I’ve gone through some pretty incredible reads lately. Sadly, I’ve also hit a number of them that were just bad, indifferent, or simply not my thing for whatever reason. Here are the books I didn’t finish in the last five days:
Ram Dass – The Original “Be Here Now” Talks
Recorded in 1969, these lectures formed the basis for his seminal book, Be Here Now. If you can get something out of this tripe, then more power to you. I usually don’t go about saying such things, but my sense of spirituality is advanced enough that I can tell he’s trying to say something profound, but he has no idea how to get there. Repeating the unformed idea doesn’t make it profound. It means you have nothing more to say. This is why I typically don’t like guru types. If you understand the title “Be Here Now,” then you know the whole of this content, even if you think you don’t. Start there and work inwards. And if you don’t know what that means, put away your phone and think about it. *sigh* Sadly, I could probably make some money doing talks like this, but then I’d hate myself for taking that money from people who put their trust in me. No…
April Daniels – Dreadnought
This is the tale of a transgender teen who finds herself in a fully female body, that of the now-deceased superhero Dreadnought, complete with powers and the mantle of responsibility that implies. It’s a good, solid premise. I tossed back the audiobook because the narrator sounds like a considerably older woman who’s smoked far too many cigarettes while working at a biker bar. It’s a complete mismatch for this book about a teenage trans heroine… which, I suppose, is in a way oddly the same kind of mismatch that’s worthy of describing what gender dysphoria feels like some days. I’ve purchased the ebook for Kindle because the premise had me at hello, and I’ve since discovered Daniels’ not-recently-updated blog. She has a lot to say, and she’s excellent at saying it. Gives me a great deal of hope for this book in text form.
Faith DaBrooke – American Transgirl
Another one I had really high hopes for. I’ve recently discovered DaBrooke through some video blogs, and my understanding is her podcast is one of the very best when it comes to trans issues. I have to believe that’s true based on what I’ve seen so far. American Transgirl is a novel I picked up on Kindle that relates a coming of age trans experience for someone who moved to a small town in the 90s, which is told as a flashback from a more modern setting in New York City… and that might have been my problem with it. I’m in my mid-40s. I grew up in a community so tiny it’s in danger of being swallowed by its neighboring small town. Think Smallville or Tatooine… that’s how remote it was. I never could identify with many of the types of people in this book. Add to that, the central character is apparently fighting the idea of whether not she’s a she. The further I got, the more wishy-washy it got, to the point where I just really wanted to slap around the lead character, made worse by the fact this is told in first person perspective. I’m not going to say I can’t relate to the experiences here, but I had a sense of it at age 5 and knew for certain by 16, so there’s nothing here that really lines up for me. As everyone’s experience is different, I’m sure it’ll serve others quite well. Indeed, based on reviews I’ve seen, it already has. It’s certainly written well enough otherwise, so you instantly know who these people are and how they feel. In the meantime, DaBrooke has my attention, so I’ll be curious as to whatever else she has to offer. And I may yet come back to this one. As I say, it’s not a bad book. It may resonate better another time.
Pat Mosley – Arcane Perfection
This is a collection of essays, poetry, and interviews geared towards the pagan / LGBTQIA+ crowd. There’s a handful of good stuff in here that honestly speaks towards a spiritual experience. And there’s a lot of pretentious fertilizer. If nothing else, it tells me how much some of these ideas have advanced since I first looked into it some 20 years ago… which is to say, not really much at all.
Fernando Pessoa – The Book of Disquiet
As near as I can figure, this is the personal journal of the author, translated and published some 50 years after his death. It records the highly eloquent thoughts of a man with no soul who is bored and hateful towards himself, everything and everyone around him, and the idea of being bored and hateful in the first place. If that isn’t enough, the audiobook is over 17 hours long, and the narrator fits the voice of the writing so perfectly, it just makes you want to reach through your headphones in an effort to punch something. I got about an hour in and had to stop before I was ready to go full-on Xena on Pessoa… before I remembered he was already dead. I’ve been in therapy for depression and anger management, and this almost felt like a square one reset. There is not enough Disney magic on the planet to counteract the damage this book inflicted on me. The more I think about it, the worse it gets, even when I try to give it the benefit of the doubt. It’s officially going down in my top 5 of worst books ever encountered.
Robert Crais – The Monkey’s Raincoat
This detective novel was written in 1987. It comes across as the Los Angeles equivalent of a cross between a classic Mike Hammer novel and an half-assed episode of Miami Vice. Don’t get me wrong… I love me some bad pulp novels, and crime fiction offers some of the best of the worst out there. This one sets a whole new standard of just how cliché a book can possibly be. Scarily enough, as terrible as the book is, I think it would have made a potentially good movie. I’m thinking 1987 Ray Liotta in the lead role?
Anuja Chandamouli – Shakti: The Divine Feminine
Good idea, but not exactly what I had in mind. This book is a work of fiction, presumably told as a parable or as an alternate version of the Shakti mythology. Fine and well if you’re already well-versed in Hinduism. I know just enough to make me dangerous, and I was looking for something more along the lines of commentary on the concept of the divine feminine as opposed to “maybe this story is real, maybe it isn’t, and in the end it doesn’t really matter.” That’s how the author presented this one right up top, and while it’s well told, it just wasn’t what I was looking for.
As the saying goes, nothing’s ever a complete loss. This blog speaks for itself in some of the better books I’ve found. I just couldn’t bring myself to offer full reviews of any of these works, especially the couple that I’ll potentially revisit.