Saturday, June 1, 2013

My Little Review of the Little Way of Ruthie Leming is up at the Little Amazon.com website

Here it is. I just know that after reading this wonderful little three-star ("It's OK") review of tLWoRL many people will be led like little lemmings to fall over each other to get their little hands on this little book. Luckily big, mean, old Walmart isn't stocking it, so stampedes–big or little–probably won't happen.

Here are the first two paragraphs.

This is a complicated book, and not so much about death and bereavement as one would expect. There's a reason that William Young blurbed this book as a memoir. A memoir is understood to be autobiographical, and this book is mostly so. However there are several interesting passages, and even some laugh-out-loud funny parts made at the author's expense. If someone wishes to understand the continuing development of the author's patchwork political ideology this is a great book. Otherwise time is better spent elsewhere. Also there is a lot of religious discussion in the book which is only obliquely related to the death of the author's sister.

The first part of the book introduces Ruthie as the wildly popular, outgoing, tomboy sister of the author who, being the opposite was withdrawn, bookish and hung out with his spinster aunts and their cats. He was unpopular in school, and kids were mean to him. Reading between the lines, one can discern that he earned at least some of this mistreatment in the vein of "Harriet the Spy". Ruthie eventually became the homecoming queen and had a steady boyfriend pretty early on, getting married soon after school. The author couldn't wait to shake the dust of the town off his heels and move somewhere where people appreciated him more than his family and the benighted townsfolk.

I hope to write a more extended review on the blog here within the next few weeks. It will be longer, of course. But it will still be little, because littleness is my whole thing right now, and because it will be little compared to the big sigh of relief when I finally finished reading the book. I'm reading Sloth right now, which has me cracking up on every page, and not just a little.

Thanks for reading my blog. For current commentary and what-not, visit the Est Quod Est homepage

68 comments:

  1. I waiting for the book from my local library. I plan on reading it and seeing if I come to the same conclusions as yours.

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  2. Your review raised a point that I hadn't previously appreciated.

    From the combination of your review with what we've experienced about Dreher from his writings, it dawns on me that Ruthie and Rod are very similar people. Both are "bigoted" know-it-alls against others (and obviously against each other's lifestyle). And based on Paw's revelation, it seems that both Ruthie and Rod are cut from the same cloth in that way.

    Actually, it seems that Rod Dreher might be the best of the lot, and I mean that sincerely. Maybe Rod sees from this experience that even jerks can be loved by those to whom they are not jerky, and that there might be some value in lightening up a bit against others. Maybe his moving to St. Francisville is an attempt to do just that (although maybe a subconscious attempt, or at least an unintended result).

    As such, your review actually makes me think more highly of Rod Dreher than I had before. He actually tried (and in some way succeeded, perhaps) to see the good side in his sister, where he hadn't before. Yeah, maybe he's making a buck or two off his sister -- one can't change all of one's spots at once. But at least it appears he makes an attempt to paint her in the best light he can.

    I don't think highly enough to buy or read the book, tho, and I look forward to your extended review. Meanwhile, Pauli, let me know if my perception from your review is all wet.

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    1. Your perception isn't *all* wet. In some ways, I do like Rod better than I like his dad or his sister. Like Rod, they elevate their tastes to absolutes, but their tastes are even narrower and more prejudiced. They aren't loud-mouths about it.... Of course now, thanks to Rod, their opinions are known far and wide.

      But I don't really think more highly of him. He's very selective about who he "lightens up" about. Keith's point "History is always kindest to the one who writes it" from below is very much applicable; there is a reason that I included what I did in the Amazon review and did not include other things which I will in my longer review here. As it stands, that review is about the longest one on there, greatly edited down from the original draft. I wanted to sound neutral about the author and at the same time discourage the casual book browser from investing time and/or money in the book.

      I do plan to expand on his insistence that Ruthie is a saint and how his criteria for this type of "sainthood" probably includes many of those whom he'd formerly pronounced strong maledictions against: "Sister Stretchpants", the soccer coach who was rude on the phone and the horrible Philadelphian who couldn't find the right wine for him at the liquor store -- just to name a few. They're probably all canonizable under the loose definition of saint which he uses to fast-track her elevation. Just die in mid-life and have a bunch of people eulogize you. Call it the "Ruthie Rule" for the quickest process outside red martyrdom.

      Another thing I plan to expand on is the revealing way in which he tells many of the details of others' faults in the book yet keeps most of the details of his own misbehavior vague or unreported. I think that this kind of thing is unnoticed unless you know Dreher like we do, and it betrays a desire to gild the lily rather than to be really honest about why saintly Ruthie disliked him so much.

      Delete
    2. Duly noted.

      I wish I could find a comic that I saw some time ago. It was either a New Yorker comic or a Bizarro, and it showed a middle aged couple at a table with their young adult daughter.

      The caption read: "I wish we'd known you were going to be a writer. We would have been nicer to you.

      (The Mrs. and I noticed that one because our daughter majored in English.)

      Delete
  3. While you guys are sorting this out, let's all remember to count up on one of our counting legs the total number of verifiable different sources we have presenting and corroborating this tale of contentions.

    Keith

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    1. According to Pauli's review, the core takeaway filling Dreher's postmortem pseudo-philosophical crepe about "place" seems to finally boil down to

      - it's important to point out that his sister was flawed in this way, and that way, and this other way, and

      - in the final analysis, Paw agreed with his life choice over hers

      The End

      History is always kindest to the one who writes it.

      Keith

      Delete
  4. I just reread my comments and I want to apologize if they sounded overly harsh or didactic to anyone. It's just that the only business Dreher is in really is turning the credulous into acolytes. He'll say stuff over there not much less ridiculous than "when I reported on my trip to the Moon" and the gullible will respond like Pavlov's dogs to the word "reported" and take whatever he says after that as Gospel.

    Pauli's review is pretty in-depth but the review of TLWORL I'd REALLY like to read would be one written by some fearless long time resident of St. Francisville who could offer his own independent and authoritative account of all these Drehery facts and issues, someone not intimidated by Dreher's hiding behind his sister's death as a shield against criticism. Cause we all know from past history that a bunch of what he says is almost certainly bogus, but we just don't know exactly which factoids have been compromised in which particular ways.

    Too bad we can't offer a small incentive to someone local to tell the "real" inside story of TLWORL.

    Keith

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    1. Keith, don't sweat it, man. My main goal for the amazon.com review wes to dissuade people from reading the book, esp. those who don't know Dreher. So I tried to make it sound unappealing and include spoilers as well. I read a lot of the other reviews and the people who liked it found it to be a tear-jerker. I didn't, and made sure I didn't present it as one. A lesser goal was to irritate Dreher if he ever read my review (which he sometimes does).

      You are right about Dreher's power to persuade. His acolytes, as you call them, never see the obvious contradictions in his content. He cloaks them via interesting yet irrelevant details. E.g., this whole Ruthie-as-saint meme is about the most empty thing I can imagine, and it exists in a "limbo" as do many of Dreher's concepts, not quite one thing, not quite another. It's not the hyper-protestant "every Christian is a saint" and it is certainly not the Catholic/Orthodox "achieving a high degree of heroic virtue" model. So what is Ruthie's sainthood based on? "The-Good-die-young" proverbial sainthood? Moral Therapeutic Altruistic nice-person sainthood? Unclear as ever.

      Now, I think that if you *do* know Dreher you *should* read the book because it will supply you with more ammo against his inane yet destructive ideas.

      Delete
  5. Others may disagree, but here's what I consider a typical example of Nosferodtu feeding on a typical victim, commenter Melanie R.

    Did this lost-and-found prayer rope anecdote actually happen? It could have, or it could not have. Only Dreher knows. However, it would actually be easier, statistically speaking, to create it and countless others like it on demand as a "well it could have happened" fictional parable with which to rope those hungry to hear such things into the big tent than it would be to have to wait around in life until accident happened to finally deliver it.

    And who would be so vulgar and tasteless as to suggest that "journalist" and "reporter" Dreher might casually lie to his flock on a regular basis as a way of providing a regular supply of psycho-spiritual chum to keep them feeding and coming back again and again for more? Well I would. Dreher's life is simply too conveniently full of unverifiable, narrative-rich parable anecdotes to be credible or to be credibly ascribed to his "skill as a writer", unless of course his "skill as a writer" is being used to prefabricate the psycho-spiritually juicy parable-anecdote in the first place.

    Keith

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    1. I think it's probably akin to his friend Andrew's schtick: have his staff writers confabulate essays which gt passed off as "reader comments". Sort of like the old game where some local Democratic County Committee functionary dials up a local call-in show, and claims to be a lifelong Republican, but "this time, the party's gone to far! Never again!"

      No one has believed Excitable Andy's bona fides with respect to the veracity of his correspondents since about 2004, and I think we perhaps ought to start thinking the same way about his friend.

      -TMFKS

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    2. Just so everyone is clear, Keith and TMFKS are real people, not my sock-puppets. I do have a nice collection of sock puppets which I made in grade school, and they talk to me sometimes late at night.

      Delete
  6. Speaking of fabrications...did he really claim to be visited by the Virgin? What was that all about?

    (Can't stand to read his tripe, BTW, so I will remain forever ignorant of the Lost-and-Found Chotki Story, I fear.)

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    1. I don't remember that one specifically, Diane, but he's always finding the equivalent of Virgins in his cornflakes because he long ago found out that one of his most dependable constituencies was lonely, emotionally hurting mystics. Conservatives have by and large abandoned him which may be why he's consistently moved further and further from strict politics and religion as such and closer and closer to the more flexible 3AM talk radio genre.

      Keith

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  7. Keith:

    I could believe the basics of that story. Dreher gave his dying sister a "prayer rope" or some other crunchy tchotchke, he doesn't know whether she made use of it, everyone assures him that it remained by her bedside, and her widower gave it back to him after she passed away. He may even have almost lost the memento had he not missed one of his trains in Europe, a blessing in disguise and -- wouldn't you know it? -- perfect grist for his blog.

    What sticks out to me is this one line.

    "It’s the only relic I have of her … and it fell out of my pocket after I exited that first train."

    "The only relic I have of her."

    That memento's a "relic," because his sister was a saint, you see.

    Gah, that people gush over this guy's writing still amazes me.

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  8. Discovering this blog and its attendant snark has been a revelation to me. So there are other people who feel the same way about Rod Dreher! I want to like his blog, his book, and his worldview, but the amount of incessant self-promotion and exploitation of Ruthie's story makes my jaw drop. So many of the posts this year have been on the same model:

    "As I observed the graceful curve of my morning turd in the toilet bowl [instagrammed pic attached] I found myself meditating on the narrative arc of our lives, the return to home and to our deepest roots. As a reader observes about Little Way: [extravagant weepy review]...."

    If I started perma-blogging in that style about my own nonfiction books, my friends would either stage a mental-health intervention or (more likely) assume it was parody and laugh at it. Why do Rod's readers treat this as normal?

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    1. Welcome, Andreas. What can I say? Spread the word. Here are a few links to get you started:

      Little Way Posts

      Posts labeled "Rod Dreher"

      My about page

      Delete
    2. Why do Rod's readers treat this as normal?

      Andreas, that is a great question, perhaps THE question. My response has always been to look at the fable of the Emperor's New Clothes as a possible answer. But Keith, I think, wasn't sure that was apt.... no matter. All theories are entertained here, and if you think I'm full of shit, just say, "Pauli, I think you're FULL OF SHIT."

      But yeah... who else writes like this? I'm not sure I can name one person. In a lot of ways, I'm the opposite of Dreher because I don't take pictures of my food and I like Budweiser as good as any snooty brew, etc. But what about people who aren't admitted cultural Philistines? Do other people who have MADE it much bigger in media talk endlessly about their particular appetites....

      Well, I just remembered that Michael Savage does, but he's as nutty as they come as well....

      Delete
    3. No, Pauli, I think your Emperor's New Clothes explanation is the only answer.

      Well, the only kind answer. The other answer, the one that explains why otherwise professional bloggers like Brooks and Sullivan and Douthat who we'd expect to have just the slightest bit of an objective critical eye nevertheless slurp up to TLWORL like piglets to a teat is that they're all corrupt whores at heart who never met a logrolling daisy chain they could turn down.

      This unkind explanation also applies to some of the blog readers over there who we would designate by the technical term "starf*ckers".

      Keith

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    4. Why do Rod's readers treat this as normal?

      Because they are a self-selecting group. You've got to be a true believer in the Little Crunchy Way to hang around over there for long, much less comment favorably, given the fire-hose number and wordiness of his posts.

      Normal people run away after awhile. Or they run somewhere (here!) and vent, if they or their faith are sufficiently insulted.

      Delete
    5. Andreas, Pik is right about them being a self-selecting group. To show up there you don't have any choice but to like Rod Dreher. If you don't, your comments don't show up. Basically that blog is like Kim Jong-Un's fan club, or like the old joke about the guy being so unlikeable he had to hang a pork chop around his neck to get a dog to be his friend. Rod's blog is his pork chop. If you like him, you get to show your Mom you're swapping comments with a "famous writer". If you come to the public conclusion he's nothing more than a pretentious and predatory little phony, you're never heard from again. Which is why Pauli's site is so valuable.

      Keith

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    6. Andreas,

      Most of us read Dreher in the first place because we thought we shared some opinions about faith and lifestyle. For one thing, I never understood why favoring local food production and fixing up old houses is somehow liberal. It's the essence of free market choice. But Rod turned immediately to condemning those who didn't pick his choices. You can't be a real conservative if you live in a suburban tract home. Silly crap like that.

      At the root of it all is some kind of conviction that he is specially gifted and his life has cosmic significance. It is really off putting and makes you want to snark on him.

      When he announced that he was writing a book about his sister, everyone here knew that it would be about himself and they were proven correct.

      Delete
    7. Andreas, I am laughing out loud at your spot-on perceptive comment. The graceful arc of his morning turd. OK, that is priceless.

      Delete
    8. As one of our Roman forefathers said: It is hard not to write satire.

      Glad to have found kindred spirits here. Snark on. Looking forward to Pauli's not-so-little review. I agree with him that a crucial problem with the book (and with the endless publicity machine around it) is the specter of Moralistic Therapeutic $ainthood. This is a pernicious idea which has nothing to do with traditional Christian belief or practice.

      Delete
    9. If I started perma-blogging in that style about my own nonfiction books, my friends would either stage a mental-health intervention or (more likely) assume it was parody and laugh at it.

      Andreas, does this mean you are a writer? I'm curious to know what you've written, but I'd understand if you didn't want to mention your books here. Feel free to email me, thanks.

      Delete
    10. Books about the English Renaissance. Great fun but perhaps not entirely germane to the topic of your blog. Originally felt a kinship with Dreher as another confused soul caught between an attraction to traditional Catholicism and to self-indulgent SWPL bourgeois-bohemianism.

      Meanwhile we've learned that "Little Way is at least a partial fulfillment of Alasdair MacIntyre's Benedictine prophecy":
      http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/ruthie-leming-fire-wisdo/

      No, Rod. Please go back to blogging about beer.

      Delete
    11. Andreas, are you perhaps a professor? Do not mean to pry. Just curious.

      Delete
    12. Are your books perchance at Amazon.com? I ask because my son is a history major, and he will be taking a course on the Renaissance in the not-too-distance future. :D

      Delete
  9. Bubba, it's even worse than you think. It's not even a relic of her, it wasn't her prayer rope, it's a relic of him, a prayer rope he gave her which came back to him, a relic of him he ultimately gave himself. Every other relic of her, stuff that was hers or that she gave him, Christmas presents, pictures, anything, everything but the prayer rope he's already dumped or let go of long ago.

    Here's where I'm really questioning this tale, not the existence or the provenance or the prayer rope itself, all that's verifiable and can't be lied about. There probably is a prayer rope, he probably gave it to her, out of love, to taunt her passive aggressively, who knows, it may have layed on her bedside or at least that's a more polite story than back of bedside table bottom drawer, her husband may certainly have given it back to him when he died, out of love, to purge the house of Rod-things, whatever. All that provenance of prayer rope from Rod to Ruthie and back to Rod can be independently verified and not lied about.

    And then we leave the witnesses behind, and we find ourselves anonymously in a European train station with "the only relic" of our beloved dead sister stuffed so loosely in our pants pocket that it can fall out. Cause that's what you have to have on you when hopping trains in Europe, "the only relic" of your dead relatives. I know when I hop trains in Europe I carefully keep my Mom's ashes in a Zip-Loc bag half hanging out of my pocket in just the same careless way.

    All the verifiable parts are sort of sweet but narratively useless. It's only the last, unverifiable detail that provides the "hook" for the whole "what mysterious fates guide our lives? blog post. Without it, no Ruthie-tie-in blog post. With it, European mono-tour Ruthie-tie-in blog post that compels commenter Melanie to sob and confess that she, an anti-conservative, nevertheless coughed up $100 bucks to Wick Allison to get Rod to sign her book the way she wanted.

    "I have felt very connected to you since then and even spent the $100 so that you could personally sign my copy of the Little Way. Believe me, donating money to an organization with “Conservative” in the title should have been an anathema to me but because of you, it was easy."

    This is how the minds of some writers work, everything, even the truth, is nothing more than another Lego to build the next construction project with. "Hmmm...what if I'd had Ruthie's prayer rope in my pocket...and dropped it, and then found it again...because my sinful impatient temperament had been thwarted by mysterious forces - yeah, that's the ticket!"

    Ruthie Leming has become the facilitating franchise who's feeding multitudes now, millionaire Wick Allison among them. She's the universal blog tag, the Mrs. Dash which seasons every dish perfectly, the medicine show elixir that also complements every Amway, Mary Kay, and Tupperware purchase. Get your bottle today.

    Keith

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  10. Keith:

    "I know when I hop trains in Europe I carefully keep my Mom's ashes in a Zip-Loc bag half hanging out of my pocket in just the same careless way."

    I will say that the easiest explanation for how the prayer rope managed to end up on the ground of a random European train station is that it wasn't all-that-valuable until it become fodder for an Important Life Lesson.

    Dreher does have a reputation for embelishing, particularly on Where He Was on 9/11, but for me how he wrote about the event is at least as off-putting as the likelihood that the event wasn't entirely conveyed accurately.

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    1. Bubba, I don't take issue with a bit of anything you're saying. I'm just saying that, for me, I'd have to vote this particular lost-&-found part of the anecdote 4 full Heat Misers of hair-raising improbability.

      Keith

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  11. Pauli: "But yeah... who else writes like this? I'm not sure I can name one person."

    Well, I admit that my writing is sometimes a bit odd.

    But yes, Pauli, I agree that Rod's blogging gets to be, well, just strange. And his self-promotion sometimes gets so heavy-handed and incessant it becomes like listening to someone scratch their nails on a chalkboard.

    One thing I think I have learned: never take Mr. Dreher too seriously. His first "crunchy" opus was modestly interesting, but I never saw in it anything profound. And it's been that way ever since. He's a quirky writer who I find entertaining sometimes. A deep thinker? Well, not yet, but perhaps if he spent several months at Mt. Athos it might do him a world of good.

    I am still waiting to get a copy of TLWORL.

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  12. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

    Looks like Dreher is calling in the third cousins twice removed to pack Amazon with 4 & 5 star "reviews" so generic they could just as easily apply to "The Biggest Loser" or Honey-Nut Cheerios.

    Pen Name's (see ALL his reviews) 5-star "review": "I have recommend [sic] this book to dozens of people. It is rich and emotionally profound! It not only shows many ways to grieve life's losses, but also covers so many issues of life, such as healthy relationships and forgiveness. I love this book!!!!!"

    Mustang74's 4-star "review": "I want to be like these people caring so easily for one another. Finding my purpose in life beyond my family's needs." (My review: I want a shiny new truck & a case of beer.)

    Debra A. Bruno's 5-star review: "If you are "hard-hearted", you need to read this book. It can change your life. I found myself reviewing my own relationships, and my life in general, with every page."

    Carole P. Esposito's 5-star review: "This book takes the reader on a human spiritual journey, I didn't want it to end. There were some really sad but uplifting sections that will make you cry with sadness and joy."

    I guess I need to get an Amazon account so I can add my own minimal generic 5-star review: "It's a BOOK!!!!!"

    Keith

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    1. Keith, go get your Amazon account. Then let's go over and wax eloquent in the comment boxes under these reviews.

      Delete
  13. Literally LOL, Keith.

    Maybe the book's so great that people are reviewing it who've only reviewed two or three other items on Amazon, ever, and these reviewers are so awe-struck by the book that they can hardly describe it in any credible detail.

    :-)

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  14. Great review. Very detailed and fair, I would say - just what a review should be.

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  15. Thanks, Paul. I'd appreciate it if everybody who finds the review helpful would go give it a "yes" vote.

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  16. Pauli, I just tagged you on Facebook. Apparently one is not allowed to dissent from the Magisterial Catholic View that Dreher's little opus is the best thing since the Bible. Who knew??

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    1. Lol. Your contributions were perfect. Graziem

      Delete
    2. Grazie. Do not know where the m came from. Still getting used to this dang phone.

      Delete
  17. I was surprised, and a little disconcerted, to read that every Catholic Michael Liccione knows, other than Diane, "who's read this book says it's marvelous."

    The surprise is a matter of bias, since this site is the only place I've heard the book discussed. The disconcersion is because Michael knows a lot of highly educated, well-read Catholics.

    I'm going to go with the assumption that "marvelous" here means "a well-crafted instance of early 21st Century American memoir."

    And I have to admit weekly participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass wouldn't make Catholics as a class any better at critical reading than the population as a whole. So the fact that all the other Catholics Michael knows who've read the book seem not to have noticed, or at least not much cared, that the premise of the book is unsound -- which I'm persuaded by what's been written here at Est Quod Est can be objectively demonstrated from the book itself -- shouldn't be much of a shocker.

    Human nature being what it is, an engaged reader who is told he is reading the story of a saint will, consciously or not, try to provide what is lacking in what the writer has written to *make* it be the story of a saint.

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    1. Tom, I'll reserve my disconcertedness for when Mr. Liccione reveals a list of aforementioned Catholics. If 2 or 3 Catholics he knows took the time to read it and said "Yeah, it was a great book," then it's possible that they are being generous and they don't know the whole story of Dreher.

      But I agree that Catholics should be more critical readers and thinkers, especially when concepts such as sanctity are being tossed about like Vermont Teddy-bears. As a positive example, as much as I often disagree with his viewpoints and hyperbolic style, Mark Shea is a very critical reader and thinker and I don't think he has weighed in on this book. It's possible that there is some embarrassment among some of Dreher's long-time friends about this latest "chapter"....

      Delete
    2. "disconcersion"? is that a word? cool.

      The book, like so many mass market books, is like a really long article from Ladies Home Journal. It's objectively nonsense. I imagine that most well read catholics wouldn't bother in the first place. Then again, "well-read catholics" have disappointed me before.

      Delete
    3. Here is my latest response to Michael (whom, BTW, I know in Real Life and whom I like very much):

      Michael, I didn't mean to jump all over you! I've heard that the book actually makes Dreher seem more likable than I have, personally, ever known him to be. (His penchant for shutting down critics with deletes and personal insults does not exactly convey warm, fuzzy Christian charity, to put it mildly.) But the folks, Catholics and otherwise, who portray this book as some sort of therapeutic masterpiece -- well, let's just say they leave me at a loss for words. But, then, chacun a son gout. All my friends in Real Life told me I would love the Keira Knightly dramatization of *Pride and Prejudice.* So, my husband and I shelled out good money to see it in the theater. Oh. My. Gosh. It was an unwatchable travesty. I mean, laughably bad. ("Are you laughing at me?" asks Darcy in the pivotal Proposal Scene, which, for some inexplicable reason, takes place outdoors in pouring rain. Um, yes, actually, yes, we *are* laughing at you. Because, well, not only is your dialogue about as un-Austenian as it gets, it is just plain BAAAAD. Jane Austen is spinning in her grave so hard she has converted to Whirling Dervishism.)

      And oh yeah...all my Real Life friends told me I should read *The Shack,* too. I couldn't make it past page 10. In other words, a lot of people -- even smart people, it seems -- can tell you something is a masterpiece. That doesn't make it so.

      You are a very discerning person, far more intelligent than I am, Michael. Something tells me that you will not find Dreher's little opus so magnificent that it is beyond criticism -- or beyond changing a single word.

      Delete
    4. Tom, I think a lot of Catholic blogger-authors are afraid to cross Dreher because he has clout with some big guns like David Brooks and Andrew Sullivan. I am NOT saying that my friend Michael Liccione is actuated by such considerations -- not at all; in fact, I know him to be an independent guy who's not afraid to buck the system -- but some Catholic writers are fairly dependent on the writing gigs they can pick up hin and yon, and, for them, Dreher is first and foremost a contact. That may explain a lot. (And yes, it's understandable, and I do see where they are coming from.)

      Delete
    5. OK, last little rant on this subject for the nonce: I think what really got to me was Adam deVille's claim that he "wouldn't change a word." Wouldn't change a word?? How over-the-top is that? I can think of some genuine masterpieces that could use a few changed words...yet every syllable of Dreher's pop-schlock is sacrosanct? Yikes.

      Delete
    6. Amazing that any of these people think it's remotely acceptable to publish the grisly details of his sister's death. Really amazing. Personally I found it sociopathic that he would do that, knowing her daughters could pick up the book at any moment and read a blow by blow account of the morning of their mother's horrific death. Any catholic who thinks making that information public is remotely OK is in need of some serious spiritual correction, and I mean that. Eric Metaxas and co. can kiss my irish ass.

      Delete
    7. (not that Metaxas is catholic. when he converted from orthodoxy he found the Episcopal church more to his liking. don't know about Greek Orthodox, but when cradle catholics do that, we call it "social climbing")

      Delete
    8. There is a way what Dreher's writing about makes perfect sense.

      If I were to say "nice little family you got there; be a shame if someone were to write about them" you know exactly what sort of shot across the bow Dreher's already fired with his unctuously pious revenge savaging of his sister and her family as well as his dad.

      Now he's settled his half million into a community which doesn't really have much of a powerful tongue. If anyone tries to thwart his interests, like that bad AT&T wireless service he fumed about nationally for days, they only need to look to Amazon to see what sort of national descriptive exposure they could be in for.

      And, like I mentioned in the comment that got trapped, if you even dare to criticize him you're no different from the bullies that picked on him before.

      Keith

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    9. I don't know Keith. In my experience, people in small towns have a way of making their opinions known.

      Delete
    10. Kathleen, I don't know if this is here or there, but I found the comments on the Bonnie Blue Review soothing, to say the least.

      Keith

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    11. Lol. Soothing to the point of inducing catatonia.

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    12. Solicitation, then....silence.

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    13. I think what really got to me was Adam deVille's claim that he "wouldn't change a word."

      Diane, it seems like where Dreher is concerned, pretension begets pretension. Dreher attracts people who don't notice what an over-the-top lunatic he is when he writes, and, not surprisingly, they don't notice how over-the-top they are either. They think that everything they like RULES and everything they dislike SUCKS. I.e., they're kids.

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  18. ok, i scanned the book last night, which means I read snippets of it in random order. It's overwhelmingly sad that this happened and that the kids were so young. I have two points

    1) If Dreher really cares that his young nieces aren't crazy about him, why would he shovel out a book out about the personal details of one of the most vulnerable times of their lives, and on top of that describe one as loud and who could bring down the walls of Jericho or some such? I don't remember the exact quote but when reading it, I remember thinking "this guy really doesn't get people." Also, Dreher was "scared of" his little niece while lying next to her in Ruthie's bed one night while Ruthie was in the hospital. He lingers over this episode for a full paragraph, which in itself is odd. I don't know why he was sleeping in his sister's bed with his little niece (who wanted to sleep in her mom's bed understandably, and who should have first dibs) ... And if you're enough of a freak to be "scared of" your little niece in a time of major crisis -- she's losing her mother for pete's sake -- well, ever hear of a couch? WEIRD. What a comforting presence uncle Rod must have been. How anyone can think this guy has an ounce of wisdom to share is beyond me.

    2) Has it ever occurred to Rod that his family disliked him NOT because he left his hometown, but because he is a pompous ass? He seems to conflate his own personality traits with his decision to leave, so that his family are made to appear small-minded instead of discerning. Maybe if he didn't do stuff like write books detailing their most vulnerable moments mere weeks after the fact -- in an idiotic, inherently false "fly on the wall" manner -- they would have liked him fine no matter where he lived.

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    1. Dreher is overly sensitive to criticism...and I can relate; so am I. But, if you're overly sensitive to criticism, then you shouldn't live out loud. Dreher lives out loud and then takes umbrage when he's criticized. Someone should tell him that there's a very simple way to avoid the criticism: Stop living out loud.

      Oengus is right: Maybe Rod should retire to Mount Athos for a while. Not to that monastery which has (famously) attacked a sister convent with pitchforks and rakes, however. Yeah, even Mount Athos has Drama, LOL.

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    2. Aside from the fact that it's psycho for a grown man to be scared of a little girl, he really needs to get over himself and his own feelings, and think about what other people are going through.

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    3. kathleen really nails it about the possible effect of Rod's presence and the book on his nieces.

      My Mom died of cancer when I was 13. I am not overstating it by saying that was a defining event in my life. So many big things in my life resulted from that event, including many years of searching for meaning in suffering, and why good people must suffer (provoking me to leave my boyhood faith b/c it provided no answers, to wander in godlessness for years, and finally to become Catholic). A long story that I will some day write down for my kids (only).

      From my experience, I know that the thing I wanted immediately at the time of Mom's death was normalcy. That even included my trying to act as though nothing happened during the whole event -- trying to appear the same as I always had been, when nothing was further from the truth. As such, I'd say it is impossible to accurately read the emotions of a child over a parent's death from their outward appearance.

      In Dreher's defense, one may not appreciate that without having experienced it oneself. OTOH, Dreher the Narcissist insisted on inserting himself into that deeply personal time of his nieces, which is a very serious violation IMO. And then he wrote about it? Had someone done that to me, I'm pretty certain I would have reacted very badly, with at least some justification.

      Multiply that by kathleen's perceptive point #2, the whole thing becomes even worse. It isn't just anyone who wrote about that vulnerable time, it is Pompous Ass Uncle With an Audience who wrote about it.

      Unimaginable. And no, the nieces are not better for it IMO.

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    4. I look at this and see book-length Tourette's inappropriateness.

      And I am forced to ask myself: is the Dreher I have read much of really so stupid that this is entirely, or even partially, a naive or otherwise involuntary response of the sort a Tourette's sufferer could be excused of?

      If it is naive or purely accidental, though, then how much more miraculous must we regard his consistently playing the psychologies of his audience of acolytes like a symphony maestro?

      And if his inappropriateness is not really naive or accidental or only disingenuously so, then the only other conclusion I can come to is that it's deliberate, to some degree and for some reason.

      Now this doesn't have to mean that Dreher is curling his mustache like some cartoon villain while consciously scheming to hurt the people his writing's hurting, it could just as easily be going on just as deliberately and just as maliciously but subconsciously.

      But, sad for Dreher's nieces and anyone else damaged, in Dreher's self-constructed fortress of solitude anti-feedback bubble, no one gets through to tell even a redeemable Dreher if there is one what sort of repulsive damage he's doing.

      I think the French have a phrase for this sort of creature: L'enfant terrible.

      Keith

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    5. I agree that kathleen nails it. Meant to comment on that earlier. Pik, your comment is very illuminating. More later. Phone needs to be recharged.

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    6. How about this for a moniker: L'enfant Dreherrible?

      ;-)

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  19. Like Oz the Great and Powerful, Dreher has the unlimited ethical elasticity to turn anything and anyone, even his own sister, into a White Moth.

    For generations of people who have been raised to believe in the redeeming hope of Scrubbing Bubbles, how can anyone who talks as ostentatiously about his piety as Dreher does not be "so spiritually plugged in". He can even douse.

    Keith

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    1. (I had more, but the original got eaten by the spam filter, lol.)

      Keith

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  20. I am still waiting on the library for TLWORL. Meanwhile, at Hastings, I saw the book in the biography section. I noticed the price was about $25.

    I said to myself, "hmm, I'm not paying 25 dollars for this."

    I'll just wait for the library.

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    1. Oengus, I think there is a way to loan you the Kindle version of the book. Then you can read it on your PC, or an Kindle-compatible device you might have.

      I have your email; I'm giving it a try.

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    2. Dang, this book can't be loaned. The other ones I own have a link "Loan this title", but this one doesn't. I guess they want to maximize sales.

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  21. Well, I recently got my first "unhelpful" vote on Amazon. Maybe Rod read the review?

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