This is one I picked up just on spec and it has proved to be one of the best reads so far this year: Killing the Buddha: A Heretic’s Bible by Peter Manseau and Jeff Sharlet. You may read a very long interview with the two authors/editors there. As Kevin Holtsberry’s review on BlogCritic says, the book is hard to describe, but it works brilliantly for me.
In its most basic form it is a series of essays alternated with stories from life on the road in search of the weird underside of spirituality in America. The road stories are told by the web site’s founding editors Peter Manseau and Jeff Sharlet. The essays are told by a variety of writers but are a loose attempt to recreate scripture for the modern world. These essays take on various books of the Bible but from sort of angry, modern, heretical perspective. It is as if the authors approach the Bible not as divine revelation but cultural and historical literature to be deconstructed and reinvented. Instead of the traditional Christian “what is God trying to tell me”, they ask “what does this say about humanity?” The result is a sort of religious and literary anthropology. The perspective isn’t exactly hostile but neither is it particularly sympathetic either. It has a certain cynical fascination; interested in exploring the ideas but ultimately rejecting the traditional answers.
When it works it can be quite interesting…
I endorse Holtsberry’s singling out “Job”, written by Peter Trachtenberg. It is the most honest and unflinching account of one of my favourite Biblical books that I have ever read. There’s probably more real religion in this sometimes cynical set of essays and stories loosely connected to various books of the Bible than in many a scholarly or pietistic commentary. The stories are interspersed with “Psalms”, on the road anecdotes by the authors who set out, as so many have, to “discover America”. Yes, it’s the road genre again, but very well done. [One of my Very Best Reads of 2007.]
From Surry Hills Library due back 03/08/07:
For Lust of Knowing by Robert Irwin (pb 2007). Deconstructs Edward Said; there is an interesting review there from AL-AHRAM Weekly in Cairo. I am looking forward to reading this one. See also The fossils bite back in The Guardian. Great book. I found it very convincing as well as full of fascinating information. It seems Said stretched and ignored quite a few things in the interests of his theory. The distinctions made between the views of Gramsci and Foucault are I believe well founded as well. This is one “right wing” book I endorse. While Said wrote much that is still worth reading, I will never see him the same way again. I renewed it for further reading; I give it a longer review here. [One of my Best Reads of 2007.]
1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die ed by Peter Boxall with an Australian preface by Jennifer Byrne (ABC 2006). You can see the list on that link. I am enjoying it. This one is both fun and informative. I told you more about it here and here.
What Is Mine by Anne Holt (Norwegian 2001; English/US 2006): “The story is taut with suspense, filled with interesting characters and fast-paced action, and thrilling to the very end. It’s the first novel by Anne Holt I’ve read but I will definitely be looking for more.” (On linked review.) Thoroughly recommended, though I had doubts for the first few pages. It is especially good at presenting the issue of pedophilia with compassion and without hysterics, not that it is “soft” on the subject. It is definitely a page turner once it gets going. [One of my Best Reads of 2007.]
The Secret River by Kate Grenville(2005). I am really looking forward to this. Grenville has also written one of the best books on writing that I know. (Australian historical fiction) This I plan to renew. Haven’t got to it yet.
Mr Muo’s Travelling Couch by Dai Sijie (2005). Born in China, writes in French. I also plan to renew this one.
Jour de fête — Jacques Tati (1949) — “A wholly enjoyable film, in which dialogue is incidental to the visual effect.” (DVD).
This version is colourised, but not so bad as you may think, as Tati actually made it in colour in 1949 but the colour print could not then be processed. Quite a bit of the DVD is actually from that original colour version. A simply delightful and good-humoured portrait of long gone village life.
Finding Forrester — directed by Gus Van Sant (2000). (DVD) “…one of the ten best films of 2000.”
I do recommend this one. The reclusive author, played by Sean Connery, is clearly based on J D Salinger. It’s feel-good, and I felt — good. 🙂 The YouTube shows F. Murray Abraham doing a fine job as a pompous bastard of a teacher, getting his come-uppance from “jock” sports scholarship student Jamal Wallace who also happens to be a gifted writer. The part is brilliantly played by Rob Brown.
The DVD extras in this case are really worth seeing too.
The Real Da Vinci Code. (2004). (DVD) Great Channel Four documentary, probably more interesting than the novel…
Not the doco, but nice…
Very informative about the nonsense at the heart of the Dan Brown novel, with some credence given, however, to the role of Mary Magdalene in the life of Jesus — and that is just about the only thing in The Da Vinci Code that deserves any serious attention.
King Lear. Directed by Michael Elliott (Granada TV 1983). (DVD) I love this Olivier version! Just watch this:
Beautiful. This is quite simply one of the best versions around of the great play.