A Little to the Midwest

On this “Southern Saturday,” we move to the Midwest. Sadly, there are not nearly as many amazingly talented authors from the Midwest region as there are from the south but both have an agrarian feel to their writing at their roots. So, in my world, they are combined.

Throughout history mankind has used to myths, stories – if you will – to explain the inexplicable, to retell events that are monumental or to drive home lessons that desperately need to be learned. Some of these were in the form of pictures (cave drawings,) some set to music, still others were passed down orally and told and retold through each generation, across lands and waters and continents and generations. It is how mankind has learned. It is how we have adapted.

More Than True

In “More Than True,”  poet Robert Bly surmises that fairy tales have been a way for man to learn very valuable tools of civilization. Using the ideas of philosophers as varied as Kierkegaard to Carl Jung, as well as interspersing his own poetry throughout the book, Bly closely examines six well known tales, such as The Frog Prince, and looks deeper at their hidden meaning.

At this juncture, if the reader is not familiar with Bly and his work, it might be good to note that he is the leader – the Leader – of the mythopoetic men’s movement. This is the movement that suggested that “men” had lost their masculinity due to the industrial revolution, the five day work week and <gasp> the feminist movement. In order for these wayward, lost men to regain their masculinity they had to go to sweat lodges, retreats (male only of course) and drum circles. Yes. That’s correct.

This movement is important to this review for two reasons: First, his primary supposition is correct. There is wisdom in fairy tales. Anyone who has studied the “flood narrative” that most have read in the Bible, knows that it is found in every civilization, in every culture, throughout time, although few include Noah or an ark. If you’ve ever said the children’s poem, “Ring Around the Roses,” then you have told the story of the Bubonic Plague which was told and retold through stories, myths and even in rhyme. So the premise is correct. However, the poems that Bly has chosen has been carefully done so in order to further his errant beliefs regarding this men’s movement. He uses the hierarchy of needs by Carl Jung to prop up his own ideas of masculinity when Jung was an existentialist who couldn’t have cared less about gender issues.

All of that to say and explain why this book was fascinating and frustrating and a complete failure for me as a psychology major and as an historian. I absolutely do not recommend this book. The very last thing this world needs is more men sitting around a circle getting hyped up on testosterone and beating drums!

 

 

 

A Subversive Gospel:Flannery O’Connor and the Reimagining of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth

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Wednesdays at Macsbooks will be set aside for the unusual books – the children’s books, non-fiction, quirky or seldom read genres. After spending a year, 2017, rapidly reading the hottest best sellers, I needed a time to get back to my roots of reading books for the sheer love of reading. This has included simple titles, love stories, historical fiction, scholarly writings and science fiction. I’m definitely not a one genre type gal and I hope that is reflected throughout this blog. With that said, let’s talk about Ms. O’Connor.

At university I floundered, no wait, I explored…. several academic degrees before (finally) graduating with a double major, double minor. I actually had enough hours in literature to add an addition minor in lit and it was due entirely to Flannery O’Connor. I followed her through American Literature, Great Female Writers, Southern Literature and more. I simply could not get enough of Flannery O’Connor and her eclectic writing style. Imagine how exited I was when I discovered A Subversive Gospel, a new look at O’Connor’s writing and the influence that her devout Catholicism played on her writing and her characters.

In A Subversive Gospel, a very readable academic book, Bruner examines O’Connor’s works through the microscope of her religion and asks that you, the reader, do the same. He points out that much of O’Connor’s work was heavily influenced by Baron Friedrich von Hügel and Thomas Aquinas  – and it was – as well as by her own devotion to the Catholic church and her fascination with the Catholic saints. Bruner then suggests that O’Connor’s writing shows the reader God’s grace through the ugly, malformed and the sinner which is far more great a grace than one seen through the eyes of the saint. It is an interesting premise for which he has much research and scholarly backing. It is a well written and thoughtful book. However…

After studying O’Connor as much as I have done over the years and loving her and her characters as I have, I must add that it was O’Connor’s writing that led me to leave the church entirely. Through her eyes and her writing I saw the church and the South as it truly was – a place not filled with beauty but of underlying darkness. O’Connor struggled with illness throughout her adult life, as have I. She was devout, as was I, and through her writing I often saw a woman, much like myself, who knew what we were supposed to believe but knew there was an underbelly of something else lying there. She showed her readers that underbelly, the darkness, the cruelty, the ugliness that was the church, the south, its people. IF you are a very religious person and you want to see a very religious, devout woman, then that is what you will see in her work – I suppose – as Bruner has done. IF you are a woman, raised in the South, raised in a community of misogyny, of racism, in a world where anyone who is not white, male and perfect is condemned, then I suspect that, as I did, you will think this book is an interesting read but full of rubbish. O’Connor was a strong woman who was marching against her time, against her culture and through her work she still is. I will not reduce her to a religious paradigm. She was far too talented for that.