Capacity

Review by Roar RAWWRRR
Capacity is an excellent narrative of a metaphysical journey to access the many possibilities of imagination within one self without going crazy in the process. The not going crazy part is key. Interweaving biographical elements with delicious 4th wall breakdowns to include the reader in the story arc and, seasoned throughout with 7 compilations of short stories, Theo Ellsworth might just be looked back at in history as one of the greatest writers and illustrators of our time and this book is certainly one that can be used to establish him as such. Highly reccomend for anyone who enjoys graphic novels and the creative process to read thia.

Mere Christianity

Review by Nathaniel Kidd
CS Lewis's clear and soft-spoken presentation of the core doctrines of the historic Christian faith for a 20th C audience has rightly gained a reputation as a modern classic within Christian literature. Unfortunately for readers in our circle, Lewis's doctrine and memory has been appropriated primarily by the rather tasteless form of the Christian faith that easily and uncritically accommodates the Powers and Principalities of postwar capitalism, and that may taint the force and appeal of his argument. A partial remedy, perhaps, may lie in appreciating Lewis within his historical context. We should remember, after all, that Mere Christianity began as a series of radio broadcasts on the BBC during WWII, endorsed by the British government as a way of consolidating national morale in an especially dark and difficult time. In this view, I like to think of Lewis as resourcing a theology of resistance: hiding out in underground bunkers during Nazi air-raids to proclaim that there is a ground for hope, and that the resistance is not in vain. You won't get that from a superficial reading of MC, but it's there, just beneath the surface. That said, I think that our readers might better appreciate some of Lewis's other works: his fiction, in particular -- his Space Trilogy, for instance, and his famous, young reader oriented fantasy, the Narnia series. His retelling of an ancient myth in "Till We have Faces" is also extraordinary, although somewhat subtle. It is in these contexts where the scope and power of his imagination are more readily at play, although the theological engine articulated in MC and some of his other prose works is always present. It has become extremely unpopular in modernity and postmodernity to root one's social and artistic imagination in the historic, canonical orthodoxy of Judeo-Islamo-Christianity. In most circles, being a heretic is almost a prerequisite for being taken seriously -- it is, in effect, the new orthodoxy. But the ongoing interest in Lewis and his works stands as an icon of the enduring power and appeal of theology in its classical form -- as well as its continuing fecundity in underwriting imaginative alternatives to the oppressive and horrific systems of modernity. We are empirically justified in expecting, after all, that a story that proved capable of sustaining the human soul through the convulsive terrors of the first half of the 20th C, will likewise prove to be of value anticipating the apocalyptic terrors that await us in the first half of the 21st.

The Laughing Jesus: Religious Lies and Gnostic Wisdom

Review by Nathaniel Kidd
I've learned a lot from late ancient gnostic texts about the milieu of traditions from which the contemporary Abrahamic faiths emerged. I find the gnostic traditions fascinating and delightful, opening up lines of speculation and inquiry about the shape of culture and religion in a world lost in time. Unfortunately, however, I received none of these customary delights from "The Laughing Jesus." Although ostensibly about "gnostic wisdom," authors Freke and Gandy in fact subject us to a bombastic parade of their own sophmoric religious opinions, the better part of which are devoted to either ridiculing the views of the "Literalists" (whom they consider hopelessly benighted), or delighting in the self-styled sophistication of their own tailor-made "gnostic" system (which, by my evaluation, in fact has very little to do with historic gnosticism, and very much to do with late modern post-Christian spiritualism). Indeed, they fall into the trap of many American and modern new religious philosophies, which proclaim as "perennial" something that is in fact very peculiar and particular to the religious sensibilities of the liberal, urbane, postmodern sophisticate -- a person all but completely unmoored to the traditional coherence of a historic community of faith. Freke and Gandy at least want to identify something worth saving from the religion of old: the whole book is structured around an attempt to distinguish between the proverbial "baby" of gnostic spirituality and the "bathwater" of literalist religion. This is a legitimate heuristic for persons at a particular stage of spiritual development: for those responding to the trauma of dysfunctional religious communities, wherein abuse was justified and perpetuated with appeal to religious symbols, such differentiation can be an important step. As a globalizing interpretation of religion as a whole, however, I fail to see how this kind of dichotomy is helpful, and doesn't in fact end up collapse into a hypocrisy of the worst kind. Among their many charges against "Literalist religion," for instance, Freke and Gandy say that it locks us into an "us" versus "them" mindset. Yet is this not to commit the same evil just condemned? -- now the "us" are a sophisticated spiritual elite who -- being spiritually "awakened" -- don't take our faiths-of-origin too seriously; the "them" the "unwashed" masses of people "trapped" within a literalistic religious framework. The dichotomy is all the more pernicious for being utterly incapable of processing the fact that for many people, "literalistic" religion is a profound source of life and joy that should be celebrated within the diversity of human experience, not demeaned and destroyed. While tools are needed for diagnosing and treating malignant forms of religiosity, they need to be much more carefully constructive. "The Laughing Jesus" can commend itself to our collection in that it is certainly an "alternative view" of the Abrahamic metanarrative; and although I myself take it to be an especially poorly conceived and poorly constructed alternative, it may be the alternative someone is looking for, and right for them within a particular stage of their spiritual journey. All faults notwithstanding, Freke and Gandy are actually not that far behind the curve of scholarship when it comes to the mildly iconoclastic "pop-gnosticism" of scholars like Elaine Pagels and Karen King, but depart from them chiefly in being even more bald and unrestrained in lambasting traditional orthodoxy. I should like such lambasting to be more thoughtful and more effective, but it is certainly permitted, even in its less articulate form -- especially within the nimbus of "alternativity".

Last and First Men and Star Maker : Two Science Fiction Novels

Review by Meg Duke
To say it's grand in scope is an understatement. A book some believe to be "channeled," it follows the perspective of a soul from earth swept away to scour the universe in all its various forms on a myriad of alien planets for the greater meaning of life -- for the Star Maker...

Temperance

Review by Kyle Venooker
Temperance is a strange, winsome, complex tale that interweaves a handful of stories -- that of Pa, of Peggy, of Minerva, of Lester, and of Temperance -- into a narrative that explores themes of legacy, of truth, of control and dominance, and, unexpectedly, of hope.

In Search of Human Nature: The Decline and Revival of Darwinism in American Social Thought

Review by Bill Svoboda
Carl N. Degler was a noted leftist (and feminist!) historian. Unlike many leftists, he had no problem discussing, arguing and thinking about human behavioral traits which are- or might be -innate. This is actually "four and half stars" simply because it was published 28 years ago, but the writing is good and the history is still very relevant (as is the reluctance of leftists such as Noam Chomsky to address the issue of innate, inherited "human nature".)

The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male

Review by Bill Svoboda
Highly readable. A perfect companion to "Testosterone Files" would be "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus". Kudos to Max Wolf Valerio for writing this- and Seal Press for publishing it. A book worthy of re-reads, discussions and arguments-this is a 5 star if you remember to take all that testosterone with a grain of salt.

Warte Mal! Prostitution After the Velvet Revolution

Review by Bill Svoboda
This well made hardback (about an often sad and/or horrific subject), paradoxically represents small press excellence. This was my introduction to the Hayward Gallery Press, the Hayward Museum, and artist Ann-Sofi Sidon- lots of cool,wonderful & amazing work by all of them! Concerning a different type of work -sex for money, it is more "business as usual" than ever in the Czech Republic, while human trafficing has spread throughout the world (Orlando Florida!) There is a great deal of information available online about this subject-for whatever that's worth. Meanwhile,"Warte Mal" has gotten twisted into "Wal Mart" in my head. (Further Note: Due to a little voice in my head that's been nagging me ever since publishing this review (my Czech relatives??) I am going to downgrade this ever so slightly to "four and a half stars").

Measuring the Immeasurable: The Scientific Case for Spirituality

Review by Bill Svoboda
I found the woo to be immeasurable, although I did see some nuggets of genuine science. Pile it Higher and Deeper!

Buddha Vol. 6: Ananda

Review by Meg Duke
Flew through the first five but slowed slightly with six... Ananda's story is wild..!

Buddha Vol. 1: Kapilavastu

Review by Meg Duke
awe·​some (adj) 1: inspiring awe --an awesome task/responsibility --a place of awesome beauty via Merriam-Webster

The Strange Tale of Panorama Island

Review by Roar RAWWRRR
Surreal and original! this novel is not shy to expose the naked elements of the human soul warts and all, as well as naked form the human body. In an odd way i feel the best effect this book had on me was an exploration of the flaws involved with hedonism centered around an individuals purchasing power. I love the aesthetic role of the islands various marvels. The protagonist is a scummy terrible person which i find makes it all together fascinating, providing a glimpse into the psychology of someone who i entirely do not relate to is an exercise for my brain. Overall i found this book to be a treasure of literature and a novelty of writing and illustration.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel

Review by Kryssanne Adams
Murakami's protagonist, Mr. Wind-up Bird, spends a lot of time at the bottom of a well as he mourns for the inexplicable disappearance of his wife. This book kept me great company when I felt like I needed to spend some time at the bottom of a well just to think.

Jitterbug Perfume

Review by Kryssanne Adams
I'm retraining myself to enjoy reading again after severely impairing my attention span; at this time in my life, it's difficult to finish reading anything cover to cover. However, I had no issue with Jitterbug Perfume. What a joy to get lost in! This book has everything I want to zone out with: intricate descriptions of beets, the history of perfume, an invisible Pagan identifiable only by his wretched stench, and multiple stories woven together across multiple timelines. It all just works somehow.

Pygmy

Review by Kyle Beckhorn
Freaky book. Follow the perspective of "OPERATIVE ME", a terrorist from some new totalitarian state that idolises basically all leaders that have shown hostile force against The United States... "Operative me" is a foreign exchange student, with the mission of executing "OPERATION HAVOC". He is nicknamed Pygmy, because his American host family and peers view him as a small, dumb, poor little creature that just needs a little American culture and Christian faith. Those are the ingredients to prosperity and happiness, right? The host family is wonderfully dysfunctional, with a father who does top-secret government work, a mother who is always stealing batteries from her kids to power up and test drive the newest vibrators on the market. Then their 2 children, who routinely "Roofy" their parents in order to steal the family car, stay out late, or otherwise break the house rules. There was a violent scene early on in the book that almost made me return it, but if you can get past that, its pretty good. Written in a disjointed style, like nothing I've ever read before.

You Are An Ambiguous Pronoun

Review by Irene Vallone
Subverted my expectations in a way that I'm still considering, almost a week later, whether or not I appreciated. I was expecting a more explicit account of the poet's relationship to gender; what I read was somehow even more personal, and left a real emotional impression on me in a way that a lot of similar poetry has failed to do.

Stink Helmet

Review by Cody Harder
Filth porn barf bling, laced with hallucinogens. GROSS!! . . . I like it.

Arsene Schrauwen

Review by Cody Harder
I have read "Arsene" three times over the course of several years, and it's just as enjoyable each time. In it, the author, Olivier Schrauwen, relates to us a (very) colorful tale of how his grandfather, Arsene, came from Belgium to "the colony," and his venturous time there. A delightfully heady blend of absurdism, abstract art, and surreal story-telling almost reminiscent of Don Quixote, "Arsene" is full of dry wit, thoughtful prose, and downright outrageous instances of bullshit artistry. I laugh like a lunatic whenever I read it! Beware . . . the lEoPaRd MeN . . . :0

Quarter Vomit: "Gets Day Drunk"

Review by Cody Harder
Pretty decent filth. It kind of reads like watching 15-20min Ren and Stimpy cartoon set in Ner Arlnz; that said, you may find this funnier if you have experienced the crusty side of New Orleans (??) yourself. As the author suggests in the "foreword" (?), expect to get mo stupider after reading this. Hey, feels good man...

The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible

Review by Bill Svoboda
What a wonderful and healing book. Enjoy.

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