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awalkingdelight - Audio Book Reviews and Las Vegas Views

HORRORS

Book Review
Personal Library
By Chet Yarbrough

Purepure
By Andrew Miller

The word pure is defined as something which has foreign elements removed. “Pure” is a novel by Andrew Miller set in 1785. The year is relevant because it takes place in France, four years before the revolution.

HORRORS OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

HORRORS OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

The author does not refer to revolution but there is a macabre prescience and parallel to France’s 1789 rebellion. Social deterioration depicted in “Pure” reminds one of the horrors reported in the aftermath of the French revolution.

LES INNOCENTS (AKA SAINTS-INNOCENTS BEFORE CLOSURE)

LES INNOCENTS (AKA SAINTS-INNOCENTS BEFORE CLOSURE)

“Pure” is about dismantling a grave yard in Paris. Les Innocents’ grave yard was disgorged of cadavers and abandoned in 1786. Miller writes about an engineer, commissioned by the French royal court, to relocate burial remains and dismantle a church from an overburdened cemetery. The engineer reluctantly accepts the commission and moves from a small town to Les Innocents in Paris.

IMAGE OF GRAVE REMOVAL

IMAGE OF GRAVE REMOVAL

IMAGE OF FRENCH ARISTOCRACY

IMAGE OF FRENCH ARISTOCRACY

Miller’s engineer is commissioned to purify Les Innocents just as the French revolution is designed to purify France. The Les

Innocents’ commission is to remove area degradation caused by too many graves. The French Revolution’s commission is to remove degradation caused by too many aristocrats. The consequence in both instances turns into something more than purification. Human beings become savage and irrational; life becomes driven by repressed anger rather than normative morality.

GRAVE DIGGER

ROBESPIERRE'S HEAD BY MADAME TUSSAUD

ROBESPIERRE’S HEAD BY MADAME TUSSAUD

Upon arrival in Les Innocents, the engineer smells the fetid air of decaying corpses. The smell permeates clothing, housing, and the psyche of local residents. Residents are accustomed to the smell. Some believe it is the smell of history and society; they love it. Others think it is only the smell of death and a reliable employer; so they tolerate it.

The engineer is from a mining town. He calls on a former friend to offer work as foreman for the grim job. The friend is to hire a team of miners to demolish a church and remove bodies from an adjacent graveyard.

Because they are miners, they are accustomed to digging and are willing to pursue less dangerous work above ground. The team arrives at the cemetery and begins work.

MINERS WORK

MINERS WORK

Soon after beginning work; digging through dirt and stacks of bodies, the miners, the foreman, and the engineer begin to have behavioral problems. All seek escape from their grim duties by soliciting local prostitutes. The foreman rapes a 14-year-old girl and shoots himself.
The engineer closets himself from society. He rents a room in a local family’s home. The landlord’s daughter attacks the engineer.  She bashes a groove in the engineer’s skull.

The Landlord’s daughter is obsessed with the cemetery’s history. She focuses her terror of loss on the engineer because he is destroying her interest in life, her obsession with the cemetery. The engineer nearly loses his life. He suffers from memory loss, severe headaches, and bad dreams.

The Landlord’s daughter is exiled from the family home. The engineer chooses a prostitute to live with him in the daughter’s former bedroom. The landlord is demeaned by the arrangement but allows it because of guilt over his daughter’s actions. The engineer’s arbitrary commands remind one of stories of unjust treatment of the poor and middle class by revolutionaries that were supposed to rid France of arbitrary decrees from Aristocratic masters.

DEPICTION OF THE PEASANTS OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

DEPICTION OF THE PEASANTS OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

Les Innocents is to be abandoned because it became a dumping ground for human remains. France needed a revolution because cities had become dumping grounds for the poor.

There were justifiable reasons for closing Les Innocents but the nature of the work became dehumanizing. The same may be said of the French revolution.

Miller infers abandoning normative morality makes savages of us all. Life is not only about why or what human beings do. It is also about how it is done. For the health of residents in the area of Les Innocents, the cemetery had to be moved. For the poor of 1789, France’s government had to change.

The story of “why” and “what” seem clear in the novel, “Pure”,  but the “how” is in question. When one knows the “why” of life and the “what” of action, the ends do not always justify means.

DIVINING HUMAN NATURE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Great Expectationsgreat expectations By: Charles Dickens

Narrated by Charlton Griffin

CHARLES DICKENS (1812-1870)

CHARLES DICKENS (1812-1870)

Charles Dickens’ art is in divining human nature, and making readers care for heroes that covet and receive natural justice. Every character in Dickens’ “Great Expectations” (and there are many) are good and bad, heroes or villains that receive just rewards; at least, by the turn of the final page.

Pip is Dickens’ main character. Pip is a young orphaned boy, living with his sister and her husband. The husband is Joe Gargery, a perfect surrogate father to Pip. Joe is kind and nurturing with a simple view of life. Joe neither judges nor condemns Pip’s growth to manhood. His shrewish wife is counterpoint to Joe’s nature. She gives depth to Joe’s character by contrast to his ideal goodness.  Her shrewish habits show  too much pride, little understanding and no empathy for others. Pip learns and exhibits all of Joe’s and his wife’s characteristics as he grows to manhood. Pip is not perfect; i.e. he is burdened by human nature, the fault of being human.

Dickens serialized many of his 19th century novels. One imagines reader anticipation of the next chapter, the next step in Pip’s journey to self-understanding. Like waiting for the next episode of “Downton Abbey”, one wonders–which character will die next; who will fall in love, and who will be hoisted by their own petard. Will love triumph over adversity? Dickens keeps readers in suspense, not knowing but wanting to know; thinking they know and finding they are wrong.

Listening to this version of “Great Expectations” adds dimension to Charles Dickens’ story; i.e. Charlton Griffin, the narrator, vivified Dickens’ characters. Jaggers is a formidable lawyer. Magwitch is an uneducated criminal. Miss Haversham is a mysterious wealthy shut-in. Estella is Miss Haversham’s ward, raised to revenge Miss Haversham’s ill treatment by a suitor.  Estella is destined to be intertwined in Pip’s life. Wemmick is a clever and secretive employee of Jaggers that lives two lives; each known only by Pip. Biddy is Pip’s first mentor. Orlick is Pip’s most dangerous enemy. These are characters Dickens’ weaves into a story of mystery, murder, and misanthropy. There are more; each plays a part in explicating Pip’s journey to middle age.

THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD

THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD

Dickens is admired by contemporaries as well as modern authors. One of Tolstoy’s favorite novels was “The Personal History of David Copperfield”. It is over 200 years since Dickens was born but even today there is high praise for his insight to human nature, his descriptive prose, and his consummate ability to suspend disbelief in the coincidence of life.

“Great Expectations” is a wonderful story. It entertains while offering lessons for living life. Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you is the credo of those who believe in natural justice; i.e. human nature is rewarded by a just measure of reward and punishment. At least, that seems Dickens’ view of life. There are other beliefs, less just, and consequently less comforting.

WING NUTS AND CONSPIRACY THEORISTS

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Them: Adventures with ExtremistsThem By: Jon Ronson

Narrated by Jon Ronson

JON RONSON

JON RONSON

Wing nuts and conspiracy theorists are the subject of Jon Ronson’s “Them”. With the exception of Ronson’s treks into the woods of an American’ Ku Klux Klan camp, Ronson’s adventures seem benign more than dangerous.

Ronson’s time with Omar Bakri Muhammed, his first adventure with extremists, revolves around a fizzled rally. Ronson drives Bakri to a public meeting place to negotiate with a   convention facilities’ manager. The facility owners demand a high security deposit so no deal is made. When no security deposit is forthcoming, the rally is relocated from the arena to a park where Ronson is denied entry by the Mullahs because of his press affiliation. Ronson seems more taxi driver and toady than journalist in his association with Bakri.

OMAR BAKRI MUHAMMAD (ISLAMIST MILTANT LEADER-LIVED IN LONDON, IMPLICATED IN SECTARIAN VIOLENCE, BELIVED LIVING IN LEBANON AS FUGITIVE)

OMAR BAKRI MUHAMMAD (ISLAMIST MILTANT LEADER-LIVED IN LONDON, IMPLICATED IN SECTARIAN VIOLENCE, BELIVED LIVING IN LEBANON AS FUGITIVE)

On the other hand, “Them” was published in 2001. Ronson spent nearly a year in off and on conversations with Omar Bakri Muhammed before 2000. Several years after Ronson’s publication, Bakri is tagged as an Islamic Terrorist implicated in the July 7, 2005 London’ bombings. Bakri, exiled from the United Kingdom, is convicted in 2010 by a Lebanese court to serve a life sentence. Presumably, Bakri is in jail. Ronson’s thematic credibility takes a giant leap forward with this post publication evidence of Bakri’s radicalism.

BILDERBERG GROUP (AN ANNUAL PRIVATE CONFERENCE OF 120 TO 140 INVITED GUESTS BEGAN IN 1954 AT BILDERBERG HOTEL IN NETHERLANDS)

BILDERBERG GROUP (AN ANNUAL PRIVATE CONFERENCE OF 120 TO 140 INVITED GUESTS BEGAN IN 1954 AT BILDERBERG HOTEL IN NETHERLANDS)

Ronson’s conversations with Bakri opens the door to what is called the Bilderberg conspiracy, a belief in a ruling elite made up of rich Jews and wealthy businessmen that allegedly rule the world. The Bilderberg conspiracy is a recurring theme in Ronson’s interviews with “Them”; i.e. the public minorities with non-mainstream opinions that incite argument and, sometimes, violence.

RUBY RIDGE (RANDY WEAVER, SURVIVOR)

RUBY RIDGE (RANDY WEAVER, SURVIVOR)

Ronson makes several trips to the United States. He interviews the Ruby Ridge patriarch, Randy Weaver. Weaver’s wife is killed by the FBI in a raid at Weaver’s home in Northern Idaho in 1992.

U.S. Marshalls were ordered to serve a warrant to arrest Weaver for violating Federal Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms laws. Weaver chose to stand his ground rather than flee when served with a warrant. Weaver did not answer the warrant. He failed to appear in court. U.S. Marshalls set up a surveillance team, including cameras, around the Weaver home.

Weaver’s son and dog met U.S. Marshalls in the woods around Weaver’s homestead. Though there is dispute about the incident, the dog, the 14-year-old Weaver son, and an agent were dead at the end of a confrontation.

Next day, the FBI arrives at the Weaver property. A FBI sniper wounds Randy Weaver and kills Mrs. Weaver. Though charges were filed, no convictions were upheld for either the Weavers or Federal Agents. Repercussion was limited to reprimands of Federal agents and revision of FBI tactics. Randy Weaver became a hero and symbol for many extremist organizations. Ronson characterizes Weaver as a shy, independent, and reticent spokesman for citizens’ against government intrusion in American life. One could argue that the “Them” in this episode fits a description of two minorities; i.e. the Weavers and their refusal to follow the law (the served warrant) and Federal Agents that overreact to that refusal (overzealous surveillance for an ATF’  fugitive warrant and the murder of Mrs. Weaver).

JEFF BERRY (FORMER HEAD OF LARGEST CHAPTER OF KU KLUX KLAN  IN U.S., DIED MAY 31, 2013 IN ILLINOIS)

JEFF BERRY (FORMER HEAD OF LARGEST CHAPTER OF KU KLUX KLAN IN U.S., DIED MAY 31, 2013 IN ILLINOIS)

THOMAS ROBB (BAPTIST MINISTER, A WHITE SUPREMICIST, KKK LEADER, BORN IN DETROIT, LIVES IN ARKANSAS) & WIFE

THOMAS ROBB (BAPTIST MINISTER, A WHITE SUPREMICIST, KKK LEADER, BORN IN DETROIT, LIVES IN ARKANSAS) & WIFE

Ronson moves on to the Ku Klux Klan. Jeff Berry and Thomas Robb represent two extremes of competing Klan factions. Jeff Berry is characterized as an “N” word provocateur while Thomas Robb is a white supremacist preacher that abjures the “N” word and speaks of racial purity. Berry rants while Robb preaches but Ronson suggests both instill the bigotry of the Ku Klux Klan movement. The Bilderberg conspiracy is raised by the Klan in the same broad belief found with previously interviewed Islamic radicals.

IAN PAISLEY (POLITICIAN AND RELIGIOUS LEADER, NORTHERN IRELAND)

IAN PAISLEY (POLITICIAN AND RELIGIOUS LEADER, NORTHERN IRELAND)

DAVID ICKE (REPTILIAN CONSPIRACY THEORIST)

DAVID ICKE (REPTILIAN CONSPIRACY THEORIST)

Ronson returns to England and interviews Ian Paisley and David Icke, two extremists little known to most Americans. Neither seems to focus on Jewish hatred but both endorse belief in conspiracy for world control. Paisley is a Northern Ireland politician and preacher that argues the Pope is the anti-Christ, homosexuality is a sin, and the bible is literal truth. Paisley believes popular culture is a conspiracy that blasphemes the will of God and the lessons of the bible. David Icke is an ex-jock that believes in a conspiracy of controllers that are giant lizards, camouflaged as wealthy, influential, and powerful human beings.

The denouement of Ronson’s adventures is a visit to the annual Bilderberg meeting. The conclusion Ronson draws is that no one is in control of the world’s future. The annual Bilderberg meetings are a ritualized party that is more like a Mardi Gras for the rich than a cabal for world control. In spite of this sanguine and ironic revelation, “Them” is not a comforting book.

TIMOTHY McVEIGH (MEMBER OF THOMAS ROBB KLAN, PERPETRATOR OF THE OKLA. CITY BOMBING 1995)

TIMOTHY McVEIGH (MEMBER OF THOMAS ROBB KLAN, PERPETRATOR OF THE OKLA. CITY BOMBING 1995)

Timothy McVeigh was a member of Thomas Robb’s church. Omar Bakri Muhammed spewed the hatred of all that is not Islamic. Berry ranted the worst of what some of white America believes. Ian Paisley decries freedom of belief and human nature. David Icke is nuts.

They, who are called “Them”,  all have followers that threaten freedom of choice; i.e. that freedom which does not infringe on freedom of other’s. They all say “It is my way or no way”. The truth is–the only controller of our future is human nature.

Audio Book Reviews and Las Vegas Views


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