Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Sin Bravely: A Memoir of Spiritual Disobedience


Of the spiritual memoirs I've read most recently (see my posts for Post Traumatic Church Syndrome and A Year of Living Prayerfully ) Rowe's work was, without a doubt, the most raw. The author tells the story of how her doubts of being saved, despite the fact that she had been baptized, and had, on countless occasions, publicly professed Jesus Christ as her lord and savoir eventually consumed her. As a young college woman in the 1990s this lifetime of confusion catches up with her. The overwhelming feeling that she was not doing enough to demonstrate her Christianity (a condition she discovers has a name - scrupulosity) lead her to check in at Grace Point, a psychiatric hospital "where the Bible comes first". The book details her time at Grace Point and incorporates flashbacks of her life prior to the panic attack that ultimately motivated her to seek help there.

Rowe made good use of her college library. She not only used the viewing room to watch BBC productions of Shakespeare plays for class with her boyfriend she also attacked her "theological demons" there by reading what "theologians and the early church fathers had written about salvation and hell". She specifically mentions drawing a "trench line in a remote corner of the Cornell library, between Dewey decimals 220 and 230". While I don't doubt she did the research, I do question that Cornell University Library used the Dewey Decimal System to classify its books. The Library of Congress system is most commonly used in research libraries and so it appears that Cornell does, at least currently, follow this custom. Perhaps things were different in the 1990s, but that is unlikely. I expect Rowe took a bit of artistic license here.

Rowe worried a lot about the eternal fates of the many good people she knew who were not Christians, including the "Asian librarian with the Buddhist yin-yang symbol around her neck who didn't charge [her] a late fee for [her] overdue books". She needn't have concerned herself, though - all librarians go to heaven! The destiny of those who return library books late, however, is another matter.

Rowe's work is funny, honest, and surprising.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome - by Reba Riley


In my quest to find a religiously-themed, yet light-hearted story for a possible One Book One Community Read I came across Riley's book. Like Jared Brock's A Year of Living Prayerfully Riley makes a "year of" project out of exploring a variety of religions. The purpose of her search, however, is quite different than Brock's, and she also is more willing to examine faiths beyond those with a Judeo-Christian history including Muslims, Wiccans, and Native American spiritualities.

An interesting connection between her book and Brock's however is that both are living with a chronic, undiagnosed illness. The Sickness, as Riley calls it, sometimes prevents her from researching as much as she might before attending a service. For instance she was surprised to learn that visiting a synagogue on Yom Kippur without a ticket just wasn't a thing.

She does mention doing research on several occasions, including twice using a library, even checking out a book on one occasion!

Riley's year goes from her 29th birthday to her 30th attainment day. I cringed when she referred to this as her 29th year. It was her 30th. The day a person is born they begin their first year, which ends the day before their first birthday. Their second year begins, then, on their first birthday, and so on. Her mistake though is common. Let's agree to stop this madness here and now.

Despite my issues with her counting of years, I enjoyed the book. It is funny, and the author kept the focus on herself. It is definitely a contender for One Book One Community.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children (Books 2 & 3) - by Ransom Riggs


I finally got around to reading the rest of the series from Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. When I discovered that the third book was called Library of Souls I really couldn't put it off any longer. Books two and three continue the tale of Jacob and his Peculiar friends using the same vintage photograph device as was used in book one.

Book 2 (Hollow City) is not so library-centric, with the Peculiars encountering only one library as they run through a bombed-out London during World War II seeking shelter, not only from the bombs, but from the hollows chasing them.
Still I could feel them coming. There were out in the open now, out of the cathedral, lurching after us, invisible to all but me. I wondered if even I would be able to see them here, in the dark: shadow creatures in a shadow city. 
We ran until my lungs burned. Until Olive couldn't keep up anymore and Bronwyn had to scoop her into her arms. Down long blocks of blacked-out windows staring like lidless eyes. Past a bombed library snowing ash and burning papers. Through a bombed cemetery, long-forgotten Londoners unearthed and flung into tress grinning in rotted formal wear.... 
Book three finds our heroes in an especially creepy place called Devil's Acre where murder is "tolerated with reservations" and piracy is "discouraged". "Is anything illegal here?" Addison (the talking dog) asks. "Library fines are stiff" is the reply. "Ten lashes a day, and that's just for paperbacks". Astonished that the place even has a library Addison is even more surprised to learn that there are actually two "though one won't lend because all the books are bound in human skin and quite valuable." Neither of these libraries were, however, the Library of Souls, a place where the souls of peculiars are deposited for reuse. As explained in Tales of the Peculiar, the only book in "peculiardom" ever to be banned
It was thought that peculiar souls were a precious thing in limited supply, and it would be a waste to take them with us to the grave. Instead at the end of [their] lives [they] made a pilgrimage to the library where...souls would be deposited for future use by others. Even in spiritual matters...peculiars have always been frugal-minded.
Of course special librarians "who could read peculiar souls like they were books"  are needed in order to access the souls in the mythical library, and finding one of them was near impossible as "a librarian hasn't been born for a thousand years".

Librarians really do matter.