Give The Gift of Literacy


The holidays* are upon us.  Here are some quasi-recommendations for the book lover on your gift list:

Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone :  Yeah, I know.  Don’t even start with me.  The nerdosphere put the screws to me about reading it.  I have been making fun of the Potter geeks without actually reading the material.  And that’s just wrong.  Now that I have read it, let the mocking recommence!   The books itself isn’t bad, but I still don’t get it.  I don’t get all the hoopla and obsession with these characters and stories.  It is well written and entertaining.  I saw the movie and felt that after reading the source material, they did as good a job as possible.  I will probably read the subsequent books.  But what kind of loser camps out to get the first copy hot off the presses?   Is it bad that I mainly identify with the villians instead of the plucky little hero and his pals?  Does anyone remember The Great Brain series from back in the day?   Or how about The Mad Scientist’s Club or the seminal Encyclopedia Brown?  All of the above books would make a great present for either the child or the registered sex offender in your family.

If you love scary and disturbing movies because they are fun and cheesy, I recommend Joe Bob Briggs’  book Profoundly Disturbing.  If you like essays that are dry as toast that wring all of the fun out of scary movies in that self-serving academic way, try Offensive Films by Mikita Brottman.  In all fairness to Ms. Brottman, who has at least enough humor to appear on the cover illustration with a knife in her chest, she is writing a scholarly overview of the genre, so it inevitably wouldn’t be as fun as anything Joe Bob writes.   But still, part of what makes movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Freaks so enduring, is that at some level they are fun to watch and discuss.   So read them both.  Hell, I don’t really care.

If any of Ayn Rand’s polemic manifesto/novels were as easy to digest as Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, she would be a household name and have more followers than Scientology.   In it, Crichton takes on the junk science behind global warming.  Now before you start the "Global warming is a fact, I saw it on TV" hate mail, let me just say, "exactly".  No one questions the data that refutes or contradicts it, due to the pressure to keep grant money aflowin’ and to prevent being called "anti-environmental".  Unfortunately, Crichton makes the case for questioning global warming in conversations being conducted by the lead characters as they jet from one thrilling adventure to the other.  So it comes off as contrived in that preachy Ayn Rand way.  The argument/counterarguments seem a more than a little forced and the thrilling adventures get to be gratuitous.   Overall it is better than reading an actual academic paper on the subject.  Crichton has footnoted and provided sources for all of his claims about global warming and the complicity of the media and governments to keep us in the titular State of Fear. The fate of the faux Martin Sheen also appears to be a case of the writer being a little self-indulgent or letting Trey Parker and Matt Stone finish the book.  I’m not sure which.  Get this for the your hippie-flower-child-forty-years-too-late niece, or her Bill O’Reilly watching father.  It will either bring the family together or cause a massive argument about the environment for Christmas dinner.

*By holidays, I mean Christmas, you filthy dirt-worshipping heathens. 


4 Responses to “Give The Gift of Literacy”

  1. jag Says:

    Oh My God – I have been trying to remember the title of the Great Brain books for literally ten years. I couldn’t remember author or character names, only situations and people just look at you funny when you try to describe that at the B&N counter.You are my new hero. Going back to read the rest of the post now.

  2. Short and Fat Says:

    Some years back there was an Encyclopedia Brown parody floating around the ‘net where Mr. Brown handles a case about East Coast vs West Coast rap. It was great.I miss those EB stories.

  3. Katherine Coble Says:

    You need to read more than the first one to get well and truly sucked in, but I applaud you for at least reading the first! Yay!And I wanted to marry Encyclopedia Brown in 2nd grade.State of Fear was a friggin’ hysterical book, because Crichton completely discarded the concepts of "plot" and "character development" in favour of the concept of "Didactism". I love that dude is so rich from writing that he can enter his cranky-old-man stage in chart-topping style.

  4. Sarcastro Says:

    KC, that’s why "State of Fear" reminded me of one of Rand’s preachy books. Cardboard characters in service of the big Idea and we all learn a valuable lesson about the dangers of cloning dinosaurs/collectivism/environmentalists/whatever.

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