Monday, February 20, 2012

Book Report: No Longer A God, But What A Man

Life ItselfLife Itself by Roger Ebert

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Roger Ebert is a hero of mine, particularly the way he has coped and talked about the disfigurement of his face by cancer. In many ways, he comes across as an ordinary man; he writes without pretension. Too many film critics think it is their job to convince their readers of their own erudition. Ebert's beginnings as a newspaper reporter -- sports even -- show themselves in the simplicity and directness of his style. But there is nothing simple about his thinking. I particularly like his reflections about the belief in God and his religious upbreaking. He describes it in a way that makes sense.

An Esquire article several years ago, which published in full page color a portrait of how Ebert looks now with his jaw gone, so impressed me that I changed my Facebook profile to describe my religion as "Ebertite." I don't think Ebert would like that. He is very much aware of his own un-godlike characteristics and describes them in humble detail. He describes his religion as "secular humanist." I think I'm going to change my Facebook profile to describe my religion as "secular humanist." That's the least I can do for someone whom I previously thought was a god.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Book Report: Another Chink Filled In The Gap of My Reading Education

The Souls of Black FolkThe Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another unexplainable gap in my education was never having read anything actually by Du Bois, although I had read plenty about him. Finally, I got around to reading this book and I was blown away. Although written more than 100 years ago, Du Bois's analysis of the race problem is spot on. Here are the opening sentences:

"Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: masked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter around it. They approach me in a half-hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, 'How does it feel to be a problem?' they say, 'I know an excellent colored man in my town;' or, 'I fought at Mechanicsville;' or, 'Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil?' At these I smile, or am interested, or reduce the boiling to a simmer, as the occasion may require. To the real question, 'How does it feel to be a problem' I answer seldom a word."

It is unexcusable that it took me more than 50 years to get to this book. The loss in my understanding for so long is a pity.  I never knew what I was missing.