Over the last several weeks of distance learning for my son and dealing with the other effects of the Corona crisis, I’ve found time to read books in the wee small hours.
A notable effort is Alex Berenson’s nonfiction book Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence. The issue of pot in America is so fraught with misinformation, competing political narratives, and controversy that before Berenson’s book it was impossible to determine fact from fiction about any of it. After Berenson’s book it’s still impossible, but what Berenson does is shine a spotlight on the potential dangers of marijuana, and how we did so little research of any kind before decriminalizing it in major areas of the U.S. There’s a massive difference between cannabinoid oil used for medicinal purposes and the THC in today’s marijuana, and pot lobbyists have exploited ignorance about the one to promote use of the other. We don’t know a great deal about both long- and short-term use of today’s strains of pot, and yet we’ve accepted marijuana as a cure-all for everything from insomnia to nausea to anxiety. Berenson does as well as anyone can to cut through the jargon and misinformation, but there’s so much garbage that his book can only be considered a necessary first step to understanding a subject few people seem to want to get to the bottom of.
I first discovered Jonathan Carroll’s novels in the house of friends who let me stay with them the first few weeks I moved to Colorado decades ago, and I’ll be eternally grateful to them for both their hospitality and library. At the time I started with Carroll’s Sleeping in Flame, a book about a man who discovers that he comes from a far stranger and yet more familiar place than he realizes, and he has to come to terms with a nightmarish legacy that threatens to turn his entire reality inside-out. Surreal, bizarre, and yet matter-of-fact, it’s the perfect introduction to Carroll’s incredible universe of magical realism. Over the years I acquired every Carroll book I could get my hands on, and enjoyed them all.
But, as it turned out, I’d read some of them out of order, namely the Answered Prayers series.
Answered Prayers follows the lives of people touched by the surreal, all of whom know each other in some way: Walker Easterling, Cullen James, Weber Gregston, and others. Odd names, yes. And, like most of Carroll’s books, at least some of the action takes place in Vienna, Austria. While I don’t think I missed anything by reading them out of order, over the last few weeks I reread the series in order of publication, getting the overarching story in full:
- Bones of the Moon
- Sleeping in Flame
- A Child Across the Sky
- Outside the Dog Museum
- After Silence
- From the Teeth of Angels
After Silence is a bit of an outlier, referencing characters from the other novels but lacking the magical connection that binds them. Outside the Dog Museum is kind of a frustrating read, with the protagonist a difficult person to like and a lot going on without much resolution. From the Teeth of Angels is the most disturbing work of the series, and leaves an unsettling mark on you long after you’re done reading it.
In addition to reading, I did some writing for Romans One.
This piece talks about going somewhere outside of Hollywood for your entertainment:
You can rail about empty Hollywood tripe produced by hateful narcissists every single day, but until you make the difficult and necessary choice of not watching it, even the stuff you like, you’re contributing to a horribly corrosive system that will never change on its own. The more time and money you give them, the more sewage they’ll pump out.
And here, I discuss social media:
The use of social media, with its laughing/crying emojis, eye-rolling gifs, and relative anonymity, separates the true self from the internet version in ways that make us all seem awful and unlovable. The consequences of ruining someone’s afternoon over a disagreement are minimal, at best. Pile-ons are encouraged. If your ideological opponent says something patently stupid, it would be wrong not to ratio him. Right? Teach that “dummy” a lesson.
Reading books and avoiding the social media dopamine circus make me more into the person I want to be, so I’m going to continue to do that. I encourage you to do the same.