Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Primarily links to the Guardian

Mark Kurlansky:

What does it mean that George W. Bush, a man who has demonstrated little ability for reflection, who is known to read no newspapers and whose headlong charge into disaster after cataclysm has shown a complete ignorance of history, who wants to throw out centuries of scientific learning and replace it with mythical mumbo-jumbo that he mistakenly calls religion, who preaches Christianity but seems to have never read the teachings of the great anti-war activist, Jesus Christ, is now spending his vacation reading my book, Salt: A World History?

Rachel Cusk on book groups:

Ashamed, I sat there wondering how the reality of life could have no power over them. It was my impression that they hadn't particularly liked any of the books they'd read, and I believed that this was because the books they'd read bore no relation to their own existence, to the kinds of houses they lived in, the relationships they had, the things they felt, their ordinary experience of sorrow, of doubt, of morality, of time. Yet it seemed they did not want to read about those things. Perhaps they wanted to escape them. At the end of the evening I asked them which book they'd enjoyed the most. Well now - they'd have to think. That meant going back a few years. The group had started as an antenatal group, you see. Somewhere along the line the books had replaced the babies. Finally they concurred: it was Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible, a novel too good to be "pure entertainment", though it was certainly gripping, and too political to qualify as "freak literature", though the experiences of its heroine are unusual. A novel of female experience and family life, only set in Africa with a rip-roaring storyline.

Zoe Williams on what MPs plan to read on vacation (Dan Brown and J.K. Rowling):

[W]hy aren't they embarrassed? Why aren't they at least pretending a greater intellectual evolution than this? What are they trying to hide? That they really prefer Enid Blyton?

Hendrik Hertzberg:

How did we—not just Americans but human beings in general—come to be? Opinions differ, but for most of recorded history the consensus view was that people were made out of mud. Also, that the mud was originally turned into people by a being or beings who themselves resembled people, only bigger, more powerful, and longer-lived, often immortal. The early Chinese theorized that a lonely goddess, pining for company, used yellow mud to fashion the first humans. According to the ancient Greeks, Prometheus sculpted the first man from mud, after which Athena breathed life into him. Mud is the man-making material in the creation stories of Mesopotamian city-states, African tribes, and American Indian nations.

Gravity refuted:

KANSAS CITY, KS--As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

Alice Munro's "The View From Castle Rock":

On a visit to Edinburgh with his father when he is nine or ten years old, Andrew finds himself climbing the damp, uneven stone steps of the Castle. His father is in front of him, some other men behind—it’s a wonder how many friends his father has found, standing in cubbyholes where there are bottles set on planks, in the High Street—until at last they crawl out on a shelf of rock, from which the land falls steeply away. It has just stopped raining, the sun is shining on a silvery stretch of water far ahead of them, and beyond that is a pale green and grayish-blue land, a land as light as mist, sucked into the sky.

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