Jan. 25th, 2015

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My husband is continuing to catch up on his literature.  He thought Welty was nice, but she waited until her very last story to say anything substantive.  Salinger, while technically a better short story writer than Welty, bored both of us to tears.  Like far too many Modern writers, he assumes that his "universal" experiences will continue to be so for every future reader, when in fact neither of us knew what he was talking about half the time.

Needing a break he turned to Lovecraft's fantasies, which are flawed but more substantive than I first gave them credit for being.  The very first Lovecraft story you read tends to be intriguing, but unforuntely they're all just rewrites of the same story, and only a couple stand out.  There's many writers I can say that about, but Lovecraft is the only one I know where you could take entire paragraphs from one story, insert it into another story, and not even disturb the flow.

Lovecraft's stories always made me want to give the writer a good swift kick in the shins for the way he glorified the fear of "things man was not meant to know/do".  As a child growing up right after the Civil Rights Movement I heard my fill of "things man was not meant to know/do" before I learned to read.  The "don't do thats" always hid a deep well of racism, sexism, homophobia, or some related form of good old identity hate.  It was not worthy of the least amount of respect, let alone the histrionic levels of terror it was supposed to engender.

But I was wrong and Lovecraft was right.  Demolishing the old justifications for institutionalized hatred did indeed cause a grotesque, shambling monstrosity to crawl out of the sewers and threated to destroy all life on Earth if we don't immediately stop all progress and worship at it's hideous feet.

It's called the Tea Party.
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I just finished The Invisible History of the Human Race: How DNA and History Shape Our Identities and Our Futures by Christine Kenneally.  Kenneally examines how recent advances in science have changed our understanding of history and of people.  While DNA and genetic genealogy play a prominent role, they are far from the only subjects covered in this book.  One topic that caught my attention was economists' Nathan Nunn and Leonard Wantchekon's research on how the slave culture in Africa caused a climate of distrust that had lingered for centuries and was still stifling economic development to this day.  I couldn't help remembering all the times I've heard Mississippi people say they couldn't trust someone enough to go in business with them, and I wondered if a similar study had been done on how a similar culture of mistrust might be inhibiting economic development in the South.

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