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Unstuck in Time: A Journey Through Kurt Vonnegut's Life and Novels
Unstuck in Time: A Journey Through Kurt Vonnegut's Life and Novels
by Gregory D. Sumner
Edition: Hardcover
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book I Can Relate To, June 24, 2012
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For those of us who read Vonnegut's novels in our younger lives, this is a book we can appreciate. It might be a great book for anyone who shares Vonnegut's political beliefs - written by Gregory Sumner who has long been a Vonnegut admirer.

I like the short entrees by Vonnegut that sound so simple, but that Vonnegut admits he slaved over - like Mark Twain must have done when his character, Huck, who, when faced with the dilemma of going with current southern thought or sticking with Jim, said, "alright then, I'll go to He**."

As a student of both Twain and Hemingway, Vonnegut "practiced the Hemingway-inspired principles that would define his mature style: tell only what you know, in the leanest way possible prose, readily apparent to the reader." Vonnegut said, about "Slaughterhouse Five" "I must have written five thousand pages by now, and thrown them all away." Sumner says, "The book is a process of twenty years of living with Dresden and the aftermath." He started it in 1945 when he got back from the war and didn't publish the slim book until 1969.

I've taken the liberty to cherry pick some of Vonnegut's excerpts found in Sumner`s book:

His mother was an unsuccessful writer. She lacked the common touch - the "vulgarity" to adhere to a common formula that would sell. Fortunately, Vonnegut tells us, "I was loaded with vulgarity."

"We could be drinking lemonade in the shade of an apple tree in the summertime," Vonnegut reminisced in 1999, "and Uncle Alex would interrupt the conversation to say, 'If this isn't nice, what is?'"

"Every time I say I hate officers, which I still do fairly frequently," Vonnegut mused in 1977, "I have to remind myself that practically none of the officers I served under survived."

At Dresden, where he was taken as a POW, Vonnegut said of the city, before the bombing, "it was about as sinister as a wedding cake."

At the University of Chicago, he remembered, religions "were exhibited as the Rube Goldberg inventions I'd always thought they were."

"I'm working in a houseful of diapers and my wife wanting money and there not being enough and so forth. I was angry at my wife for the same reason everybody is angry with his wife."

Anita "had the mechanics of a marriage down pat, even to the subtlest conventions," Vonnegut writes, and was able to "turn out a credible counterfeit of warmth" for her husband on cue.

His boss, Kroner, waits for him at the bar - a man with "the priceless quality of believing in the system, and of making others believe in it, too."

"Out on the edge you can see all sorts of things you can't see from the center."

"There is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre," Vonnegut cautions in the first few pages of "Slaughterhouse Five"...and although this book, as the author says, "annihilates the boundary between fiction and autobiography," Vonnegut says, "All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true."

In short, everyone may not like Vonnegut's style but he does write about the human condition in a way that most of us can identify with. Sumner presents his summaries and interpretations for each of Vonnegut's books with obvious admiration for the author.

The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future
The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future
by Joseph E. Stiglitz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.70
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Book, June 17, 2012
Correction of income inequalities was one of the things our government imposed on Japan and Germany after WWII. Correction of income inequalities is what Brazil has concentrated on in their last 3 administrations - a policy that has brought Brazil into the realm of major world economic powers. Failure of the US to correct income inequalities in the Philipines when we took it over in 1898 was a major factor in the continuance of the instabilities the Philipines has had ever since.

Income inequality is a bad thing, as succinctly pointed out by the author of this book, yet the US has, for various reasons, fallen into this unfortunate situation. Income inequality in a country, if it gets bad enough, leads to revolution. If not that bad it just leads to chronic discontent among the majority of the population. What amazes me about the voters in the US is why the majority, very few of whom are ever going to be rich, continue to elect politicians who can be bought off by the rich, at the expense of the middle class.

This book has a thorough explanation of this whole issue and is worlds apart from the polemics widely distributed over Facebook and the Internet. As far as trickle-down economics is concerned, statistics do not show that it creates any growth - unless, of course, you're talking about the growth of the deficit. I would recommend this book to anyone of either party who wishes to at least become informed about this issue. It's not a matter of freedom, liberty, or idealistic slogans of any sort. Stiglitz merely reasserts what is already readily apparent in the history of countries that have allowed such income disparities to exist.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 29, 2013 4:18 PM PDT

The Big Questions: Probing the Promise and Limits of Science
The Big Questions: Probing the Promise and Limits of Science
by Richard Morris
Edition: Hardcover
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good Place to Start Your Science Education, June 9, 2012
In this readable book, well-known physicist and writer Richard Morris discusses questions that are unanswerable by today's science. They have always been unanswerable, but used to be in the realm of philosophy. As science made progress during the last three hundred years, more and more of what was in the realm of philosophy became answerable under the realm of science. Not so, these questions:

1. What is time?
2. Does the future already exist?
3. Is the world there when we're not looking?
4. Why is there something rather than n0othing?
5. Could the world have been otherwise?
6. What happened before the beginning?
7. Are there parallel worlds?
8. Is there a God?
9. What is the purpose of it all?
10. What is the human condition?
11. What is mind?
12. What is truth?

These question may not yet have adequate scientific answers, but there is certainly much room for scientific discussion that Morris provides in spades. He's a bit heavy in spots on string theory. Since 2002 when this book was written, string theory has taken some large hits, so his take on that may be a bit different today.

One example: his treatment of quantum theory when it came to the development of QED. It seems that "Quantum field theory predicted that certain quantities, such as the mass and charge of the electron, were infinite. Something was clearly . Those quantities are actually very small. A solution to the problem was found iwrongn 1948 by three physicists working independently..." One of them was one of my favorite physicists, Richard Feynman. It was eventually shown that, although the three had used different mathematical methods, their maths were equivalent. I wish I understood math better - enough to follow their different methods, but anyway, they ended up calling it "renormalization." When this method was applied, everything about QED and the Standard Model (for particle physics) seemed to work out - and it does, because the technological application of this theory is used every day in our households and throughout industry. But, as Morris puts it, "When Feynman was in a jovial mood, he sometimes expressed this idea more succinctly, saying that he had received the Nobel Prize for 'sweeping some of the infinities under the rug.'"

Morris's book is written in layman's terms with thorough explanations of science that more of us should be familiar with. There may be no answers to his questions but they provide answers about science where the usual humanities college graduate may be completely clueless.

If you fit this description, Morris's book might be a good place to start building on your basic science knowledge skills.

The Sins of His Grandmother
The Sins of His Grandmother
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Bad Seeds" - Was it DNA or Environment?, June 9, 2012
The main characters in this extremely interesting novel convey a generational continuity of dysfunction and perversion - set in the first half of the 1900's. For a first novel I think it is exceptional and represents real talent. The book builds, especially in the last half, and the reader has no idea how it is going to end. There are some typos in the book, also errors in character development and presentation but I can easily overlook them, considering the novel's other attributes. For an error example, the author is surprised that one of his main characters, a prostitute, didn't come down with AIDS - but the time frame is before AIDS showed up in humans. I don't know if this is a final copy since I was sent a copy to read by the author via email. Either way, it is an interesting read and I hope the author continues to pursue his obvious writing talents.

Understanding Evolution and Ourselves
Understanding Evolution and Ourselves
by Dennis Littrell
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.95
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not To Be Missed, May 13, 2012
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Of these 90 or 100 books reviews by Dennis Littrell about evolutionary subjects, divided into 6 sections, I have read and reviewed 18 or them - and I thought I read a lot. I started following Littrell's reviews about 10 years ago. About that time, I decided to improve my scientific literacy and while reading "Darwin's Dangerous Idea," I ran into his reviews. They are so good and I learned so much from reading them, I put a shortcut to his review site on my computer. Often he reveals that the author's view differs from the mainstream view. Frequently he will offer an opinion and admit it may not be quite mainstream but it's what he thinks. For one of the entrees written by sociologists, he chastises them gently for not realizing that the humans came by their socialization through evolution exactly as did the two different types of chimps and that ignoring that fact, though maybe not PC within their peer group, is not reasonable. As much as he respects Richard Dawkins, he gives Dawkins a bit of a nudge to reconsider group selection as an important aspect of evolution - and even epigenetic aspects of inheritance, which may have Lamarckian features (perish the thought).

Littrell doesn't finish reading books he doesn't at least like some aspect of a lot, so his lowest rating is, I think, a 3, and most are 4's and 5's. He corrects things in his reviews that, given further information since the review was written, have been provisionally deemed to be incorrect (which is the way science works). A good example is a review he wrote about homo floresiensis. I remember reading that review. His opinion at that time was that these fossils were probably shaped the way they were because of congenital disease. I remembered that because, although I am not an authority, I disagreed. Since that time, mainstream paleontology has decided they are probably a separate species that evolved from an earlier homonid, but isolation on an island allowed evolution to gradually form them into a new species of smaller stature. I noted that he indeed did make that correction in this book, as well as several others, as new information came available. This makes the information in this book current, despite that some of the books were written decades ago. Most of them were written since 2000.

One review in particular that I liked was his review of Darwin's 1845 "Voyage of the Beagle." Darwin was a daring adventurer who would travel by foot or on a donkey, collecting his data, through a part of South American that sounded about as dangerous as Mexico is now, and would meet the Beagle at its next stop. Littrell says, "The hardships and dangers Darwin must have endured would have put Indiana Jones to shame." Another good book reviewed was by Steve Jones: "Darwin's Ghost; The Origin of the Species Updated" in Darwin's format but with current information to fill in the gaps, about genes, for example, that Darwin had no way of knowing about. About a book by Peter Singer, Littrell writes, "It was thought not too many years ago that the architects (so to speak) of the modern world were Marx, Darwin, Einstein, and Freud. Now that the post-modern era is upon us, a reevaluation has been made and Marxist ideas have been largely discredited. Einstein has suffered a correction (from quantum mechanics), Freud has been reclassified as literature, and it is only Darwin's reputation that has survived unsullied."

The largest grouping (of the 6) is Littrell's reviews on evolutionary psychology, a magnificent collection of the arguments surrounding the subject, coming from various disciplines. In writing about the question, "What does a woman want?" he states, "This is a question that evolutionary psychology has largely answered, much to the dismay of those who would prefer to keep the mystery." Interestingly, Littrell, although a firm believer in evolutionary psychology, admits there's no way to prove it has more validity that the cognitive approach, new information from neuroimaging, or other approaches. It's just that EP makes such complete sense, it's not reasonable for any of the related disciplines to not consider the value of the EP approach.

About "Evolution and the Big Question," by Stamos, Littrell says "The bete noir of the book is the Standard Social Science Model (SSSM) which Stamos finds not only inadequate but so riddled with politically correct and socially correct notions that it needs to be set aside. That the SSSM still holds sway in the humanities and social science departments in many of our colleges and universities is a testament to how far we haven't come." There are too many excellent books reviewed and too many memorable quotations and opinions by Littrell to mention, so I won't. Let me just say this book is not to be overlooked.

Littrell mentions in the intro that, although he recommends reading the books, his reviews have been considered by some to be similar to cliffnotes. I agree, although they are abbreviated cliffnotes because of Littrell's paragraph-style format and Amazon's 1,000 word limit. I must say, however, they offer the additional benefit of Littrell's learned opinions, always labeled as such. Whether a beginner or a professional from a related field, there is much to be learned in Littrell's reviews of these carefully selected books, many of them classics. I recommend it highly.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 15, 2012 3:24 PM PDT

God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion
God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion
by Victor J. Stenger
Edition: Paperback
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122 of 136 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Couldn't Agree More, April 22, 2012
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Quotes by the author: "Science flies us to the moon....religion flies us into buildings"...."The problem is that people think faith is something to be admired. If fact, faith means you believe in something for which you have no evidence"...."From the very beginning, religion has been a tool used by those in power to retain that power and keep the masses in line."

Stenger takes us on a quick and lively ride. Each chapter briefly covers data that volumes have been written about. Those familiar with the history of science and familiar with the perennial conflicts between science and religion will see familiar names and will have read many of the books in his bibliography.

Preface: From the beginning, all religions have been concerned with keeping the status quo. Science, on the other hand, is continuously being fine-tuned, as new evidence is found and studied. Religion is based on things supernatural that have proven to be undetectable by scientific methods. Science is based on things observable and testable. Although many have tried to demonstrate otherwise, science and religion are incompatible. Scientists who are religious, when they enter their churches, usually check their scientific hats at the door.

Chapter 1 Introduction: Despite efforts to rewrite history, science was effectively squelched by religion from the last days of the Roman Empire until shortly before the Enlightenment. "All the great pioneers of science - Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton - were believers, although they hardly had a choice in the matter. Open nonbelief was nonexistent in the West at that time."

Chapter 2 The Earliest Skirmishes: Stenger begins with cavemen, their extreme superstitions, their attribution of agency to any life events they couldn't explain (everything), and their highly developed and overactive "agent detection device". If they were in the jungle and heard a noise, it was safer to assume that represented danger. Stenger then moves to the earliest Greek philosophers who came remarkably close to some hypotheses of science that have stood the test of time.

Chapter 3 The Rebirth and Triumph of Science: Greek learning was almost completely lost to Western Europe from 500CE to 1500CE. Arabic science flourished, however, but before the scientific revolution hit Europe, science began to flounder in that world for unknown reasons. There is evidence that the printing press in Europe was frowned upon in Arab countries because calligraphy was an art form. For whatever reason, the Arab world lost their scientific impetus and never regained it. In this chapter, Stenger briefly visits our friends Copernicus, Gallileo, Newton, Hume, Locke, and Kant. He visits the Enlightenment and deism and then quotes Richard Carrier: "Had Christianity not interrupted the intellectual advance of mankind and put the progress of science on hold for a thousand years, the Scientific Revolution might have occurred a thousand years ago, and our technology today would be a thousand years more advanced."

Chapter 4 Darwin, Design, and Deity: Unlike Newton's ideas, Darwin's ideas were seen to directly threaten the existence of God. This chapter covers that history, Paley's argument from design, natural selection, and evolutionary politics that continue to this day. It closes with arguments comparing religion to being infected by a virus.

Chapters 5, 6, & 7 These are the science chapters, well-written for the lay person who is somewhat familiar with particle physics, quantum mechanics, and cosmology. It is heavily endowed with criticism of pseudoscientists who would misuse scientific terminology, especially the word "quantum". I particularly enjoyed the discussion of particle/wave duality and now understand that it is all particles. When enough particles are measured together, they can then assume the characteristics of a wave, but they are always particles.

Chapter 8 Purpose: Reductionism, among scientists, particularly physicists, is the view that there is nothing more to the makeup of the universe, or any part of it, than its parts, and the interaction of these parts. "Although comprising only 5% of the total mass and energy of the universe; up and down quarks, electrons, and photons are all that are needed as ingredients of conventional matter in a working model for those observable phenomenon that are of direct concern to most humans...only elemental particle physicists and cosmologists worry about the other 95%." Nothing further emerges from this. Even consciousness is a direct manifestation of complex interactions among quarks and electrons. Stenger's view about purpose is well-described by this chapter's opening quote from David Hume: "Nature has no more regard to good above ill than to heat above cold, or to drought above moisture, or to light above heavy."

Chapter 9 Transcendence: The afterlife and the notion that something exists beyond the world that addresses our senses...studies on intercessory prayer...spiritual energy and chi...near-death experiences...reincarnation. Our hyperactive caveman agency detectors are hard at work but the search for good evidence for anything supernatural is sadly lacking.

Chapter 10 Beyond Evolution: Many years ago a good Christian friend of mine asserted that if it weren't for religion he would be completely antisocial and out of control. I was shocked and a little offended. I knew many nonbelievers and as far as I could tell, they acted in as moral a manner as anyone else. As a matter of fact, I eventually found out that good behavior is more correlated with nonreligious societies, such as certain Scandinavian countries, than it is with religious societies. This chapter covers matters of morality and whether belief in God needs to be a factor. It doesn't.

Chapter 11 Matter and Mind: "Considerable evidence exists that the phenomena we call mind and consciousness result from natural mechanisms in a purely material brain. If we have disembodied souls that are responsible for our thoughts, decisions, dreams, personalities, and emotions, then these should not be effected by drugs. But they are. They should not be affected by disease. But they are....why would that happen if consciousness arises from an immaterial soul?" Counterpoints by D'Souza and others.

Chapter 12 Metaphor, Atheist Spirituality, and Immanence: Many people who have studied religion lose their religion. Some lose their zeal for the dogma but still enjoy or want the spiritual experience. This chapter is about those who continue to try to find a place for spirituality, even though they have given up on the traditional view of a personal God, and their search to find rationale for this spirituality - heavy on Ian Barbour and others.

Chapter 13 From Conflict to Incompatibility: The state of religion today (nationally and worldwide), whether or not religion is good for you, assets vs. liabilities of belief in an afterlife, and a summary of the conflicts covered in earlier chapters. Finally, whether a confrontational approach or the accommodative approach is more reasonable for today's nonbeliever. About this I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, as T. Jefferson said, (he actually stole it from Voltaire) another person's beliefs "neither pick my pocket nor break my leg". On the other hand, evangelicals are heavily influencing legislative action nowadays and I disagree with most of their positions.

Chapter 14 Why Does It Matter: A concise dissertation on the disinformation spread by religious groups about science and important political issues for the nation. The drastically different worldview caused by religion, complete with ridiculous position statements from The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, as just one example of religious idiocy. Stenger's closing remarks include, "We need to focus our attention on one goal...the eradication of foolish faith from the face of this planet."

Sorry to say, I don't see that happening, but I couldn't agree more.
Comment Comments (94) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 23, 2014 10:45 AM PST

Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat
Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat
by David Dosa
Edition: Paperback
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4.0 out of 5 stars End of Life Cat Scan, April 2, 2012
My mother is over 90 and losing mental and physical ground. I bought this book in large print format for her, just in case it might offer her some insight or comfort. After reading the book, however, it is clear to me this is not a book for patients. One of its high points is its realism. Also, its low point is its realism, depending on your perspective. If you are family, reading this book might help you break through denial about a bleak situation. If you are the patient the book would more likely rob you of all hope. Inspiring hope in an elderly patient is important. For a patient with Alzheimer's, trying to inspire hope may be like spitting in the wind but it has the potential to make for a more pleasant existence for patient and family.

Not that the book is not empathetic and well-written - even entertaining in spots. Not that cat lovers won't be pleased to see what a star Oscar is - even if his deathbed trips become a bit redundant. It's just that most of these patients have Alzheimer's disease, for which there is no real therapy and no cure but a lot of time. Emphasis in the book is on spending time with them (at least if they still recognize you) and recognizing that your father or mother doesn't have the same brain as the person who put so much effort into rearing you.

I would like to have seen more evidence as to what caused Oscar's behavior. I suspect it was the smell of ketones, as the author suggested. Perhaps a little cat science from elsewhere could have been presented. I suspect all other mammals have much better olfactory sensation than we do.

I can readily recommend this book. Another couple of books with more perspectives that I can also recommend are: "How We Age: A Doctor's Journey into the Heart of Growing Old" by Marc E. Agronin and "A Bitterweet Season" by Jane Gross. Even so, I have found only excerpts appropriate to read to my mother in any of these books.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 15, 2012 11:45 PM PDT

Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power
Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power
by Rachel Maddow
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $25.00
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276 of 319 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Life Of Its Own, March 27, 2012
"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger." - Hermann Goering in Nuremberg where he was found guilty and sentenced to death for crimes against humanity.

Maddow has written a concise guide about the war economy and mentality our country has fallen into - a mentality that seems to infect every president the moment he enters the White House. At least since Wilson, we have been in virtually continuous war, originally with the excuse of democratizing the world. Some of these squirmishes have protected American corporations in various countries. At times we took sides with democratic regimes and other times we sided with more totalitarian groups (See "America's Mission" by Tony Smith. It chronicles the wars each president has engaged in since Wilson).

More recently, as Maddow describes, the privatization craze has extended to the war business. We have been involved in little undeclared wars that we have rarely even heard about. We spend more money on our military than the next umpteen countries combined. Our brave all volunteer recruits constitute an ever diminishing segment of our population and the recent wars have exacted a tremendous toll on them and their families. We support a huge war industry that demands to be fed and buys off our elected representatives. No wonder we can't seem to afford good things that would better serve our people like universal healthcare.

This book is reasonable, carefully researched, and written with personality. There are other ways to be patriotic than to blindly follow warlike policies that have somehow taken on a life of their own. I highly recommend that you read it.
Comment Comments (42) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 5, 2012 4:27 PM PST

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
DVD ~ Daniel Craig
Price: $9.46
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rooney Mara Stole The Show, March 10, 2012
Great story and exemplary performances by the actors and actresses but this show belonged to Rooney Mara. She absolutely owns it. Although the Swedish version is good and Noomi is good, she just doesn't stand out to the extent that Mara does in the Hollywood version.

Let me speculate as to why: Salander apparently has some version of Asperger's syndrome - high-functioning on the autistic spectrum with occasional genius traits in certain areas. Mara delivers less susceptibility in interpersonal relationships in some areas and more in others. Whatever the formula, it is convincingly persuasive. There are many opportunities for comparison because both movies use many of the same scenes.

I have one big complaint - I disagree with the accolades given to the sound engineers. No matter what the scene, they attempt to augment the emotion with music and/or background noise. It's too loud and constant. At times, these actors already mumble their lines for the sake of their portrayals. I don't like to miss words of dialogue and it's a distraction. I'm willing to give up the supposed addition to the tension. The Swedish version does not have this detriment.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 10, 2012 4:58 PM PST

by Alan Blair
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.20
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Historical Fiction, February 20, 2012
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This review is from: Barabbas (Paperback)
Barabbas was a notorious criminal of some sort introduced by the gospel of Mark - possibly a fictional character. The other three canonical gospels and the gospel of Peter followed Mark's lead and also told the Barabbas story. According to a Roman or Jewish custom, depending on which gospel you read, the governor might allow the crowd to decide to release one of the condemned during the Passover celebration. This custom is mentioned only in these gospels - not in any other historical source of the time.

"Barabbas" is a fictional story that takes up the life of Barabbas after the crucifixion of Jesus, well-done and intense, though sparse. The Lagerkvist story of Barabbas (Amazon's stated author is translator from Lagerkvist's scandinavian language) was used as the basis for a 1961 movie called "Barabbas" starring Anthony Quinn.

Barabbas becomes obsessed with Jesus as soon as he is pardoned. He attends the crucifixion and watches Jesus's death and burial. He observes the darkening and relightening of the sky, thinking it is due to eye problems related to his recent incarceration. He shows up on the third morning before dawn to see Jesus resurrected but the stone has already been moved and Jesus is not there. Barabbas thinks Jesus's friends have already moved him and that Jesus is still dead. Another at the tomb sees an angel perform some sort of resurrection function but Barabbas does not see it, although later he says he did.

Barabbas wants to believe throughout the book but cannot. Even at the end his position is not entirely clear. One of the downsides of this book, for me, was the inability of the Barabbas character to ever communicate much with anyone. Since it's fictional anyway, the character of Barabbas could have been just as tragic and still managed to talk a little. It would have been a convenient stage for anything the author wished to say. Even with the fellow slave he was chained to for over 20 years and grew to care for through enforced proximity, Barabbas rarely ever talked.

This book hints at the culture of the times and provides a little (if fictional) light on the organization of early Christianity in Jerusalem with Peter. Paganism is touched on as is the burning of Rome that Nero blamed on the Christians. It is a fascinating story that can be read in two hours or so. I like speculative stories of this sort. If nothing else, they reveal the superstition and primitiveness of the era and allow the author to present a point of view.

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