Thursday, January 20, 2011

52in52 #2 - God is Dead

I thought this was fitting for Secular Thursday...

My library online catalog allows you to schedule holds, so I can, for example, set up a hold now to be activated in May. When I hear of a book that sounds interesting but I'm not currently lacking for reading, I utilize this function, and schedule the book to pop up as a nice surprise at some point in the future when I've totally forgotten about it.

God is Dead by Ron Currie, Jr. is one of those surprises. I read a description of it somewhere, and it sounded interesting, but I can't for the life of me remember where that was. Probably some random homeschooler's blog.

So anyways, the book magically showed up at the library last week, and, after getting hung up on two other books, I decided to give it a try. It's 180 pages, and those pages are narrow, so it seemed like it would at least be a fast read, and it was, once I managed to get past the first chapter.

The premise of the book is that God becomes a mortal (this is apparently something he does from time to time) in the form of a Sudanese woman, and is killed, leaving the world godless. Most of the book focuses on individual and societal reactions to this crisis. It's rather Vonnegutian, full of thinly veiled absurdist allegory of our current society and what people choose to worship in the absence of God.

Actually, it's about as veiled as a 2x4 in the face. But it's a reasonably well-written 2x4, and I definitely felt some level of ironic discomfort reading the chapter about parents worshipping their children while simultaneously babbling to the baby about how perfect and smart and strong and wonderful she is (because, of course, such traits are totally apparent in a 3 month old).

A featured teenager observes, about clamming, "It was something he'd enjoyed, being united in purpose with his mother, being useful as something more than an object of adoration, carrying the great buckets of clams home by himself, with both hands." This seems a valuable observation.

I rather doubt I would have gotten past the first chapter, which has a very cynical tone, if it hadn't been for 52in52 and the obligation/motivation to finish something. But the book takes different voices from chapter to chapter, and, while the book overall takes a cynical viewpoint, it was varied enough that I got through it despite that.

So, overall, it had some worthwhile, though not particularly original or subtle, observations. I don't feel my time was wasted in reading it, though I doubt I'll be running out to recommend it to others, either.

Edit: Ironically, God Is Dead was stolen on the way back to the library.

I finished Five Children and It with the children. LemurBoy enjoyed it, anyways. LemurGirl always fell asleep. I enjoyed it, too - I never read it as a child, and somehow it always surprises me a little when old children's books are actually readable and interesting, but there were parts where I was laughing so hard that I had a hard time reading. It reminded me of an Edward Eager book, and I wouldn't be surprised at all to find that he was inspired by Nesbit.

LB also loved The Boxcar Children, which we did end up reading next. I didn't realize before starting that it's written in incredibly simple language, though that makes sense, since I remember reading it in first grade or so, and it was one of my first chapter books. I think we're going to try reading the second one together, taking turns.

We also finished The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook, another that I never read as a child. This was a "girly book" to read with LG. Somehow, despite being more into the whole reading thing than LB was, she has a lot less interest in listening to read-alouds, and has a tendency to fall asleep during our bedtime books (which is kind of the point actually, as that eliminates conflict over what music to listen to afterwards). So, I've been choosing "girly books" for her, and it's working. She refused to fall asleep while I read Milly-Molly-Mandy.

That said, though LB rolled his eyes when I started reading it at bedtime when we didn't have another option immediately on hand after finishing The Boxcar Children, he complained when I finished it that he'd missed some of the stories. I told him he'd be able to read it on his own very soon.

We FIAR'd it up by baking apple turnovers (complete with obligatory fraction lesson by measuring cup - LB is now figuring out addition of mixed fractions in his head) and making paper dolls. The kids now want apple turnovers tonight, too.

Now we're reading Otto of the Silver Hand for our bedtime Put-LG-To-Sleep story, which I decided on after reading someone else's 52in52 review of it. It's on the Ambleside Online free reading list for second grade, but we probably would have skipped it if not for seeing the review and realizing that it's set in the middle ages and fits right in with our history (our readings about knights and castles seem to be stretching out dramatically). He seems to be enjoying it, though he was relieved to hear that the next chapter FINALLY involves an actual kid. And it puts LG to sleep quite nicely.

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