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I finished two very large books lately.

As I've been saying on my FB, I've decided to get off the Song of Ice and Fire bandwagon.  George RR Martin is more interested in going to cons, overseeing his HBO show and watching NFL football than meeting deadlines.  I also don't think he has any idea where this series is going and it's frustrating me.  So I will not recommend these books any more, and if anyone wants to read them I recommend going to the library or used book store rather than give him any money to put on his TiVO bill.

One of the authors I heard recommended was a Canadian anthropologist/archaeologist named Steven Erikson.  He has so far completed 9 out of a projected 10 books out of his series "The Malazan Book of the Fallen".  When I found Gardens of the Moon at Book-Off, I picked it up and ended up enjoying it a lot.  It's dense and a lot of characters are introduced, though not front-loaded as badly as they could be.   His world building is very good, but the characters are often not fleshed out as well as you'd like because you're going to be with them for a while.  As such, you might as well get to know them as you go along, rather than have an info dump at the beginning.  Thing is, this makes it a fascinating read, but not an easy one.  I managed one 25 page chapter a night usually, and it's around 650 pages.  Still, I like the character and am looking forward to knowing them better.  I like Baruk and Crokus, Whiskeyjack and Quick Ben, Tattersail and Kruppe.  Actually I love Kruppe, he's a right trip.  Paran comes across as the most roughly-sketched, but I think that'll change.

The other book is one I've read before, that is seen almost as a must in Western civilization even though it's dated and controversial now.  No, not Lord of the Rings, though it's the same size and I need to re-read it again soon.  I'm talking about the Bible.  Starting in 2009, I had a project of reading the whole thing cover to cover, and I must say I found it creepier and more alien than before.  I now understand the whole tension between Judah and Israel, which you don't get a feel of when you're hearing the readings at church.  The Old Testament struck me as one big spin-job of covering up the fact that the Hebrews had, in fact, been polytheist through most of their history and that one tribal god emerged as being the only one they would worship, and finally the only one they would believe in.  I came away feeling strongly that this particular god was emphatically not one I would or could worship.

Reading the OT was like reading The Silmarillion, which was never meant to be read as one work or one story, being a collection of notes and short stories on their own.  However both it and the OT give you the background for the story of Jesus and his followers.  I wouldn't have realized, for instance, how Ezekiel must have been Jesus's favourite prophet because he seems to have had the most influence on Jesus's talks.  As ever, the more I read about Jesus the more I like him.  It's too bad Paul ends up the focus of most of the rest of the NT because the Original Apostles are much more fun to read about, getting into all sorts of shenanigans across the ancient Middle East.  Paul means well, and some of his writing is very beautiful, but he didn't know Jesus and it shows.  

I won't even talk about the book of Revelation.  It almost didn't make it into the Bible and I wish it didn't because it's badly-written nonsense.

The Bible spawned what must be the worst, most obsessive and dangerous fandom the planet has ever seen.  Twilight fans have nothing on Bible fans and I try to steer clear of their cons.

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( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
garpu
Oct. 12th, 2010 04:56 am (UTC)
Blargh, I was hoping the Song of Ice and Fire series wouldn't become the next Wheel of Time thingy. :(
firstashore
Oct. 12th, 2010 11:21 am (UTC)
There's one big difference. WoT just grew and grew, but never went anywhere. ASOIAF just stopped dead.
hagazusa
Oct. 12th, 2010 08:08 am (UTC)
The Bible spawned what must be the worst, most obsessive and dangerous fandom the planet has ever seen. Twilight fans have nothing on Bible fans.

This needs to be a T-shirt!
firstashore
Oct. 12th, 2010 11:31 am (UTC)
I hear you on GRRM. I don't understand what's going on but it's pretty obvious it won't get finished. Whether he's lost interest, or it's getting too hard, or what, I just don't know. But he was pumping out a book every two years for Game of Thrones, Clash of Kings, and Storm of Swords, up til 2002. Then since 2002, EIGHT, nearly NINE years, he's published... half of one book.

And yes, the OT god is a total douche. I didn't quite read it cover to cover but I read much of it on long nights of radio picket in the Solomon Islands with the Army. I have a camouflage cover Army Bible which is annotated with historical notes about Judah and Israel, the Babylonian invasions etc, which I'm sure is what held my interested.

Jesus on the other hand, I rate. I rate him highly. Just not what the Church was before Jesus (ie Judaism), or what it became after him.

Revelation is just an acid trip gone bad. I have a suspicion John had gotten into the ergot before he wrote that one.

That reminds me. I need to find good book on the historicity of the NT. Unlike the text itself, I find THAT absolutely fascinating.
firstashore
Oct. 12th, 2010 11:36 am (UTC)
Oh, and there's a great line in Master and Margarita where Jesus is trying to explain his 'seditious' actions to Pilate.

Pilate asks him about the accusations of sedition, and Jesus pleads that he didn't say to tear down the temple at all, people just misinterpreted his words.

Then he says, "I'm starting to worry that people will be misinterpreting my words for a long time to come!"
reginaterrae
Oct. 12th, 2010 12:18 pm (UTC)
firstashore, what edition is that Army Bible? Sounds interesting.
firstashore
Oct. 12th, 2010 12:26 pm (UTC)
Australian Army Bible, sorry. :)
kishiriadgr
Oct. 12th, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC)
This is the internet age. Doesn't mean a copy can't be procured!
childings
Oct. 12th, 2010 06:39 pm (UTC)
The OT God is not a total douche, there are examples of a loving God in the OT
firstashore
Oct. 12th, 2010 11:08 pm (UTC)
IMO that just makes his douchey moments all the worse, because he should know better.
childings
Oct. 13th, 2010 01:22 am (UTC)
IDK, in my mind God is inseparable from the forces of nature, it's like God IS the universe, so that would explain why God is bipolar like that
kishiriadgr
Oct. 13th, 2010 01:33 am (UTC)
FYI, I'm sort of an atheist. I say "sort of" because I believe in powerful Beings, but don't believe in anything "all powerful, all knowing".
reginaterrae
Oct. 12th, 2010 12:16 pm (UTC)
The thing about Judah vs. Israel is one that I'm really interested in, too. You don't get a sense of it from Bible scholars, either, at least not in my limited study experience. The whole primacy of the Temple, Zion, heck the whole Messiah concept as being the fulfillment of the promise to David that his descendant would always be on the throne ... totally building up Judah as THE true Hebrew nation, totally against Samaria.

Typical, though ... the Christian Creed is pretty much an anti-"heresy" statement. Trinitarian doctrine is anti-Arian, anti-Marcion, etc. So Zionism is anti-Samaritan. It's just how these things develop.

I don't blame the OT God. Israel/Judah was/were an insignificant little nation in among bigger stronger neighbors, they got their butt kicked on a regular basis, they overreached their grasp and then blamed God for not making it work in their favor. I actually like, for instance, when one big bad guy is threatening, that they are warned not to trust in an alliance with another big bad neighbor to protect them -- trust God. No, they trust Egypt, and Egypt sells them out. And all the stuff about social justice, the Sabbath (don't make your slaves or your livestock work either!), Jubilee years, all that. Good stuff.

Anyway, which OT God don't you like? He evolves so drastically from Abraham to David to Maccabees, it's hard to even consider it the same religion!

But anyway, congrats on reading through it. That's a big task.
kishiriadgr
Oct. 12th, 2010 04:05 pm (UTC)
Because it isn't necessarily the same religion! The OT is a redacted-into-one-document produced for nationalistic purposes.

A god who opposes child sacrifice is head and shoulders above the other in his locale, this is true.
childings
Oct. 12th, 2010 06:44 pm (UTC)
This is why I tend to think of Judaism more as a civilization than a standard of belief, because what one particular Jewish person believes might be vastly different from another. There is an Orthodox system of belief, but it hardly matters since orthodoxy has existed for thousands of years and fewer and fewer Jewish people are Orthodox. The only things that have remained constant are all ethnic/cultural -- traditions, foodways, laws, etc. (though they differ between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish people)

Basically, I always thought of Judaism as an ethnicity more than anything else, but people have found that a problematic notion in a post-WWII society
childings
Oct. 12th, 2010 06:37 pm (UTC)
The Old Testament struck me as one big spin-job of covering up the fact that the Hebrews had, in fact, been polytheist through most of their history and that one tribal god emerged as being the only one they would worship, and finally the only one they would believe in.

It's true now and it was true then -- it really depended on which Jewish person you were talking to as to what their particular belief system was like. Ancient Hebrews started out as henotheistic, that is, they believed in the existence of many gods, but chose one over all others. That's where the "jealous God" idea comes from, and the Commandment to "have no other gods before me". This is really an ancient concept since you'd be hard pressed to find a religious Jewish person who would think of the existence of God in those terms.

Secondly, most of the religious tension in the Bible came about because some individuals, like Jezebel, chose to worship other god/goddesses even when these other cults were falling out of favor and YHWH worship was being pushed as an official state religion. I think this is probably because in the pre-Israel days, while the Hebrew people were still a nomadic civilization, people were more free to worship whatever they wanted to, and some of these cults (usually goddess cults or whatever) were more prevalent.

I'm not convinced that the Jewish people were ever polytheistic as a whole, though. I can't think of a certain example of anyone in the Bible worshiping more than one god at a time, unless they were clandestinely devoted to a god like Ba'al or Ishtar while "going through the motions" of YHWH worship

Don't forget also that parts of the Old Testament were written at different times, like a thousand years apart, that's why you have two (or three, I forget) different, sometimes conflicting, creation myths in Genesis. This leads to certain interesting interpretations later on, like that Jesus was actually there all along at the beginning of the world, since there's dual language in reference to the creator god in one of the Genesis stories.

BTW, here, you can have this confusing diagram from my notes in college that shows the origin of the different parts of the Hebrew bible. The numbers on the left side are BC years. 1000 BC is when the first written documents emerge (before that, obviously there were only oral traditions).

Also, I wish people would look into other 1st century rabbis before fawning all over Jesus, since he was really not unique in any sense. I think people get this idea that Judaism was a static religion and Jesus was a lone voice challenging the status quo. There were already three (or four?) different schools of thought within Judaism around the time Jesus arrived on the scene. This is a good book about Jesus that puts him in more of a historical perspective. I've been meaning to re-read it actually

Revelation was clearly a drug-induced pile of shit, but if you're ever interested in the origin of the Rapture or other End-Times mythology, you might want to read this book, it explains where a) these whackos are getting their ideas and b) why their ideas are wrong
kishiriadgr
Oct. 12th, 2010 06:54 pm (UTC)
I'm well aware that the whole OT was written over the course of 1,000 years. That's why I'm always so frustrated by the fundamentalists who believe it's all chronological and never influenced by the politics of the moment.

Oldest part of the OT--the song of Deborah. Latest part--probably the 10 Commandments!

I'll probably take a look at the book on the Rapture. It eats up and poisons so many peoples lives, that idea, and it's such a ridiculous, modern one.
spieler2000
Dec. 15th, 2010 11:09 pm (UTC)
Have you forgot, as you stood by the mount of Sinai, and got the Torah via Moses?
Shame on you!
kishiriadgr
Dec. 17th, 2010 12:19 am (UTC)
I've never stood by the mount of Sinai to receive the Torah. In fact, I do not believe this event ever historically happened.
spieler2000
Dec. 17th, 2010 03:21 pm (UTC)
Yes, it was. Although it was long ago, there is a commandment, that we shall not ever forget it.

This was happend after God freed us from slavery in Egipt and Moses led us through the parted Red Sea waters.

Moses said: Let my people go!

The freedom of a man can be real one, only if this man don't forget about this - God Himself have freed us from slavery.

All the democracy is nothing without this memory. In the most democratic land you can't be free, if you don't have a feeling of a freedom inside of you.

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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