Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel

Now that we are on the other side of my son’s graduation, I can work through my thoughts on Yann Martel’s latest book.  To be honest, however, I really don’t know what to think of Beatrice and Virgil.  I absolutely loved Life of Pi – the story has stuck with me for years.  Maybe that will be true of Beatrice and Virgil, too, but I don’t know that I want it to stick with me.

Maybe that’s what Martel was going for.  Obviously, he wants to evoke some extremely uncomfortable emotion within us and then just leave us there.  As far as I can tell, we are taken into Hell and that’s where we remain.

At the beginning of the book, the main character, Henry, is wanting to publish a flip book.  One side is an essay, the other side fiction.  It is an attempt to present the holocaust in a new way.   The two will merge into one another showing that there really is no ending or beginning.  The ending of the essay morphs into the beginning of the fictional story.  And the ending of the fictional story morphs into the beginning of the essay.  Unsurprisingly, his publishers don’t like it because they don’t think they can sell that sort of ambiguity.  They want something much more definite.  Something with a point so that they can market the book as being about something in specific.  It’s too difficult to market something that merges into itself and never has an actual beginning or end.

I watched a documentary about a woman who had been one of Dr. Mengele’s twins.  She had discovered the power of forgiveness and was able to forgive the Nazis.  But when it came to the Palestinians, forgiveness was a little more difficult to come by – especially when she was sitting face to face with several who were blaming her race for afflicting great harm on them.

That’s kind of the way it goes, isn’t it?  We’re horrified with what we see “out there” and are unwilling to point the finger back at ourselves.  We can feel good about forgiving those we believe have hurt us.  It gives us power.  But of what use is this power if we can’t likewise forgive those who hold us accountable for their pain?  When we say we forgive, what exactly does that mean?  That we get to feel superior?  Personally, I think forgiveness is meant to humble us.  Not make us feel superior to other human beings.

What I kept thinking the entire time I was reading Beatrice and Virgil, since it was about two stuffed animals who symbolize the Holocaust, is that the vast majority of us, despite our feelings of outrage against what happened to the Jews, are inadvertently creating unfathomable horrors against animals by our demand for cheap animal products.  In the name of efficiency, the Food Industry not only drives our demand, it does the unthinkable in order to meet it.  If most of us were to face the reality of how poultry, pork, fish and beef have become so incredibly inexpensive, I can’t help but think the demand would drop immediately.  Nobody would be OK with how horribly these animals are treated just so we can have cheap food at dinner.  The only reason we allow it is because we intentionally look the other way. And even if horrible things are happening to these animals, they don’t really matter, anyway.

Beatrice and Virgil are  are characters in Dante’s Divine Comedy.  Virgil is an actual Roman Poet that Dante greatly admired and possibly thought of as a mentor.  Dante used Virgil as the guide through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.   Beatrice was Dante’s great unrequited love.  He revered her in the deepest sense but marriages were arranged in his society so he could not be with her.  She also died very young.  In Divine Comedy, Dante is reunited with her and it is Beatrice that shows him around Paradise.

Martel turns them into a donkey and a howler monkey.  He says he came up with the names because in Divine Comedy, Dante has lost his way morally.  He is confused, he is lost, he is falling into sin and he wants to come back to the straight way.  The only way to come back to the straight way is by traveling through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.   Just as Dante’s guides are Virgil and Beatrice, they are Henry’s (and our)  guides through the Holocaust .

One reviewer said she had to go take a shower after completing it because it made her feel dirty.  I totally understand what she is talking about.  I felt dirty after reading the book because it made humanity seem like some sort of horrible, tainted horror that can offer no way out.

Beatrice and Virgil were characters who had been created by a taxidermist.  They weren’t “real”.  And they were the only characters that were remotely likable.  I didn’t like Henry or his wife at all.  The taxidermist was at least fascinating, but I didn’t like him, either.   It’s been 25 years since I read Divine Comedy, but I vaguely recall Dante being somewhat likable.

I also didn’t particularly appreciate the ending, probably because I didn’t get it.  I guess it represented the Inferno.  But hadn’t “heaven” essentially been created by the creator of that Inferno?  Perhaps that was the significance of trying to create the flip book with one part merging into the other so that there is no obvious beginning or end?  No definitive line between fact and fiction?

Maybe if I read it a second time, it would make better sense?  But  I have no desire to put myself through that again!

The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walters

The Financial Lives of the Poets is the first book by Jess Walter I’ve read.  I hadn’t even heard of him which I suppose is somewhat pathetic given that he’s apparently quite famous and has won several notable awards for previous books.  When I saw The Financial Lives of the Poets in the library, I couldn’t pass up the title.  I’ve never considered that poets have financial lives.  They are poets!!

The book was a lot of fun although I’m not so sure it was particularly good for my current midlife malaise.  It’s the adventures of Matt Prior, a 46 year old man (exactly my age) who has lost his job and is about to lose his home and possibly his wife who recently had a crazy Ebay failure of her own.  She’s since hooked up with Chuck from Lumberland, an old boyfriend from high school who stands to inherit the family lumber yard.

Matt is driven to do crazy things and it just keeps getting crazier.  He will periodically burst in with some hefty philosophical thought while considering the potential rebound of the real estate market or the going rate of weed.

Here’s one of Matt’s philosophical thoughts for you:  “I’m also sure of this: I’ll never fall in love again.  I’ve lost my innocence.  And my disappointment is not that my own home has lost half its value.  What disappoints me is me – that I fell for their propaganda when I knew better, that I actually allowed myself to believe that a person could own a piece of the world when the truth is that anything you try to own ends up owning you.”  Amen to that, Matt!!

In trying to decide what to tell his sons, he comes up with this:  “Boys, pay attention to your mother; mothers have a million things to teach you.  But fathers?  We only have two lessons, but these two things are everything you need to know: (1) What to do and (2) What not to do. “  That thought actually made me feel a little bit better about my husband’s lack of involvement with the kids. Perhaps it is, simply, a male thing.

And maybe it’s OK to feel like you are falling apart.  Maybe it’s even OK to fall apart. Jess Walter’s book is surprisingly hopeful despite being about losing it all (including your mind).

36 Arguments for the Existence of God

Please bare with me as I work through my thoughts on Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s 36 Arguments for the Existence of God.  I’m a suburban housewife, not a philosopher.  The only philosophical discussions I ever have are with people on-line, so I realize Goldstein’s arguments are completely out of my league.  But I have a ton of jumbled thoughts after reading the book and I just want to try and sort through them.

Overall, I genuinely enjoyed the book and had a good time reading it. One of the major points is that religious experience has very little to do with religious arguments. I think this is an important point. However, I suppose the implication, given that Cass’s book is called The Varieties of Religious Illusion and that all of the theists are somewhat delusional (or at least extremely manipulative), is that all religious experience is based on delusional emotional experience.  Much religious experience is delusional.  There’s no getting around that.  But is all religious experience delusional?

St. John of the Cross and the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing immediately come to mind.  St. John of the Cross had a very specific method for achieving mystical transcendence and it doesn’t look anything like what Goldstein presents in her book.  In fact, he functions very much like an early psychologist, cautioning against the standard magical experiences of his time and counseling those who are ready on how to get through the “dark night of the soul”.  Transcendence is a transcendence of the ego. It is a sort of unknowing which demands we let go of all definitions and labels of  God, the Universe, existence, etc. in order to experience it.  It is not a rational experience because reason demands definitions, symbols and labels in order to make sense.  The experience is not magical.  In fact, St. John of the Cross cautions that people be very careful about proceeding if they experience magical events.  He warns that the existence of magical events is more likely a decent into madness than a movement toward transcendence. A fine line divides the two.

Goldstein shows Cass having a euphoric experience toward the end of the book, and equates this to religious euphoric experience.  But simple euphoria is nothing like the transcendent experience that many mystics report.  What Cass experiences is more akin to the experience of gratefulness – a feeling of overwhelming well-being and love.  According to Meister Eckhart and modern day mystics like David Steindl-Rast, gratefulness is a form of prayer.  It is a practice that can give us an inkling of the ground of our being.  But an inkling of transcendence is not transcendence.  It’s just a glimpse of it.

That remains my problem with the so-called “New Atheists” who lump all religious experience together and claim it is delusional.  If they have not experienced what St. John of the Cross or the author of The Cloud of Unknowing have experienced, how can they know it is delusional?  Just because the experience is nonrational/nonpersonal (an experience from nowhere, nowhen, no center, and no “I”) does not mean it is irrational.  It is transrational/transpersonal.  Although it looks similar, the transpersonal state is very different from that which is experienced in prepersonal state.  The prepersonal state is that which comes before the emergence of a stable, coherent, individuated self . The transpersonal state can only occur after the self is fully individuated.  What Goldstein is arguing against is religious experience based on prerational thought, not transrational thought.

As far as I can tell, the closest she comes to touching upon transrational thought is Spinoza’s argument (No. 35).  I’ve never read Spinoza so I don’t know if she adequately dismisses his argument or not.  All I know about Spinoza is that he is credited with saying that we live, move, and have our being in God/Reality.  Whether or not this implies Spinoza’s God is the universe, I cannot say.  If this is Spinoza’s God, then I don’t see how it can be considered transcendent since the universe is tangible.

You can’t reasonably argue that transcendence exists because reason relies upon either/or thinking.  Either it is true OR it is false.  A transcendent God “is” AND “is not”.  Either/or thinking cannot comprehend that which “is” and “is not”.  All religious people who claim God IS and refuse to acknowledge that God IS NOT are likely stuck in either/or thinking, just as the atheists who claim that God IS NOT.  Most people who claim to have had a transpersonal experience, however, have no trouble understanding what is meant by God “is” AND “is not”.  Outside of either/or thinking, the question, “Does God exist?”, makes no sense whatsoever.  Whichever way you answer it, the answer does not point back to a truth.  It merely points back to a demand that things be one way or the other.

I agreed with every single one of the arguments, obviously.  There is no way to prove that God exists.  I have no problem with that.  And I don’t really care if people think God exists or not.  I just don’t like people telling me I should believe what it is they believe.  I took some notes on a few of the arguments…

Argument #1: The Cosmological Argument.  Everything that exists must have a cause.  The universe must have a cause.  Nothing can be the cause of itself…   Goldstein says this argument begs the question, “Who caused God?”  She calls this the Fallacy of Using One Mystery to Explain Another.  So why not just let the buck stop with the first mystery, which she says is the universe?  I don’t necessarily disagree, I just wonder if the universe is truly the first mystery.  We perceive the universe as extant. Maybe the buck should stop at the perception of the universe rather than the universe itself.   Or maybe that’s just splitting hairs.

Argument #11: The Argument from Miracles.  I have no argument with this, but different religious folk define miracles differently.  According to A Course in Miracles, for instance, miracles are strictly distinguished from magic and what this argument refers to (according to ACIM) is magic, not miracles.  A miracle, according to ACIM, is a shift in perception.  There is nothing magical about a shift in perception.  Yet a shift in perception is truly miraculous because it allows us to see things completely differently than we saw them previously.  Miracles happen “in time”.  They do not defy our sense of time, nor do they require transcendence.   A revelation, on the other hand, is beyond a miracle because it collapses our sense of time.  It is transcendent.  But it isn’t magical or irrational.

Argument #22:  The Argument from the Consensus of Mystics.  Goldstein says that it is not unreasonable to think that mystics are all deluded in the same way because non mystics can be made to have mystical experiences in scientific lab experiments.  Euphoria, Nature Oneness, Benign experiences of Oneness like Cass experienced, or experiences of Oneness like those experienced at political rallies are not transcendent experiences even though they are often termed “mystical”.  I’m sure such experiences can be mimicked in a lab.  But I highly doubt that transcendent mystical experiences have been mimicked in labs simply because an immense expansion of awareness is usually accompanied by such experiences.  People don’t just feel euphoric, they are completely changed by the experience.  Have lives been completely changed through lab experiences?

Argument #27: The Argument from the Upward Curve of History.  This argument relies on the idea that there is an upward moral curve to history.  I don’t really have a problem with the argument, just the assumption.  Are we more moral?  Starvation exists on a scale never before experienced.  The wars over the past century have killed more people than could ever before been imagined.  We have the potential to kill ourselves several times over thanks to nuclear technology.  Ethical treatment of animals is at an all-time low thanks to the massive food industry.  We are potentially destroying the environment beyond repair.  Slavery still exists in various forms around the world.  Maybe its just plain arrogance that makes us believe we are more moral than our ancestors.  Things were handled completely differently when the world was divided into tribes.  The emergence of civilizations required a new way to deal with moral issues so ethics came into being.  But that doesn’t mean civilized folks were more moral than tribal folks – just that the tribal ways did not work within civilized societies.

Anyway, my jumbled thoughts for what they are worth.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

I found Jonathan Livingston Seagull in a bookshelf I don’t look at too frequently.  I had no idea I had the book and imagine it probably came from my father.  I had read it when I was about 10 years old and absolutely loved it then. It’s a very short little book so I decided to read it again.

I didn’t like it so much 36 years later.  Not sure if that means I’m getting cynical in my old age, or what.  It irritated me.  Of course, I haven’t been feeling well and life hasn’t been looking particularly rosy or hopeful, so maybe it is cynicism that caused the irritation.

Once upon a time, life seemed like it was about achieving your full-potential, becoming all that you can be and not letting the nuisances of every day life or the banality of normal societal existence keep you down.  But I’m 46 years old and have watched untold numbers of friends take huge nose dives while trying to achieve untold heights. Several walked out on their spouses and children seeking a more “meaningful” lifestyle and didn’t find it.  Another friend ended up completely bankrupt and reliant upon whomever would take him in because he was certain that by creating the company of his dreams, he’d become a millionaire.  Maybe it finally happened, but I doubt it.  And even if it did happen, did it contain the meaning he expected?

I do think you should go after what it is you want to do.  But at what cost?  If Cognitive Psychologists are correct, then what makes us genuinely happy is ordinary stuff like family and friends, not extraordinary achievement.  Richard Bach left his wife and six children because he decided he didn’t believe in marriage.  I don’t believe in marriage, either, but I think there is a lot to be said for commitment.

A lot of people claim Jonathan Livingston Seagull is about transcending the ego.  I don’t read it that way at all.   Chasing after your desires is all about ego.  Of course, there is also a lot to be said for flying for the sake of flying, eating for the sake of eating, raising children for the sake of raising children, and loving for the sake of loving.  I’m just not convinced you need to leave the ordinary things of this world, like spouses and children, in order to be extraordinary.

Speaking of leaving children, we have yet another vagabond teen staying in our home tonight.  This is the third kid we have taken in who has been kicked out of his house this year!  I seriously don’t get it. If your child violently assaults you or someone in your home, throw him out.  But if he comes home stoned or talks back or something like that, please figure out a more adult way to deal with it!!  Throwing him out on the streets is guaranteed to make him worse, not better.  If you aren’t expecting him to be homeless because you know he’ll likely find a decent place to stay, just know that most of us have our own struggles and don’t really want to have to take on yours, too.

Sorry! I’m just grumpy because I’m not doing much soaring, lately.  I haven’t been feeling well. Not sure what is wrong with me.

Sula by Toni Morrison

The first time I read Toni Morrison’s Sula was sometime back in the 1990s.  I enjoyed the story and was completely affected by it, but I’m not sure I understood it.  Like Beloved, I think it hit me at some primal level. Just a few months after I read Sula, we went to London and made a side trip to Bath which houses the Roman temple to Sulis Minerva.  I always kind of wondered if Morrison had connected Sula with Sulis.  I highly doubt it, but after reading the book a second time, there is definitely a connection.

Sulis, also known as Sul and sometimes Sula, was a Celtic goddess.  The thing about Celts is that they were extremely independent people.  They had built a shrine to Sulis over a spring which they considered to be life giving.  It didn’t happen often, but occasionally, the Romans adopted the Celtic deities, which they did in the case of Sulis.  You have to wonder about the politics behind that.  Sulis was a local goddess as were all Celtic gods. ( No “corporate” gods for the Celts!)  She was considered to be a life giving mother goddess. 

The Romans invade and bring their patriarchal society along with them. They connect Sulis  with Minerva, the virgin goddess closely associated with the Greek Goddess Athena.  According to J.J. Bachofen, Athena was perverted by a patriarchal society and essentially became the patriarch of Athens, despite once having mother goddess standing.  No doubt, the Romans were able to gain some control over the Celts by tempering the Celtic local goddess with their virgin, patriarchal, “corporate” goddess.  The Romans were an extremely patriarchal culture.  (Christianity inherited its patriarchy from the Romans.)

I think Morrison’s Sula represents a sort of feminine divinity/feminine energy.  She turns everything about the patriarchal society in which she lives upside down.  Nothing is as it seems.  People personify her as evil and with that personification, are able to become more loving toward one another.   That’s why a patriarchal Christianity needs an evil “other”/devil.  It’s a container that allows individuals to feel good about themselves and ignore the not so nice things they do.

SPOILER WARNING!!!

I’m not sure I can make total sense of this, but let me try and give two “for instances” from the book to explain what I mean.  First of all, there is Eva who is Sula’s grandmother.  She has a son she adores called Plum.  He comes home from the war addicted to heroin and Eva takes it upon herself to kill him.  She does this entirely out of love.  She can’t stand the thought of him being overtaken by the addiction.  So what does this say about love?  On the one hand, it is life giving.  On the other, it can be smothering to the point of death.  Love isn’t all good.  It has its dark side.  It can become quite costly when possessive.  But as long as an action is done with love, then it is not an evil action, right?  Or at least, so it seems to the individual who commits the act.  Evil is “out there”.  Not “in me”.   Second, there is Teapot (I think that’s the little boys name).  He’s the malnourished, ill cared for son of a negligent mother.  But, when he falls down Sula’s steps and breaks a bone (which doctors say is thanks to malnourishment more than the fall), the mother blames Sula for his fall.  And this is enough for her to start taking care of her child. By demonizing Sula, she is able to change the story about herself and view herself as “good”.

Even though Sula is childless, in a sense, she is life giving simply by being willing to take on the personification of evil for the community.  She’s sort of ego-less in that  she doesn’t assume the images the community demands of its citizens, nor does she try and altar the image they create for her.  Sula is concerned only with being her own person – being who she is rather than being what others expect of her. That way, if she’s lonely, then her loneliness is hers.  It’s not a second-hand loneliness like Nel’s.  Nel is lonely because she allowed her friendship with Sula to be usurped by her relationship with her husband, Jude, who really only married her because he couldn’t get the “white” job he wanted.  Marrying Nel was a way for Jude to feel “manly”.  Sula has an affair with him because she comes from a line of women who think nothing of sleeping with men.  It’s nothing to her.  But it’s everything to Nel who accuses Sula of having taken her husband away.   Yet, Sula didn’t kill him.  She didn’t literally take him away.  Nel’s husband left on his own accord.  Why blame the female and not the man?

I know – I’m all over the place.  I apologize.  But I have to go back to Nel.  Sula and Nel are considered to be one person when they are children.  They make up a whole.  Nel comes from a family who has taken on the patriarchal norms.  Everything is orderly and needs to have meaning.  Sula comes from a much more chaotic family with a matriarch, Eva, at it’s head.  Things are ever-changing in Sula’s world so fixed meaning is much more difficult to come by. These two girls compliment one another.  Nel makes sense of things when Sula can’t.  And Sula gives life for Nel that she wouldn’t otherwise have.  Yet, despite Nel’s recognition that Sula is life giving, she still blames Sula for various events in their childhood, which allows her to see herself as “good”.

Take Sula chopping off her finger, for instance.  Sula did this specifically to protect Nel.  Nel had been avoiding a bunch of rowdy Irish boys for weeks.  Sula finally suggests they take their normal route and not avoid the boys.  They meet up with the boys and Sula, very calmly, pulls out her knife and cuts off the end of her finger.  She tells them that if she can do this to herself, just think what she’ll do to them.  It works.  They back off. 

You can’t predict what Sula is going to do.  Nel sees this as crazy.  But is it crazy?  Sula knows that the boys will harm Nel if the girls act as expected (fearfully).  But Sula doesn’t bow down to their expectation.  She confronts the masculine energy with her own chaotic feminine energy and the masculine energy has to make way for it because it can’t make sense of it.

At the end of the book, when Nel confronts Sula about having slept with Jude, Sula asks why she would have ended a friendship just because she slept with Jude.  She suggests that maybe Nel has it wrong and that it was Sula who was the good one.

In the end, Nel realizes that it wasn’t Jude she was missing.  It was Sula, who was there, all along.  That gives me goosepimples.  Not because I think this was some sort of lesbian relationship.  I didn’t read it that way at all.   What I think Nel recognizes is that the feminine energy she possesses, that Sula represents, was available to her all along, as it is to all women.  We voluntarily give it up for the sake of compliance, like Nel’s mother flashing her smile at the white conductor which Nel instinctively reacted against, as did all of the black soldiers on the train.  If you comply, you are as good as dead.

I asked the other day, “What’s so wrong with just being human?  If something makes us sad or makes living difficult for a period of time, is it because we lack the appropriate belief in God?  Or is it simply because we are human?”  I said I didn’t know where I was going with that.  But I think Sula directly answers it.  Creating ideas about God is a way to make sense of God – to create meaning.  That’s OK.  But we have to be willing to balance our need for meaning with an acceptance of the inherent chaotic nature of life.  We have to be willing to balance the masculine with the feminine.

There is so much to this book.  I think I’d have to read it 50 times, at least, to get everything out of it!  I understand it way better this time around than I did the first time.   I’m sure I’ll understand it even better the next time.  Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic book!

D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths

D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths is meant for children around 9 to 12 years of age, and both of my kids absolutely loved it when they were about that age (and younger). It’s not meant for highschoolers. But it offers such a wonderful, comprehensive review of all of the major players in Greek Mythology that it made a worthwhile review for literary purposes.

It covers all of the major gods, most of the minor gods, the “clever and vainglorious kings”, Zeus’ off-spring, and the major Greek heroes.  The stories are straightforward enough that you can still make out who is sleeping with who despite the fact that it’s written for children.

I love the introduction…

     In olden times, when men still worshiped ugly idols, there lived in the land of Greece a folk of shepherds and herdsmen who cherished light and beauty.  They did not worship dark idols like their neighbors, but created instead their own beautiful, radiant gods. The Greek gods looked much like people and acted like them, too, only they were taller, handsomer and could do no wrong.  Fire-breathing monsters and beasts with many heads stood for all that was dark and wicked.  They were for gods and great heroes to conquer.

     The gods lived on top of Olympus, a mountain so high and steep that no man could climb it and see them in their shining palace.  But they often descended to earth, sometimes in their own shapes, sometimes disguised as humans or animals. Mortals worshiped the gods and the gods honored Mother Earth.  They had all sprung from her, for she was the beginning of all life.

What made people finally stop worshiping the Greek Gods?  I’m not sure we have.

Dionysus, the god of wine and one of the favored gods among the Romans, is the only god on Mt. Olympus that is part mortal.  Is it any coincidence that Jesus, the fully human, fully divine “God” of Christianity is partaken of through the eating of bread and drinking of wine in Roman Catholicism?  Me thinks not.

Tales from Outer Suburbia

My daughter and I worked our way through Tales from Outer Suburbia thanks to a recommendation from Kristen.  I’m very sad to have to take all of these stories back to the library!

 At first, we didn’t get “The Water Buffalo” at all.  We read it several times and then one, night, I had a dream and woke up realizing that the water buffalo is the wilderness that still exists in suburbia.

The water buffalo lives in the vacant lot at the end of a suburban street – the lot with all of the grass growing on it.  If a kid would ask the water buffalo for advice, the buffalo would answer, but only by pointing in a particular direction.  He offered no particulars.  The older the suburban kids became, the more they wanted the particulars, and so they quit visiting the buffalo.  The water buffalo eventually left.  Which was ashame, really, because every time the kids did follow the buffalo’s advice, they were surprised and delighted with what they found.

Here you are in suburbia, where everything is always explained in detail.  No mystery is left unsolved.  And if you do happen upon a mystery, there are plenty of anti-anxiety meds available to help you steer clear from the anxiety of the unknown.  The water buffalo, for me, represents the wilderness of subconscious knowing.  It’s that part of us that can be trusted, but that we tend to disregard because it doesn’t provide the security modern life demands.

Or imagine the government has asked you to keep a missile in your back yard and tells you to be alert, but not alarmed.  These rockets take up huge amounts of your back yard. Is it any wonder that kids turn them into play houses, birds into bird houses and that adults decorate them?  Of course, these alterations to the rockets may render them useless.  But how useful are they in the first place?

Or what if you took the idea of the standard holiday where people are given the gifts they want and turned it into a holiday, a nameless one, where people sacrifice the things they love?

Amazon says this book is for preschool and elementary school aged children.  While young children might enjoy these stories, I have a difficult time thinking they would understand them. The Tales from Outer Suburbia are clearly for teens and adults who at least have some literary and political savvy.

Shaun Tan grew up in Perth, Australia.  He claims Ray Bradbury was his favorite author in his pre-teen years.  That was true for me, too.  I was constantly getting caught reading Bradbury stories under my desk.  My mother caught me with I Sing the Body Electric under my covers, and thought it was a dirty book.  I got in tons of trouble for reading Bradbury!

These sorts of tales (fantasy) are among my all-time favorite. Now 9th graders are forced to read Bradbury so sneaking him under you desk is no longer as necessary. I wonder how many kids read Tan on the sly?