Three book and two movie reviews:
Battle for the American Mind
by Pete Hegseth with David Goodwin, 2022
I don’t usually go for books with an American flag on the cover. Fairly or unfairly, I expect them to have been written in six weeks with a shallow diagnosis of the problem (and the solution usually being “free-market economics”). But this one is different. The author began to win my trust when he said that a few of his earlier books were, in fact, just like that. Also, the intro is by David Goodwin, who has been in Christian classical education for years.
It’s pretty depressing to read how what Hegseth calls the Western Christian Paideia (WCP) was ripped out of American schools a few years before my parents were born (and how, in fact, the public school system was set up primarily to do this). It was replaced by a shallow new religion, a blend of Hegelianism with some nationalism thrown in to make it palatable to my grandparents’ generation. The goal of this new paideia was to populate a brave new, progressive, technocratic world with obedient and easily manipulated citizens, not with educated, critically-thinking grown adults. So, that kid on the cover looking at the American flag in a pose that looks suspiciously like worship? That’s not what the author is promoting. It’s what he’s criticizing.
by Larry Chambers and Dale Rogers, 2004 (3rd ed.)
Investors don’t get much more first-time than yours truly.
The big insight from this book – if I can summarize what I’ve read so far – is that it’s not possible to “pick stocks.” Stocks go up and down in a truly random way. (Which is gratifying to hear, since that’s certainly how it looks from the outside!) So, say the authors, the way to make money long-term on the stock market is to pick the right balance of kinds of stocks. And the kind that do the best, on average, are the companies that appear the least promising.
There. You got that for free.
by Jean Hanff Korelitz, 2021
Here’s my Goodreads review:
Hoo boy. Hokay. So.
This book is about a struggling author who “steals” a story that someone once told him, years later, after he finds out the person is deceased. Said story is so sensational that it catapults the author to success: the book becomes a phenomenon. The rise and fall of this author is the outer onion layer of this book.
The inner onion layer is the sensational story itself. It’s about a girl who, at fifteen, becomes pregnant by a random guy, an older married man to whom she intentionally loses her virginity, essentially as a big middle finger to her parents. Her parents force her, not only to carry the baby to term (horror of horrors!), but to raise it in their home. When the baby, which turns out to be a precocious girl, is sixteen and ready to go off to college, the mother kills her. This is the Big Twist that shocks readers and is responsible for the book’s success.
I have three thoughts. One, obviously this book is really well written and makes a compelling read. I finished it in four days, despite my busy life. Hence the four stars.
Two. Every single main character is this book is a sociopath. I include not only the mother, but the daughter (as far as we can tell), the struggling-to-famous author, and a couple of side characters as well. The mother is a smart sociopath with the courage of her convictions, and the author is a dumber, more cowardly sociopath. There isn’t a character we get to know well who is manifestly decent.
Three. Despite being a book about a mother who kills her teenaged daughter, this book somehow manages to be pro-abortion. The fictional pregnant teen is resentful that her parents won’t take her to go get an abortion. They don’t love her or the baby, she opines, they are making her raise it to punish her. Abortion is presented as a solution, as if it would have prevented this very tragedy rather than just anticipating it by sixteen years. The parents also, though “Christian,” forbid their daughter to adopt the baby out, again to punish her. This is the classic straw-man scenario used by abortion promoters, but I don’t think it’s actually very common, let alone widespread. The impression I get is that grandparents often end up raising their daughters’ out-of-wedlock children. Furthermore, Korelitz clearly has no love for pro-life counseling clinics, which are actually places that will give girls in crisis pregnancies assistance in adoption and will give them plenty of other kinds of support when those are lacking at home. These places, when mentioned in the book, are always called abortion “counselors,” with scare quotes, as if the fact they will encourage you not to have your baby killed makes them somehow less professional.
This abortion problem, plus certain things in the tone of the book, gave me the distinct impression that Korelitz is trying to make this kind of sociopathy relatable. For example, one character asserts that it’s sexist of the reading public to find it more shocking when a mother kills her child than when a father does the same. Truly, women’s lib has reached its zenith when women aren’t expected to have any motherly tenderness for their own children, but rather to be just as violent and sociopathic as men are “allowed” to be. And then we can all be good worshippers of Moloch. Yay? It is for this reason that I can’t give the book five stars. No matter how well plotted or rendered, my enjoyment of a story as a story is marred when I find its background assumptions this repellant.
Diary of a Mad Black Woman
I know this is not a new movie, but I’d never seen it before. All I can say is, Tyler Perry really “gets” women. (Far more than Jean Hanff Korelitz does, now that I think of it.)
I did expect Madea to bring more action/solutions and not just comic relief, but interestingly, in this movie the solutions come from … God. I’m fine with that. Now before you go thinking that the frequent references to God mean this movie has an unrealistically rosy outlook on human nature … it’s also a revenge fantasy. Also, it’s got the usual Tyler Perry crude jokes, including Perry playing, not just cousin Brian and Madea, but also Madea’s pervy octogenarian brother.
The Last Stand
This film is very violent, very shooty-shooty-bang-bang. If you can tolerate that, it’s a great movie. It starts out looking like a crime/thriller flick. I didn’t realize until about 3/4 of the way through that it’s actually an updated Western. There is a noontime shootout on Main Street and everything, except instead of just the sheriff on one side and the outlaw on the other, there’s about a dozen people on each side.
There’s also a bonnet-wearing Texas granny who pulls a shotgun out of her knitting basket, which as you can imagine, I loved.