One of the reasons I maintain this page is that I like talking about books I’ve read or (especially) am reading. So if you’ve read one of these and you’d like to talk about it, feel free to send me mail. (If you know me in real life, feel free also to ask to borrow any of the paper books.)
These are books I’ve read in the recent past:
‘Should the nation’s wealth be redistributed? It has been and continues to be redistributed to a few people in a manner strikingly unhelpful.’ (p. 190)
‘I believe in original sin. I also believe in original virtue. Look around!’ (p. 240)
[Later notes: There’s some odd stuff in there about same-sex male connections in threesomes; it seems like Karlen is trying to minimize their importance. Actually, he says he just hasn’t been able to find out much about their occurrence, despite some trying, and concludes that they are actually fairly rare. Well, that hasn’t been my experience. :-) But in any case, the core of the book is the words of Karlen’s informants, and they ring true and have a lot to say. And much of Karlen’s commentary makes a lot of sense, too; he just seems to have some funny patches here and there.]
[O]ne thing I find annoying about the book is that although there are endnotes, they aren’t referenced in the text (i.e. there are no superscript numbers to tell you ‘there’s a citation for this quote’ or ‘here’s some more evidence for this claim’). I wonder if that odd decision was imposed on Graff by her publisher.
[Later notes: Actually, the main thing I find annoying about the book is her vociferous opposition to poly marriage, which turns up later in the book. She seems to be trying to debunk the right-wingers’ slippery-slope argument that once you let same-sex couples get married then anything goes. I’ve got a lot I’d like to write about that part of the book; perhaps I’ll expand on this later.]
By the way, you get little hints throughout the book of Cernan’s less than stellar (IMHO) politics, including photos of him with his good friend Spiro Agnew. :-)
The book is a collection of short stories set in Cinnabar, the city at the center of time. The writing style, and some of the subject matter, reminds me a bit of Bradbury. Some of the stories are sweet, most are at least somewhat disturbing, but they definitely fulfil the wish Bryant expresses in the introduction: ‘first, that the reader find in this story collection a sum greater than the simple addition of the individual pieces; and second, that at one point or another, the reader will wish that he or she were in the city where these tales are set.’
The story I most remember is ‘Hayes and the Heterogyne’, in which a college student, sixteen years old and very virgin, is accidentally caught up in a time-travel experiment and brought to Cinnabar, where he is initiated into sexuality and exposed to some very new (for him) ideas by sex worker Tourmaline Hayes and her lover Timnath Obregon, the mad (well, ecclectic) scientist who created the time machine. Obregon (who is male) is the ‘heterogyne’ of the title, having borne a child.
OK, so it’s not an incitement to revolution, but the depiction of an approach to sexuality — and many other things — radically different from the one my culture taught was a pretty big deal to the young, thoughtful, alienated adolescent I was, and it’s still pretty nice. It hadn’t occurred to me until just now, but I think this book may have been my first conscious exposure to the idea of consensual, loving non-monogamy. Anyway, it’s worth a read, if you can find a copy (it’s out of print), and if you know any young, thoughtful, alienated adolescents, give them a copy if you possibly can.
At www.catch22.com, there’s a brief bibliography of Bryant’s works.
A lot of it is good, solid, useful common-sense, and I can easily see how some of the exercises would be helpful. The book does tend to generalize quite a bit (thus-and-such always means X, it never helps to do Y; that sort of thing) and I think it sometimes oversimplifies, but overall (well, I’m a quarter of the way into it so far), it seems useful.
(My own personal pet phrasing of the reason why people are drawn to supernatural things like astrology and alien abductions is that the human brain is designed for finding patterns — in fact, it’s so good that it finds patterns even when there aren’t any.)