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Book reviews

Bethany Bomberger’s Pro-Life Kids! (Bara Publishing, 2019)

Diversity and inclusion are restored to the pro-life movement in this beautiful children’s book.

When people hear the buzzwords “diversity” or “inclusion”, they may shrug off whatever someone says as mere leftist intellectual garbage.  Usually, that’s true.  This time, however, Bethany Bomberger shows that pro-lifers have recaptured the noble concepts of diversity and inclusion in a beautifully-illustrated book, suitable for children primarily, so that the next generation is as pro-life as preceding ones.

After all, inclusion means that the unborn child should be included in the human family.  As everybody knows, legalized abortion made the mother seem more important than the unborn child or the father.

Moreover, diversity means that children who are differently-abled (previously called “handicapped” or “disabled”) should be included in the human family.  Again, as everybody knows, abortion supporters and those who advocate legalized infanticide think that handicapped persons are less than human and should be killed either in the womb (abortion) or immediately on being born (infanticide).

And some people think that Nazi genocide and eugenics died in 1945!  Don’t they know what the Democratic Party of 2021 supports?  Guess not.

While the book is unpaginated (a major drawback for students researching pro-life literature), the illustrations by Ed Koehler are vibrant and bold.  The only frightening pages are those depicting, appropriately, slaveowners and Nazi soldiers telling African-American slaves and Jews that they are “not a person”—a statement that everybody (except abortion and infanticide supporters and politicians in the Democratic Party) would find revolting.

And, yes, even adults will identify with some of the children rejoicing in their child-like behavior.  I identify with the blond-haired kid, snapping his fingers, dancing with body-wrenching Greek gusto.

Children will appreciate the rhyming quatrains, a pattern dominantly followed throughout the book.

Students of pro-life literature can recall Gail Patrick Brennan’s 1979 book Alone…A Story for Children…About Abortion! as perhaps the first major children’s work to advance a life-affirming philosophy.  By recapturing the ideals of diversity and inclusion, which some leftists appropriated for a restrictive and exclusionary purpose, Bomberger has added a delightful work to the body of life-affirming, pro-life children’s literature.

Note: Since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life books, I recommend not buying this book on Amazon.  (Why give your hard-earned dollars to a company that censors books?)  Instead, buy this book directly from the Radiance Foundation’s website: https://theradiancefoundation.myshopify.com/collections/books.

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Book reviews

Rita Williams-Garcia’s Like Sisters on the Homefront (HarperTeen, 1995)

Forced abortion, wrong attitudes about sex, dysfunctional family, yet an atypical teen novel.

While this may seem to be a typical teen abortion novel, Williams-Garcia’s take on a dysfunctional African-American family includes many atypical elements.  For example, Gayle is forced into abortion, which is typical of many fourteen-year-olds whose mothers think that having a baby is the end of their daughters’ lives, yet the integrity of the family unit is maintained (kinda sorta like kinda) at novel’s end, which was atypical of African-American families in 1995 and even more so now in 2020.

Overall, however, the novel is typical for teens who want to read about abortion, sex, and family dysfunction.

The balance of this review will collate elements of the novel into the five questions of right-to-life literary theory.

First, does the literary work support the perspective that human life is, in the philosophical sense, a good, some “thing” which is priceless?  The answer to this question must remain ambiguous, although various statements from characters suggest that human life is more drudgery than joy.

Second, does the literary work respect the individual as a being with inherent rights, the paramount one being the right to life?  There is little evidence to support a positive answer to this question.  Perhaps the best evidence to show that characters in this novel respect human life is the great-grandmother’s rehearsal of the family’s history since slavery times.  The narration of “who begat whom” at novel’s end is a life-affirming technique, one which Gayle appreciates after 195 pages of trying to understand what a family means.

Third, if the literary work covers the actions of a family, does it do so respecting heterosexual normativity and the integrity of the family?  Excepting the Georgia faction of her family, Gayle has little idea of what constitutes a normal heterosexual family.  Her father is dead.  Her mother struggles to maintain a household of two children.  Gayle’s eighteen-year-old brother is content to be lazy.  Gayle herself seems to have no idea that sexual activity is meant for a marital covenant; she must think sex is something to do to have fun or a means to while away an afternoon.

Fourth, does the literary work comport with the view that unborn, newborn, and mature human life has an inherent right to exist?  Obviously not on the part of Gayle’s mother, who forces her into abortion because she considers her unborn grandchild a “mistake” (3).  Nor is it obvious on Gayle’s part.  Although fourteen, she could have resisted her mother’s effort to force her into abortion; the author describes her capability in physically fighting with her mother, so Gayle could have escaped her mother’s clutches.

Moreover, Gayle’s claim that she “went along with the abortion because she could always have another baby” just makes her more complicit in the abortion.  Besides that, her claim shows that she has no respect for each individual human life, thinking that the child aborted was somehow “replaceable” (20-21).

The characters’ attitudes about sex are even more backward: Gayle treats sex as a mere casual activity, and her uptight Christian cousin Cookie thinks of it as sinful.  No character evinces the idea that sex is a natural activity given by God for the delight of spouses for their pleasure and for the procreation of children.  Thus, no Theology of the Body in this novel; the characters are stuck in the mindset of sex the way the abortion business Planned Parenthood thinks of it.

Fifth, when they are faced with their mortality, do the characters come to a realization that there is a divine presence in the world which justifies a life-affirming perspective?  The great-grandmother, who is on her deathbed, is genuinely aware of religious tenets which guide human life.  Otherwise, the characters are either hostile to Christianity or at least the Protestant version of it (Gayle), ignorant of its teachings (Gayle again), or hypocritical (Gayle’s uncle, a dour and angry minister).

One item in the novel is unrealistic.  The narrator identifies a woman at the abortion clinic who wears a “RESPECT LIFE” pin (7; all caps in original).  How is it possible that someone wearing such a pin would work in an abortion clinic?  That’s like saying someone with a “Trump for President” button would attend a rally of the racist organization Black Lives Matter.

Despite this and maybe other faults, a cultural critic or African-American activist working for the integrity of the traditional family (like Ben Carson or Candace Owens) would be able to cite this novel as more evidence, not only of the unfortunate state of the African-American family during the horrendous Clinton years, but also of the even sadder condition of African-American families under the Obama reign/dictatorship.

While this novel is dated, it can help contemporary readers understand the disastrous effects of an anti-life philosophy on a teenager’s life.

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Book reviews

Gabriel Weston’s Dirty Work (Little, Brown, 2013)

“Just OK” fictional account of a British abortionist.

Gabriel Weston’s novel of a British abortionist under review after a mother nearly bled to death isn’t a surprising read.  The hospital panel eventually finds Nancy Mullion fit to be a doctor.  Since the hospital allows her to continue to be an abortionist, the plot has a sad ending.

Mullion’s language shows that she is a typical abortionist.  She has no religious foundation, views abortion as just something that any doctor should do in the course of his or her duties, and is antagonistic towards pro-lifers, even venturing the ad hoministic opinion that all “civilized” people are anti-life (116).

The passage where she offers “some kind of reverence” to the aborted child by making sure all of his or her body parts have been gathered after the abortion is ridiculous, yet credible, now that David Daleiden’s investigative journalism shows that the abortion business Planned Parenthood does just that when it sells aborted baby body parts (179).

Also, like a typical abortionist, Nancy does not see the unborn child as her patient equal to the mother.  These characteristics are typical of abortionists.

One well-written passage of process analysis writing occurs when Weston shows how her narrator slid to becoming a mere abortionist instead of a doctor (121-125).

Overall, this is a standard narrative of an abortionist undergoing, as the book says, “perpetration-induced traumatic stress”, a category of PTSD assigned to those who kill (163).  Since abortionists are killers, it’s no wonder that the narrator is tortured in her 180-page attempt to resolve her trauma.

Unfortunately, Nancy Mullion’s perpetration-induced traumatic stress will endure as long as she continues killing the dirty work of killing the unborn.

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Book reviews

Ramona Treviño’s Redeemed by Grace: A Catholic Woman’s Journey to Planned Parenthood and Back (Ignatius Press, 2015)

An honest biography of a Latina who overcame dependence on the abortion business Planned Parenthood.

No doubt the abortion business Planned Parenthood would want to ban Ramona Treviño’s biography for two reasons.  Treviño shows not only how she got sucked into the company’s schemes to profit from artificial birth control and abortion, but also how she was able to free herself from financial dependency on its immoral practices.

How a nominally Catholic woman got entangled with an abortion company is easy to understand when her personal life is known.  Treviño was pregnant at sixteen.  She skipped so much school because her first husband was jealous that she eventually dropped out.  Her adulterous husband led to a divorce and then a one-night stand.  Later in the biography, Treviño discloses that she had attempted suicide.

With such negative life events, one can understand, while not approve, how she fell into making money from Planned Parenthood.  Treviño constantly notes her dependence on the abortion company for economic security, which began when a friend called her to talk “about an opening within her new company, Planned Parenthood” (42).  As a manager of a clinic, Treviño had doubts about her ability to avoid the abortion part of the business, “but I had a job to do, bills to pay” (48).  She had to “do what’s required to get the paycheck” (67).  As the years progressed, Treviño rationalized her work for the abortion company, saying that “Planned Parenthood is keeping our family fed” (81) and that she was “just nervous about money” (90), even though she admitted, “I know I needed to cast aside fear and not to let my attachment to money and other provisions stop me from doing what was right” (90).

Eventually, of course, Treviño left the abortion company and realized only when she studied Church teachings and lay Catholic authors that abortion is a product of a contraceptive culture.  She reiterates what everyone in the abortion business Planned Parenthood knows, that artificial birth control “is the gateway to abortion” (2).  A turning point for her occurred when she spoke before a group of female juvenile offenders, ostensibly about birth control.  “I realized,” she writes, “that birth control was not the solution to their problems at all” (61).  The Epilogue recapitulates the contraception and abortion connection (135-40).

A final aspect of Treviño’s biography worth mentioning is the positive influence of protesters outside her Planned Parenthood facility.  Treviño’s appreciation of pro-life protesters is sincere: “Only something as big as life and death could be a strong enough reason for people to disrupt their busy routines to go somewhere just to pray” (80).

While not as well-known a biography as Abby Johnson’s Unplanned, Treviño’s account of her departure from the abortion company Planned Parenthood should inspire many employees to abandon that abortion business.  At the least, her praise for abortion clinic protesters will encourage those pro-life activists to continue their fine work.

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Book reviews

April Genevieve Tucholke’s The Boneless Mercies (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2018)

Interesting yet tiring fantasy on how pagans viewed euthanasia/medical killing before Christianity.

Although riddled with typical feminist nonsense (subordination of men, women create idyllic communities, etc.) and written in excessively small paragraphs, Tucholke’s 339-page fantasy novel is an interesting perspective of euthanasia in an ancient pagan world.  Contemporary readers, who have the benefit of Judaism and Christianity, can learn much from her creative effort.

The balance of this necessarily brief review collates my opinions about the work using the five questions which constitute right-to-life literary theory.

1.  Does the literary work support the perspective that human life is, in the philosophical sense, a good, some “thing” which is priceless?

This question cannot be answered clearly without deeper study since the characters manifest an ambiguous view of human life.  Granted, they trudge through their lives, moving from one person to kill to another (at least, until they abandon their euthanasia killing for a greater, life-affirming goal), but from their statements it is unclear whether they see human life as anything good, true, or beautiful.  Yes, the killers call their activity a “noble” profession (6), but several characters, including Frey, the narrator, express their desire to be something besides a “mercy-girl” (13).  In fact, their killing, according to several characters, is strictly utilitarian: they kill because people are in pain, and they are always paid for the killings (33).

This objection to the fundamental question of their valuation of human life may be anachronistic, however, since the characters are pagan and have no inkling of Jewish and Christian ethics.  However, it is interesting that the characters provide evidence of natural law.  They intuitively know that killing a fellow human being is wrong.  That may account for their desire to become something other than killers.

2.  Does the literary work respect the individual as a being with inherent rights, the paramount one being the right to life?

The answer to this question is obviously no.  The essential philosophy behind the novel is that pain is more valuable than human life.  Otherwise, the characters would do everything in their power to maintain life and alleviate pain, much like what other characters, the genuine healers, do for the sick and wounded or what, in our own world, hospice care workers do when they strive to eliminate the pain of those in the terminal stages of their lives.

3.  If the literary work covers the actions of a family, does it do so respecting heterosexual normativity and the integrity of the family?

While Frey obviously is heterosexual (witness her teenage girl coyness around the only male who accompanies the Mercies, Trigve, as well as her sexual activity with another man), the heterosexual normativity of human family life is either broken, missing, or unknown for virtually all characters.

4.  Does the literary work comport with the view that unborn, newborn, and mature human life has an inherent right to exist?

Frey acknowledges that she uses herbs as chemical abortions (25).  The dehumanization which contemporary euthanasia advocates use is evident in the novel.  Even though she addresses the people whom she will kill as “lamb”, Frey identifies those persons as “marks” [1], a unique dehumanizing term that I have not yet seen in literature, which carries the connotation of a bullseye in archery.  That sounds like a “good death” all right!

5.  When they are faced with their mortality, do the characters come to a realization that there is a divine presence in the world which justifies a life-affirming perspective?

Characters mention pagan gods and goddesses throughout the novel, but, since they follow pagan deities, the outlook on human life beyond the grave is necessarily negative.  Frey presumes that a life “was over [….] would soon be forgotten” after death (76); elsewhere, she refers to “meaningless life” (131).  Characters believe in the transmigration of souls (194) and a cyclic view of world history (223).  Again, one must remember that these are pagan characters who have not yet benefitted from Judaism and Christianity.

Is this novel worthwhile reading?  Well, yeah.  One can pick up some ideas that contemporary abortion and euthanasia advocates might use to justify their killing (dehumanizing terms, a belief that humans can be killed instead of helped with their pain, etc.).  The most tiring thing about the novel is that the paragraphs are so small, but then one cannot expect the quality of Henry James in a novel designed to make money, catering to the young adult market.

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Book reviews

Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Harper Perennial, 1989; originally published 1961)

A novel of a typical eugenicist: be arrogant, push birth control on people, and support fascists.

Most people think of the loud-mouthed and sex-starved spinster of the film version of Spark’s novel.  What intrigued me were the eugenic beliefs of that spinster, which account for her obnoxious life.

Several lines manifest Jean Brodie’s fascination with the eugenicist foundation of the artificial birth control movement, and it’s surprising that more critics have not commented on it.  One characteristic of the thirty-year-old and older women who constituted the “war-bereaved spinsterhood” of the novel’s setting to which Brodie belonged was that “they preached the inventions of Maria Stopes” (43-4), Stopes being the infamous British contraception activist.  Immediately after this general discussion, Brodie herself proclaims that “birth control is the only answer to the problem of the working class.  A free issue to every household…” (44; ellipsis in original).

As any high school student could point out, Brodie is immediately guilty of the either/or and hasty generalization logical fallacies.  Artificial birth control is not the only solution to economic poverty.

Logic aside, her support for artificial birth control speaks volumes about her eugenic ideas.  Brodie must follow what Margaret Sanger, founder of the abortion business Planned Parenthood, once decreed: that artificial birth control would stop those “unfit” to have children from reproducing.  Eugenicists like Brodie would agree with Sanger’s goal to have “More children from the fit, less from the unfit.”

Brodie’s eugenic belief, manifested in her promotion of artificial birth control, accounts for her arrogance, evident throughout the novel.  She believes that her educational methods are exemplary, that her fornication with a fellow teacher is acceptable, and that she can form “her girls” into her own image (a God-like quality).

Of course, Brodie is anti-Catholic; someone like her would not tolerate the authority of a religion representing God on earth.

Critics have commented on Brodie’s support for dictators like Mussolini and Hitler, but they have failed to see that political support for such people follows naturally from the eugenic and artificial birth control philosophy.  After all, if one does not believe in democracy (the will of the people expressed in ordinary elections, like the corrupt Democratic Party of today), then one will support a dictator.  Even after the war, Brodie diminishes Hitler’s eugenic crimes with an extreme litotes: “Hitler was rather naughty” (131; italics in original).  Singing the lyrics to Eminem’s “Criminal” as the theme song of the Democratic Party may be naughty; murdering millions of human beings is criminal.

Spark’s epitaph for Brodie is trenchant: “Her name and memory, after her death, flitted from mouth to mouth like swallows in summer, and in winter they were gone” (136).

How sad!  Why would anybody want to be a eugenicist like Jean Brodie?  That’s like being an advocate of artificial birth control (what the abortion business Planned Parenthood promotes) or a politician in the corrupt Democratic Party.

In the effort to reverse cancel culture by reading hosts of dead white female authors, on to the next British classic.

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Book reviews

Muriel Spark’s Memento Mori (Modern Library, 1959)

1959 novel worth reading in the twenty-first century to counter the euthanasia lobby’s efforts to kill the elderly.

Muriel Spark probably had no idea that her novel built on the Latin phrase “Remember death” would help fight against killing the elderly in 2020.  Granted, most readers would treat this novel as one of those grand and fun British mysteries, with the notable exception that the antagonist in this whodunit (the “person” who calls the elderly to remind them that they will die) is Death itself.

However, reading this 1959 novel from a right-to-life literary perspective rejuvenated its 220 pages for me, now, in 2020.  While one can definitely work this review into a larger essay for a scholarly conference, in brief, the five questions of right-to-life literary theory reveal aspects which are relevant for contemporary culture.

First, does the literary work support the perspective that human life is, in the philosophical sense, a good, some “thing” which is priceless?

The answer to this question is resoundingly yes, not only from the elderly persons who enjoy life despite their senility, aches, pains, loss of faculties, etc., but also from the characters who demean other characters for the “crime” of getting old.  One thinks immediately of Godfrey Colston, who despises the senility of his own wife, Charmian.

Second, does the literary work respect the individual as a being with inherent rights, the paramount one being the right to life?

Again, yes, and again affirmed from both categories of characters: those who take advancing age in stride and those who cannot accept their humanity.  It is especially telling that Granny Barnacle, one of the old women who reside in “hospital” (what we would call a nursing home) is either paranoid or keenly aware that some attending nurses would rather have the elderly die from pneumonia.

Third, if the literary work covers the actions of a family, does it do so respecting heterosexual normativity and the integrity of the family?

Since this novel concerns the elderly, euthanasia may be a more important surface issue to handle.  However, virtually all characters seem bereft of a stable heterosexual family life.  Even with the numerous adulterous affairs which these elderly people had in their youth, some have achieved stability in marriage, whether sacramental or merely convenient.

Fourth, does the literary work comport with the view that unborn, newborn, and mature human life has an inherent right to exist?

Respect for the elderly abounds throughout the novel, with only a couple of hints that some characters think that the elderly do not possess life worth living.  Reading this novel, therefore, is a pleasant journey to a time (a mere fifty years ago!) when most people would never have entertained the idea of killing the elderly or denying food and water rights to the medically vulnerable.

Finally, when they are faced with their mortality, do the characters come to a realization that there is a divine presence in the world which justifies a life-affirming perspective?

It would be a fascinating study for a high school or college student to write specifically about how the elderly people react to the reminders that they will die.  The reactions range from the seemingly annoyed response of a non-religious or perfunctory Protestant character like Godfrey to the acceptance of death by religious characters such as the Catholics Charmian or Jean Taylor.

Want a delightful few nights’ reading, away from posting or tweeting political material on services like Facebook or Twitter which are biased against conservatives, pro-lifers, and President Trump?  Read Spark’s novel, if only to remind yourself that, since we’re all going to die anyway, we must make our time on this planet worth it.

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Book reviews

John Steinbeck’s East of Eden (Penguin Books, 2002; originally published 1952)

Whores, emasculated men, and Protestant views on sexuality.

Forget the “iconic” film version of Steinbeck’s novel with weepy-eyed James Dean in the lead role.  Read all 601 pages to see how screwed up American life was a hundred years ago.

What can a novel written in 1952—68 years or about three generations ago—teach contemporary readers anything, especially since the narrative depicts an even older time, spanning the last decades of the nineteenth and the first two decades of the twentieth centuries?

Nothing, except that…

The riveting attempted self-abortion episode in chapter 13 beautifully illustrates how some mothers were so hostile to their husbands that they would do anything to kill the unborn children whom they carried.  Attempting to abort twins with a knitting needle?  What a horrible way not only to reject unborn life, but also to endanger one’s own life.

Adam Trask’s wife is not so much a typical liberated woman as she is a typical bitch character.  As a daughter, Cathy arranges the murder of her parents.  As a wife, Kate shoots Adam, leaves him, abandons her newborn twin sons, kills the owner of a local whorehouse, and then assumes ownership of that whorehouse—all actions to accomplish her desire of being “free” (however distorted her idea of freedom was).  She commits suicide at novel’s end.

How is that a happy, liberated life?  Is that what women’s liberation wanted for women a hundred years ago?  Is that what women—and men—want from the anti-life (pro-abortion) feminist movement now?

Even though the fighting (between male characters and the fighting between Adam and Cathy as husband and “wife”), the shootings, and the murders are vibrantly depicted, some parts of the novel are tedious, which may account for the need to take a Joe Biden nap nap every few chapters.  Charles’ anger against Adam is an overreaction.  Cal’s extreme anger against his father’s affection towards his younger brother seems unjustified.  The Chinese servant Lee spouts too much wisdom to Adam and his sons.  The sexual purity of Aron need not be attributed to sexual hang-ups but to his devout and mature understanding of his male sexual power.  The narrator becomes preachy, as in the ridiculous claim that categorizes religion as something “which limits or destroys the individual” (chapter 13, p. 131).

Perhaps these flaws show how Steinbeck’s novel is a condemnation of the Protestant ethic which distorted what should have been joyous things in American life: marriage, sex within marriage, children, and wealth.  If only the characters adopted Catholic Christianity!

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Book reviews

Henryk Sienkiewicz’ Quo Vadis: A Narrative of the Time of Nero (Book League of America, 1925; originally published 1895-1896)

Whether the dictator is Nero, Stalin, Obama, or Communist China, a novel which speaks to our times.

Sienkiewicz’ massive novel of Christians persecuted under the pagan Roman emperor Nero reads like real life for Christians who survived Lenin, Stalin, Clinton, Obama, Communist Chinese, or other dictators who tried to crush Christianity.

Relevancy aside, the novel is a masterpiece of swarming detail; lugubrious paragraphs; and dynamic, not static characters—many of whom are people we first hate and then love (think Susan Lucci of All My Children).

The detail of the novel is amazing and reminds one that the ancient Roman Empire was as diverse as the contemporary United States: languages, races, literature, religions, etc.  Sienkiewicz must have researched the empire thoroughly to be able to enumerate such details.  See, for example, his descriptions of the Roman Forum and the general population (chapters II and XXXVI); typical Roman orgies (chapters VII and XXXI); the Great Fire of Rome (chapter XLIII); and the gladiators’ deaths and the slaughter of Christians (the “orgy of blood” in chapter LV).  These last examples are not for the weak.

The details that Sienkiewicz provides account, no doubt, for the lugubrious paragraphs, often running more than one page.  The print is small, and the 422 pages could be a severe challenge to contemporary American readers, who are more familiar with meager paragraphs and lots of insipid dialogue.  Stay with the reading, however; you will find yourself not lost in detail but immersed in the ancient world.  It helps, too, if one has visited Rome.  Reading about Trastevere (“Trans-Tiber” in the novel) and other Roman sites is enhanced if you’ve walked on the Janiculum or on “the island” in the Tiber.

True, Sienkiewicz mentions that there are thousands of people who fill the Roman Forum, the Circus, and the city of Rome itself, but, fortunately, only a handful of his characters are memorable.  My favorites:

Chilo, the old con man, whom we love to hate at first for betraying the Christians and who later becomes a Christian himself on seeing the man whom he betrayed (Glaucus) burned to death on a cross for Nero’s sadistic pleasure (chapter LXI).

Eunice, faithful slave to Petronius (he of Satyricon fame), who, although still a pagan, loves her master more like a Christian wife than a pagan slave.

Petronius, pagan Roman and author of Satyricon, uncle to one of the main characters, Vinicius, a tribune.  Arbiter of good taste in Nero’s court, he eventually commits suicide and despises Nero’s buffoonery and evil acts.  His suicide with Eunice at his side is an exemplar of their love for each other, although it does not comport with the Christian admonition to protect life.

Why read a master novel from a dead white male who constructed this masterpiece between 1895 and 1896?  Easy.

First, it’s a masterpiece, and, unless you’re an Antifa domestic terrorist, this work of literature cannot be torn down as easily as a statue.

Second, the novel is certainly entertaining, for both good and bad.  Bad, because readers will come to know how ancient Romans were cruel, vicious killers.  Good, because we will learn again the idea that what makes Christianity different from pagan religions is that it is based on love, the only force which destroyed such an evil empire as that of the ancient Romans.

Third, and most relevant for today, the Christian imperative to love, especially one’s enemies, worked against all those dictators and despots throughout the centuries who wanted to destroy the new faith, whether Nero in ancient times or, in the twentieth century, Lenin and Stalin, and, even closer to the American homeland, Clinton and Obama.  All these dictators despised human life, whether born (as in Nero’s case) or unborn (as in the cases of Clinton and Obama, who violently supported abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia during their occupations of the White House as American presidents).

Philosophically, a reader will become aware of other key ideas which Christianity contributed to the world.  Sienkiewicz makes it clear that Rome and the despot Nero “did not exist” for the first-century Christians, so focused they were on Christ Himself (chapter XX).  Christians brought the power of forgiveness to the world (chapter LXI), and it is inferred that Christians were the impetus for free speech, which leads to happiness, since no one could speak his or her mind freely under Nero’s despotic rule (chapter XXVI).  Moreover, Christians had respect for marital and sexual love while Romans just engaged in debauchery (chapter XXXIII).  Finally, the idea that “before God men are equal” is clearly a Christian idea in contrast to the Roman view which devalued human life, such as slaves (chapter LXIII).

For this reason alone, Sienkiewicz’ novel will give those who defend human life in this twenty-first Christian century, attacked by a new era of pagans, great hope.  After all, the despot Nero is gone, but ordinary life-affirming humanity continues.  As Sienkiewicz writes in his penultimate paragraph in the Epilogue: “And so Nero passed, as a whirlwind, as a storm, as a fire, as war or death passes; but the basilica of Peter rules till now, from the Vatican heights, the city, and the world.”

How fortunate for us that, no matter how many despots have arisen since 1895, what was true then is still true today.

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Book reviews

Pat Simmons’ Still Guilty (Urban Books, 2010)

Read this novel to understand why Bible-thumping Protestant fiction on abortion bores people.

The preachiness of these lugubrious 448 pages will help one sleep more than appreciate the problems of abortion in the African-American community.

No doubt, Pat Simmons wanted to mean well in this novel, but an honest evaluation is that watching episodes of Hoarders between chapters is crucial to avoid a three-hour man nap which will utterly throw one’s schedule off for the three days it takes to plow through this freakishly saccharine novel of “urban Christian” (so-called) experience.

And I mean that honestly.  I had to break away from this tedious fictional work often to stay awake.

Simmons’ main character, Cheney, is a typical post-abortive mother, and her regret over her abortion punctuates the tedious narrative (15, 158, 316, and 408).  Even though Cheney’s character comports with how mothers who have aborted feel, several items in the thick narrative cannot be asserted as pro-life statements.

For example, a father whose child was aborted “still harbored ill feelings on the topic of pro-choice” (18).  I don’t know of any pro-life person who would contort his or her language to replace the word “abortion” with the sanitized and linguistically deceptive phrase “pro-choice.”

Also, when Cheney says that “For me, it was the wrong choice” (196), the inherent logical fallacy of begging the question becomes obvious.  Is she implying that for other mothers, abortion is the “right choice”, as though abortion (which harms mothers, kills unborn babies, and alienates fathers) is ever morally correct?

Another concern about the novel is its racism against whites.  Cheney’s husband, Parke, suggests that an African-American child should not be raised by white parents.  When he speaks about the whites who adopted a child whom he conceived by a former (and now deceased) girlfriend, the author manifests the racism clearly: “Parke’s trained ear told him Gilbert Ann [the man who adopted his son] wasn’t black.  How could he show a black boy how to be a strong black man?” (200).  Parke’s racist fears are repeated later in the novel when the author writes that Parke “could only pray” about his son, being “reared by a white man” (279).

Worst of all, the narrative is simply unreal, if not fantasy fiction.  These characters all have revelations from God Himself, and we’re not talking about locutions validated by the Catholic Church.

The most unreal matter in the novel is what would have been a great marital sex scene, ruined by preachy Bible-thumping (315).  The author should read Dr. Greg Popcak’s book Holy Sex!: A Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving (New York: Crossroad, 2008) to understand that there is nothing dirty about sexual love between a husband and wife.  And if it isn’t dirty, then there’s nothing wrong with depicting it in fiction, especially “urban Christian” fiction.

Conclusion: if you want to know what bad writing is like, read this novel.  If you want to take a three-hour man nap between reading these boring chapters which will utterly throw one’s schedule off for three days, then read this novel.  If not, then read a classic like Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair instead.