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Posts Tagged ‘abortion’

28. “Freakonomics,” Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

May 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Interesting and a quick read, but I feel pretty dubious about many of the conclusions Levitt reaches. I’m no John Bates Clark Medal-winner, but I can’t help but think that most events are the result of more than one thing coming together. So saying that legalizing abortion in resulted in the 1990s dip in crime might be partially true, but it is certainly not the only cause. But it’s not as interesting to say that an event is the result of many causes as it is to attribute it to the fact that poor, undereducated, unwed mothers were free to terminate their pregnancies in record numbers, thereby reducing the pool of the people who most frequently commit crimes. Which may be true, but is almost certainly not the whole truth.

Page count: 207
Page total: 6,963

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48. Generation on Fire: Voices of Protest from the 1960s: An Oral History, Jeff Kisseloff

July 22, 2009 2 comments

Very interesting read. This is more appropriately titled something like “Generation on Fire: Jewish Voices of Protest from the 1960s,” as at least ten out of fifteen people profiled are Jewish. For that matter, “Generation on Fire: White and Jewish Voices of Protest from the 1960s,” would fit, as only two (!) of the people he profiles are people of color. This was an excellent and interesting book, if only for bringing into light the sheer amount of shit people had to live through when fighting for civil rights (one interview subject recounts a man’s attempt to scoop his eye out of his sockets during a protest), but the demographics Kisseloff chose to focus on began to bother me somewhat as the book went on. It’s totally cool for him to focus on people who inspired him when he was growing up, and it makes sense that many of those people would be Jewish like himself, but it seems wrong to do an oral history of protest during the 1960s and feature only two people of color.

Likewise, Kisseloff’s treatment of the women who shaped an era is pretty iffy. In the introduction, women are clearly an afterthought: “by the time I interviewed them, you’d never know that many of them had been real tough guys (or women).” I’m pretty dubious of his choice to end one of three interviews with a woman by focusing on her role as a grandmother, rather than reformer. This isn’t because there is anything wrong or counter-revolutionary about being a mother, but the sort of neatness. Another woman’s interview ends with the following reflection:

There isn’t equal pay for equal work, but it’s a hell of a lot better than it used to be. We still don’t have guaranteed child care, but people are conscious of it. There’s still inequality in terms of wealth, but there’s a larger sense of self-worth and self-respect in terms of what we can be. It’s a totally changed world. 182

Which, I’m sorry, is just depressing as shit.

Nonetheless, it was an interesting read and now I’m searching my library databases for more oral histories.

Page count: 269
Page total: 21,151

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EDIT: Jeff Kisseloff was kind enough to comment here and inform me that my numbers were off– only six out of the fifteen people he profiled are Jewish, so my suggested title amendment is of course (even more) unnecessary. See the comments for his thoughts.

13. “The Cider House Rules”, John Irving

January 14, 2009 Leave a comment

This last half of the book starts hitting it hard with the pro-abortion access rhetoric which is… really compelling. Basically, Homer and Larch agree that the “products of conception” represents a life, but Larch insists that you can make an orphan or you can make an abortion and that no one has the right to force a person in to a situation where they feel they need to seek out illegal or dangerous abortion. Homer says towards the end that he agrees that abortions should be legal, just that he never wants to perform one. Larch tells him to get his head out of his ass– it’s all the L-rd’s work to Larch.

See my previous post for more thoughts.

Page count: 552
Page total: 11,292

“The Cider House Rules”, John Irving

January 7, 2009 Leave a comment

I’m working on “The Cider House Rules” right now. I read it once before, more than three years ago. I don’t remember liking it as much then as I do now. I only read “The World According to Garp” last year, but it was one of those books that has the effect of a sucker punch. Since reading it, I have read a number of John Irving books; he is one of my favourite contemporary American authors.

“The Cider House Rules”, as the other Irving books I have read, is very sensitively written. Irving often takes detours into his character’s lives or thoughts. I would not say that he meanders, as his asides are substantial and well-plotted. They create wonderfully round characters that a person cannot help but feel for. His heros are generally quite flawed, often New England orphans, and incredibly likable, even as they do bad things.

In “The Cider House Rules”, one of the main characters is Dr. Wilbur Larch, an obstetrician and abortionist who runs an orphanage in a small, depressing, damned Maine town. Here’s an excellent description of him, from The L-rd’s Work:

Later, when [Dr. Larch] would have occasion to doubt himself, he would force himself to remember: he had slept with someone’s mother and dressed himself in the light of her daughter’s cigar. He could quite comfortably abstain from from having sex for the rest of his life, but how could he ever condemn another person for having sex? He would remember, too, what he hadn’t done for Mrs. Eames’s daughter, and what that had cost.
He would deliver babies. He would deliver mothers, too.