THE FOURTH R: Conflicts Over Religion in America’s Public Schools by Joan DelFattore is, as I recalled, an excellent history of the subject, starting in the 19th century when Catholics began agitating against Protestant prayers and King James readings, while baffled Protestants insisted there was absolutely nothing sectarian about all that, it was just that making kids Protestant made them more America. Then follows court case after court case, which contrary to right-wing myth almost never involved atheists (more often it was Jews, Catholics, agnostics or minority sects) and definitely did not “kick God out of the schools.” DelFattore does a great job showing how the “pro” and “anti” sides often disagree among themselves, which has repeatedly derailed efforts to restore school prayer (moderates locking horns with those who think mandatory school prayer is perfectly reasonable and unobjectionable). Well done.
AN ACTOR’S WAYS AND MEANS was a print collection of several lectures Michael Redgrave gave to an acting school, which as he notes means a presentation targeted to aspiring professionals now goes to a much wider audience. Redgrave tackles questions that go back at least to Diderot as to whether the superior actor is driven by feeling or reason, whether the chameleonic actor is better than one who plays the same personality and when an actor can feel they’ve mastered their craft and whether we should take Hamlet’s advice to the players seriously. Even though I haven’t done any theater since the move to Durham, quite interesting, and I find myself debating whether some of his points can be applied to writing (I may come back to that in a later post). In any case as this was Mum’s copy from when she was 20 I’ll hang on to it.
THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST by Rick Yancey is the first in a series about a 19th century crytozoologist told from the POV of his twelve year old servant, Will. I’d thought this would be more in the urban fantasy vein but it’s more horror and didn’t really work for me; the opening scenes are bizarrely creepy, but after that the anthropophagi might as well be the monsters from Alien (they’re tough, they’re scary, they eat people). And the mentor/protagonist relationship seems kind of abusive, even given the danger of their calling. I gave up on this about halfway through.
BATGIRL AND THE BIRDS OF PREY: Full Circle by Julie and Shawna Benson, Roge Antonio and Marcio Takara has Batgirl and her team (and a lot of female costars) coping with their old foe the Calculator, a disease that sickens men and Huntress’ long-lost mother. This was entertaining enough, but something about the lettering or the art or the number of word balloons made it feel too cluttered to enjoy reading as much as I should have.
And while it’s not part of anything I read this week, I’ll wrap up by sharing this striking Jack Kirby splash page from Fantastic Four.