder of the abortion non-violent protest movement, or at least, one of the most important knew that he wasn’t just expressing his first amendment rights:

O’Keefe has always told volunteers that, unlike those used in the civil rights movement, anti-abortion sit-ins were not symbolic; by blocking clinic doors they could actually save lives. When a woman went home rather than run the protest gauntlet, O’Keefe felt victorious. That woman might ultimately keep the child. “A sit-in is a great deal more than a protest: it is an attempt to save lives right there, that day,” O’Keefe write in A Peaceful Presence.

The book is pretty unbiased. It’s clear that Risen is just chronicling how the anti-choice movement turned from sit-ins to bombings and finally, the murder of doctors across the country. Even this book, written in 1998, is outdated, because while they cover the first shooting of Tiller, they obviously miss his death.

More than anything, what the book showed me for the first time was an explanation for the disparity that I sense when I talk to people whose religious exposure is other denominations: real evangelicals read the bible. And I mean they READ THE BIBLE, in a way that Catholics and other denominations don’t seem to grok. You can drop whole allegories and biblical textual references in conversation with other evangelicals, and they understand completely what you are talking about.

[Randall] Terry was fluent in that language. When he told pastors that Proverbs 42:11 trumps Romans 13 and that they should thus feel scripturally free to join Operation Rescue, the pastors knew exactly what he was talking about. When he said his vision of Operation rescue had come “as men as trees, walking,” they knew Terry was drawing on Mark 8:24 to argue subtly that he was not a dangerous freelancer but was sublimated to God’s plan, a plan that had only slowly revealed to him. His speeches and writings were almost indecipherable t anyone unfamiliar with the way fundamentalists parse the bible. But Terry knew the Evangelical shorthand: “Those who still debate the morality of doing so-called illegal things will have to do a lot of explaining when it comes to Acts 5:29.” Catholics are not trained to deconstruct the Bible in the same way, so that early leaders like O’Keefe, Lee, and Ryan had no way of reaching Evangelicals the way Terry could.

Anyway, it’s interesting that when the Evangelicals decided to leave their predeterministic apocalyptical ideas and then embraced the idea of affecting change in the “present” world, they took movements like abortion and dialed them up to eleven. They marched on Atlanta. They had that insane days of prayer thing in Wichita. They know how to draw a crowd. And it was this kind of pressing and protest and involvement in the political that created the Religious Right, right here. If you want to know what the fuck is wrong with these people, just look at how they came to be, out of Terry Randall’s Ringling Brothers rhetoric, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson, encouraging their people that they were soldiers on a battlefield, and every clinic they shut down stopped the senseless killing of babies that god meant to be born. Also, you know, Auschwitz and all that crap.

These people dumpster dive behind medical facilities for “aborted fetuses”, which are usually partial births of dead babies in utero, and then display them proudly as what You Are Doing when you go to a clinic. They don’t care about facts. They don’t care about non-violent protest, because they are saving babies.

Foreman once described a revealing incident that took place in Washington in 1989, after he and Jeff White monitored a large abortion-rights rally on the Mall outside the Lincoln Memorial. As Foreman and White were leaving in white’s pickup, White “accelerated towards a mob of satisfied feminists crossing the street, and slammed on his brakes—screeching to a halt within inches of the scattering crowd,” Foreman later wrote. “Sticking his head out the window, he bellowed, ‘If I were pro-choice, you’d be dead now!’”

The book doesn’t get into the whole pre-marital sex issue, which is woven into the whole issue, and that’s because it’s not relevant to the chronicle of the book, but don’t forget that at its heart, it’s an essential part of the anti-choice problem (because if they really wanted to “stop” abortion, or at least slow it, they’d be for free effective birth control and sex-ed classes.). Instead, they’ll send handcuffs to abortion providers on the anniversary of RvW, because they’re “just trying to talk”.

Things that struck me:

[What became of Randall Terry?] Cut adrift from the traditional Charismatic theology that preached noninvolvement in the world, Terry was searching for a new theology that interpreted the Bible as he did, as a book filled with “action verbs.” He was intrigued by Reconstructionism, whose adherents claimed that Christians were called by God to exercise “dominion” on earth; it was a strange kind of theocracy.

On the final day of the week long event, [Shelley] Shannon took the stand. Although her public defender tried to convince the jury that Shannon did not intend to kill [Dr. George] Tiller, Shannon told the district attorney, “I think it’s irrelevant whether or not I was trying to kill him…because it would have been right either way, to try to stop what he’s doing.” Shannon was found guilty after the jury deliberated for just one hour and twenty-two minutes

“The Scopes Monkey Trial was a great public relations disaster for us,” observes Randall Terry. Fundamentalists retreated to their churches for fifty years. The became outcasts, believing the world was evil, while privately reveling in the self-assurance that the Second Coming was imminent and they were the only ones who would be saved. “We became so heavenly minded,” notes Flip Benham, a colorful Dallas preacher and Operation Rescue Leader, “that we were no earthly good.”

And ya still aren’t, buddy.

The Iris Fan (Sano Ichiro #18), Laura Joh Rowland

I was glad that this was the ending of her series, because lately I have been questioning series that seem to go on forever. This is a good series, though and while the last few were stretching a little, everything comes full circle, and the conflicts that span the whole series are tied up. Also, she does one of the things I like about definite ending volumes: brings in minor recurring characters for one final appearance: Touda, the old leader of the secret service; Doctor Ito, the old doctor caught doing Western Medicine and banished to work in the Edo morgue, and his untouchable assistant, Mura; Lady Yanagisawa and her simple minded daughter, Kikuko.

Rowland addresses all the issues I wanted to see dealt with: the next Shogun, Hirata’s bizarre mystical companions, the ghost of General Uoeda, Reiko and Sano’s estrangement and most of all, the final end of the conflict between Sano and Yanagisawa. Even Ienobu is a great villain in this.

In the end, one of the things I loved about these books, aside from the setting, which is pretty fun, is the way Rowling treats gender in these books it’s too easy to write revisionist gender roles in a historical series, but she doesn’t do that. Reiko is independent and headstrong, and often disagrees with her husband, but she knows where to stop in the society. Women, as well as men, are murderers and villains. Men are sexist and pigheaded, even the hero, some of the time. It’s refreshing, kind of like reading a Judith Merkle Riley novel.

ONE REREAD: Blood and Gold, Anne Rice. Man, is Marius a sexist asshole. Also possibly might benefit from some anger management classes.

So that’s it: 3 books for January. I better get the molasses out mah ass.


About Amanda Ching

I write. Fo' you.
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One Response to January Book Round-up

  1. RaeWhit says:

    Three very diverse books, and yes you better get your butt goin! Very thoughtful reviews. I wish every book I approached with the ‘to read or not to read’ trembling feeling had a review like this somewhere to help me off the fence. You’re still very funny. Is it the cold?

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