Saturday, November 19, 2011

Book Report: Zug Island: Getting An Education In A Coke Plant

Zug Island: A Detroit Riot NovelZug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel by Gregory A. Fournier

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is a coming-of-age book about an 18-year-old boy who gets kicked out of college his first semester because of a misplaced sense of honor, and who spends the next 10 months working in a coke plant. The book feels autobiographical, and the author apparently spent a summer working in the labor pool in a coke oven plant on Zug Island, just like the narrator of the book.

I really wish I could rate this book higher than average. The story is interesting. It is set in Detroit in 1967, a year in which I was living just up the road in Flint, and where I spent several years in the early 1970s. It always is fun to read about a book where you have some familiarity to the places and events described.

I have reviewed the author's website and he seems like a nice guy. As someone with a master's degree and who has taught "English language arts" for 30 years, part of the time as an adjunct professor at a community college in California, one would expect him to be a very proficient writer. However, some of the writing is clumsy, particularly where there are shifts in time from the scenes being described to the future.

I think the problem with the book is that it is self-published, and therefore did not go through the editing process to which a conventionally published book would have been subjected. The book is subtitled: "A Detroit Riot Novel," which is not really accurate. The Detroit riots are not even mentioned until page 199 of a 230-page book. The riots are really incidental to the main thrust of the story. The narrator's involvement consists of driving through an area affected by the riot and having a friend beaten up by the police. The book would be more accurately subtitled: "An Education In A Coke Plant Novel."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Philosophy Report: Thomas Hobbes Hits The Nail

I've been reading Leviathian by Thomas Hobbes, the 17th century philosopher. (Don't ask me why -- well, okay, Christopher Hitchens told me I should.) Most of what Hobbes says is nonsense, as I would expect from something written four hundred years ago, but sometimes he says something that leaps from the page and hits me across the forehead. Like this passage on "Belief and Faith" (modernizing the archaic spelling):
"(W)hen we believe any saying whatsoever it be, to be true, from arguments taken, not from the thing itself, or from the principles of natural reason, but from the Authority and good opinion we have of him that said it, then is the speaker, or person we believe in, or trust in, and whose word we take, the object of our faith and the honor done in believing is done to him only. And, consequently, when we believe that the Scriptures are the word of God, having no immediate revelation from God himself, our belief, faith and trust is in the church, whose word we take and acquiesce in. And they that believe that which a prophet relates to them, in the name of God, take the word of the prophet, do honor to him and in him trust and believe, touching the truth of what he relates, whether he be a true or a false prophet. And, so it is also with all other history. For if I should not believe all that is written by historians, of the glorious acts of Alexander or Caesar, I do not think the ghost of Alexander or Caesar had any just cause to be offended, or anybody else, but the historian.

"If Livy say the gods made once a cow to speak,and we believe it not, we distrust not God therein, but Livy. So that it is evidence that whatsoever we believe, upon no other reason, than what is drawn from authority of men only, and their writings; whether they be sent from God or not, is faith in men only."

I'll try to remember that the next time some preacher tries to hit me over the head with his version of what God's will or truth is. In short, my response is, "I believe in God, but I don't believe in you, so shut up."

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Book Report: Is Christopher Hitchens any better than God?

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons EverythingGod Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Christopher Hitchens is not so hot either. A lot of the invective he uses in the book is unnecessary to make his points. However, logically what he says is indisputable.