Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Genre Reading Group recap - cults & secret societies

Don’t forget that the Library’s new fantasy book group will have its very first meeting on Thursday evening, January 27th at 6:30pm in the Library's Administration area on the second floor. We will be discussing George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, the first in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. This series is coming to HBO in April 2011 so there’s no time like the present to get started on the source material!

Our genre for next month is the debut novel, an author’s first novel length work of fiction. I have a few set aside on the usual shelf at the Reference Desk on the second floor but, as usual, you are welcome to research and select your own title! If you have any questions or would like suggestions, call or email me and I will be thrilled to assist you. We will again be meeting in the second floor administration area for this meeting due to preparations for the annual Friends of the Emmet O'Neal Library Book Sale taking place February 25th-27th! All monetary donations of $25 or more to the Library net the giver an invitation to the private Preview Party on Thursday evening, February 24th!

There was a brief discussion on the films nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture that have been adapted from books.

True Grit (the most current adaptation is still in theaters and stars Jeff Bridges) was adapted from the novel of the same name by Charles Portis.

127 Hours (the adaptation was released in theaters in early January 2011) was adapted from Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston

Our discussion this month was on nonfiction about cults and secret societies, so here’s the list!

What Is Their Secret And What Are They Hiding? Step inside the secret world of the Masons and discover:
How such pivotal American documents as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights reflect Masonic principles and influence. How Freemasons became the world's oldest and largest fraternal organization. If Freemasons rule the world--or want to. Why Masonic symbolism appears on American currency. Why the opposition groups, from conspiracists to the Catholic Church, fear Freemasons. Why Texas has been called "the Masonic Republic." How to recognize Masonic rings, pins, and other symbols. From George Washington to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, the Freemasons have influenced the United States in many surprising ways. With nearly half the world's six million Freemasons--some twenty-five U.S. presidents and thirty-five Supreme Court justices among them--America has felt the group's impact more deeply and broadly than any other country. Using historical anecdotes and incisive analysis, this timely and insightful portrait separates the myths surrounding Freemasonry from the facts, offering a unique insider's view into what American Freemasonry was, is, and will be tomorrow.

The secrecy and mystery surround freemasonry is a popular topic for novelists and filmmakers. Dan Brown's most recent book, The Lost Symbol, centers on the organization and both of his other books (also adapted for film) in that series touch on it (Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code), as do the National Treasure movies starring Nicholas Cage.

Children of Darkness by Ruth Gordon
Ruth felt lost and rejected: they offered her acceptance, caring, and a way to find God. So she joined "the family" and found everything she'd ever wanted: friends, encouragement, a husband-love. All the COG asked for in return was Ruth's unquestioning devotion and her total submission to "the family" and it's founder, David "Moses" Berg-a man who considered himself God's end-time prophet. But something went wrong. Ruth was asked to do things that were tearing her marriage apart, and suddenly she and her husband were faced with some agonizing questions: Was the COG, through which they had both found God,really a cult? Was the only way they could save their marriage to leave the very group that had brought them together? And, if they left the COG, would they be abandoning God's will for their lives? The true story of a woman's search for love, and how she joined and ultimately escaped from the Children of God.
While a member of Children of God, Ruth married an Alabamian. While I can find no information on where she currently lives, she has written about her time with the cult on the Cult Awareness and Information Library website. This website has a current copyright but I can find little information on their research methods so please do be analytical if you choose to look around.

Escape by Carolyn Jessop
The dramatic first-person account of life inside an ultra-fundamentalist American religious sect, and one woman’s courageous flight to freedom with her eight children. When she was eighteen years old, Carolyn Jessop was coerced into an arranged marriage with a total stranger: a man thirty-two years her senior. Merril Jessop already had three wives. But arranged plural marriages were an integral part of Carolyn’s heritage: She was born into and raised in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), the radical offshoot of the Mormon Church that had settled in small communities along the Arizona-Utah border. Over the next fifteen years, Carolyn had eight children and withstood her husband’s psychological abuse and the watchful eyes of his other wives who were locked in a constant battle for supremacy. Carolyn’s every move was dictated by her husband’s whims. He decided where she lived and how her children would be treated. He controlled the money she earned as a school teacher. He chose when they had sex; Carolyn could only refuse—at her peril. For in the FLDS, a wife’s compliance with her husband determined how much status both she and her children held in the family. Carolyn was miserable for years and wanted out, but she knew that if she tried to leave and got caught, her children would be taken away from her. No woman in the country had ever escaped from the FLDS and managed to get her children out, too. But in 2003, Carolyn chose freedom over fear and fled her home with her eight children. She had $20 to her name. Escape exposes a world tantamount to a prison camp, created by religious fanatics who, in the name of God, deprive their followers the right to make choices, force women to be totally subservient to men, and brainwash children in church-run schools. Against this background, Carolyn Jessop’s flight takes on an extraordinary, inspiring power. Not only did she manage a daring escape from a brutal environment, she became the first woman ever granted full custody of her children in a contested suit involving the FLDS. And in 2006, her reports to the Utah attorney general on church abuses formed a crucial part of the case that led to the arrest of their notorious leader, Warren Jeffs.

The Hell-Fire Clubs scandalized eighteenth-century English society. Rumors of their orgies, recruitment of prostitutes, extensive libraries of erotica, extreme rituals, and initiation ceremonies circulated widely at the time, only to become more sensational as generations passed. This thoroughly researched book sets aside the exaggerated gossip about the secret Hell-Fire Clubs and brings to light the first accurate portrait of their membership (including John Wilkes, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Prince of Wales), beliefs, activities, and the reasons for their proliferation, first in the British Isles and later in America, possibly under the auspices of Benjamin Franklin. Hell-Fire Clubs operated under a variety of titles, but all attracted similar members—mainly upper-class men with abundant leisure and the desire to shock society. The book explores the social and economic context in which the clubs emerged and flourished; their various phases, which first involved violence as an assertion of masculinity, then religious blasphemy, and later sexual indulgence; and the countermovement that eventually suppressed them. Uncovering the facts behind the Hell-Fire legends, this book also opens a window on the rich contradictions of the Enlightenment period.

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