book reports
November 2013


Edward Mullany

At the beginning of the month I didn't have electricity for a week and a half, partly because I'm lazy and partly because I don't speak Turkish or know how to do anything here. One night I read this book by candlelight, which seemed appropriate for these short poems and paragraphs, most of which are slightly eerie or very slightly eerie, sometimes in a way that I liked and sometimes in a way that I thought was a little dopey. The ones I liked best were the shortest ones, and the ones that give little clues about the uneasy friendship of faith and doubt. One sentence, called THE NEW CRUCIFIXIONS, is based on the same idea as a sentence that I myself have been trying to write for quite a while: People recorded them on mobile devices and posted footage of them online. I'll probably keep trying to write my own version. Here are some more I like:




When he was at work,

she prayed or thought

about praying.




Where there are woods,
let there be more woods,
and where there are oceans,
let there be oceans.




At night, a man
walks and then
runs and then walks

along the shore.




Reza Aslan

I like Reza Aslan quite a bit. His two previous books, NO GOD BUT GOD and HOW TO WIN A COSMIC WAR, are both excellent and both taught me a lot about Islam and monotheism in general. When I heard he was writing a book about Jesus I was really excited. I had hoped it was going to be an explanation of the history of Islamic beliefs about Jesus, but instead it was another historical Jesus thing. Breaking news: Everyone has been confused about or disinterested in Jesus for two thousand years. His friends were confused and his enemies were confused and the early church was confused. Today we're either confused or we don't give a shit.

ZEALOT does a good job of explaining the social, religious, and political context that Jesus lived and died in - and why being aware of that context matters a lot if you're going to take him seriously - in a way that's interesting and readable. He also talks about the ambiguous history of the gospels and the rest of the New Testament, explaining that practically every word every written about Jesus of Nazareth, including every gospel story in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, was written by people who, like Stephen and Paul, never actually knew Jesus when he was alive, and why, obviously, that is sort of problematic. I've read some other books about similar topics but I think I liked this one the best. Jesus is weird and compelling and Reza knows it and wants to know why. Here's some facts, he says, and here's some conflicting opinions, now figure this thing out yrself.


Anthony Shadid
This is a memoir about a journalist who moves back to Lebanon to rebuild his great grandpa's house. I liked it but I'm tired of thinking and typing so I'm gonna go to bed now.



other books I read this month:

HERE THEY COME - Yannick Murphy
HILL WILLIAM - Scott McClanahan