What We’re Reading / What You’re Reading: 01.25.13


It’s time for another Friday edition of the segment where we fill you in on what we’re reading, and we hope that you’ll reciprocate by telling us what you’re enjoying (or loathing) as well.

Don’t be shy, we want to hear from you! Feedback from our followers will play a role in helping us to determine what books to read, review, and feature on this site over the coming months. It will also give us a better idea of the topics and genres that interest you.

Karli is currently reading Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles by Ron Currie, Jr.

Ron Currie, Jr’s forthcoming novel features a struggling writer (also named Ron Currie) who fakes his own death, and subsequently becomes an international bestselling author.  But posthumous fame cannot be enjoyed by the dead, so Ron resurrects himself only to find that the world will not tolerate such deceitful trickery, and, well, he’s back to square one.  Dejected, alone, unpopular, and did I mention that he’s also in the throes of unrequited love?  Poor Ron…but luckily for us, we get to watch every hilarious, awkward, and painful mistake he makes along the way!

In spite of the novel’s darkly humorous themes, Currie has a powerful way with words, and Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles might just be one of the most quotable books of the year.  Below you’ll find some of our favorite passages thus far:

  • Have you ever watched someone die?…When the light went out of his eyes and his eyes became unseeing things I understood for the first time what the word ‘corpse’ means.  It means vacant.  It means something was here but is now and forevermore gone…The finality of death is breathtaking when you see it for yourself…When I told Emma about this, she in turn told me that I, the cash-and-carry realist, the militant atheist, had backed my way into believing in the soul.  That light you mentioned? she said to me.  It can’t leave unless it’s there in the first place.


  • It’s called Singularity.  The basic idea is of the moment when a computer (or more likely, computers, plural, since the interconnectedness of these machines is so vast and ubiquitous) wakes up, becomes self-aware, gains consciousness – there are myriad ways to describe the event, and part of the reason why no one can agree on how exactly to describe it is that by definition we can’t accurately conceive of the Singularity, since it represents an intelligence beyond our own.


  • Given this, don’t you think a man would prefer the machine that pretends to love him, rather than the woman who pretends she doesn’t?


  • Despite the appearance of a strong will and firm boundaries, I’m all too eager to make myself her automaton.  I would do it now, if she’d have me.


  • I knew the treacherousness that resided in me, and in a deep place beyond words and reason I believed that the same duplicity existed in everyone – Mother Teresa, Gandhi, the Pillsbury Doughboy, and, yes, even Emma, especially Emma.


  • If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife.

Aaron is currently reading A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald by Errol Morris

Here at the Era, we don’t generally read a lot of nonfiction, but former private detective / documentary film maker Errol Morris’s stunning new book, which investigates the details behind a shockingly violent attack that left a mother and her two daughters dead and a father seriously injured has us riveted.

Did Jeffrey MacDonald cook up an elaborate scheme to free himself from the burdens of domestication or was he truly attacked in his home by a gang of drugged out hippies as he claims?  Is an innocent man rotting away in prison?  Thanks go to the Three Percent podcast for getting this one onto our radar screen.

Below is a snippet from Morris’s conversation with lawyer Michael Malley, a member of Jeffrey MacDonald’s defense team, who gives an eye-opening explanation of the difference between being innocent of a crime and of being found not guilty of one:

And the two witnesses I found that truly terrified me were Freddy and Mildred Kassab [Colette MacDonald’s mother and stepfather]. I went to their house on Long Island, and it was a very nice house. Mildred was, even then, kind of spectral. She had heavy makeup, she was very…almost emaciated. But Freddy was voluble, because he drank a lot. I mean, he drank during the middle of the day as far as I could tell. And he talked all the time. They said, “Oh, we love Jeff. We’d do anything.” I said, “Fine.” I said, “Here’s what’s going to happen”—and I could not have been more prescient—I said, “We”—we being the lawyers—“are going to do everything we can to make sure that the government cannot prove its case. We are not going to try to prove that Jeff is innocent. We are going to try to prove that the government’s wrong. There’s a difference between not guilty and innocent.”

And I explained it in a very lawyerlike, academic way. And they listened to me. And after I finished this long discussion, they said, “He’s innocent.” Again, I said, “Whether he’s innocent or not is not the issue. The issue is, can the government prove he’s guilty? And we”—we being the lawyers—“think they cannot.”

Mildred was furious that I did not say, “He’s innocent.” And Freddy just babbled. And he started yelling, and he said, “He’s innocent.” And I said, “Okay, that’s how you feel and that’s how I feel. But that’s not what we’re going to do, because we may never, ever be able to prove he’s innocent. What we can do is prove he’s not guilty, or force the government to prove he’s guilty by putting them to the test.” It went right by them. And it’s gone by almost everybody I’ve ever talked to since, including Jeff, that there’s a difference between not guilty, which is a legal concept, and innocent, which is a fact. There’s only one person in the whole world who knows whether he’s truly innocent. That’s Jeff.

This book is making us angrier by the second, not because we believe in MacDonald’s innocence-we’re not far enough in to form a good opinion yet-but because it’s clear that from the start, the entire investigation into the crimes he’s been convicted of was horribly mismanaged.

Let us know your thoughts on what you’re currently reading using the comment field below.

About Aaron Westerman

Aaron Westerman is the Manager of Web Architecture for a national human services organization. When he's not busy tearing sites apart and rebuilding them, he spends his ever shrinking free time trying to keep up with his twins, reading works of translated literature, and watching far too many Oscar nominated movies.