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yipslsquirrel has commented on (10) products.

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
Woman on the Edge of Time

yipslsquirrel, April 13, 2008

This is among Marge Piercy's most ambitious novels,and one of her strongest. It is bitingly political without resorting to polemics; it is a highly readable and engaging story about despair, power, love, and violence of many types. The protagonist is a woman striped of legitimacy in society: a Mexican-American living in New York City who has been labeled as mentally ill. She has lost her much-loved daughter to the child protection system and her lover, the tender blind pickpocket, to the penal system in which he has died. And her version of the truth abnout the worldin which she lives, where her sister is being abused by a pimp, is discounted by all -after all, she is a mental patient and a convicted "child abuser."

Somehow, she is contacted by a utopian agrarian non-hierarchical society in the next century who treat her far better than anyone has or will treated her in her everyday life. These people are themselves in danger from invasion from a parallel-universe dystopian group. Their struggle to survive mirrors Connie's more personal battles,and she becomes a heroic figure while fighting for her own dignity in a system that is designed to strip her of exactly that.

Woman on the Edge of Time is a moving tale with the ring of authenticity about psychiatric power and its devastating effects of the poor and marginalized, alongside its science-fiction elements. This book was written decades ago, and its environmental and human rights messages ring at least as true today. Highly recommended.
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Voices from the Farm: Adventures in Community Living by Rupert Fike
Voices from the Farm: Adventures in Community Living

yipslsquirrel, April 7, 2008

"Voices from the Farm" is a worthwhile patchwork of exactly what the title claims: tales told by individuals who lived together in southern Tennessee on the most ambitious and long-lasting countercultural spiritual community in recent history in the US. WE hear from everyone from the founding spiritual teacher, Stephen Gaskin, on such entertaining topics as "Our FBI Man" and how the community eventually built a trusting relationship even with their local spook, to then-teenagers doing their best to make sense of an alternative structure that had its own rules and idiosyncracies, to hilarious descriptions of the "ripe, borderline poopy aroma" of the dryers at the community laundromat built with recycled military discards, and the truth-telling "sort out" sessions between two diaper-washing residents that might make everyone have to wait even longer to deal with their own smelly laundry.

We hear little from the Farm midwives, who are featured prominently in the Farm's ongoing best-selling, and most influential, title, "Spiritual Midwifery>" Voices include EMT and gate crew members, visitors who came to gain "relativity" on their own (non-Farm) home lives, and a description of the closed-circuit-broadcast event that was probably the deciding factor in the Farm's be-collectivization when the head of the farming crew (a founding member of the community) challenged Stephen's authority during Sunday services; enough poverty was enough, and there it was in Sunday meeting for all to see.

Insightful, entertaining, and cautionary all at once, this small volume is well worth reading.
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Prenatal Yoga & Natural Birth

yipslsquirrel, April 7, 2008

This is the first edition of a pioneering classic about natural self-care for preganncy and childbirth, written when the author was pregnant with twins and raising her four year old, whose birth is chronicled in the book. (Other editions use author's name from her subsequent marriage, Jeannine Parvati Baker.) The postures and exercises are beneficial for all, pregnant or not, the illustrations and photos are clear and awe-inspiring, and the text is refresing, inspiring, supportive, and sometimes playful with its spiritual metaphors.

If you have an opportunity to grab up this out-of-print edition of an underground bestseller, do so! The author went on to write "Hygieia: A Women's Herbal" (which is more a treatise on spiritual themes in women's reproductive health than an herbal in the classic sense) and co-authored the rather encyclopediac "Conscious Conception;" she died of serious liver disease at home in 2005. Her spirit lives on in these books, and it is telling that she ch9ose not to rewrite any of the text to the original "Prenatal Yoga" in the years that ensued.

Highly recommended, espeically to those who revel in the "Do It Yourself" genre of bhome-generated, experience-driven, beautiful ooks that characterize the best of the countercultural innovations of the 1970s.
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Slipknot: A Mystery Featuring Sheriff Gavin Pruitt, Deadhead by Gary McKinney
Slipknot: A Mystery Featuring Sheriff Gavin Pruitt, Deadhead

yipslsquirrel, April 7, 2008

"slipknot" is an entertaining lotitical murder mystery set in the fictitious town of Elkhorn, Washington where the sheriff investigating the death of a prominent environmentalist is himself a liberal semi-vegetarian Deadhead with a music degree, an eighteen-year-old daughter in college, a girlfriend who is fantasizing about having his baby, and a mess on his hands.

The action picks up about halfway through the tale, as the motives and personalities of the various persons of interest are developed. Elkhorn is a believable smalltown, with predictable but well-illustrated tensions between the conservative logging community and the later-come liberals and New Agers, and Sheriff Pruit, a mellow personality, is in the middle with relative grace.

The action is set in 1994; the Grateful Dead are still touring, compouters have not come to small town government or its county equivalents in the Pacific states, and the World Wide Web, and its search applications (for law enforcement and anything else) have not yet been hatched. McKinney is careful and seamless with chronology, and the story feels entirely contemporary without any technological anachronisms.

The protrayal of characters is not quite as seamless, and the book suffers somewhat from a rather two-diemnsional aspect to its female characters, who are essential to the plot. In particular, the middle-aged biker-ish femme fatale from Sherrif Pruitt's youthful past, the devoted fertility-dreaming girlfriend, and the creative, gown-adorned squatter in the house in the woods leave us wanting the author to show more insiught into their being or more depth to their personalities. Sherrif Pruitt himself is a bit hard to truly "grok" as people of our generation would put it; he is an interesting amalgam of solid small-town values and sanity oin law enforcement mixed with his semi-hip sensibilities, but the reader, espite Pruitt's thoughtful ruminations and expalnations, is nonetheless left wondering just what makes Pruitt tick to the beat that he does.

Despite, these weaknesses, "Slipknot" is satisdfying, and KmKinney is to be commended for a look at the complexities and hazards of research for environmental preservation, and the money and politics around natural resources.
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Jimi Hendrix Turns 80 by Tim Sandlin
Jimi Hendrix Turns 80

yipslsquirrel, April 7, 2008

A rollicking good tale, written by an author who is not from California but obviously did his homework well about the cultural and physical geography of the Bay Area. (I remark as resident of the SF Bay Area for almost all my adult life, a participant-observer scholar of the counterculture, and a former civil rights investigator of discrimination in residential care facilities for the elderly. Tim Sandlin is a Wyoming native and resident, but knows whereof he speaks.) A group of grumpy elders in varying states of mental or physical need or independence, most of whom are SF Bay area hippies, are at a posh but abusive retirement home, mostly held against their will by manipulative adult children and conservators, and treated dismissively and shabbily by cynical administrators. The humor is sometimes slapstick and sometimes sly, and at its best when it turns cliches about the Sixties on their (acid) heads.

When there is one indignity too many foisted on the residents, they unite, take two hostages, and rename the place Pepper Land (or is it Pepper Land? They can't agree on this either.) Eventually the governor of California intervenes on behalf of the residents, with an assist from TV news.

Otheres have called "Jimi Hendrix Turns Eighty" a cautionary tale, and I must agree. Despite the farcical nature of some of the characters and events, this could be any of us, and its sometimes barbed humor hits close to home. 2022, the year that Jimi Hendrix would have turned eighty had he survived, is not so far in the future that we can't imagine its possible abuses along with Sandlin. And the cultural events and lessons of the SIxties are not so far in the past that they cannot be invoked as changing times dictate.

Thius is an enjoyable read, well-written, with many built-in chuckles. Not all the characters among the protagonist elders are lovable as individuals, and in this lies some of the story's authenticity.

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