Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Reading *is* fundamental

Since I just finished -- finally! -- "The Brothers Karamazov" -- thus ends my 2008 late-started summertime fiction binge -- and updated my "What I'm reading" list over there on the left ... here's what I'm reading:

Geoff Cunfer, "On the Great Plais: Agriculture and Environment" (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2005). Ecological history. Great Plains history and agriculture are two of my interests.

Greg O'Brien, ed., "Pre-removal Choctaw History: Exploring New Paths" (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008). Choctaw history is one of my main research interests.

Will Carleton, "Farm Legends" (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1887). A Christmas gift from Dr. ER! Interesting poetry from the educated heartland circa 1870s-1880s.

Barack Obama, "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream" (New York: Crown, 2006). Dudes. Dudettes. You want to know what and how the president thinks? Read it. It's the carrot that gets me on the treadmill for 20 minutes every other day. I read it only while treading.

So, what're you readin' and why?


I just finished "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman. It's a children's book that just won the Newberry Award. (It's basically the Jungle Book set in a graveyard.) I've been a fan of his since he wrote the Sandman series of comic books, which along with Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" and Alan Moore's "The Watchmen" rejuvenated comics.

He's also written some other great books, "American Gods" and "Anansi Boys", both of which examine the melting pot of American mythologies brought here by our immigrant settlers, and are fun reads themselves.
"Roadside Religion" by Timothy Beal. Beal goes on a road trip to check out sites like the Garden of Crosses in southern Alabama. It's interesting. He was raised in a fundamentalist evangelical tradition but moved away from it -- he seems to have evolved into more of a deist perspective -- so understands the belief system behind some of the odder projects. He's able to look at these different projects without sounding snarky or condescending, although it's clear he's not happy with some of them, like the Christian theme park in Florida that stages daily crucifixions.
BTW, I'll second Alan on Neil Gaiman's books. I read "Anansi Boys" not long ago and thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. About the folks who staying in Oklahoma through the Dust Bowl.

The Universe In a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality by the Dalai Lama.
Between Cultures: Tension in the Struggle for Recognition by Alexander García Düttmann because I am on the kick that we all are becoming Kantian cosmopolitans unless we prefer to be angry nativists/regionalists.

Ain't No Makin' It: Aspirations in a Low-Income Neighborhood (3rd ed.) by Jay MacLeod because it is a classic field examination in the "equal opportunity" ideology that reverses race assumptions.

Wonderful Wonderful Times by Elfriede Jelinek, the Austrian Nobel novelist because it belongs to a genre of Austrian novelists examining a dysutopia of angry nativists/regionalists. Next up is her novel, Lust, for obvious reasons.

No laughter, please.
Alan, "American Gods" sounds like something I'd enjoy.

Nan, "Roadside Religion" too! (Daily crucifixions! Wow!)

Kirsten, "The Worst Hard Time" is excellent.

Feodor, yer consistent! :-) I prefer to see myself as a laid-back regionalist! I mean, I might be a delagate to the United Federation of Planets some day -- but I'd represent earth, North America, the USA, Oklahoma *and* Oklahoma County!

Robert Caro would take great issue with your Geoff Cunfer regarding plight of farmers in the Texas hill country in his first volume on LBJ. Unless the great plains does not include the hill country?
Representing is great. Sitting at the table will be required for citizenship.

You are no nativist/regionalist unless picked on. So you probably would not be chosen as our diplomat. Nor would I.
Hill Country not part of the GP. Panhandle, of course, and northwestern-tiered counties along the Red River. To the east, I think he considers Clay County but not Cooke.
BTW, Cunfer is looking at land use as his baseline, not who is using the land -- although he has human anecdotes, including, I am pleased to find, a diary from a Crosby County farmer, circa 1910-15 or so, that I read when it was published in 1991. I have my own consistencies of interests ...
If you like odd, mostly down-to-earth fantasy (that is, no talking unicorns and pixie dust), written by a British guy with a dry Douglas Adams-esque wit, then you might enjoy "American Gods". Though, I have to admit, I needed my iPhone nearby to google half of the deities that appear in it, as he takes many from all sorts of traditions I know nothing about.

His short stories (in collections like "Smoke and Mirrors") are also fun.
You're a Hobgoblin.

Book for your seminary shelf that will just about kill your faith in god but build your faith in human reasonableness: Evil in Modern Thought, Susan Neiman.

(Also her Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists.)

Had her as a professor and we met in her small living room of an academic apartment and a room on campus that used to be Nathan Hale's dorm room. ("I regret that I have but one life to live for my country.")
"July,July" by Tim O'Brien I have just finished. It is about the Class of 1969 and their 31st high school reunion. Not a book I would recommend. If you are going to read O'Brien, read his "The Things They Carried", it is a classic. Now that one I highly recommend.

Next up in the pile of books is "A Forest Of Kings, The untold story of the ancient Maya" by Linda
Schele and David Freidel. Based on recent "translations" of the
codices and inscriptions composed of the Maya logographs it is a history of the Mayan Kings and Governments. It promises to be a slough. Not only is the subject dense but the foreignness of concepts is very great.
Team of Rivals

Anniversary gift from Rocky (my husband). It is pretty good.

Im also working on the collected writings of James Madison.
Dang, y'all are a literate bunch.

It's why I love y'all! :-)
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