the day of the locust, by nathaniel west.
mark matlock suggested this classic novel to me in a recent late night conversation during dcla about books we’ve been reading lately. it was originally published in 1939, and looks at the fictional lives of a cluster of hollywood wannabes. the difference in this and many other books about hollywood during this era is that it doesn’t deal with any stars or power-brokers (real or fictional). it’s a rather bleak look at the posing and posturing and off-kilter hopes of a group of people in a long-gone, unique and odd slice of historical american culture. not exactly a pick-me-up, the book does have an almost anthropological interest. i folded a couple pages down that had quotes that made me think of the church, for one reason or another: i’ll post about those in the days to come.
the futurist, by james p. othmer.
bob carlton mailed me this novel, thinking i would like it: he was right. wow. i loved the main character’s jaded, cynical and sarcastic comments. and there’s a whole subplot of political intrigue — kind of a grisham set in the worlds of mysterious military subcontractors and the speaking circuit of sound-bite afficanados. but at the end of the day, it’s a commentary on our obsession with wanting to know (and predict) the future. a mid-life crisis for not only the protagonist, but for the whole enterprise of future-telling. really fun read.
i’ve known of this book for a while, and have been meaning to read it. we drew from it for the core this past spring. but when kurt johnston mentioned re-reading it recently, i finally ordered it. and now i’m going to have to read it at least one more time, if not more. there’s so much critical stuff in here — amazing stuff — for every youth worker and every parent. really, this book goes to the top five of all books a youth worker has to read, and the top two or three a parent has to read. i’ve casually studied adolescent development for 25 years, and i learned so many new things in this book. please, if you’re a youth worker: read this now. there are hundreds of findings explained, and thousands of implications. but the finding that kept coming back over and over in the book is that the teenage prefrontal cortext (the frontal lobe of the brain, just behind the forehead) is still under construction, so to speak. the prefrontal cortext is responsible for so many things (which are all outlined in the book); but primarily, it’s the decision-making office for the brain. many, if not most, of the behaviors we traditionally assign to teenage impulsiveness or immaturity are directly linked to underdevelopment in this part of the brain. it’s a science book, but not a difficult read, as strauch has clearly written for a parent audience.