Sunday, November 02, 2008

Forget Remembering Hypatia

I love reading about history, but I hate most historical fiction.

For me, fictionalizing history is justified only under three circumstances:

  1. The book, story, or play is terrifically written, and great art in and of itself. It’s full of memorable characters, vivid scenes, and lip-smacking language. Examples: Shakespeare’s “History” and “Roman” plays, Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.
  2. The fictional work is set in a past time as an excuse for the author to examine universal ideas. Examples: The Name of the Rose, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
  3. The fictional work shines a new light on allegedly “familiar” history. Examples: Gore Vidal’s “Narratives of Empire” series, Philip Kerr’s “Berlin Noir” trilogy, Doctorow’s Ragtime.
Obviously, there’s quite a bit of overlap among those categories. All the works I mentioned could easily fit into any of the three. I have no idea where to place T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, or Scott’s Ivanhoe, or even the spy novels of Alan Furst. But I like them.

Remembering Hypatia, on the other hand, is a book best forgotten. It’s written in such a lackluster fashion, by an author (Brian Trent) with a tin ear for language, no sense of drama, nary a deep thought, and, basically, a clear disrespect for the intelligent reader. I’m not going to justify my broad assertions with details here; I don’t have time to waste on that drivel. You can either trust me on this, or you can say “fuck you” and vote for four more years of the same illiterate Bush literary policies.

Now a word about the future of Nonbelieving Literati. I’ve tried to nurture this “club” for about a year and a half, and I’ve enjoyed doing so. We’ve had some interesting inter-blog discussions, and some of us have read books that we might not have otherwise picked up. But I’m unable – and unwilling – to continue being the energy source behind the scenes. It would be great if one of the members could take the initiative and choose the next book, bearing in mind that it should be a work of real literature that will have wide interest, rather than a simple atheist screed. If it were up to me, which it’s most definitely not, I’d pick Huckleberry Finn, the title character of which is a real free thinker whose ideas soar above those of so-called “civilized” society. But perhaps the new leader will have a better idea; I’m game to start reading anything, although I can’t promise I’ll finish it.

As far as No More Hornets is concerned, I will continue to post, but only sporadically. Economic exigencies have made it impossible for me to spend as much time writing for my own – and, I hope, your – entertainment. I, for one, have never needed any convincing to be an atheist, and I’m no longer interested in reading, writing, or commenting on poorly limned arguments against the existence of any gods. We’ve heard them all, dozens of times. The concept of gods is so stupid as to be beneath contempt; I’m tired of pretending to have rational “debates” with idiots who think there’s a higher power somewhere. My little blog is not going to convince the smug theo-thugs that they’re wrong. I’m hoping that my writing ability, however good or bad it may be, can be put to better use than spewing nonsense to flit around the ether.

Thanks for visiting here. I look forward to amusing you again soon.


dm said...

don't vote for the SHAM DEMOCRACY!


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see how we stopped the MILLION DOLLAR PARANORMAL CHALLENGE and caused the president of American Atheists, Ellen Johnson, to quit her job.

those headless babbling idiots in Washington and Ottawa are completely oblivious to the *REAL WORLD*

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to see what the REAL WORLD looks like

Guess what is inside angel's envelope:

| ????????

and to wrap up:

The Exterminator said...

Dm's comment is exactly what I'm talking about. I assume that his/her name is an abbreviation of "dumb."

John Evo said...

Oh lordy...

I continue to blog about whatever interests me at the moment. If it stirs an intelligent thought in someone else, that's great.

But focusing on atheism is as dumb as religious drivel. Of course there is no god. Now what?

I look forward to more great tales about your grandmother's contributions to the Ex we all know and usually love!

If Ridger or C.L. Hanson wants to offer up a book for The Nonbelieving Literati, I'll be glad to try to read it.

Be sure to vote on Tuesday. Once or twice in your lifetime will you actually have the chance to vote on something that can really change our very unhealthy direction. This is one of them.

Rationality, peace and justice to all; and to all a goodnight.

Lynet said...

I keep thinking I'd have liked to have suggested The Postman. But I'm really strapped for time at the moment and I'd be a bad host, I know it!

(That said, if nobody else is gonna nurture it, I might be sorry enough to see it die that I'd do my best to keep it going).

C. L. Hanson said...

I completely understand about getting burnt-out and frustrated with blogging. It takes an unbelievable amount of work just to give away your efforts as a free service. I was just thinking about how I have to think of some interesting new directions for my blog in order to keep going at my slow and steady rate.

Any of these suggestions would be fine. I've always meant to read Huckleberry Finn; I don't know much about The Postman. I would be willing to take over hosting the club if nobody else wants to do it. But I'd rather have someone else do it since I'm already spread pretty thin over a number of blogs...

the chaplain said...


I'm sorry to see you step aside as host, but I understand that, on occasion, life takes precedence over blogging. Sad, but true. I hope you'll still be reading along with us and posting your observations (there you go - that's one post topic every six weeks already lined up for you. See how easy that was?)

I think C.L., Ridger or Lynet would be great hosts, as they are all well-read, articulate people. Since C.L. and Lynet have expressed some reluctance to step in (but may do so in a pinch), we may have to wait and see what Ridger has to say about the matter.

I'm also okay with either Huckleberry Finn or The Postman as the next selection. I read the former years ago, but wouldn't mind reading it again. I've never read the latter, so it would give me a chance to read something new.

grumpylion said...

Oh, puhleeze, what is this nonsense about cutting back on your blogging? Who do you think you're fooling? You won't be able to blog as much because you'll be writing your acceptance speech and measuring drapes for the Oval Office. Of course, you might be a little premature in that, but hey, a little optimism never hurts. Why, I do believe there was a short-lived poll in Pennsylvania that almost claimed that the Exterminator/Chaplain ticket almost got a .0001 approval rating in the race for the White House. Pretty good, eh?

yunshui said...

It would be a shame to lose No More Hornets regular contributions to the atheosphere, but since I regularly have similar inclinations myself (and I haven't been in this game for nearly as long) I can sympathise. Continued postings on non-religious topics would be much enjoyed, though...

As for the NBL, I already run two book groups in real life and I spend most of my waking hours in a bookshop, so if none of the above-mentioned fancy the mantle of readership I'd be more than happy to pick up where Ex is leaving off. My vote, incidentally, goes to The Postman, partly because I've read Huck and partly because I've just finished, David Brin's excellent "Uplift" sextet and would love to read more of his stuff.

C. L. Hanson said...

OK, I vote for Yunshui. :D

Spanish Inquisitor said...

Seconded. Though don't count me as a regular.

While it was a fun year, and I was exposed to books I would never have picked up even if Sarah Palin said she was getting ready to burn the only extant copy, I'm already involved in an ongoing book related enterprise that is more social than literary, but from which I've acquired hundreds of books I want to read. I'm a slow reader (I'm still only halfway through Hypatia, and intend to finish it) so I may or may not jump in, but I will be commenting.

I won't read Huck Finn, having read it years ago, but once I figure out exactly what The Postman is, I may read that. It's not The Postman Always Ring Twice, is it?

The Exterminator said...

Rationality, peace and justice to all; and to all a goodnight.
Hey, wait a minute. You forgot to leave me any toys.

Now that I'm no longer in a position of having to pretend to be politic about our choices: As far as I'm concerned, the people in this group read entirely too much mediocre science fiction in their "real" lives, and not enough thoughtful literature. So I'd vote a loud, curmudgeonly "no" on The Postman.

I completely understand about getting burnt-out and frustrated with blogging.
I don't think I said that I was either "burnt out" or "frustrated with blogging." You're reading between lines that don't exist. What I wrote was that "economic exigencies" have forced me to cut back on my blogging time. Translation: From now on, most of my writing time will be spent trying to earn money.

I think C.L., Ridger or Lynet would be great hosts...
Good choices, but you left out chappy. I think she'd be fantastic.

I do believe there was a short-lived poll in Pennsylvania that almost claimed that the Exterminator/Chaplain ticket almost got a .0001 approval rating in the race for the White House.
Yeah, but that poll had a .0001 margin of error. Clearly, our approval rating was one of those statistical fuck-ups.

Continued postings on non-religious topics would be much enjoyed, though...
Yes, when I have the time and the energy, I will continue to write here. And, of course, anything I post will be colored at least somewhat by my freethinking; I can't help it. Shit, I may even climb aboard the anti-religious high horse again; no-god knows. I'm just too busy writing and editing (mostly crap) for pay to commit myself to publishing regularly in the Atheosphere.

C. L. Hanson said...

Money... from writing? Good luck!! I hear it's theoritically possible (J.K. Rowling, etc.), but there are easier ways to earn a buck...

the chaplain said...

I vote for yunshui as well.

Having dispensed with that piece of business, I want to set the record straight, Ex: I read almost no science fiction. It's a genre that's just never appealed to me; I've been far too engrossed in spy novels and mysteries to read sci-fi.

The Exterminator said...

Ah, if only someone had picked The Postman Always Rings Twice. That's almost literature. And you'd like it because it's short. But it has nothing whatsoever to do with freethinking, except -- as a real stretch -- in an existential kind of way. I might recommend The Maltese Falcon though, which, looked at in an odd light, can be interpreted as an examination of the duplicity of "faith."

... there are easier ways to earn a buck...

Actually, that's not true for me. You're referring, of course, to writing that's fulfilling in some way. But for years and years, I've been cashing paychecks earned by chugging out drivel that has zero personal satisfaction value. Welcome to the world of textbook publishing. Still, for me, it beats having to wake up every day and go to an office. And, in case anyone asks: No, I've never taken a job that required me to say anything positive about religion. I'd sooner starve than be responsible for filling young heads with nonsense.

I read almost no science fiction.
How can you be an atheist, then? I thought there was some kind of rule we had about what we can read.

Seriously, I, too, waste hours and hours on mysteries and spy novels. But I don't think most genre fiction is worth serious discussion; the books are just confections. I also can't see any point in writing about the life-affirming values of Good 'n' Plenty -- even though I enjoy it immensely.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

Wouldn't The Sparrow be classified as SF?

And I do enjoy an occasional "heavy tome". Especially the classics. At my age, though, life's too short to spend a year on War and Peace or its equivalent.

Ahhhh, to be able to speed read. I took a course in speed reading once, but it didn't click. I love to read slowly, so I don't miss anything. Speed reading, to me, is like playing a 33 at 45 RPM. (Older folks like me will know what I'm talking about. Those raised on CDs will scratch their heads.) I like to hear the language in my head.

I have a shirt that says "So Many Books, So Little Time."

I also can't see any point in writing about the life-affirming values of Good 'n' Plenty -- even though I enjoy it immensely.

I know you meant to say "Circus Peanuts".

The Ridger, FCD said...

If yunshui is only volunteering because no-one else did, I'll be happy to do it. Otherwise, let him(?) if he wants to. Either of those books would be fine, since I've already read them both.

John Evo said...

"Happy to do it" is the strongest statement so far. I re-nominate Ridger.

And I'm OK with science fiction. As long as it's great writing and has some sort of an atheistic angle.

Speaking of which, I am working my way through the first season of Battlestar Galactica. It started off quite good (and still is in many ways) but about halfway through Season One, it started veering off on to a pseudo religious path. Too bad. Stephen King did the same thing in ruining what should have been a masterwork in "The Stand".

yunshui said...

Evo, I think you'll find I was "more than happy"... but I don't want to initiate a Ridger/yunshui election battle so close to the real life Obama/strange fossilised toad-thing election that's on most of your minds right now. The NBL's been an Extocracy from its inception, so I propose we let Ex decide.

(by the way, Ex, I promise tax breaks for owls and an import ban on French-cut canned stringbeans - not that that should influence your decision in any way.)

The Ridger, FCD said...

Yunshui has my vote. I'd run the NL, but I'm going to be busy over the winter, so it's better to let "more than happy" beat "happy"!

Spanish Inquisitor said...

Sounds like that's settled. Yunshui, it is. Maybe.

Now on the book, I don't think I'm going to read the two in contention, however, if you'd like a third, dark horse contender, might I suggest Terry Pratchett's Small Gods?

(I only suggest it because I have a copy on my TBR pile, and I need an excuse to read it. Warning: It is sorta Science Fictiony)

The Exterminator said...

Circus peanuts are those chewy candies made from sawdust, right?

Either of those books would be fine, since I've already read them both.
I sort of thought the whole point of NL was to choose books you hadn't already read, or at least to pick ones you wanted to revisit.

One of the things I've never been able to stand about so-called "literary" sci-fi is that it often gets into crypto-mystical mumbo-jumbo. For example, I think Yoda's a pain in the ass. But even a great classic like "Stranger in a Strange Land" has an oh-wow attitude about "grokking," as if it's some kind of spiritual experience. Yuck.

The NBL's been an Extocracy from its inception, so I propose we let Ex decide.
Nope. The Extocracy is over. Liberte, egalite, fraternite. See if you guys can figure out how to run free elections. So saying, I cast my one vote for yunshui. And please: don't cut off my head.

Yes, "more than happy" trumps "happy." But is there someone who would be "most happy"?

I only suggest it because I have a copy on my TBR pile ...
So are we to infer that you have piles?

John Evo said...

Ex wrote: Liberte, egalite, fraternite.

I've never seen you misspell so many words in a row before. You are supposed to be an editor, not an ignorant hick!

Spanish Inquisitor said...

So are we to infer that you have piles?

Yes. Many of them. I just don't happen to be sitting on any of them.

Well, maybe just one.

The Exterminator said...

And comment allez-vous, aujourd'hui?

Well, maybe just one.
As Robert Frost once said about his book stacks:

The words are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have premises to keep,
And piles to go before I sleep,
And piles to go before I sleep.

Thorum said...

Frankly, I just think everyone should lighten up and light up a massive bong hit. Go watch Pink Flamingos or Polyester. Crank up a song by The Dictators. Maybe even go for a stroll. Incidentally, I just finished reading "Awakenings" by Oliver Sacks. It is fucking incredible:

OK, I guess I feel better. Have fun voting (or not) tomorrow!!

The Ridger, FCD said...

We've read books before that one or more of us has read. (Small Gods - fabulous book) My point was only that I don't care which we choose. Had I not read one I'd have suggested it.

the chaplain said...

I'll vote for yunshui, again, since Ridger has indicated that she's busy and willing to yield the chair to him. Now, will someone please select a goddamned book?

yunshui said...

I guess it's me then. I promise to bring an end to corruption, to lower taxes and to bring about world peace.

Failing that, I'm going to nominate The Postman as our next book. Don't think you can get away with just watching the execrable kevin Costner film, either.

I'll update Right To Think with an NBL section this weekend.

yunshui said...

A target date would be good idea as well, yes? Given that we're probably all fairly busy over the festive season (pissing on Nativity scenes, wrestling Santas, invading carol services with loudpeakers playing Public Enemy tracks at full volume - or whatever you guys have planned) I propose early January - let's say the 12th.

The Ridger, FCD said...

That's good for me. The Postman (I'll have to reread it) Jan 12.

heather said...

Is this partly-stopping blogging some sort of meme? (Evo, Grumpy Lion, now Ex)
Or didn't I get a memo?

heather said...

And - Spanish Inq, yes, do read Small Gods.
It's not the best Pratchett but the Diskworld stories more or less all good, at worst, and brilliant, at best.

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