May 2018

Jesus Lived in India

Holger Kersten, Jesus Lived in India: His Unknown Life Before and After the Crucifixion (London: Penguin), 2001.

Kersetn Jesus Lived in India
This is not the kind of book that I would normally read. It has not received reviews from any recognized scholars. It claims to "prove" a theory that cannot be proven. I'm not much of a fan of the various "quest for the historical Jesus" books in the first place. There is so much about the life of Jesus that cannot be known. The records we have are focused much more on belief and theology than on historical fact. This lack of fact has led, over the years, to a great deal of speculation.

Based on some theological similarities between Buddhism and Christianity, some rather questionable analyses of words that sound similar or are similar when translated into English, and a whole lot of speculation, this book certainly is anything but a proof. It is a bit of wild speculation at best. The book claims to be the result of years of investigative research and claims to present irrefutable evidence. It falls short of both marks. The simple fact that Kersten can cite no other scholars who share his conclusions ought to be a bit of a sign to sensible readers. If his version of the story is irrefutably true, why is he the only one who holds that theory?

Were it not for the simple fact that a friend asked me to read the book and react to it, I'm sure I would have never finished it. I certainly wouldn't recommend that any of my friends even start to read it.

Big Trouble

J. Anthony Lukas, Big Trouble: A Murder in a Small Western Town Sets off a Struggle for the Soul of America (New York: Simon and Schuster), 1997.

Lucas Big Trouble
A conversation with a friend somehow drifted to a bit of the history of Idaho. Having lived there for ten years, I had a little knowledge, but he seemed to encyclopedic knowledge of the opening of the 20th Century in Idaho, knowledge that he credited to Tony Lukas' book, Big Trouble. The next time we got together, my friend loaned me his copy. It is an impressive tome! 754 pages with more than a hundred pages of footnotes and index. The size of the book, however, isn't the only thing that is impressive about it. Lucas managed to weave together a story that is riveting and to incorporate into it all kinds of details about the dynamics of American politics in the age of intense conflict between mine owners and unions. The struggle for a workable wage and reasonable working conditions led to intense violence and the deaths of far too many people. One of the victims was the former governor of Idaho, Frank Steunenberg, whose murder resulted in the arrest and trial of some of the biggest leaders of western mine unions even though the union bosses were not even in the State of Idaho when they were arrested.

Lucas goes into the details of the arrest and extradition, the personalities of the lawyers, the influence of the President of the United States and much more. He even makes a connection with baseball, theatre and more. It is a thoroughly riveting book.

Shortly after completing the book Lucas died, tragically, as the result of suicide. It has been rumored that part of his depression had to do with a sense of failure over the book. Having won the Pulitzer Prize for his book "Common Ground," he may have set impossible expectations for himself. There is absolutely nothing about this book that should have made him feel anything less than enormously accomplished. Among the tragedies of his suicide is that we will not see another similar work from his pen. And that is sad because what he did write is monumental.

The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness

Paula Poundstone, the Totally Unscientific Study fo the Search for Human Happiness (Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books), 2017.

Poundstone search
Paula Poundstone is absolutely hilarious when she gets going about the various research projects that abound in contemporary academia. Whether it be as a guest on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!" or her podcast, "Live from the Poundstone Institute," I enjoy listening to her rants. So I was intrigued by this book and not disappointed with tis flavor and tonguie-in-cheek poke at academics and scientific studies. She tries a variety of different methods that have been offered as ways to make one happier: exercise, driving fast, going camping, getting organized. You get the picture. Each attempt might make her life a bit bitter - especially going camping with her daughter - but the bottom line is that chasing fads isn't a very good way to increase you happiness.

The result is a very funny book that is a joy to read. I'm pretty sure that it would be even better in Paula's voice. I suspect that the audiobook would be even better than reading the book. Nonetheless, I'm glad I bought it. It gives bit of insight into the single mother who works hard to support her family and keep up with so many pets that I'm sure I can't name them all, but there are dozens of cats and a lizard as well. I think there is bunny, too.

This is a great read for a few days of leisure when you can just relax, laugh, and read sections of the book outlaid to family members.