Worth Reading (Fiction)

  • Mamet, David: Chicago: A Novel
    In Roaring 20's Chicago, a Great War veteran turned hard-boiled reporter falls in love with the wrong woman and then seeks to find her killer.
  • Nelson DeMille: The Cuban Affair: A Novel
    Two million dollars to charter a boat for a fishing tournament? A great way for the owner to pay off the boat's mortgage, but it turns out to include slipping into Castro's prison island in search of a lost (and perhaps imaginary) treasure.
  • Kate Atkinson: Life After Life: A Novel
    Ursula Todd has the opportunity to relive her life, over and over and over, moving steadily through the Great War and its sequels and accumulating shards of memory.
  • Connie Willis: Crosstalk: A Novel
    An empathy app leads to complications involving telepathy, Irish women and a true love that runs most unsmoothly. Classic Willis comedy.
  • Mark Steyn: The Prisoner of Windsor
    In a 21st Century sequel to Anthony Hope, the heir to the Ruritanian throne must fill in for the kidnaped Prime Minister of Great Britain.
  • Tim Powers: My Brother's Keeper
    Werewolves, the Brontë sisters, their wayward brother, their heroic dog and a conspiracy to unleash an almost dead deity.
  • Tim Powers: Declare: A Novel
    An intricate Cold War fantasy that seems so plausible that one wonders whether it is the true story of why the Soviet Union rose and collapsed.
  • H.F.M. Prescott: The Man on a Donkey
    Set during the Pilgrimage of Grace, this is the rare historical novel that captures the mindset of the actors. The hero, Robert Aske, was martyred in a way that makes burning at the stake look merciful.
  • Theodore Odrach: Wave of Terror
    Based on the author's experiences when the Soviet Union occupied his homeland after the Stalin-Hitler Pact, this book melds Chekov and Solzhenitsyn. By stages, the isolated folk of the Pripyet Marshes learn that there are worse masters than their former Polish overlords.
  • Simon Montefiore: Sashenka: A Novel
    Both grim and funny, this historical novel peers into the inner world of an upper class Russian girl turned loyal Bolshevik, highlighting her youthful fling at revolution-making in Petrograd, her fall from grace under Stalin, and an historian's effort, after the end of communism, to ascertain her fate.
  • Harry Turtledove: The Man with the Iron Heart
    Can the U.S. maintain its resolve against a defeated enemy's terrorist campaign? Imagining a post-World War II Nazi insurgency, Harry Turtledove puts this question into a new context. As Reinhard von Heydrich's "werewolves" devastate Germany, war-weary Americans call for withdrawal, regardless of the consequences.
  • Neal Stephenson: Anathem
    If you have not a smidgen of interest in how Platonic philosophy relates to the "many worlds" version of quantum mechanics, you still may like this novel, though you'll probably wish that the characters talked less. Persevere. After a slow start, the story grows compelling, and the intellectual dialogues turn out not to be digressions.
  • Alfred Duggan: Lord Geoffrey's Fancy
    Perhaps the finest book of one of England's finest historical novelists. The setting is 13th Century Greece, where Crusaders fought each other and the shattered Byzantine Empire. The history is accurate, the writing graceful and the characters not merely modern people in fancy dress.
  • Rodney Bolt: History Play : The Lives and Afterlife of Christopher Marlowe
    A pseudo-history springing from the premise that Shakespeare's flashy predecessor survived the famous Deptford brawl and fled to the continent, where he secretly wrote almost all of the Bard's works. A clever, tongue-in-cheek reworking of literary history that also recreates the milieu shared by many real Elizabethan exiles.
  • Charles W. Chesnutt: Stories, Novels, and Essays (Library of America, 131)
    Fiction and essays by a black American writer who deserves a wider audience.
  • Harry Turtledove: Gunpowder Empire
    Debut of a juvenile series set in parallel worlds. 22nd century teen siblings, trapped without adult aid in a besieged city, must cope with the bizarre (to them) customs and prejudices of a never-fallen Roman Empire.
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Sunday, March 19, 2006


Re: the last posts --
The items that were bolded were supposed to be hyperlinks: they were going to the text of the Gospel of Judas.
Read it for a good laugh!

Hey, Scholar of Classics!
Speaking of "ideas not being destroyed completely": how about a religion whose members were imprisoned, tortured, thrown to lions, soaked in tar and lit as human torches...a religion whose books were burned and confiscated, a religion which was illegal for 260 years (52-312 AD), and yet still survived?
How about the thousands of people over the past 2,000 years who have gladly sacrificed their lives for the belief that Jesus Christ was and is both God and Man, who died and rose again?
Or how about the Catholic Church? You know, that thing that's been around for 2,000 plus years, making it by far the longest-lived human institution in history?
How about the Shroud of Turin? Or the image of Guadalope? Or the thousands of other miracles that you can look up just by googling "miracles, scientic evidence." If you can prove by scientific evidence that all these miracles are false, then maybe I'll start taking you seriously.

Who cares there's some similarities between Christianity and Paganism? How, exactly, does that prove or even insinuate that Christianity is false? Use logic, please; that would be helpful to me and other poor ignorant benighted Roman Catholics like me. Oh, but here's an idea: Maybe, just maybe, Mithraic religions, and gnosticism, are similar to Christianity!! Maybe Christianity came first? Have you thought of that possibility?

But just so you know the facts about the "Gospel of Judas". It was written no earlier than 130 AD, which would be about 100 years after Jesus died (and rose from the dead, but you probably don't believe that.) It claims to be a "secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot during a week three days before he celebrated passover. In it, Jesus mocks the diciples for the worship of "their god," which I assume is Yahweh, the God that the Jews worshipped. Then this Jesus rambles on for pages and pages about "luminaries" and "chaos" and other typical gnostic gobbledegook. Uh huh. Okay. And of course, we should just trust this one document over all the other documents. We should take this document's word that Jesus, a faithful Jew and a rabbi, would mock other Jews for worshiping Yahweh. We shouldn't be skeptical about the Gospel of Judas. But we SHOULD be skeptical about Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which were written a lot sooner to the actual events.

How is the "Gospel of Judas" more "real history" than the real Gospels? Do tell me, Scholar of Classics! Enlighten me, Don Joe! Share your secret wisdom to the masses, O Shining Lights of Logic and Reason!

Your outright discounting and dismissal before you have any actual knowledge of something is actually exactly what I've come to expect from your brand of Biblical "scholars". Why even bother writing about something of which you have almost no knowledge? You're clearly content to kick back in your cave and gaze upon the projections of shadows on the wall that were created by the authors of books who wished to label such things as "heresies".

Forget not that all Christianity started as what scholars refer to as a "mystery cult". It was terribly common in such cults of Roman and Greek origin to have death-resurrection motifs, transubstantiation, acts of symbolic cannibalism, and generalized mysticism and miracles. Whenever you dismiss the mystery gospels used by Gnostic heretics in early centuries as "...weld(ing) Jesus to fantastical cosmological ideas", you also discount almost your entire canon that was also read by them and has fantastical notions such as transubstantiation/transmutation, elements of a Mithraic sacrifice, a Pentacost, and an Apocalypse ("revealing of something hidden") of John.

A remotely objective history of Jesus Christ was lost long ago, and it will likely never be realized. The Roman Catholics won the battle between Christian mystery cults and rose to the top. However, the texts of the losing sects have somehow "miraculously" survived and escaped the purges and book burnings to a time when those who have delusions that they alone possess the entire and only Truth are powerless to snatch them from scholars and destroy them. Those texts shall now haunt you and plant the seeds of doubt, but when you get right down to it, it was not up to a council of men in ancient times to censor your path to knowing God...it is up to you to read every word attributed to an avatar of God, and to make a judgement based on your understanding and whatever divine insights you may receive.

It all goes to show that violent purges and book burnings, no matter how powerful the force behind them, cannot destroy an idea completely. In the end, if you choose to remain ignorant and blissful, you alone will answer for that. Just as "heretics" are also responsible for their beliefs. No free rides to enlightenment or salvation, here!

What of the synoptic gospels and _their_ heretical departure from true history?

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