Recently I finished Margaret Atwood’s latest novel, The Heart Goes Last (Doubleday). It’s another dystopia, set in the indefinite but near future, after American society has largely crumbled. It’s a society overpopulated with the homeless, where work is hard to find. The novel begins with its protagonists, the married couple Stan and Charmaine, jobless and living out their car in the Pacific Northwest. Recently a corporation has initiated the Positron Project. Under Positron, participants alternately spend a month in a modest home and a month in prison. In prison they provide cheap (free) labor, building robots and other goods.
Out of desperation, Stan and Charmaine enroll in Positron. But it’s not all they had hoped for. Soon Charmaine is embroiled in a dark plot that includes euthanizing social offenders. And Stan is fantasizing about a woman other than Charmaine. Both want out of Positron, but they have signed on for life.
Atwood’s story is about their eventual escape, which involves espionage, Elvis impersonators, and sex robots. Needless to say, it’s a rollicking story, punctuated with humor. I wouldn’t say it is among Atwood’s best, but The Heart Goes Last is another solid effort from one of our most entertaining and interesting writers.
The thought I find most helpful when the weight of the world tries to perch upon my shoulders is the simple notion that God has not placed the future of creation into my hands. It is not my job to make the world turn out right. God carries that burden and God ensures that “all shall be well.” It is a constant and unspeakable relief to know that God holds creation in his hands and will beautify it.
All-comers casual run along the Freedom Park Path Trail on Saturday Nov. 21st at 7am. Here are the details:
When: Saturday, November 21st, 7am
Where: Meet in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta (265 Peachtree St NE.).
What: Run on some streets until we connect to the path. Follow path to Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Turn around and head back to hotel. About 5 miles. You can turn around sooner or continue past the planned turnaround spot, if 5 miles is not your preferred distance.
Who: You, me, and anyone else who wants to run before the conference frenzy hits us. Contact me if you need more info: chris[at]wipfandstock[dot]com.
View route map for Freedom Trail From Hotel on plotaroute.com
Some time after my grandfather died years ago, he came to me in dreams. Most often, the extended family was gathered for dinner. We were all busy laughing and eating, reminiscing and storytelling. Then Granddad would walk in. No one was astonished by his appearance, which was not ghostlike. We welcomed him among us. But he never spoke a word in return. He was mute. The dead may be with us, in memory and spirit, but they are mute.
Or are they? I thought about this on the past All Saints Day. Then we remembered all who have gone before us in Christ, not least our loved ones. In my Episcopal tradition—as in the catholic tradition in general—we petition the dead to pray for us. Perhaps they hear our prayers through God, and not directly. But surely it is not too spooky to imagine that our beloved dead pray for us. That is when and how the dead talk—surrounded in glory, praising God, and praying for the full coming of the kingdom of God on earth and in heaven.
In that respect, the communion of (deceased) saints pray ultimately and eschatologically. Like us, they await the day when they will assume their resurrection bodies. They await the descent of the New Jerusalem to earth. They await the healing and consummation of all creation. So, they pray, and in their prayer they talk. The dead’s voice is stilled for us, but it is not mute.
My wife and I belong to the Eugene Concert Choir, and we are practicing to perform Carl Orff‘s Carmina Burana. Since the text is a combination of Medieval Latin and Middle High German, it is like learning to recite fifty pages of tongue twisters. But the music is wonderfully powerful. If you would like to see a terrific performance by full choir and orchestra, see the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and multiple choirs in this video.
Perhaps my favorite line from the current presidential race is Donald Trump’s comment this past Friday. He was told by reporters that he was behind Ben Carson in the polls. And his advisors told him that Evangelical voters have great sway in Iowa. His response to his supporters was that he wasn’t giving up on Iowa, and besides “I’m a great Christian! And I do well with Evangelicals.” He also passed out a 1959 photo of his confirmation. Amazing.
In the spring of 1992, the policemen who beat Rodney King were acquitted. Six days of riots, with extensive burnings and widespread lethal violence, followed. Now Ryan Gattis has written a novel—All Involved (Ecco)—of that catastrophic aftermath. Gattis’s novel focuses on the effects of so few policemen trying to police such a wide area. As one of Gattis’s characters observes, “Only 7,900 officers and sheriffs police this city of almost 3.6 million, and county of 91.5 million.” By comparison, there were an estimated 102,000 active gang members in the same area. Says another character, “That is not a statistic, sir; that is an army.”
The turmoil created a cover for gang members to settle scores, to murder practically without consequence. All Involved begins with the killing of Ernesto, himself not a gang member, with a brother and sister who were gangbangers. Ernie is brutally beaten, then even more brutally dragged behind a car. What follows are gang wars to avenge Ernie, and then to avenge Ernie’s killers, and so on and so on. All Involved depicts the spiral of violence with devastating specificity and vivid detail that gives names and faces to the statistics.
Gattis concentrates on Latino gangs, and in the course of the book tells stories of violence from the perspective of a dozen or so characters. All Involved is heartbreaking and revealing, a book that humanizes despite its gritty and often hopeless subject matter. It is a significant glimpse into a world most of us not inhabit and can barely imagine.
Currently, Google Books has already scanned about 20 million books towards its goal to include 100+ million books. This past Friday, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan (a three-judge panel) made its decision that Google Books has not violated copyright law of “fair use” in offering “Snippet View” (less than 16% of content) of books. In general, Google Books offers “Full View” for books in public domain, “Limited Preview” for books approved by the copyright holder, “No Preview Available” for books not yet scanned, and “Snippet View” for the rest.
I have to say that as an editor I have sometimes found Google Books very helpful in checking the accuracy of quotations. I can’t check everything, but it has come in handy numerous times. I don’t read whole books or chapters on line. But I have been able to view books to see if they are something I am interested in buying. So I am upbeat about the project. One thing I would find helpful is if as part of “Snippet View” they would offer a complete table of contents. But however this proceeds, Friday’s court decision represents another chapter in the ongoing changes in the publishing industry. Stay tuned!
I sat here for fifteen minutes and couldn’t think of anything worthwhile saying, so . . .
Fail Army for 2 Oct 2015.
Far from the best, but Fail Army is always worthwhile