Repeat after me: 3D entertainment is going the way of the 8-track, the flying car, the lunar colony. This is because virtual reality is not achieved by stimulating the senses in elaborate ways — making something look real just makes it boring and cheesy, like high definition television. True virtual reality transcends stimulation of thought as well as sense gratification. We discovered it a long time ago.

Reading is virtual reality. Here is what the brave new techno-centrics, having been exhausted by the flashing light of video games and quietly and guiltily having checked out the Classics on their iPad or what have you,  have published about world renowned literature in it’s greatest contemporary forum — a privilege that used to be reserved only for an elite with critic’s credentials, whatever those ever were.

Enter the Amazon Comments to the World’s Classics, as selected by Yours Truly. I took out the boring bits, of course. The first one has no boring bits.

1.0 out of 5 stars Better than the quran, but not by much, January 22, 2013

This review is from: ESV New Classic Reference Bible (Hardcover)

Choosing a holy book is harder than choosing a romance novel. To help you choose, I will compare this one to another best-seller in this category, the Quran. These are the two holy books that get the most buzz around here.

Based on all the marketing hype, I expected these two books would be really different. All readers like one or the other, never both, and they all HATE the other book. However, these two books turned out to be a lot more similar than their marketing led me to expect.

For example, to judge from the marketing propaganda, many men choose a holy book based on how many virgins or wives they can have. If you are one of these men, you might think the Quran is the obvious choice for you. Not so! Buyers of the Bible can have lots of virgins too, and also multiple wives and plenty of sex slaves (called concubines in these holy books, which have their own special code words for dirty stuff). Abraham, a main character in this book (and also, coincidentally, in the Quran), had children with several concubines and a slave girl, while he was married to another woman. Lot even had children with his own two virgin daughters! No prudes here! Jacob, father of the twelve tribes at the center of the Bible plot, had two wives and two concubines at the same time. Solomon, another of the book’s heroes, had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. Virgins are hot property in this book just like in the Quran. That’s why the main character, Yahweh, always orders his followers to collect virgins after committing genocide. (One time they collected 32000 Midianite virgins!) I haven’t done a virgin-by-virgin count, but my impression is that this book’s virgin count is right up there with the Quran’s.

It’s tough to keep women under control, so if you are a man, it pays to buy a holy book that puts the fear of god in your wives and lovers. Again, men might think the Quran is the clear choice here. It is full of instructions for stoning rape victims and non-virgin brides, and for beating wives. The Bible PR team thinks this would hurt US sales, so they like to give the impression that the Bible is different on this score. However, it turns out that the Bible says pretty much the same thing:

“If … the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die.” Bible, Deuteronomy 22:13-21
“If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city.” Bible, Deuteronomy 22:23-24
So male buyers, you don’t have to go with the competition if you want to stone women. There is an important lesson here: DON’T LET THE MARKETERS FOOL YOU! Read these books for yourself before you decide on a purchase.

If you are a woman, there is not much to choose from here. My advice– just buy the holy book that your husband or neighbors buy. And after you buy it, study it hard.

As a bonus feature, whether you are a man or a woman, you can use this book to control your children, as it tells you to kill them if they talk back: “Whoever curses father or mother shall die” Bible, Mark 7:10. What teenager wouldn’t behave, with that inscribed in big Gothic letters over his or her bedroom door?

Sometimes, abortions are necessary to save the life of the mother, and abortions can ensure that people don’t have babies they can’t raise. If you listen to the marketers, you might be thinking the Bible is a poor choice if you want to be flexible about abortions. But here too you would be wrong. Remember, DON’T TRUST THE MARKETERS, read the actual book before purchasing. The Bible is actually big on killing young children (see above) and unborn babies:
“Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.” Bible, Psalm 137.
Yahweh also kills virtually all the pregnant women on earth (along with their unborn babies) in a big flood. He also repeatedly orders people to kill entire nations, including all their pregnant women and their unborn babies (of course, saving the virgins–see above). Sometimes he gets mad when his people don’t kill them. So apparently this is all ok with him.

By the way, when this is mentioned to Bible marketers like William Lane Craig (from the “Evangelical Christian” marketing firm), they respond by saying that Yahweh did the kids and/or unborn fetuses a favor, because they go straight to heaven. Here is what WL Craig says about baby-killing, from his website:

“… if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy. Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.”

So apparently abortion and baby-killing is not only ok, but BETTER than having kids that might grow up to break some rule and not go to heaven.

Another thing to consider in any holy book is its treatment of “days of rest”. Those days are nice, but sometimes you might need to cook or turn on a light or lift a rock that falls on your foot. So again, you want a holy book that is flexible. Here I am afraid you are out of luck, as both these books say you should be killed for doing things like that:
“They found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. … And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones…. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses.” Bible, Numbers 15:32-56

What to do with people who criticize your purchase? It can be uncomfortable to be ridiculed for buying the wrong holy book, so I highly recommend buying one that tells you to kill anybody who bought a competing title. Again, marketers would have you believe that the Quran should be your choice here, but I found the Bible has this department covered just as well as the Quran:
“If there be found among you … that … hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them … Then shalt thou … stone them with stones, till they die.” Bible, Deuteronomy 17:2-5
“They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.” Bible, 2 Chronicles 15:12-13

One downside to both books is the number of weird rules you must obey (e.g. no planting of two crops in the same field, or wearing clothes made of two kinds of threads). But don’t worry, the Bible is so long that nobody actually reads the thing, so you can plausibly deny you ever saw those parts, or deny they exist. If that doesn’t work, you can always say those parts were mistranslated.

I have to warn you that there is a confusing change of the rules toward the end of the book, as noted by many other reviewers. Not to worry. The main character of that section, Jesus, says: “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law [the rules in the first section]…” So as long as the stars are still shining at night, I guess you can pick your rules from either section. Polygamists and virgin-lovers will want to pay most attention to the first section.

I conclude that because of their similarity, it is tough to choose between these two holy books. Their prices are also about the same, $5 to $15 + a chance at eternal damnation. Luckily there is one important difference between the Bible and Quran. You are not allowed to burn or destroy the Quran. On the other hand, after reading the Bible you can use the pages as tinder to light campfires or fireplaces, or use the whole thing as a doorstop. In this reviewer’s opinion, that tips the balance in favor of the Bible over the Quran.

As an alternative, you might reconsider this whole holy book genre. These books don’t get updated very often (the Bible’s last update was 2000 years ago) so you may prefer something that incorporates all we have learned about the world since then. (For example, it turns out the world is not flat, the earth actually goes around the sun, and humans and animals didn’t just appear magically all at once!!!) I see Richard Dawkins’ “The Magic of Reality” is available on Amazon; that might be a good place to start for holy book fans who want to catch up on some of the really exciting post-Bronze-Age developments.

1.0 out of 5 stars My personal review, May 16, 2005

David “david” (Seoul, Korea)

I especially had great difficulty digesting the part about Billy’s abduction by toilet plunger aliens. What is the significance of this particular part of the story?

Furthermore, another aspect of the novel that I found displeasing is its pessimistic tone. Billy experiences the tragedy of war, the loss of his sanity, the loss of his colleagues and wife, the loss of true perception, and eventually, the loss of dignity. How can one individual face so many hardships in the course of one lifetime? Although he reaps the fruit of success in the initial years of his marriage and career, all of these things are completely disregarded with the traumatic episodes that occur afterward. With Billy’s tragedy in mind, I strongly believe that this story was way too dismal.

1.0 out of 5 stars The Trial: Caution, Terrible Book Alert!, January 1, 2013

The amount of ambiguity used in this book was extreme and only confused me. Because the entire book is built on ambiguity, questions that I had throughout the book were not answered. As a person who loves to read, this was extremely frustrating, because, in my opinion, the only way that a book can be finished is if it answers the reader’s questions and comes to a straight forward conclusion. The Trial did not do either of these things. After forcing myself to finish it, in hopes that it would eventually improve, it seemed pointless to read, because it did not get any better. Not a single one of my questions was answered.

1.0 out of 5 stars Reading with Tequila, February 24, 2010

Jennifer Sicurella (New Jersey, USA)
This review is from: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame 

At one point, Hugo writes “Our reader must excuse us” before taking us on another descriptive tangent.

I’m sorry, Mr. Hugo, but you’re not excused. Every once in a while, when he focused on the actual plot, the book was interesting. Unfortunately a large majority of the book was a cross between a guide book and a text book. Why is The Hunchback of Notre-Dame a classic? Only because it’s old? I don’t see the appeal.


2.0 out of 5 stars Best reason in the world for Editors, August 3, 2000
This review is from: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

Read a shortened version, see the movie anything, but don’t put yourself through the torture of reading this. I did, and as a result I have developed a hunch on my own back from cringing at the sheer volume of absolutely pointless prose.

1.0 out of 5 stars Uncle Tom’s Cabin, September 6, 2012

I decided to start reading classic books….so sad I picked this as my 1st. This book is so slow & difficult to read with all the slang. I was raised in the south & still don’t understand half of what is trying to be said. I will try to finish & understand what the great appeal of this book is, but cannot recommend it.

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