L.B.: Imperio

Left Behind, pp. 384-387

Buck sat without interrupting as this most lucid and earnest professional calmly propounded a theory that only three weeks before Buck would have found absurd.

We’re being given Buck’s point of view here, a window into his thoughts, so this choice of words is apparently his: a "most lucid and earnest professional calmly propounding a theory." Indubitably, my good man. Suddenly Buck Williams has turned into Bertie Wooster.

Buck seems unduly impressed with Rayford’s after-the-fact prediction of the Rapture. This theory might certainly have sounded absurdly audacious if he’d made the claim three weeks earlier, but a week after the Event it’s not terribly impressive. Much of Left Behind is a variation on the self-congratulatory, question-begging Visitor from the Future* schtick. It works even less well here, with Rayford playing the role of an oracular time traveler from the very recent past.

Buck, however, finds this ex post facto prophecy immensely compelling:

It sounded like things he had heard in church and from friends, but this guy had chapter and verse from the Bible to back it up. And this business of the two preachers in Jerusalem representing two witnesses predicted in the book of Revelation? Buck was aghast.

The assumption here is that "chapter and verse from the Bible to back it up" provides an irrefutable, indisputable trump card. The confusion here is not unique to LaHaye and Jenkins — it’s a common notion among American evangelicals.

II Timothy 3:16 sums up what we evangelicals believe about the Bible: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God." But evangelicals rarely cite this passage as a mere statement or summary of what they believe. They cite it, rather, as though it were proof and validation of that belief. (See also II Peter 1:21, Psalm 119, etc.) Every word in the Bible is true. How do we know? Because it says so right here in the Bible and every word in the Bible is true.

This circular reasoning can seem to make sense if you’ve spent most of your life within a subcultural bubble in which everyone else shares your premises and conclusions and your inability to distinguish between the two. The trouble arises when they venture outside of the bubble and encounter others who do not share the same preconceptions about the self-evident authority of this particular holy book. Those others won’t be convinced by the self-affirming recitation of II Timothy 3:16, and the evangelical innocents abroad aren’t equipped to do much more than repeat the assertion. Second verse, same as the first …

That’s part of what we’re seeing here in LB. It’s not that the authors don’t agree with or understand those who don’t share their assumptions about the inherent, undeniable authority of citing "chapter and verse from the Bible." It’s more than that. The authors can’t even imagine that such people exist. Thus we have the supposedly secular and skeptical Buck Williams shaken to his core by something he has no reason to find impressive, persuasive or even relevant.

Try to imagine what it would mean if the world were like this — if, as the authors imagine, everyone inherently recognized the teaching of the KJV Bible as an unchallenged and unchallengeable authority. In such a world there would only be atheists or pantheists or Buddhists or Hindus because all of those people simply didn’t yet realize that the Bible told them not to be atheists, pantheists, Buddhists or Hindus. It follows that if any such person were to be confronted with "chapter and verse" explaining this to them, they would be forced to concede the point and would convert without hesitation. LaHaye and Jenkins probably wouldn’t agree with the idea expressed in such stark terms, but something very much like this seems to infuse the prophecy-evangelism scenes in this book. The same notion also seems to lurk behind much of the mass media "proclamation evangelism" conducted here in America.**

The other idea that seems to be at work here in LB is a variation on the magical/spellcasting spirituality we’ve seen elsewhere in the book. The incantation of chapter and verse, the authors seem to believe, invokes mystic power. This idea is prevalent in a lot of the "spiritual warfare" talk popular among the charismatic strands of evangelicalism. The spiritual warfare gurus love to cite the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness as though it were an introductory course in Defense Against the Dark Arts. The salient point of the story, for them, is not its profound contrast of love and power, but rather its demonstration of mystical defensive techniques. A magic trick. When tempted by Satan, Jesus quoted scripture. Thus, they believe, when confronted by the forces of darkness, Christians should follow suit by raising their wands and chanting "Expecto patronus!" … er, I mean, by citing chapter and verse from the Bible to invoke divine protection.

This chapter-and-verse invocation of mystical power is implicit in the way Rayford casts a spell over Buck here. It’s made much more explicit later in the book, when Buck’s newfound holy mojo serves as a literal counter-enchantment to Nicolae’s sorcery.

"Enchantment" isn’t too strong a word for the head-spinning awe Jenkins describes as Buck’s reaction to Rayford’s sales pitch:

Buck was desperate to maintain his composure. He wasn’t sure what he was hearing, but Steele was impressive. … What else would give Buck this constant case of the chills?

Buck focused on Captain Steele, his pulse racing, looking neither right nor left. He could not move. He was certain the women could hear his crashing heart. …

Phew. Is it getting hot in here or is it just Buck? This is all intended as a description of Buck’s spiritual anxiety, but if he’s about to drop to his knees it doesn’t seem like it would be for prayer.

We get a great deal more of Buck’s insistence that Steele’s spiel is "impressive" and "profound and convincing," yet as usual we hear almost nothing of his actual words. The longest speech here comes from Buck — just after we’re told how he sat "without interrupting" and just before we’re told he was "speechless" he rattles off some more exposition from the End Times Checklist:

"Have you heard the latest?" Buck told him what he had seen on CNN during his few brief minutes at his apartment. "Apparently thousands are making some sort of a pilgrimage to the Wailing Wall. They’re lined up for miles, trying to get in and hear the preaching. Many are converting and going out themselves to preach. The authorities seem powerless to keep them out, despite the opposition of the Orthodox Jews. Anyone who comes against the preachers is struck dumb or paralyzed, and many of the old orthodox guard are joining forces with the preachers."

"Amazing," the pilot responded. "But even more amazing, it was all predicted in the Bible."

While this is a bit more impressive than the initial story of the trip-and-die guys, it still doesn’t qualify as "amazing." (When are the prophets going to breathe fire? We were promised fire-breathing.) "Religious dispute in Jerusalem," isn’t front-page news now, let alone something that would knock The Event out of the No. 1 spot in the news cycle a mere eight days later. The Event would have reset the scale for what survivors would consider amazing. Post-Event, video of Elvis and Bigfoot riding the Loch Ness Monster bareback would scarcely qualify as "remarkable." "Amazing" would be reserved for something huge, something earth-shattering — like, for instance, if CNN had been reporting that they had found a child, a 4 year old, in an abandoned house somewhere in upstate New York. That would be amazing. That would have people gathering around television sets, hanging on the reporter’s every word. Post-Event, a lethally successful membership drive by Jews for Jesus might register as "notable," but not amazing.

Despite Buck’s palpitations, when we switch back to Rayford’s point of view, we find that he’s convinced his sales pitch is falling flat:

Rayford was certain he was not getting through. … It was clear that Williams wasn’t buying it personally. If Rayford had to guess, he’d say Williams was trying to hide a smirk …

It’s just like Rashomon. Or at least just like Rashomon if, instead of showing us the different versions of the story, Kurosawa had just told us about how they made the various characters feel.

The point here is a reminder that we may not always be aware of how the Holy Spirit is at work in what we say and do. This is a common point in sermons on the duty of evangelism, so it’s not surprising to see the authors emphasizing thispoint here in what they are trying to pretend is a scene about evangelism. The authors follow so many of the conventions of such sermons in all of these pseudo-evangelistic scenes, creating such an air of familiarity for their evangelical readers that it’s easy for those readers to miss what’s really going on in these scenes with Rayford and Hattie or Rayford and Buck. It’s not evangelism.

The authors seem to be trying to obscure this point. They follow all the conventions of evangelism stories and sermons, as though Rayford were setting out to share the gospel. But he never does. He never attempts or intends to. Rayford’s message for Hattie and Buck and everyone else is not the Christian gospel. His message is never "God loves you," or "Your sins are forgiven," or even "You’re going to Hell unless you pray this magical prayer." His message has nothing to do with sin, forgiveness or eternal life. It has nothing to do with Jesus Christ, whom Rayford never mentions. His message is exclusively this: "My interpretation of prophecy is true."

You’ve doubtless witnessed the outcry and indignation that ensues when American evangelicals become convinced that someone is threatening to "take the Christ out of Christmas." Yet here LaHaye and Jenkins have completely removed Christ from the gospel of Christ and no one seems to have even noticed.

Of all the dismaying aspects of these books’ runaway popularity among evangelicals, this might be the most surprising.

- – - – - – - – - – - – -

* The time traveler turned with great sadness. "If only," he said, "if only you had listened to the author of this story and done everything he advised when you had the chance." And then he was gone, returned to that doomed and tragic future from whence he came. … That sort of thing.

** The expectation seems to be that hearers will respond to such proclamations of the gospel the same way that the Karen people of Burma did when Adoniram Judson arrived. The Karen had a legend that one day their white brother would come from across the sea with the golden book that would teach them the way to salvation. "About time you got here," they said when Judson showed up. "Now let’s get on with the mass conversions already." This turns out not to be the typical response when missionaries arrive.

  • Ken

    Left Behind: The Kids, though, is probably ever-so-slightly intentional. — Geds
    I’m just waiting to see Left Behind: for Pets
    Geds, I had a very nice lady come to the Reference Desk last night to complain about MZB’s Mists of Avalon because she kept expecting everybody to make the altar call at the end… — hapax
    Are you sure Allen Funt wasn’t taping you?
    Or that you didn’t fall into a South Park episode and run into Kyle’s Mom?
    Ah, yes, MZB’s Mists of Avalon. Feminist Wicca deconstructs King Arthur, with Celtic/Gaelic spellings for all the names. The type of fantasy you read purely to show how MZB-SQUEEEE! trufannish you are, or to praise the Emperor’s Wonderful New Wardrobe with all the other fanboy courtiers who know as much as you do.
    And just what do “the yellow stickers” signify? The children’s section?

  • http://profile.typekey.com/Abelardus/ Abelardus

    Tonio,
    I looked up Alexander Key, found a site with several of his (out-of-print) stories and books transcribed online. Any book/story you can recommend for starters; maybe a couple in case one of ‘em isn’t there?

  • Elphaba

    What’s funniest to me about that Mists of Avalon story is that it sounds like she read the whole book expecting that altar call. A chapter or two into it, most people would probably realize how unlikely that would be. You have to really think your assumptions about the world are universal to not pick up on where that book is coming from.

  • Bugmaster

    I took her over to the section with the yellow stickers…

    Seriously ? Libraries have those now ? Special “Christian-approved ™” stickers, for bland uninspiring fundamentalist books ? That’s pretty sad. When did it happen ?

  • cjmr

    I had a very nice lady come to the Reference Desk last night to complain about MZB’s Mists of Avalon because she kept expecting everybody to make the altar call at the end, and she was disgusted by the “incessant anti-Christian bias.”
    *spits drink across room*
    Wonder if she’s ever read any MZB before. Or, for that matter, anything in that genre.

  • hapax

    Libraries have those now ? Special “Christian-approved ™” stickers, for bland uninspiring fundamentalist books ?
    Pretty much, yeah, except we call them “Inspirational Fiction.” However, the name doesn’t mean “inspirational”, it means “fiction that adheres to the ECPA’s standards and code (i.e., no swearing, no sex, and with a theme that “witnesses to the character of Jesus Christ to a world in need.”)
    They’re not all “bland” or “uninspiring”, except in the sense that pretty much most of bestselling fiction is such.
    I struggle with the stickers, but really it isn’t much different than stickering “romance” or “mystery” or “science fiction” or any one of the many other genre designations we use. Stickers, generally speaking, are used only on genre books that fit comfortably within genre reader expectations — heterosexual happily ever afters, dead bodies and killers captured, spaceships and time machines, etc. Ranganathan’s Fourth Law and all that.
    I have a bit more freedom to stretch genre boundaries in the catalog, where I can designate HANDMAID’S TALE (to resurrect a former thread) as sf, or Hendra’s MESSIAH OF MORRIS AVENUE or Salzman’s LYING AWAKE as “Christian fiction.”

  • hapax

    So where’d Praline’s book be shelved in your library?
    As a cross-genre title, it isn’t pulled out for separate shelving; it gets a “fantasy” sticker, plus genre headings for “horror” (werewolves and all that) and “suspense.” It isn’t shelved anywhere, because it has been on continual loan since we got it, and I’m still on the waiting list (I put myself on after reading the reviews, not knowing the author was Our Very Own Praline)

  • cjmr

    Wonder what’s more flattering for an author–continually checked out or someone liking the book so much they stole it from the library. There were copies in some of the other branches, fortunately, so one should be making its way to me at our local branch in 10 days or so.

  • jamoche

    Ranganathan’s Fourth Law
    *googles*
    “Save the time of the Reader”
    *boggles*
    “Saving time” and “library”? Libraries are for wasting time in – wandering around and finding something unexpected and interesting. Unless it’s a research library, but this seems to be intended as a general rule.

  • Jeff

    Geds, I had a very nice lady come to the Reference Desk last night to complain about MZB’s Mists of Avalon because … she was disgusted by the “incessant anti-Christian bias.”
    I was a bit disgusted by the “incessant anti-Christian bias.” I knew there was going to be a fair amount of “Pagans, Pagans, Yay!”, “Womyn Rule!” and “Christians messed EVERYthing up!” but it got totally overbearing (and this from someone who prefers Mary Stewart to T H White, although Mallory is my first and true love).
    So where’d Praline’s book be shelved in your library?
    Were I a librarian, I’d shelve “Benighted” in Mysteries, preferably near Chandler and Spillane, and have it cross-referenced to Fantasy.

  • Jeff

    Libraries are for wasting time in – wandering around and finding something unexpected and interesting.
    Yes and no. It’s useful to find a specific book, but become beguiled by the oddities en route to it and around it. Even if I’m just there to waste time, a well-organized library is more fun to waste time in than a poorly organized one.

  • Bugmaster

    You know, I haven’t been to a physical library since my high school days (college doesn’t count, since I was reading primarily nonfiction at that time). These days, I just download ebooks, or buy regular books on Amazon or elsewhere. I wonder if it’s part of a trend, or if I’m just weird…

  • jamoche

    Even if I’m just there to waste time, a well-organized library is more fun to waste time in than a poorly organized one.
    True, but in the context of the lady with strange expectations of MZB, a library that narrows your choices so that you never come into contact with anything unexpected is bad.
    But then I’m still trying to find a library that connects to L-space.

  • Lauren

    I have found that I favor purchasing books now, too.
    I think a small part of it is that I like hanging out in brick-and-mortar bookstores, where all the books are shiny and new, and where I can sip a latte while I browse. And of course, when I am in a bookstore I nearly always leave with a book.
    Mostly it is just the aura of convenience. If I want a book from a library, my branch might not have it, and I might have to wait days. I don’t even have the option of paying extra to make it come faster. And then, I have to remember what the due date is, and if I’m not done, I have to actually remember to renew it online. The horror. Plus, there is always the remote possibility that I might like the book so well I want to read it again, and if I had the sudden urge to do so at 8 PM on a Sunday I wouldn’t have it handy. And so on.
    In a rational cost-benefit analysis, I realize that even if I had a book overdue, it would take months to accrue a fine that would be more than the cost of buying a book and reading it once. Or not at all. I have a whole shelf of books I haven’t read yet.

  • Elhpaba

    I agree that the “yay Pagans boo Christians” theme in Mists of Avalon was overdone. It started to get repetitive and feel like a bad substitution for character development in some cases.

  • Jeff

    I haven’t been to a physical library since my high school days (college doesn’t count, since I was reading primarily nonfiction at that time).
    My mom is a Friend of the [Local] Library and goes there at least once a week. She’s not technical enough for e-books (and would prefer paper anyway) and is voracious enough that the library is a MUCH more economic alternative to on-line orders. It’s right next to the Senior Center, so she’s started to combine visits.
    When I visit, we always have at least one visit, and it’s fun to wonder around and see what’s new, what’s in front (the more popular stuff), and to wonder to a random corner and find something interesting.
    As jamoche said, you’re not going to find something truly weird and unexpected when you order from Amzon (although some of their “You might also like” is a little off-the-wall!).

  • Chris

    re the “Mists of Avalon” lady: I’m reminded of the Venture Brothers episode where Rusty watches Dolly Parton’s “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” and keeps believing, up until ten minutes from the end, that it will turn out to be a porn flick.
    I’ve heard that MZB actually wasn’t truly happy about either Paganism (not sure how accurate her understanding was) or Christianity and that her “Avalon” series was an attempt to reconcile both religions to a better whole. Don’t quote me on it, though. The only experience I’ve had with her fiction is “The Firebrand”, which subjects the Trojan myth to the idiot-”feminist” (wimmyn should HAVE SEX A LOT! and worship the MOTHER GODDESS!) treatment. It was an aggravating experience. I’ve heard that “The Mists of Avalon” shows more respect for the source material, but I’m more eager to read just about anything else.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    Chris: I’ve heard that “The Mists of Avalon” shows more respect for the source material
    No, not at all. For example, she has both “Lancelet” and Bedwyr showing up, without any apparent recognition that Lancelot was a later French addition to the Matter of Britain, and there are various other muddles as well.

  • Comrade Rutherford

    Bugmaster:
    ” These days, I just download ebooks, or buy regular books on Amazon or elsewhere. I wonder if it’s part of a trend, or if I’m just weird…”
    I specifically buy books ONLY from an independently owned bookstore.
    Personally I don’t buy anything, ever, from Amazon… They fall into the same category as comapnies like Wal-Mart and Starbucks, they are evil, since their entire business plan is to specifically destroy small businesses.

  • Jeff

    I’ve heard that “The Mists of Avalon” shows more respect for the source material
    There is very little “source material” to go on. The best evidence is that Arthur was head of a clan who brought a few other clans together to fight the Saxons (from the 6th century or so). From this, Geoffrey of Monmouth used a great deal of imagination to creat the mostly fictional “History of the Kings of Britain”. So by 1136, Arthur was already the stuff of legends.
    Then came Chrétien de Troyes, who added a French tradition of romance to a military tale. Thomas Mallory solidified most of what we think of as “Arthurian Legend” with his Morte D’Arthur (1485).
    Morgan[a] La Fey, Guinevere, Lancelot, most of the Arthurian crowd we know today were added to the legend in the 12th century or later. The life of a 6th century clan chief has been somewhat sketchily assembled; the conflict between Celtic polytheism / naturalism and Christianity is also vaguely known; but specifics, and the conceits that fill MoA come more from MZB’s head than any reasearch book.
    (The confluence of the National Hero book, such as French The Song Of Roland, the Spanish El Cid and the German Parzival in the 1100′s is quite interesting. Find a version that has the original language as well as the translation — it’s quite stirring poetry.)

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    Jeff; There is very little “source material” to go on.
    There’s quite a bit of early written material: the Historia Regum Britanniae, Culhwch ac Olwen, the Mabinogion. There’s stacks of medieval romancing, especially the Morte d’Arthur. That’s the source material.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    “The life of a 6th century clan chief has been somewhat sketchily assembled” – Yes, that’s the 20th-century contribution to the Arthurian legend.

  • http://www.ninjanun.blogspot.com ninjanun

    In a rational cost-benefit analysis, I realize that even if I had a book overdue, it would take months to accrue a fine that would be more than the cost of buying a book and reading it once. Or not at all. I have a whole shelf of books I haven’t read yet.
    And that’s why I’m not buying books just because they *look* interesting. Over the course of five years or so, I probably gave away or sold more books than I bought (books required for school notwithstanding), because I was tired of all the clutter. I love books, but from there on out, I made a vow that I only wanted good quality books* filling my personal collection. Because space is limited and all that, and there IS so much good stuff out there, I don’t want the Mundane and the Awful hogging space. So, I might buy a book that I’ve heard good things about from a lot of people/reviews, but I’m not going to pick up some random book and buy it just because it sounds fun by reading the blurb on the back. I’ve been burned too many times by that. Granted, some of the worst offenders in my library were given to me by well-meaning church elders (James Dobson’s “Life on the Edge” or whatever for graduation) but some I bought myself back when I was in the fundamentalist/christian non-fiction devotional-type-books only thankyouverymuch stage. Now, if I get a hankering for some good reading, I’ll peruse my local library first. If I read something I really, really like, I’ll buy it. But only if it’s so good I know I’ll want to read it again and/or loan it out to friends. If not, well, one was enough, and now there’s no need to own it.
    *To me, a good quality book is one that you’ll want to read/reference in the future, and/or loan out to friends. What’s your criteria?

  • hapax

    *To me, a good quality book is one that you’ll want to read/reference in the future, and/or loan out to friends. What’s your criteria?
    When I was in my teens, I had lovely deep bookshelves, capable of double-shelving. In the back I kept all the books I actually read, and re-read, and re-re-read. In the front I kept all the books I wanted people to *think* I read.
    The interesting thing is that as I grew older, I started to read some of the prestige books, and they “graduated” to the rear…

  • Lauren

    To me, a good quality book is one that you’ll want to read/reference in the future, and/or loan out to friends. What’s your criteria?
    About the same. I like purchasing reference books, because I can fill a lot of time flipping through even a mediocre one, so I have quite a few that I’ve picked up in the bargain section. Things like “Aquarium Fish of the World” and “The Bartender’s Guide to Cocktails.”
    As far as novels, if I am going to purchase something on impulse, it’s usually one of my favorite authors’, so I know I have a good chancce of enjoying it. Not necessarily re-reading it, but enjoying it.
    Lately, the most dangerous thing has been non-fiction. It seems like every time I read a favorable review of a non-fiction book, I subconciously decide I have to own it. One of the recently purchased and unread volumes staring at me right now is “Fiasco.” I bought it early December, I haven’t touched it since, and I find it diminishingly unlikely that I’ll want to reference it once I’ve finished.

  • Ken

    I like purchasing reference books, because I can fill a lot of time flipping through even a mediocre one, so I have quite a few that I’ve picked up in the bargain section. Things like “Aquarium Fish of the World” and “The Bartender’s Guide to Cocktails.” — Lauren
    Tip: Interior Desecrations by James Lileks.
    It’s a coffee-table photo book of the WORST of Seventies interior-decorating fads, and it is Hilarious! Put on your polyester leisure suit and frizz out your hair into a Seventies uber-Afro and enjoy the matching High Fashion Interiors of the time…

  • Ken

    …the idiot-”feminist” (wimmyn should HAVE SEX A LOT! and worship the MOTHER GODDESS!) treatment. — Chris
    You know, the “Worship the MOTHER GODDESS!” is just the “God Gets a Sex-change” subtype of the “Crystal Dragon Jesus” school of fantasy religion. Do a basic Western-influenced monotheism, only (ta-daaaaa!) it’s a GODDESS instead of a God. (I have seen this SO many times in bad F&SF fanfic…)
    Historically, they say the Goddess archetype (as an archetype of the feminine) had two aspects: the Virgin and the Whore. (Or, in terms Left Behinders can understand, the Chloe and the Hattie.) The MZB treatment cited above is the Whore and ONLY the Whore.
    Never mind that a LOT of historical Goddess religions were as male-supremacist as the Taliban. In a cosmic version of “how can a RL woman compete with the Perfect Porn Star Fantasy”, The Goddess was such a supernaturally-perfect feminine that imperfect RL women were as dung in comparison, and were treated as such.

  • Daughter

    About Fred typing: “Phew. Is it getting hot in here or is it just Buck”: he wrote something similar a while back about the scene in which Buck has a similar response to Nicolae while “interviewing” him in his hotel room.
    About the pro-Christian resolution passed by Congress: wasn’t the push for this in part a response to a similar pro-Muslim resolution also recently passed by Congress?
    About allegorical stories sometimes going over kids’ heads: I watched “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in December with my 2-year-old. It was the first time I’d seen the show since I was a kid, and I was shocked by the blatant sexism in it (produced in 1964). But as a kid, it went over my head altogether. A google search produces several sources that have commented on the sexism in the program, although some suggest that it’s meant to be mocking. That is, the macho posturing of Santa, the reindeers and most of the elves is so over-th-top, and the story’s heroes Rudolph and Hermy the elf are the only males not like that. Thus, the story is really trying to ridicule the sexist attitudes, not promote them.

  • Daughter

    About Fred typing: “Phew. Is it getting hot in here or is it just Buck”: he wrote something similar a while back about the scene in which Buck has a similar response to Nicolae while “interviewing” him in his hotel room.
    About the pro-Christian resolution passed by Congress: wasn’t the push for this in part a response to a similar pro-Muslim resolution also recently passed by Congress?
    About allegorical stories sometimes going over kids’ heads: I watched “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in December with my 2-year-old. It was the first time I’d seen the show since I was a kid, and I was shocked by the blatant sexism in it (produced in 1964). But as a kid, it went over my head altogether. A google search produces several sources that have commented on the sexism in the program, although some suggest that it’s meant to be mocking. That is, the macho posturing of Santa, the reindeers and most of the elves is so over-th-top, and the story’s heroes Rudolph and Hermy the elf are the only males not like that. Thus, the story is really trying to ridicule the sexist attitudes, not promote them.

  • Praline

    Yay, people are reading my book! You guys make my day. (If it’s annoying I keep responding to posts about it, tell me, as it’s bad manners to hijack threads to self-advertise and I don’t wanna do that.)
    If it helps, in the UK, Borders shelves it under Crime, most other bookshops under General, and the US under ‘Science Fiction’.
    That doesn’t really help, I suspect. I fight genre! I win! People can’t find my book! Hmm…

  • inge

    ninjanun: I love books, but from there on out, I made a vow that I only wanted good quality books* filling my personal collection. Because space is limited and all that, and there IS so much good stuff out there, I don’t want the Mundane and the Awful hogging space.
    Absolutely. I love books, but I hate clutter more. It goes against my bragging instincts to have fewer books than any of my friends, but every time I find that I have run out of shelf space, I go into a frenzy of clutter removal. Usually I first try to sell the books or give them to friends, if no one wants them, they go to charity.
    I’m pretty well isolated from spontaneous book-buying, as I mostly read F/SF and Mystery, where 90% seems to be written in English, and I cannot get English books except for Terry Pratchett or media tie-ins in any bookstore around here.

  • inge

    Chris: I’ve heard that “The Mists of Avalon” shows more respect for the source material, but I’m more eager to read just about anything else.
    Good idea. I read “Mists of Avalon” when I was a teenager, and I wanted to yell at all those folks to grow the hell up and stop whining. I never felt like reading it again.
    On Arthurian, I liked Gilian Bradshaws “Hawk of May”, because it read quite down-to-earth, with Arthur as a celtic warlord, people interested in the day-to-day running of things, and some historical context.

  • Lauren

    I wandered into a Borders yesterday, and went looking for Benighted. First in Sci-fi, then in General, then to the computer to find they didn’t have a copy. So I left empty-handed.
    Oh, well, it’s still in my library queue.
    What strikes me as odd is when an author gets established in one genre, all their future work gets shelved there. I bought a copy of Children of Men after the movie came out, and it was in the Crime section even though it is clearly Sci-Fi.

  • Caravelle

    Inge : I’m pretty well isolated from spontaneous book-buying, as I mostly read F/SF and Mystery, where 90% seems to be written in English, and I cannot get English books except for Terry Pratchett or media tie-ins in any bookstore around here.
    I’m in the opposite situation; when in English-speaking countries I prefer to get books at the library. It’s cheaper, I don’t have to worry about the book being no good, it saves bookshelf space.
    Unfortunately here in France while most cities I’ve been to have a few bookstore shelves where you can get English-language science-fiction, there’s isn’t any in the libraries. So I’m forced to buy books compulsively (within my budget) just to get my SF/F fix…
    And if there’s a book I’d really like to read but don’t really want to own (like Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series)… well that’s just too bad.

  • Ken

    For Arthurian, my favorite remains the John Boorman’s Excalibur.
    Unlike all the Superior Intellects who write/film the Realistic Deconstruction (with or without those awful Celtic/Gaelic spellings) and force readers/viewers to slog through their Artistic Masturbations, Boorman filmed the legend.
    Arthur is MYTHIC, not Femininst or Deconstructionist or Grubby Realistic.

  • Lauren

    I actually noticed a Russian translation of one of Anne McCaffrey’s books at the local library.

  • Joanna

    Comrade Rutherford: Personally I don’t buy anything, ever, from Amazon… They fall into the same category as companies like Wal-Mart and Starbucks, they are evil, since their entire business plan is to specifically destroy small businesses.
    I work in an independent, real-space used bookstore, and we make about 1/3 of our income selling books on Amazon. While we’re naturally sympathetic to that point of view – and the anticorporate Save the Bookstore Save the World is one of the owner’s pet projects – without that market, we would not be able to survive.

  • inge

    Caravelle: I’m in the opposite situation; when in English-speaking countries I prefer to get books at the library. It’s cheaper, I don’t have to worry about the book being no good, it saves bookshelf space.
    The English-language crime novel section at the local library is rumoured to be quite good, but with the library open only during work hours and me usually leaving town for vacations, I cannot make it there often enough to make it worth the yearly fee :-(

  • Jeff

    I wandered into a Borders yesterday, and went looking for Benighted. First in Sci-fi, then in General, then to the computer to find they didn’t have a copy. So I left empty-handed.
    To find any book at Borders (or B&N, for that matter) if you can’t find it yourself, ask a clerk. They’ll tell you whether they have it in stock and where to find it. They’ll order it for you if you want.
    I’m a fan of the “Read and Release” school of books. I tend to buy them, because library hours tend not to mesh with free time. If I’m not going to re-read a book, I’ll give it away, preferably to someone else from the R&R school.

  • Jeff

    I wandered into a Borders yesterday, and went looking for Benighted. First in Sci-fi, then in General, then to the computer to find they didn’t have a copy. So I left empty-handed.
    To find any book at Borders (or B&N, for that matter) if you can’t find it yourself, ask a clerk. They’ll tell you whether they have it in stock and where to find it. They’ll order it for you if you want.
    I’m a fan of the “Read and Release” school of books. I tend to buy them, because library hours tend not to mesh with free time. If I’m not going to re-read a book, I’ll give it away, preferably to someone else from the R&R school.

  • cjmr

    Also, if you go to bordersstores.com, you can look for the availability of any book in your local stores by typing in your zip code or city and state. Barnes and Noble has a service like that on their website, too. For the Borders one, you can have in stock books placed on hold for you at the store by ordering through the website, then pay for them when you get to the store. I don’t know if B&N does that, too, I’ve never tried it.

  • hapax

    Not to one-up the commercial bookstores, but you can check for the availability of any book at just about any library (in the U.S.A., and increasingly around the world) and how far that library is from you at http://www.worldcat.org. (E.g., I see that Praline’s book is listed as held by 601 libraries, ranging from my very own to Wangerei, New Zealand.)
    Your home library can probably be contacted online, and certainly by telephone, and will be glad to hold the book for you if they own it, and borrow it for you at a nominal charge if they do not. Most public libraries in the U.S.A. have evening and weekend hours.
    If they do not provide these services for you, by all means raise a (polite) stink and find out why not.
    Once again (in the USA) you have already paid for all of this by your tax money. If you do not take advantage of it, you are just throwing your money away. If you do not request cool books like Praline’s, the librarians will think that the only things their patrons want to read are drek like LB.
    I assure you, not using your libraries will NOT make your taxes go down. Nor will it mean more money diverted to schools or fire protection. Libraries are dirt cheap, relatively speaking. The money that is not spent on getting good stuff in the libraries will just go to re-panel some city councillor’s office.
    Sorry to get passionate about this, but airy statements like “Oh, I don’t go to the library” don’t just pain me. They baffle me. It’s like saying, “Oh, I don’t drink the city water, I prefer to spend three bucks buying water bottled out of some other city’s municipal water system, with a fancy label slapped on, and trucked over hundreds of miles spewing pollution in the air, and then toss the recyclable plastic bottle into the landfills.” I mean, WTF?

  • cjmr

    *wanders off to check out worldcat*
    Oh my. I could kill the whole day playing with this. I’m not sure whether I ought to thank you…

  • cjmr

    Oooo. And you can create reading lists. And export citations for your bibliographies. And it has a Firefox search engine.
    What a cool website.

  • Jeff

    Our local library is open until 8, so I can pick up a pre-ordered book after coming home, and drop it off a few nights later.
    As soon as I’ve finished the current stash (Benighted, War Stories and a fun travelogue about a hike along the Appalachian Trail called A Walk in the Woods), I might try to use the local. But WorldCat doesn’t find some LA County Libraries (it finds Whittier but not Norwalk, oddly enough), and the County search system is closed for long stretches.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    As far as I can see, Worldcat’s chief problem is that the programmers evidently didn’t know how postcodes work. If you want to find a location using a postcode, you enter the first half of the postcode only (for example, “W8″). In the UK, Worldcat does not recognise anything between national (enter “United Kingdom”) or precise (enter the exact postcode of the library). It recognizes no UK cities, and it does not even distinguish between Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. (This wouldn’t make a terrible lot of difference, though, since in the UK, libraries are grouped by local authority: it’s easy and cheap for me to get a book from within my local authority’s library system, more expensive to get a book from outside.) Given this limitation, it’s no wonder that not many librarians in the UK have made use of it: I think not more than 30 – not including my own.

  • Lila

    I have the “find something weird and unexpected” thing down. I shop for books at Goodwill. (I also use the library, Amazon, abebooks.com–a network of independent bookstores–and brick-and-mortar bookstores.)
    Goodwill is a GREAT place to find medical textbooks, though they’re usually old editions. Still, $2.50 for an anatomy atlas from the 1990s is a pretty good deal.
    Daughter, re sexism in “Rudolph”: I think it’s relevant that Rudolph and Hermy aren’t grown-ups yet. In the old sexist paradigm, kids (even male kids) are supposed to respect adults (even female adults).

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