Summer, Intellectuals, Imbeciles

Summer is here early, and I don’t say that because of the weather, which is, at this particular place and time, overcast, rainy, and certainly no warmer than 60. I say it because the school year is over and done, and I’m settling into summer routines. My job takes less time than the classes, with attendant tests and papers, I’ve been occupying myself with since January, so now I’m turning to other things. Writing queries, a short story or two, an epic hermit crab essay. This blog.

I also have a summer reading list, which consists solely of books that possess these two qualities: (1) I choose them; (2) I don’t have to write papers about them. The first of these books is Imbeciles, which is not what it sounds like.

The book title is taken from a declaration made by Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes regarding the case Buck v. Bell: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” With the ruling of Buck v. Bell, the Supreme Court upheld the forced sterilization of the socially unfit – those deemed criminal, insane, or “feeble-minded”. This is eugenic sterilization, the elimination of undesirable genes through sterilizing undesirable people, and it is now largely forgotten. A hundred years ago, however, it was being mandated in American law.

I am about one third of the way through Imbeciles. I’ve just finished reading about an expert witness called in to support the forced sterilization of Carrie Buck, the young woman at the center of Buck v. Bell. This expert never met, let alone examined, Carrie, or her mother and daughter – the first and third of the supposed three generations of imbeciles. He did, however, request comprehensive data regarding her genealogy, blood relatives, and their literacy, social status, mental test records, and physical and mental development.

What strikes me is that, before testifying that a young woman should be sterilized by the government, he wanted to see her family records, but he never wanted to see her. He was interested only in data, facts and figures about people without faces. It occurs to me that it is through this divorce between data and people that intellectuals get themselves into trouble.

And their victims.

2014: Reading Books, Writing Books

Over at Speculative Faith, Becky Miller began a discussion about reading and writing goals for 2014. I answered the question there, but I thought I’d take it up again, in more depth, here.

I have two reading goals right now. One, to slip in some novels between those I read for review. I enjoy nearly everything I review, but I’d like to get to other books, too: Veiled Rose, Spark, Greetings From the Flipside …

And, of course, The Warden and the Wolf King. I’ve been waiting a couple years for the conclusion of the Wingfeather Saga, and when it finally comes out, I’ll get it in if I have to ram it.

I am also hoping to read nonfiction pretty much nonstop – taking in small doses alongside and in between whatever fiction I read. I’m currently reading 10 pages a day of William Jones’ History of the Christian Church, and I am planning to go from there to Finally Fearless (Cheryl McKay), then onto Days of Fire (Peter Baker), and probably from there to one of the history books languishing in my personal library, waiting to be read.

At 10 pages a day, I’ll get through all these slowly … but surely.

As for my writing, I want to get deep into my new Mars novel. I’m not optimistic enough to think I’ll finish it this year – but even getting close would be terrific. I’ve also wanted to return to fantasy, and to Christian Holmes – a Christian Holmes spy novel would be fun. It’d be nice to start accumulating notes, but I don’t know if I’ll get around to it.

In the meantime, I’m still receiving the final edits of The Valley of Decision, and still awaiting the final word on Forever Today from the publisher that is considering it.

And life goes on.