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!) This book prompted a great deal of online research on my part-as a result of which I'm confident in disagreeing with the socio-politico-economic narrative Ann-Sofi Sidon seems to believe-namely, that as a result of the collapse of a "Socialist" country (and the subsequent slashing of the social safety net), many women are forced into prostitution. Actually, in the Czech Republic both education and medical care are free- and the quality of both healthcare and education have improved since the days of the Soviet backed regime. The extreme repressiveness of the state (in the name of "Socialism") was one of the main reasons prostitution was far less common under State Socialism than it is today- I could go on and on- but Sidon's political beliefs are in the background, and don't detract from most of Warte Mal! -which, again is quite well done-(Studs Terkel would have been impressed by her interviewing prowess!) This is yet another book filled with complexities which I would love to discuss in greater detail-meanwhile "Warte Mal" has gotten scrambled to "Wal Mart" in my head.

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.

Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Dispora

Review by Bill Svoboda
An especially good title! . Some minor quibbles about what WASN'T included-but this is still a great book. Four and a half stars.

Imaginary Communties: Utopia, The Nation, and the Spatial Histories of Modernity

Review by Nathaniel Kidd
Wegner's learned study of utopic geography and attempt at mapping modernity through spatial history falls squarely within the "outside of the box" box of contemporary critical theory, charting a trajectory through a canon of utopian literature that helps us to name the historical and philosophical freight of these fantasies. Wegner might be better read in dialogue with Radical Orthodoxy, and the recent insights developed by Milbank and Taylor, viz., that the "secular" in its medieval and classical conceptualization is not so much a space as a time, such that the the attempt to spatialize imaginary communities actually involves a violent expulsion of any notion of sacral space in the service of a progressive vision. The absence of engagement with this insight, in my view, makes Wegner's work insufficiently critical as a critical perspective. Nevertheless, it is a valuable member of the library collection in speaking to the structure of a variety of imagined alternatives to existing sociocultural spaces and structures.

Sense and Goodness Without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism

Review by Nathaniel Kidd
Carrier might well be congratulated for offering a comprehensive and systematic account of his personal worldview: an ambitious book that is, on the whole, lively and comprehensible. Indeed, such a production is no small achievement. But while the system Carrier lays out is (presumably) satisfying to him, the extent to which it would satisfy anyone not already disposed to agree with him is another question altogether. Perhaps the fact that this book is self-published, and receives its reception and acclamation from the diffusive atheistic humanist community of "infidels.org" rather than an established channel of research, review, and reflection, offers some indication. Carrier's project rests, somewhat comically, on a giant circular argument: assuming both (1) a universe utterly free of any supernatural substance of any kind and (2) the intrinsic meaningfulness of such a universe, Carrier goes on to defend these propositions by ... well, he doesn't defend them, actually, he just lays them out with bravado, and unshakable confidence that any other way of approaching the questions is either inferior to his own, or irrelevant to the conversation. Carrier might be forgiven for this: certainly, to some extent, most worldviews can be reduced to hermeneutical circles of this sort. But the concurrent assertion that he and his small band of atheist friends have alone mounted on the wings of Reason to arrive at Ultimate Truth reflects a rather staggering hubris, and leaves little wonder as to why atheists are often regarded as among the most aggravating and antisocial of subcultures. The tone, indeed, is reminiscent of the apologist who comforts the faithful by patiently explaining how the apparent contradictions within their Scriptures are not, in fact, contradictory. While such arguments have a place within the community, they are not especially impressive to those outside of it. Such failings are, perhaps, to be expected. Without question (and by his own admission, no less) Carrier is a True Believer -- he is determined to believe only that which is True (with a capital "T.") Within this pursuit, he is utterly untroubled by any doubt as to whether there is such a thing as Truth, nor does not give a thorough contemplation of the limitations on the human mind that would reach out for it. The end result may work as a catechism for modern atheists -- and it seems, generally, to be representative of the movement -- but in broader perspective, the work is more sophomoric than philosophical. Carrier evidently loves to read and argue and think, but he has not yet had an encounter the kind of careful, disciplined, sustained criticism that could help him name and question some of his own driving assumptions. For these reasons, it may be advisable even for the confirmed atheist to pass on Carrier, and look for a work that is more carefully wrought, deeply thought, and characterized by epistemic humility rather than Carrier's insuperable swagger. Still, the breadth and brevity of "Sense & Goodness" is not without is commendable qualities, and those attracted to (rather than repulsed by) the Carrier's sweeping approach and the pugnaciousness of his brand of atheism may find plenty to admire in its pages.

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