Monday, September 1, 2008

Project 40: August

“Jesus for President” by Shane Claiborne and Chris Shaw
This book was a lot more focused than Shane’s last book, The Irresistible Revolution, which was also great. In this one, he and Chris Shaw look at the incompatibility of Christianity with empire and war, right down to saying that Christians should not be in militaries. It might rub some people the wrong way, and I’m not sure I’m completely convinced of their interpretation of Romans 13, but it was thorough, full of art and color and gave me a new respect for the movers and shakers and peacemakers in the history of Christianity. A

“Everything is Illuminated” by Jonathan Safran Foer

A friend read the first page of this novel in a Russian accent in the back of the car, and that’s how I heard about it. It’s pretty wonderful. A Ukranian young man and his grandfather escort a “young rich Jew from America” around the country on a search for a woman who supposedly saved his grandfather from Nazis. They’re searching for a town that was totally destroyed, which is really heartbreaking, but most of the novel is lighthearted, going back and forth between Jonathan’s (the American) family history and the farcical journey around the country, narrated in hilarious broken English by Alex (the Ukranian). Read it! A

“God Speaks Again: An Introduction to the Baha’i Faith” by Kenneth E. Bowers
I had a friend in high school whose family was Baha’i, and other than knowing that their leader was the Baha’ullah, I didn’t know anything about the religion. I’ve learned tiny bits about it since then, but when I recently went through a spiritual reevaluation, I figured I’d put a little more effort into it. This book is very thorough on the life of Baha’ullah, less so on his son and great-grandson who became successors of leadership after his death. The book is also fairly clear in stating that Baha’is believe that Baha’ullah, Jesus, Mohammed, and Moses are all chosen “mouthpieces” of God who give humanity the proper word of God for the time period, and that Baha’ullah was the most recent. In other parts of the book, I felt like the author had the space to make a compelling argument of proof on a subject but chose not to. It’s clearly a labor of spiritual love on the part of the author, not just a cut and dry history and list of beliefs, which I can appreciate, but in the way he writes, it’s sometimes not as substantial as I’d hoped. It lives up to its title, though, and I guess that’s all you can ask for. B-

“Buddha, Vol. 3: Devadatta” by Osamu Tezuka

This volume didn’t have as much condensed material as the last two. Siddhartha is starting his monkly quest, and is confronted with more temptations of power, especially where he’s trying to withdraw from violence. He joins up with a monk who’s all about putting himself through suffering, and also gains a disciple in a snot nosed little boy. There’s a subplot of Devadatta living in a state between animal and man, which is interesting and heartbreaking and repulsive all at once. I feel like it was a setting-up book, so I didn’t give it a real great score. B-

“Locas: the Maggie and Hopey Stories” by Jaime Herdandez
This is a huge volume of a bunch of comic books mashed together. It’s about two Latina girls who are into sex, drugs and rock and roll. Oh, and hanging out in their underwear a lot, like when fixing cars. It’s a wild and crazy life, kicked off with a story about Maggie doing a mechanic job in a foreign country that involves dinosaurs and a rocketship. Nearly every older woman in the book is a female wrestler, and there are a lot of love lessons from which no one learns. The two main characters separate for a while, and I found myself frustrated that they weren’t reunited until the end, when the author tries to pull a deus ex machina and then changes his mind, which was lame. I still rooted for the characters. B-

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