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Book reviews

Mustafa Akyol’s Reopening Muslim Minds: A Return to Reason, Freedom, and Tolerance (St. Martin’s Essentials, 2021)

A lucid appeal to use reason, this book can be a tool for freeing Muslims from a despotic Islam.

While the author’s intent in writing this book was not to steer Muslims away from Islamic rules, my reading of this scholarly yet readable work concludes that Catholic evangelists have a magnificent opportunity to share the Faith with people who have suffered for 1,400 years under an aggressive and irrational system which purports to be a religion.

Akyol believes that intellectual reform is needed in Islam because it has “come to a dead end” (232) and because Islam “connotes aggression, intolerance, or patriarchy” (233).  It is not surprising, therefore, that the book discusses Islam in stunningly negative terms.

Islam has committed “intellectual suicide” over the past 1,000 years by rejecting rational thought from some of its major philosophers, including ibn Rushd and Averroes (xviii and 130).  Even though Averroes, like St. Thomas Aquinas in the Christian West, “argued that the findings of philosophy would not contradict the teaching of revelation” (112), al-Ghazali recommended death for philosophers (110).  Muslims are instructed to abide by rules established by Quranic jurisprudence, not, as in the Jewish and Christian West, by faith informed by reason (12).  The result, Akyol argues, is that, “in a long historical process, Islamic jurisprudence had become ‘a pile of rules,’ among which morality had ‘evaporated’” (46).

Moreover, Akyol’s discussion of Islam’s idea of “God” should leave rational people dumbfounded.  He asserts that Islam created a god who “was not really ‘lovable’” (34).  Muslims view God like a despotic ruler (152) because “God is always invisible and unreadable” (154).  These ideas are difficult for Westerners to understand since we know God as personal and worthy of our intellectual effort.

With such an impersonal and quixotic view of God, it is no wonder, then, that Akyol concludes that Islam “connotes aggression, intolerance, or patriarchy.”  I would replace “patriarchy”, an idea not elaborated as thoroughly beyond a few mentions of gender equality (13, 65, and 121), with “backwardness”, an idea which can be supported by numerous examples from the book.

Islamic militarism has been obvious for the past 1,400 years; one wonders if Islam’s billion or so “followers” would remain Muslim if they were freed from an Islam—which is deeply connected with the notion of adherence to the political state—if they were given the choice.  Akyol’s discussions of the “Compulsionists” vs. those who believed in free will (14) and Islam’s hold on forcing people to remain Muslim lest they be executed for apostasy ([195ff]) are particularly enlightening.

What I found most memorable are the numerous instances of Islam’s backwardness and intolerance, both of ideas and people who disagree with the Sharia-sanctioned edicts of those who wield power in the system.

Islam’s backwardness is remarkable and makes one appreciate living in the Western world, informed by Jewish and Christian values.  Unlike the West, where monasteries saved manuscripts from barbarian destroyers and where philosophical ideas are argued thoroughly, the rejection of philosophical debate is suggested by several accounts where manuscripts discussing the question of reason were neglected or, worse, destroyed; one manuscript lay dormant from the late fifteenth century to the 2010s (41).  Similarly, Islam’s backwardness is evident in that the printing press arrived in the Ottoman Muslim world three centuries after Gutenberg (102).  “’Political science’ would remain almost nonexistent in the Islamic world until the modern era”, Akyol claims, all because a political leader must be obeyed (145 and 152; internal quotes in original).  As a final example, while the West abolished it in the nineteenth century, Saudi Arabia and Yemen abolished slavery in 1962, and Mauritania abolished it in 1981; Islamic scholars, however, support slavery as consistent with the Quran (63-4). 

Islam’s intolerance through the centuries is common knowledge; what might not be common knowledge is that its intolerance continues in our century.  Unlike the West, where divergent views are tolerated, those who espouse views which conflict with the autocratic interpretation of Quranic suras can be executed for apostasy, as in the case of Mahmoud Mohammed Taha, a 75-year-old Muslim scholar, who was hanged in 1985 in Sudan for his ideas (179).  The case of Asia Bibi documents how free speech is impossible in Islam because “repeating blasphemy is also blasphemy” (204).  These instances particularly illustrate what Akyol calls Muslims’ “tolerance deficit” (212). 

Despite the numerous negatives which he summarizes about Islam’s irrationality, intolerance, and backwardness, Akyol hopes that Islam will adopt reason as a foundation principle.  I suggest, however, that the hope is not contained either in a trust that reason will succeed or in the author’s idea that Islam needs “a new genre of art and literature” (54).  Akyol hints at a better solution to the intellectual suicide of Islam when he reports that the hypocrisy of Islamic fundamentalists in Iran led to “many Iranians [who] left the religion, converting to Christianity or atheism” (193).

Leaving Islam is a good thing.  Doing so enables one to think freely and to see that Christianity is not the hostile force claimed by those who hold Islamic theological power.  Promoting the work of St. Thomas Aquinas may help since that thirteenth-century saint developed important ideas in Western Christianity which shaped the modern world.  For example, we in the West have internalized St. Thomas Aquinas’ conclusion that “behind God’s commandments there are objective moral values”, a conclusion which “led to the concept of ‘natural law’” (30-1), a concept which Akyol says is largely ignored in Islamic thinking.  Another idea familiar to Western readers, which is missing in Islam, is the importance of individual conscience; unlike the West, where countries have ancient Greek and Christian roots, “The truth is that, in mainstream classical Islam, there really was no well-defined concept of conscience” (52).

Finally, while Akyol anticipates “a brighter future” (230) for Islam, I argue it would be better for Muslims to abandon Islam and become Catholic Christians.  Doing so will modernize them not only intellectually with ideas which have been around for millennia, but also spiritually with God who is not merely a lawgiver (as in Islam), but just, personal, and loving.

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 publisher.

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Book reviews

Ryan Scott Bomberger’s Not Equal: Civil Rights Gone Wrong (Bara Publishing, 2016)

Cogent analysis of pro-abortion ideas, focusing on the inherent racism of abortion advocates.

Bomberger’s analysis simply destroys pro-abortion claims—and the destruction is carried out with facts, not rabid emotionalism, and, often, keen humor at the expense of racist groups like Black Lives Matter and the NAACP.

Best of all, the book contains full-page examples of the artwork Bomberger and his associates created to counter pro-abortion lies.  Thus, readers will enjoy not only the quickly reading 135 pages of his insights, but also the nearly 80 memes and photos which illustrate statistical data explained in the text.

Faculty and students, of course, will also appreciate the 335 endnotes of sources Bomberger used to document his counterclaims to pro-abortion lies.  (Students, he’s done the work for you!  Just type in the URLs and write your research paper!)

Seriously, though, pro-life activists will, of course, rejoice in the clearly-written critical thinking that Bomberger brings to issues which are controversial for some in American society, but which have already been addressed by pro-lifers.  For example, pro-lifers already know about the inherent racism of abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood and the bias of the “legacy” media and other “news” sources like CNN and MSNBC (which are merely leftist cheerleaders for the pro-abortion Democratic Party).

Pro-abortion readers, also, will benefit from reading Bomberger’s work, although they may find it excruciating to conclude that organizations which purport to advocate civil rights, especially for African Americans, such as the NAACP and the National Urban League, are derelict in their duty to oppose the racist and eugenic goals of abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood.

This means that “legacy” civil rights groups like the NAACP and recent racist groups which say they support African-American civil rights, like Black Lives Matter, must be reevaluated for what they are: just two more organizations which sacrificed the admirable goals of advancing civil rights for the financial power and political prestige that comes with aligning themselves with abortion businesses and pro-abortion Democratic politicians.

Bomberger’s work will educate all readers—both anti- and pro-life—on several inconvenient and uncomfortable truths.  For example, how could anyone not know that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. praised the abortion business Planned Parenthood in 1966 when he received the Margaret Sanger Award, named after its eugenicist founder?

According to Bomberger, such ignorance is easy for two reasons.  First, of course, abortion was not legal in 1966, so we really cannot be certain that King would have endorsed Planned Parenthood’s radical pro-abortion mission.  Second, Planned Parenthood itself hides its main source of wealth (abortion), since it wants to be known as a “family planning” (i.e. artificial birth control or contraception) group.

Similarly, Bomberger’s refutation of John Legend’s ridiculous claim that “more black men are in the correctional system than those who were slaves in 1850” (94) is a masterpiece of pure data and logical reasoning—aspects which aren’t needed for pro-abortion Hollywood on Oscar night.

Readers must thank Bomberger, then, for fulfilling the dual objectives of his work: exposing such lies from abortion advocates and correcting those lies with truth.

One major criticism of the book: future editions must have an index.  Bomberger comments on so many individuals and organizations which adopt Planned Parenthood’s racist and eugenic views towards African Americans that an index is necessary so that student researchers can quickly find documentation that, for example, Jesse Jackson was once pro-life but became anti-life when he ran for president (99ff) or that Mary Rhodan of the pro-abortion Essence magazine promoted a biased pro-abortion survey (105ff).

Note: Since it collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life books, do not buy 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/frontpage-2020/products/not-equal-civil-rights-gone-wrong-book-by-ryan-bomberger.

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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!