Libri

I read books.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ( Steig Larsson)

Suspend your literary taste and just read this one for the plot. That was my reading strategy on this morbid thriller that started as a missing person investigation and turned unexpectedly dark about halfway through the book. This was not a book I would have chosen had I known the content, yet I found myself unable to put it down once I had started; I had to know how it would resolve!

I was particularly interested in the strange woman-child, Salander. I felt genuinely sad for her twisted little life. On p. 589 she is described  this way:
“She had no faith in herself. Blomkvist lived in a world populated by people with respectable jobs, people with orderly lives, and lots of grown-up points. His friends did things, went on TV, and shaped the headlines. What do you need me for? Salander’s greatest fear, which was so huge and so black that is was of phobic proportions, was that people would laugh at her feelings. And all of a sudden all her carefully constructed self-confidence seemed to crumble.

That’s when she made up her mind. It took her several hours to mobilise the necessary courage, but she had to see him and tell him how she felt. Anything else would be unbearable. ”

I won’t spoil it for those of you that haven’t read that far  yet, but suffice it to say it does NOT go well for her when she makes herself vulnerable to Blomkvist. I felt so sorry for her!!

Speaking of sympathy, none for that sick psychopathic killer. How does an author think this stuff up?? And this book won’t do anything to promote Swedish tourism! Usually when I read a book set in a foreign locale, it makes me yearn to visit there. Nothing about this country appealed to me, honestly.

Finally, I was struck through the novel with the stark absence of any spiritual life with any character in the book.

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The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis)

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis makes some very serious spiritual points with satire.  Wormwood, a demon-in-training, profits from the sage advice of his “affectionate Uncle Screwtape,” whose years of experience in sidelining or derailing true believers gives the serious reader pause. Yikes! I think I have fallen prey to most all of these satanic ploys.

1. “Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as malice, in your patient’s soul. The great thing is to direct the malice toward his immediate neighbors whom he meets every day, and to thrust his benevolence out to the remotest circumference, to people he does not know.  The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary.”

This quote puts me in mind of The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. Too prejudiced to use the same bathroom as their colored maids, but taking up an offering for the African orphans.

2. “The attitude which you want to guard against is that in which temporal affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience. Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours–and the more ‘religious’ (on those terms) the more securely ours.”

3.” …it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of his special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. The reason is this. To us a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy demands of men is quite a different thing.  One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth…we want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. (italics added)

You must have wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. ”

3. “Our cause is never more in danger, Wormwood, than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and askes why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

4. “All mortals tend to turn into the thing that they are pretending to be.”

5. “I divide the causes of human laughter into Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy…But flippancy is the best of all…If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against the Enemy that I know…It is a thousand miles from Joy: it deadens instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affections between those who practise it.”

6. “Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

7.” …active habits are strengthened by repetition but passive ones are weakened. The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.”

8. “His whole effort, therefore, will be to get the man’s mind off the subject of his own value altogether. He would rather the man thought himself a great architect or a great poet and then forgot about it, than that he should spend much time and pains trying to think himself a bad one… The Enemy will try to render real…the doctrine that they did not create themselves, that their talents were given them, and that they might as well be proud of the colour of their hair.”

9. The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity…Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. ..It is far better to make them live in the future. Thoughts about the future inflames hope and fear. ..Gratitude  looks to the past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead…We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, or kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present.”

10. “The sense of ownership in general is always to be encouraged. the humans are always putting up claims to ownership which sound equally funny in Heaven and in Hell and we must keep them doing so. Much of the modern resistance to chastity comes from men’s belief that they “own” their bodies.

Psalm 115: 3 Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.

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The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)

Reading this one for the second time…this book should be required reading for anyone who plans on doing foreign missions. Written by master storyteller Barbara Kingsolver, she wields a heavy handed-critique of Christians in general, and in particular those who plan to import their prejudices and preconceived ideas into another culture. She alternates points of view between the mother and her four daughters who are dragged to the Congo by The Preacher, who is trying to assauge his guilt for surviving VIetnam by devoting his life to missions.

Recommended, but watch for Kingsolver’s bias toward American capitalism and her affinity for communism.  She also feels called to correct “official history” with her literary offerings…but I can’t help but feel that she is equally biased. Is there such thing as an objective account? This viewpoint is even more prevalent in her latest novel, The Lacuna (this according to my eldest daughter, who is currently reading it.) I think I will probably skip it.

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The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible (A.J. Jacobs)

In this compelling sequel to The Know-It-All, A. J. Jacobs has written a witty, but surprisingly convicting memoir about living Biblically, something many Christians know little about. Jacobs spends eight months in the Old Testament, and four months in the New, combing through the direct commands and trying to follow them as closely as possible. He disregards the ridicule of many of his friends and co-workers, as he researches and obeys. How many Christians have done that?

Jacobs shows remarkable open-mindedness as he visits various representative groups, including Orthodox Jews, the Amish, Jerry Falwell, and the Creation Scientists at the Tennessee museum and research center. But while he travels close to the edge of actual conversion, he reverts to his own ability to reason things out and concludes his book without a satisfying (to me) stake in the ground.

Memorable passages include:

In the Amish country:

“Amos talks slowly and carefully, like he only has a few dozen sentences allotted for the weekend, and he doesn’t want to waste them at the start. I read later in the Amish book Rules of a Godly Life that you should “let your words be thoughtful, few and true.” By adopting minimalism, Amos has mastered those speech laws I’m struggling with.”

On his ironic view of relativism:

“…one of my motivations for this experiment is my recent entrance into fatherhood. I’m constantly worried about my son’s ethical education. I don’t want him to swim in this muddy soup of moral relativism. I don’t trust it. I have such a worldview, and though I have yet to commit a major felony, it seems dangerous…So I want to instill some rock-solid, absolute morals in my son. Would it be so bad if he lived by the Ten Commandments? Not at all. But how do I get him there?”

On the irony of Judaism being influenced by Martin Luther:

On this journey, I plan to be mindful of the oral law. But I’m not going to follow it exclusively. I feel I have to try to puzzle out for myself what the Bible means, even if I take some wrong turns.

All this makes me realize: In a sense, my project is steeped in Judaism, since I’m spending a lot of time on the Hebrew Scriptures. But in some ways, it’s actually more influenced by the Protestant idea that you can interpret the Bible yourself, without mediation. Sola scriptura, as it’s called.

On Jonah’s relevance to serving at the soup kitchen:

I ask myself the question God asked Jonah “Do you do well to be angry?” I ask it out loud to myself. No, I don’t, I answer. So I got elbowed by a strangely competitive soup kitchen volunteer. The world will not end.

I should remember the modern-day Ninevehs where thousands of lives are in danger–the crowd of homeless out the door at Holy Apostles, for instance, or pretty much anywhere in East Africa.

There is such a thing as biblically acceptable anger–righteous indignation…the key is to pump up  your righteous anger and mute your petty resentment.

Interesting interpretation on stoning:

[I met Yossi] through an Orthodox outreach group. [According to Yossi] we don’t stone people today because you need a biblical theocracy to enforce the stoning…no such society exists today. But even in ancient times, stoning wasn’t barbaric.

“First of all, you didn’t just heave stones…The idea was to minimize the suffering. What we call ‘stoning’ was actually pushing the person off the cliff so they would die immediately upon impact. The Talmud actually has specifications on how high the cliff must be. Also, the person getting executed was given strong drink to dull the pain.”

Hmmm…I had never heard of this interpreation of stoning. Jacobs suspects some whitewashing, and so do I.

On humanism and the irony of atheism:

I feel tempted all the time–not so much by a cult to Baal, but by the lure of secular humanism. To face my demons, I decide to go deep into the heart of unbelief: the weekly New York City Atheists meeting at a midtown Greek restaurant.

I know a fair amount of atheists, seeing as I live in a relatively godless town. But…an atheist club felt oxymoronic, like an apathy parade. But against all odds, it exists. The gathering of the godless takes place in a back room with a long table. A big blue atheism banner hangs from the ceiling, right next to the Christmas decorations of cardboard silver angels, an irony several of the atheists point out.

I meet my neighbors. One is a compact woman with graying hair and a Darwin cap. How was she converted to atheism? “I grew up with a Methodist aunt who was basically a Victorian…I couldn’t say the word leg. I had to say limb. I once said the word constipation and got smacked. The hypocrisy was too much for me.”

Ken says his road to atheism began when as a kid, he figured out there could be no Santa Claus. “It was just not feasible to deliver all those presents. This was before Fed-Ex…I started to ask myself, what else are they telling me that not’s true?”

The religious lobby does not have to worry about the atheist lobby quite yet. It’s hard to be passionate about a lack of belief.

On speaking Biblically:

[It] requires a far more radical change than raising my diction a few notches. It requires a total switch in the content of my conversation: no lying, no complaining, no gossiping…In other words, about 70 percent of all conversations in New York.

On the Sabbath:

The doorknobs in our apartment fall off on an alarmingly regular basis…For the first ten minutes I try to escape…I’m trapped…By noon, something odd happens…perhaps for the first time I pray in true peace and silence–without glancing at the clock…This is what the Sabbath should feel like. A pause. Not just a minute pause, but a major pause. Not just a lowering of the volume, but a muting. As the famous rabbi Abraham Joshua Herschel put it, the Sabbath is a sanctuary in time.

[When Julie finally returns home after four hours and opens the door] it’s kind of a shame.

There are multiple other examples of Jacobs’ wit and insight which I found challenging and memorable. In summary, this book impacted me more spiritually than a lot of things I have read by Christians…he is so earnest, and honest. Highly recommended.

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Wuthering Heights

I am realizing as I look at my copy of WH, that some of the quotes I marked are also noted in the front of the book…Perhaps I could have saved some time and just read the end flap. ha

Anyway, I liked the quote in Ch. XIV, where Heathcliff says to Isabella, ” I was a fool to fancy for a moment that she valued Edgar Linton’s attachment more than mine. If he loved with all the powers of his puny being, he couldn’t love as much in eighty years as I could in a day. And Catherine has a heart as deep as I have: the sea could be as readily contained in that horse trough as her whole affection could be monopolised by him. Tush! He is scarcely a degree dearer to her than her dog, or her horse. It is not in him to be loved like me: how can she love in him what he has not?”
I am wondering with you what exactlyl his worldview tells him that LOVE is, and how he fancies that he is so great at it.
Have you seen a movie of this book? I remember one with Timothy Dalton that came out when I was in high school, and I remember liking it. But I can’t imagine why I would have! Maybe I need to watch again. I just think that if Heathcliff is portrayed as he is in the book, he is one scary boyfriend.

Another of my favorite rants is Heathcliff describing his relationship with Isabella, where he declares that it was a “positive labour of Hercules” to make her hate him, because she continues to function under the “delusion…of me as a hero of romance.” I particularly like his use of the word “perspicacity.”

Not my favorite, by a long shot, but still…I am proud to put it on my list of books I have read.

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The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)

“There ain’t no sin and there ain’t no virtue. There’s just stuff people do. It’s all part of the same thing. And some of the things folks do is nice, and some ain’t nice, but that’s as far as any man got a right to say. “

So says the preacher/philosopher Casy in Steinbeck’s novel of the Dust Bowl years. This sums up the worldview presented in this tale full of pathos and suffering, following the migration of the Okies to California in hopes of finding a job and some dignity. The Joads are the central characters, but they represent all the uprooted tenant farmers of the era, pushed off their land by economic depression and the increasing technology in farming. They find little to rejoice over when they at last arrive in California, where no labor unions yet exist to give them a voice against tyrannical landholders. So they slave over the peaches and the cotton, the grapes and the asparagus, battling for  the two-bit/ hour jobs that are better than nothing, but not much.

The “citadel” of the family is the mother, because the father has lost his self-respect and confidence through the extreme hardships the family has suffered.

“Her hazel eyes seemed to have experienced all possible tragedy and to have mounted pain and suffering like steps into a high, calm and superhuman understanding. She seemed to know, to accept, to welcome her position, the citadel of the family, the strong place that could not be taken. and since old Tom and the children could not know hurt or fear unless she acknowledged hurt and fear, she had practiced denying them in herself. … Imperturbability could be depended upon. And from her great and humble position in the family she had taken dignity and a clean calm beauty. From her position as healer, her hands had grown sure and cool and quiet; from her position as arbiter she had become as remote and faultless in judgement as a goddess. She seemed to know that if she swayed the family shook, and if she ever really deeply wavered or despaired the family would fall…”

And when they are turned out of their house, with literally no where to go, they must ask themselves this heart-wrenching question: ” How can we live without our lives? How will we know it’s us without our past?” Answer: “No. Leave it. Burn it.” So with what they can cram into the back of a remodeled car with sideboards, they head west hoping for hope to return.

They continued to be guided along the way by Casy the “un-preacher”, who debates his role with the eldest son Tom, who was recently released from prison and breaking parole to travel West with the family.

Tom: “For a fellow that don’t preach no more—“

Casey: “Oh, I’m a talker!…No getting away from that. But I ain’t preachin’. Preachin’ is telling folks stuff. I’m askin’ ’em. That ain’t preachin’, is it?”

Tom: “I don’ know…Preachin’s a kinda tone a voice, an’ preachin’s a way a lookin’ at things. Preachin’s being good to folks when they wanna kill ya for it. Las’ Christmas in McAlester, Salvation Army come an’ done us good. Three solid hours a cornet music, an’ we set there. They was bein’ nice to us. But if one of us tried to walk out, we’d a-drawed solitary. That’s preachin’. Doin’ good to a fella that’s down an’ can’t smack ya in the puss for it. No, you ain’t no preacher. But don’t you blow no cornets aroun’ here.”

In an ironic plot twist, Casy turns out to be the salvation of the family, in spite of renouncing his religious role.

Sad but memorable and beautifully written. Steinbeck’s poetic style lends itself perfectly to this melancholy tale Recommended, but with a warning for profanity.

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Cotillion (Georgette Heyer)

Definitely not my favorite of the book club selections thus far, but a fairly entertaining jaunt into the silly world of high society in Victorian England. Think Pride and Prejudice meets The Office.

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The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)

“But don’t you think, [Clare persists,] that it’s better to be extremely happy for a short while, even if you lose it, than to be just okay for your whole life?”

Clare has known Henry since she was a child, and has grown to love him through their sporadically regular visits in the meadow near her childhood home. She is always waiting for Henry to return, and the moments and memories they create together sustain her in the waiting times, as Henry time-travels forward and backward. This is a poignant story of love and loss, with the overriding message that love is worth the pain of losing.

It is interesting to note that Henry does not travel far geographically or chronologically.

More complex than I expected; overall a good story.

Caution: Language and sexual references. Not for children!

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The History of Love (Nichole Krauss)

The History of Love is not history. It is a book about a book written by one man, and subsequently published by another, who believes that the original author has died in the Nazi camps. Ironically, the true author lives his life in insignificance, and struggles daily to make himself noticed. His worst fear is to die on a day that no one saw him.

The underlying love story of the novel is a tragedy: Leo is separated from the love of his life and sent to the camps, while his beloved Alma escapes the Jews’ fate because her father can afford to send her to America. She does not know that Leo still lives, and makes her choices accordingly. When Leo manages to follow her to America, things don’t work out as he had dreamed.  Meanwhile, a young Alma is named after the original by her parents, who love Leo’s book. When her mother begins translating The History of Love, young Alma discovers the secret of her name and the true author of the book. An additional sad/funny thread involves Alma’s little brother, who thinks he is a lamed vodnik. I don’t have a Yiddish dictionary, but I infer from the story that this means a messiah figure, which involves some special spiritual gifts. He is a quirky child, who, not surprisingly, does not fit in well with his peers.

I really like the ending of this book, but I found it confusing as I read it, and had to start over once, after I had read about a third. It was poignant in places, and overall I am glad I read it. But I did not love it as much as Amy did. Sorry, Amy.

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Life at the Bottom: The Worldview that Makes the Underclass (Theodore Dalrymple)

I used an entire package of post-it flags on this insightful non-fiction winner. Dalrymple hits the nail on the proverbial head on page after page, as he analyzes and scrutinizes our post-modern, relativistic culture through the case studies in his psychiatric office in England.

In his opening chapter, “The Knife Went In,” Dalrymple laments, “The collapse of the British character has been as swift and complete as the collapse of British power.” As he listens to people give account of their lives, he is struck by the awesome lack of control people express over their own lives, the exact opposite of Francis Bacon’s famous proverb, “the mould of man’s fortune is in his own hands.” Instead, Dalrymple states, they “experience themselves as putty in the hands of fate.”

What is the source of this cataclysmic paradigm shift? Dalrymple traces it to the worldview that equalizes everything, and in so doing devalues everything as well. Many of Dalrymple’s patients arrive at his office suicidal; one case study illustrates the mindset of these tragic victims of themselves. He writes:  “…An eighteen-year-old girl lies looking  up at the ceiling. She took her overdose…after a row with her boyfriend, ten years older than she, an ex-soldier dishonorably discharged from the army for smoking marijuana…He is very jealous of her, wants to know where she is every minute of the day, accuses of her of infidelity…Though he has not yet hit her, he has been threatening at times. She is frightened now to go anywhere without him, for fear of his reaction…’ What should I do?’, she asks.  Dalrymple advises her, “Your boyfriend will imprison you. He will take over your life completely, and if you go to live with him he will become violent. You will spend several years being ill-treated and abused; eventually you will leave him, but you will not have been a victim. On the contrary, you will have been the co-author of your own misery, because I have now told you what to expect, just as your parents and your friends have told you.”  Her response?  “But I love him.”

Dalrymple claims that deliberate self-harm (attempted suicide) is the most common cause of emergency admission to the hospital in England among women and the second most common among men, one of the highest rates in the world. However, the completed suicide rate is relatively low. He muses that it is unlikely that they are incompetent in this area, but rather that most do not intend to die. In fact, the legalization of this behavior in the 1960’s was followed by a huge increase–“Within a few years, overdosing was a traditional as Christmas.” Why this increase in such pecular behavior? While Dalrymple admits that no simple cause and effect can be proven, he does notice that in countries where one must struggle to simply survive, virutally no one “attempts” suicide. He theorizes that in modern welfare states, and subsistence is more or less assured, people have nothing to fear and nothing to hope. (p. 24) Nothing is left but “entertainment and personal relationships.” And when entertainment informs us that so many enjoy glamorous wealthy lives with apparent ease, resentment and jealousy arise which cannot be satisfied.  They become” stars of their own soap operas.”  And nothing says drama like suicide.

Dalrymple continues his analysis of  the loss of a value system upon which to build our lives. Offering case studies drawn from his years of medical practice, he artfully describes the decline of the culture until I forgot he was talking about England. Everything he said applies so perfectly to today’s American mind: adrift in a sea of relativistic, liberal thinking, Cut loose from the Judeo-Christian moorings which anchored our nation’s beginnings, Dalrymple could have been writing from New York, Miami, or Temple, Texas.

Sadly, the author does not offer any good solutions, but complains loudly that liberalism is going to be the death of us all. If not for the gospel, I would have to agree.

However, I still marked more quotes in this book than any other book I’ve read in recent memory, excluding the Bible. So I must chronicle some of those here, for my own reference later. Skip them and read the book if you can. Highly recommended.

QUOTES:

RELATIVISM

p. 27 And it is clear from what I see almost every day that not all cultural values are compatible or can be reconciled by the enunciation of platitudes. The idea that we can all rub along together, without the law having to discriminate  in favor of one set of cultural values rather than another, is worse than merely false; it makes no sense whatever.

p. 35 The idea that it is possible to base a society on no cultural or philosophical presuppositions at all, or alternatively, that all such presuppositions may be treated equally so that no choice has to be made between them, is absurd.

SEXUAL REVOLUTION

p. 42 The fact remains that a hospital such as mind has experienced in the last two decades a huge increase in the number of injuries to women, most of them the result of domestic violence and many of them of the kind that would always have come to medical attention…and there is a very good reason why such violence should have increased under the new sexual dispensation. If people demand sexual liberty for themselves, but sexual fidelity from others, the result is the inflammation of jealousy…I meet at least five Othellos and five Desdemonas a week, and this is something new.”

p. 45 But why does the woman not leave the man as son as he manifests his violence? It is because, perversely, violence is the only token she has of his commitment to her…In the absence of a marriage ceremony, a black eye is his promissory note to love, honor, cherish, and protect.”

ENTERTAINMENT

P. 58 -59 Entertainment should require as little active mental contribution as possible. Primum inter pares is, of course, television. The average English adult now watches twenty-seven hours of it per week, it is said, twice as much as two decades ago…In the hospital is is now regarded as cruel to deprive the patient of their daily screen: so much so that watching it has become virtually compulsory for them, or at least inescapable for those not in a position to remove themselves. Gone are the days when the hospital was a place of quiet and repose; no one dies nowadays without benefit of chat-show.

EDUCATION

P.  70-71  Education has always been a minority interest in England. The English have generally preferred to keep the bloom of their ignorance intact and on the whole have succeeded remarkably well, despite a century and a quarter of compulsory schooling of their offspring…Very few of the sixteen-year-olds whom I meet as patients can read and write with facility; they do not even regard my question as to whether they can read or write as in the least surprising or insulting…Most of the young whites I meet cannot name a single writer and certainly cannot recite a line of poetry…To them, 1066 is more likely to mean a price than a date.

p. 70  These are the young condemned to live in an eternal present, a present that merely exists, without connection to  a past that might explain it or to a future that might develop from it.

p. 73 This is where the baleful effect of education as mere entertainment makes itself felt. For to develop an interest requires powers of concentration and an ability to tolerate a degree of boredom while the elements of a skill are learned for the sake of a worthwhile end.

SUCCESS REDEFINED

P. 79 In modern Britain, the direction of cultural aspiration has reversed: for the first time in history, it is the middle and upper classes that aspire to be taken for their social inferiors.  (see also the chapter analyzing the rise in the popularity of tatoos)

p. 79 The signs of the reversal in the flow of aspiration are everywhere. Recently a member of the royal family, a granddaughter of the queen, had a metal stud inserted into her tongue and proudly displayed it to the press. Such body piercing began as a strictly  underclass fashion…

WORSHIP AND SPIRITUALITY

p. 89 Opposite my house…stands a Victorian Gothic church…Its interior is unspoiled, its stained glass windows magnificent. It is almost always empty. The architect…could not have imagined that, a century and a quarter later, the established church that commissioned his splendid building would be on the verge of distinction…more interested in Third World Indebtedness and Global Warming than Sin.

MONEY

p. 102 The British have a curious attitude towards wealth; they desire it for themselves but wish to deny it to others. And so, not surprisingly, there are very few methods of acquiring wealth of which they approve. Among them is gambling.

p. 103 The poorest and worst-educated section of the population spends the most, both relatively and absolutely, on lottery tickets…Most Britons equate inequalities of wealth with inequity and injustice, and explain away their own urge for sudden enrichment as a kind of poor man’s revenge upon a system that allows men to accumulate an unfairly large portion of the world’s goods by talent and hard work.

p. 109 You can bet on anything, it seems: the results of individual soccer and boxing matches, the forthcoming election, the outcome of a debate in the House of Commons…and even on the likelihood of the end of the world happening by the year 2000, though presumably collection in the event of being right would in this instance prove difficult.

p. 110 The third type of gambling establishment is the casino…They are businessmen  with money to throw away: to lose a few thousand in front of their peers and retain their sangfroid brings them prestige. They must be doing well if losing a sum like that within a few minutes hardly affects them.

p. 112  As Dostoevsky remarks, no other human activity provides so many and such strong emotions in so short a space of time: fevered hope, despair, elation, joy, misery, excitement, disappointment. This is crack cocaine without the chemicals.

CULTURE SHIFT

p. 114 The children of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent make up a quarter of all British medical students, twelve times their proportion in the general population…Among the Indian immigrants who arrived in the country with next to nothing, moreover, there now reportedly some thousands of millionaires.

p.  114  It is the mind, not society, that forges the manacles that keep people enchained to their misfortunes. But where there can be upward mobility, there can be mobility in the opposite direction. And the children of Indian immigrants are dividing in to two groups: a segment that chooses the upward path, and a segment that chooses descent into the underclass.

p. There are many outward signs of the acculturation of Indians into the lower depths…tattooing is fast on the increase among them…gold in the front teeth…is imitative of the black underclass and is itended as a signal of both success and dangerousness…They now walk with the same self-assured vulpine lope as their white compatriots, not merely as a means of locomotion but as a means of communicating threat…He slouches in the chair at so acute an angle to the floor that I would not have thought it possible, let alone comfortable, for a man to retain the position. But it isn’t comfort he is after: he is making a statement of disrespect in the face of what he supposes to be authority.

p. 118 The liberal would no doubt argue that the formation of the Indian underclass is the inevitable response to poverty and prejudice and the despair  they evoke…But if they are caught in a vicious cycle of poverty, why do so many of their compatriots succeed, and succeed triumphantly?

p. 119 He (a young addict) was under the influence of an idea that the seedy side of life is more genuine, more authentic, than the refined and cultured side…

p. 123  The underclass life offers the prospect of freedom without responsibility…they are left to discover for themselves that the exercise of freedom requires virtue if it is not to turn into a nightmare.

ANTISOCIAL BEHAVIOR/MENTAL ILLNESS

P. 133  Does not antisocial behavior increase in proportion to the excuses that intellectuals make for it?

p. 220 No one gains kudos in the criminological fraternity by suggesting that police and punishment are necessary in a civilized society. To do so would be to appear illiberal and lacking faith in man’s primordial goodness. It is much better for one’s reputation, for example, to refer to the large number of American prisoners as “the American gulag,” as if there were no relevant differences between the former Soviet Union and the United States.

p. 222 We hate nothing so much as the living refutation of our cherished ideas.

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