Sunday, January 09, 2011

A Killer's Favorite Books

From businessinsider.com today, re murderer Jared Loughner's favorite books:
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Update 2: From his YouTube profile is the reading list of someone who is not obviously ideological, but including Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto in there is indicative of someone disturbed:

I had favorite books: Animal Farm, Brave New World, The Wizard Of OZ, Aesop Fables, The Odyssey, Alice Adventures Into Wonderland, Fahrenheit 451, Peter Pan, To Kill A Mockingbird, We The Living, Phantom Toll Booth, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Pulp, Through The Looking Glass, The Communist Manifesto, Siddhartha, The Old Man And The Sea, Gulliver's Travels, Mein Kampf, The Republic, and Meno.

[Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/jared-lee-loughner-2011-1#ixzz1AW8qLsIf]

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I actually disagree with the businessinsider.com writer's categorizing including "Mein Kampf" and "The Communist Manifesto" as signs of being "disturbed." To me, these fit into what seems to be Loughner's general reading-list pattern of seeking out quest literature that inquires about both the self and the set-up of society. What's real? Is a corrupt society defining what's real for us? If the corrupt outer world doesn't match the (seemingly) more pure and virtuous inner one, which is the "insane"? If one feels that one's inner world is more "true," what, if anything, can be done to change the outer world to make it correspond to the self's inner world?

The mental/societal tactics used by the various authors listed is fascinating to me! Ranging from the childlike pure escape fantasies of "Alice" and "Peter Pan" and "Oz," to the powerless Doomsday scenarios of Orwell and Huxley and Kesey (where the individual is completely destroyed by societal forces), to the more personal and contemplative "Siddhartha" and "Old Man and the Sea" (where the individual learns to survive by accepting/blending with the world -- I'd throw Bukowski's "Pulp" and "Gulliver" in with this bunch; recognizing the supremely ridiculous but learning to live with it)...

Then you start to move beyond the sense of powerlessness to the sense of personal empowerment, based on the author's idea of a "correction" of society: Plato, Aesop, Marx, Hitler, Rand all want to teach us The Way. Plato and Aesop, more benignly. Rand, with anger at the world around her, but, ultimately, far too much Romanticism. (As proof, her whole theory was shot to hell when her much-younger lover left her.)

And that leads to the ultimate Authors of Worlds: Marx and Hitler. Unlike Homer or Carroll or Swift or Hemingway or Hesse, Marx and Hitler actually got their way! They somehow managed to translate their beliefs and writings into reality.

THAT is, perhaps, the ultimate fantasy of one who feels like a psychological outcast. Not retreating into a childlike haze; not sighing and/or laughing at how unfairly the world is run; but, rather, feeling powerful enough to overtly express anger at how "incorrectly" the "world outside" is behaving. Not necessarily desiring the result of Nazism or Communism per se, but still... being powerful enough to have one's personal beliefs became a system of reality (forced or otherwise) for millions of other people. A long, long way from the powerlessness of the child and the childlike victim, where it seems that Loughner's literary journey started.

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A personal side-note re whether reading "Mein Kampf," for example, is indicative of "disturbed" behavior:

Back when I worked at the main UT-Austin library in the '80s, I checked out the book and attempted to slog through it. For some historical and psychological insight into Hitler, from the main source. I think I got through maybe 1/4 of it before the really obtuse writing made me put it down.

In mentally related news: Decades later, in the early 2000s, I was at a gynecologist's office in Austin. She'd kept me waiting for over an hour, so I was feeling belligerent to begin with. Once on the table, she, making small talk, asked me what I was reading. Honestly, I was re-reading William Shirer's "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich." Had I been feeling less belligerent, perhaps I would have said whatever else just to avoid controversy. As it was, after I said that I was reading about Hitler, she looked at me disapprovingly and then didn't say another word to me the whole time. Extremely uncomfortable. But... I hate that dumbed-down, PC shit. Why in the world should I feel uncomfortable about saying that I was reading a mainstream biography of Hitler by a respected author? Why in the world should my gynecologist (Indian, by the way, not Jewish) feel somehow superior to me/disapproving of me because I was doing so?

RE "The Communist Manifesto" -- I shoplifted that, in paperback, from a Fort Worth mall bookstore in '82 or so. Under Reagan, Soviet Communism was constantly touted in the media as being so darned Evil that I wanted to know for myself whether it was or not. (The Manifesto was short enough so I did manage to read the whole thing; opinion: It's been so long, I can't even remember the specifics, other than the famous "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" and the call for making government local. That's right -- not a massive "Big Brother," but rather local control of everything, from legal matters to distribution of food-stuffs -- the "commune," get it? Concept sound familiar to today's Tea Partyers?)

p.s. The same time in the early '80s that I, at 17, stole the Manifesto from Waldenbooks, or whatever generic mall store it was, I also stole Richard Nixon's then-recent "The Real War." (Richard Nixon, the deposed President to whom I'd written, as a 9-year-old, a letter of sympathy in 1974 upon his resignation.) It's called "intellectual curiosity," ya fuckin' idiots.

Yours in Plato and Orwell and Hemingway and Bukowski and Marx and Nixon...

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