Friday, July 21, 2006

Due process

Who uses it: Lawyers
What it means: The fact that, under American law, all citizens and legal residents retain all of their rights throughout any legal transaction; no state or federal government is allowed to say that some rights apply to certain groups of people, but not to others.
How you can use it: When doing the right thing.

Today is the anniversary of the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868 to guarantee all the rights of citizenship to freed slaves and naturalized immigrants. It's humbling that it took almost another 100 years for the country to get clear about what "equal protection under law" actually means, and pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It's frustrating that some people still don't get what should be a simple concept.

Trying to figure out how to get my work done today, and still get down to Jen's for the beginning of the Yarmouth Clam Festival. I may not be able to get there this evening, but that's definitely what I'll be doing tomorrow.

I only managed to finish one book this week, but that may have been because this book's message struck a little too close to home.

What I Read This Week

John Connolly, The Book of Lost Things. I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of this book -- the American edition won't be out until November, though the UK version comes out in September -- but I wasn't sure I'd actually be able to read it. The first chapter describes the illness, death and burial of the main character's mother, and felt so similar to my own mother's story that I could hardly get through it.

David, a 12-year-old English boy in the early years of the Second World War, retreats into a world of books and superstitious rituals. His father remarries, and his stepmother has a new baby almost immediately. The family moves to the country, where David's only companions are books.

The books begin to talk to David, and when a German bomber hits the back garden of his new home, a door opens to a new world -- a world where the stories in David's books are alive, although not exactly as the books had told them. What follows is scary and sad, laugh-out-loud funny at one point (the Seven Dwarfs are radical trade unionists, and Snow White is not the movie version), wise and loving and deeply twisted. Predatory females and wolf-men hybrids abound, and the moral of the story is that if you abandon your own life for the sake of books, you’ll regret it.

The Book of Lost Things is simply extraordinary; it is a permanent work of art, strange and wonderful indeed. Everyone on my Christmas list will be getting a copy, but you'll want to buy your own, so you have one to keep and at least one to lend.

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