Monday, August 24, 2009

Ceremonial Violence (Jonathon Fast)

Better than Brooks, but not as good as Cullen, IMO.

I have to admit that I held this guy to a higher standard, because he's an academic. That said, I think the book lacked a compelling thesis. The case histories are interesting, and very detailed. I learned more about the shootings other than Columbine, but reading the Harris / Klebold chapter didn't really teach me anything new, beyond that fact that Fast believes that Harris' unusual check structure may have made him a target for ridicule and been a compelling factor in his development.

Ceremonial violence is present in the intro, but no attempts is made to circle back to this thesis in the conclusion. Instead, Fast uses the final chapter to rally support for stricter gun control. Even though I agree with him in principle, the ending feels forced, and is not what one expects from a book purporting to talk about "ceremonial violence".

Maybe it's just a poorly chosen title. Maybe I expected too much. I did enjoy his exposition of why school shootings and gun violence in general has really only increased in the last half century and thinks it makes a nice counterpoint to claims of societal decay as causal factors. Other than that, nothing here was incredibly compelling for me.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Payback (Margaret Atwood)

An interesting volume on the nature and social construction of debt. She made some great points about socializing young adults into assuming debt as a way to provide structure and meaning to their lives.

Interesting history of debt as a construct, though a little dry at times. I don't fully understand how Atwood chose WHICH incantations of debt to include, but that's why she's the author and I'm not.

Made for a nice plane read and I will pretty much pick up anything she's ever written.