Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Nevermore: Beyond Religion & A Clockwork Orange

As usual, the Nevermore Book Club discussion was wide ranging! It began with a discussion of some classic movies and books.  For the most part, it was agreed, books are better than the movies with a few exceptions.  Occasionally there are triumphs in which both book and movie are of high quality, with differences that reflect their different media.  “The Wizard of Oz” was one example.  On the other hand, “Jaws” the movie was better than Jaws the novel by Peter Benchley.
Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World by His Holiness the Dalai Lama argues that religion alone cannot solve all the world’s problems.  The traditional view for many has been that religion is necessary for morality, but this book argues that compassion along with respect and tolerance can do more to help on a global basis.  He isn’t advocating elimination of religion, by any means: he believes that religions should be respected but the “religion wars” have been detrimental to finding solutions.  There isn’t a universal religion and what is meaningful in one tradition may have no significance in another tradition. 
Sometimes even well-known religious motifs and symbols may go unnoticed when presented in a different form.  When Jud first read C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe all those years ago, he didn’t think about Christian symbolism in the book. 
Likewise, other books may have underlying themes or assumptions of which the reader may or may not be aware.  In A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess was referencing B.F. Skinner’s behavioral modification studies as well as sociological commentary. In the book, the assumption is that we can change people for the better, that anyone can change if he really wants to.  Can a state force people to adhere to a code?  Or should it even try? When asked about the book, Burgess said that the villain was a composite of all of us.  There was a horrendous side, but also a part that appreciated beauty. 
Clockers by Richard Price also conveys a bleak world, but this one is real.  Rocco Klein is a cop nearing retirement who is called in to investigate the murder of a drug dealer.  His suspect is Striker, another dealer in the same operation. When Striker’s solid citizen brother confesses to the crime, Klein is sure that he’s just covering for Striker. This gritty, complex novel has outstanding characters and complex plot threads that raise it above a standard police procedural.

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