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Witch Hunts and True Heroes: Reading Violette Malan’s The Sleeping God

Witch Hunts and True Heroes: Reading Violette Malan’s The Sleeping God

The Sleeping God Violette Malan-smallThe Odin’s Day Poul Anderson work scheduled for discussion this week is The High Crusade. But, since I find that I have very little to say about it, I’ll focus instead on Violette Malan’s The Sleeping God.

Last week Elizabeth Cady asked Black Gate readers what she should read next. I would never deign to give her an answer. As a reader and a scholar, in general I find that book recommendations more often curse than bless. Here is my simple reasoning for this: There simply is too much to read already. I don’t even want to think about accommodating every well-meaning aunt, mother-in-law (notice the gender bias here? I’ll let it stand: I infrequently receive recommendations from men in the family), neighbor or co-worker who says, “Oh, I see you like to read. Well, you absolutely must read FILL IN THE BLANK.” These recommendations are all the worse (I’m sure many Black Gate readers can testify) when the recommenders are pushing a book on you for no other reason than that they have noticed that you read at all in a culture wherein so many don’t. As such, they often don’t recognize the fine distinctions of what genres or periods in which one might prefer to read.

On many occasions I have thought about and discussed reading through food metaphors. The title of the lengthiest work from food thinker Michael Pollan frames this discussion perfectly. The title is The Omnivore’s Dilemma. In that work, Pollan argues that a modern Homo sapien in what are considered “developed” countries is confronted in the supermarket with a similar complexity of choice that his or her distant ancestor experienced. In a state of nature, the human must choose amongst a variety of foods that grow in the wild. What is nutritious? What will make you sick? What should be sampled in moderation? Now, Pollan argues, the food system has processed these foods into – in some cases – potentially lethal formulations. In the supermarket, Homo sapiens face similar challenges that their ancestors did: What is good for me? What will make me sick? What might cause cancer?

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