The Bar Association of Abalone, Arizona

El Circo del Dr Lao

    A man of many artifical parts was Lawyer Frank Tull.  His teeth had been fashioned for him and fitted to his jaws by a doctor of dental surgery.  His eyes, weak and wretched, saw the world through bifocal lenses, so distorted that only through them could the distortion of Frank's own eyes perceive things aright.  He had a silver plate in his skull to guard a hole from which a brain tumor had been removed.  One of his legs was made of metal and fiber; it took the place of the flesh-and-blood leg his mother had given him in her womb.  Around his belly was an apparatus that fitted mouth-like over his double hernia and prevented his guts from falling out.  A suspensory kept his scrotum from dangling unduly.  In his left arm a platinum wire took the place of the humerus.  Once every alternating week he went to the clinic and was injected either with salvarsan or mercury according to the antepenultimate week's dose to prevent the Spirochæta pallida from holding too much power over his soul.  Odd times he suffered prostate massages and subjected himself to deep irrigations to rectify another chronic fault in his machinery. Now and then to keep his good one going, they falttened his rotten lung with gas.  On one ear was strapped an arrangement designed to make ordinary sounds more audible.  In the shoe of his good foot an arch supporter kept that foot from splaying out.  A wig covered the silver plate in his skull.  His tonsils had been taken from him, and so had his appendix and his adenoids.  Stones had been carved from his gall, and a cancer burnt from his nose.  His piles had been removed, and water had been drained from his knee.  Sometimes they fed him with enemas; and they punched a hole in his throat so he could breathe when his noseholes clogged.  He carried his head in a steel brace, for his neck was broken; currently also his toenails ingrew.  As a member of the finest species life had yet produced he could not wrest a living from the plants of the field, nor could he compete with the beasts thereof.  As a member of the society into which he had been born he was respected and taken care of and lived on, surviving, no doubt, because he was fit.  He was a husband but not a father, a married man but not a lover.  One hundred years after he died they opened up his coffin.  All they found were strings and wires.
    He parked his car, got out of it, and walked across the street to the circus to look at its freaks.

Charles G. Finney, The Circus of Dr. Lao (1935).


Athena Ajax Odysseus


Whenever man celebrates his autonomy with preposterous claims and fatal deeds, Athena is insulted.  Her punishment is never long in coming, and it is extreme.  Today, those who do not recognize her are not insolent heroes such as Ajax but the many numerous 'nobodies' Ajax despised. It is they who advance, haughty and blind, polluting the earth they tread.  While the heirs of Odysseus continue their silent dialogue with Athena.

Roberto Calasso, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony


The Tyranny of Images
[Culture Wars Redux at the National Portrait Gallery]

I look to the day when Everyone is at last Offended by Everything and we all can live in unity, agreement and harmony.
    — Wallace's Doctrine of Universal Affront

Mapplethorpe by robert marin

A few evenings ago, I finished reading Patti Smith's National Book Award-winning Just Kids, her memoir of her abiding bond with the late Robert Mapplethorpe.  Those who do not already know of or care about Smith or Mapplethorpe or both are not likely to be converted simply by reading Just Kids, but for those of us who do already know and care, and particularly for those who lived though their own respective personal versions of the late 1970s and the 1980s, it is assuredly worthwhile.  

Patti and Robert—the intimacy of the book feels like an invitation to speak of them on a first-name basis—had a remarkable personal and artistic relationship, and they lived with, worked with, crossed paths with a seemingly endless parade of the famous, the brilliant, the talented, and the notorious in the cultural fermenting vat that was pre-Giuliani/Bloomberg New York City.  Robert's own death from complications of AIDS in 1989 is the inevitable terminus of the story, but Just Kids as a whole is something of a Catalog of the Honored Dead.  Name after name passes by, perhaps mentioned only once, with the unspoken realization that he or she once blazed brightly but now is gone.

Within a few months of his death, Robert Mapplethorpe achieved a certain political infamy—and undoubtedly, through no fault/effort of his own, achieved a more lasting fame—when an exhibition of his photographs, "Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment," was singled out by the late then-Sen. Jesse Helms as an example of the horrors of public funding of the arts through the National Endowment for the Arts.  The exhibition's principal "crime," and the catalyst for Helms's righteous horror, was its inclusion of photographs from Mapplethorpe's self-styled "X Portfolio" of vivid photos of hard-core, violent gay sex acts.  (Two exemplars of those photographs are reproduced in one of the best explications of Mapplethorpe I know, which is Dave Hickey's essay "Nothing Like the Son - on Robert Mapplethorpe's X Portfolio" [caution: the exemplars in question are included at that link and are not, in truth, for the squeamish], included in Hickey's splendid and indispensible short collection, The Invisible Dragon: Essays on Beauty.) Helms's agita over Mapplethorpe, among others, was the "Culture War" equivalent of the firing on Fort Sumter.

Twenty-plus years later . . . .

Mapplethorpe himself is not the target, but several of his photos—although none, I believe, from the X Portfolio—are included in "HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture," an exhibition that opened a month ago and runs through mid-February 2011 at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, and that has now drawn the ire of religious conservatives and of the leadership of the incoming Republican Congress. 

Hide/Seek, per the Gallery's description,

considers such themes as the role of sexual difference in depicting modern America; how artists explored the fluidity of sexuality and gender; how major themes in modern art—especially abstraction—were influenced by social marginalization; and how art reflected society’s evolving and changing attitudes toward sexuality, desire, and romantic attachment.

Which is to say that it traces the history of implicit and explicit depictions of gay love in art in the United States.

The critical response to the exhibition has been very enthusiastic—see, e.g., Blake Gopnik for the Washington Post and Stanley Meisler for the Los Angeles Times—and it is a pity that what seems to be such a smart and thoughtful show will not travel outside the Beltway.  Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes provided an extended three-part view of Hide/Seek and how it presents its themes herehere, and here, and he asserts that it 

effectively argues that queerness — or 'difference' to use their word — has been a part of American art history almost since our art matured into something distinctly American. 'Hide/Seek' demonstrates that to segregate ‘gay’ from ‘American’ is to willfully obscure a thorough understanding of our nation and its art.

The politikerfuffle over Hide/Seek launched a few days ago via an article posted to featuring the loaded accusation that

Smithsonian Christmas-Season Exhibit Features Ant-Covered Jesus . . .

"Ant-covered Jesus," beyond being a pretty good name for a punk band, somewhat describes an image—lovingly reproduced in three grainy, copyright-infringing phonecam shots, so that you may fully share the writer's voluptuously righteous shock at the thing—that appears for some eleven seconds in the course of a four-minute excerpt from "A Fire in My Belly," a longer 1987 video work by David Wojnarowicz, created as a response to the AIDS pandemic.  

The Washington Post has helpfully included a video excerpt from the video excerpt with a Nov. 30 story, here.  While the material is confrontational and intentionally unpleasant to view—the piece is one colossal howl of rage, after all—it is really no more outrageous than any number of other works.  The obvious comparison, particularly given those ants, is Buñuel's and Dalí's Un Chien Andalou.

The CNSNews piece loathes Hide/Seek in its entirety, but "ant-covered Jesus" is its particular chosen lightning rod.  The Catholic League launched its own tirade, declaring the video "hate speech."  The noise peaked yesterday when Reps. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the two principal leaders of the incoming Republican House majority, raised the prospect that a failure on the part of the Smithsonian to "acknowledge the mistake" may result in "tough scrutiny" and other unpleasantness come budget review time.  Although a Boehner spokesman stated a desire to see the entirety of Hide/Seek shuttered, nothing that drastic seems to be in the offing.  The National Portrait Gallery did, however, permit its resolve to crumble to the extent of removing "A Fire in My Belly" from display, with the traditional feeble protestation that "It was not the museum's intention to offend."

[It is now being reported by Tyler Green that the decision to pull the video was made at the top, by Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough, whose role should more properly be to defend the inclusion of the work as a legitimate exercise of curatorial discretion.  For shame, Mr. Secretary.]

The spectacle is a baffling one.  Consider: what is now constantly referred to as "ant-covered Jesus"—or, in the Catholic League's overheated version, "large ants eating away at Jesus on a crucifix"—is nothing of the kind.  It is a video image of a mass-produced porcelain or plastic depiction of the accepted visual version of a bloodied man hanging from a cross.  It is an image of an image of an image, a moving picture of ants wandering about on the surface of a piece of crockery that is lying on the ground, at least triply removed from the actual crucifixion of the actual Jesus of Nazareth—an event that was almost certainly accompanied by ants, flies and worse.  The belief that feels itself threatened by such an object, to such an extent that it feels compelled to lash out at it and to call for its destruction, is not so much Faith as it is a form of Idolatry, exalting the image of a thing above the thing itself.  

While their chosen weapon is the budget pen rather than the gun, the bomb, or the sledgehammer, the Congressmen's reaction to a picture is essentially indistinguishable from the reaction of certain radicalized fringes of the Muslim faith to the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons, and is no more rational or defensible.  Their offense neither privileges nor ennobles them.

Of course, there are those who would suggest that these protests are driven not by sincere piety but by cynical political calculation, ginning up a "scandal" in which the real target is not museums or artists but the very idea that the existence of gay Americans might be acknowledged or condoned.  I leave the penetration of complainants' true motivations as an exercise for my readers, who are always right.

In the end, this may be no more than a 48-hour wonder, driven by opportunism and the news cycle and then as quickly forgotten.  Perhaps "A Fire in My Belly" will be quietly, or not so quietly, slipped back in to the exhibition, possibly accompanied by a warning lest the delicate might inadvertently look upon it.  Whatever, between the self-righteous thuggery on the one side and the craven bowing and scraping on the other, a few fleeting seconds of ant-ridden holy tchotchkes may ultimately prove the least offensive element in this story.


Photo: Mapplethorpe exhibition, Ljubljana, 2009, by Flickr user Robert Marin, used under Creative Commons license.


Go with the Flau


Soyez réglé dans votre vie et ordinaire
comme un bourgeois, afin d'être violent
et original dans vos œuvres.

["Be regular and orderly in your life,
so that you may be violent and original
in your work."]

        — Gustave Flaubert, Letter to Gertrude Tennant, 25 Decembre 1876.

That Flaubert quotation came to my attention via a comment attached to a post by Amber Sparks—"Get Jobs In Offices and Wake Up for the Morning Commute: Stevens, Poet and Insurance Exec"—part of the week-long tribute to Wallace Stevens at Big Other.  Sparks' brief piece aims at one of the points that has always added to Stevens' appeal for me: the fact that throughout most of his career as a poet, Stevens was a well-respected, very successful attorney-executive with The Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company.  

Stevens kept his life as poet and his life as insurance man largely separate from one another: when Stevens died in 1955, there were co-workers who had toiled beside him for years at The Hartford who were astonished to learn for the first time, from tributes in the press, that Stevens had been a poet at all.  Legend has it that Stevens would compose poems in his head on the way to the office, dictate rough versions to his secretary, go though his day dealing with surety issues—surety bonds being among the least "poetic" insurance products I know—and revise his work in his head on the way home.  

Dana Gioia, in his essay on "Business and Poetry," maintains that having a firm grounding in a "real world" professional position as Stevens did—and as Eliot did during his time as a London banker—is actively advantageous to the poet or other artist even, or particularly, when his or her artistic concerns are entirely removed from practical business concerns.

Wallace Stevens' version of "work-life balance"—if such a concept ever entered his mind—apparently meant being fully invested in his profession, his art, and his personal life at all times, regardless of which of the three he was attending to at any given moment.  He was well read in several languages, so I suspect that he knew of, and likely endorsed, Flaubert's sentiment, although Flaubert himself was never one for actually Getting a Job. Flaubert recommends being like a bourgeois, rather than actually being bourgeois; Stevens one-ups the French master, and demonstrated convincingly that the proper combination of attitude and skill permits a life of equal service to Mammon and the Muses. 


Illustration:  Wallace Stevens—looking rather more like W.C. Fields than he did in life—as drawn by David Hockney, for The Blue Guitar: Etchings by David Hockney Who Was Inspired by Wallace Stevens Who Was Inspired by Pablo Picasso (1977), of which more here.

A tip of the cap and bells is owing to Evan Schaeffer for pointing out the Big Other Stevens Fest, which is well worth a browse.



As with so many other good things, I have come late to the writings of H. L. Mencken.  I have long known of him by reputation, of course, and have often relished his acid-drenched remarks when quoted by others.  I have been known to refer to the "booboisie", or to quote/misquote Mencken's definition of Puritanism, but I had not ever read him in any depth.  

I am remedying that omission now, reading through the Library of America's new 2-volume edition of  Prejudices: The Complete Series.  The six series of Prejudices, published from 1919 to 1927, collected Mencken's essays on the full range of political, literary and cultural issues of the day. As his title suggest, Mencken was one for taking a stand as his own and stating it without equivocation, for the benefit of whoever was equipped to take it in and assess it.   His contempt for those who were not so equipped was on full display in the Prejudices, as was his loathing for all those who would impose their own sentimental prejudices on others by force.  Mencken had no place for overweening self-importance in the powerful, even as he had no particular place for the thought-free "boobs" and rubes who were most frequently the targets of the powerful.

My favorite discovery thus far is that one of the better known Menckenisms turns out to have been inspired by, of all people, Ezra Pound.  It comes from an essay in the First Series of Prejudices, "The New Poetry Movement," and uses the wonderful word "abysmal" in it best sense, meaning "low and bad" but "deep to the point of bottomlessness":

Ezra Pound? . . .  His knowledge is abysmal; he has it readily on tap; moreover, he has a fine ear, and has written many an excellent verse.  But now all the glow and gusto of the bard has been transformed into the rage of the pamphleteer: he drops the lute for the bayonet.  One sympathizes with him in his choler. The stupidity he combats is actually almost unbearable.  Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.  But this business, alas, is fatal to the placid moods and fine other-worldliness of the poet.  Pound gives a thrilling show, but -- . . . .

Fine as that passage is, what I wanted to post here runs more to the political than the poetical.

T R Obamicon

When former President Theodore Roosevelt died in 1919, Mencken published not an obituary but the forensically titled essay, "Roosevelt: An Autopsy."  While largely admiring of Roosevelt -- particularly as compared to then-President Woodrow Wilson for whom Mencken reserved a particularly virulent strain of disgust -- the "Autopsy" is insistent on Roosevelt's character as a brilliant, activist, virile figure, a born manipulator of the masses, but working not for the masses but for benevolent rule over the masses, and with the ultimate controlling Prussian instincts of a Bismarck.  

It is a complex and sophisticated argument, and I recommend reading it in full.  The passage that leapt at me is this one, from which I quote at length: 

[At] bottom he was against them [the Progressives], and not only in the matter of their specific sure cures, but also in the larger matter of their childish faith in the wisdom and virtue of the plain people.  Roosevelt, for all his fluent mastery of democratic counter-words, democratic gestures and all the rest of the armamentarium of the mob-master, had no such faith in his heart of hearts.  He didn't believe in democracy; he believed simply in government.  His remedy for all the great pangs and longings of existence was not a dispersion of authority, but a hard concentration of authority.  He was not in favor of unlimited experiment; he was in favor of a rigid control from above, a despotism of inspired prophets and policemen.  He was not for democracy as his followers understood democracy, and as it actually is and must be; he was for a paternalism of the true Bismarckian pattern . . . -- a paternalism concerning itself with all things, from the regulation of coal-mining and meat-packing to the regulation of spelling and marital rights. . . .  All the fundamental objects of Liberalism -- free speech, unhampered enterprise, the least possible governmental interference -- were abhorrent to him. . . .  When he tackled the trusts the thing that he had in his mind's eye was not the restoration of competition but the subordination of all private trusts to one great national trust, with himself at its head.  And when he attacked the courts it was not because they put their own prejudice before the law but because they refused to put his prejudices before the law.

     In all his career no one ever heard him make an argument for the rights of the citizen; his eloquence was always expended in expounding the duties of the citizen. . . .  The duties of the citizen, as he understood them, related not only to acts, but also to thoughts. There was, in his mind, a simple body of primary doctrine, and dissent from it was the foulest of crimes. . . .

Leaping forward to the present day, and putting aside the more obvious differences between the two figures, of whom are we reminded by that passage, and particularly by the final sentence?  As you may have already guessed, it is the man currently putting the "bully" in the bully pulpit . . . .

Obama Question Othority

Illustrations by the blogger, with an able assist from


Drive-In Saturday:
Paper View

A train story, by Maurice Gee, miraculously rendered in paper.  

From the New Zealand Book Council, via Ron Silliman.

They keep things in perspective in New Zealand:

And lest you should get the misguided notion from that first video that clever tricks with paper are a solution to every problem, or to any problem -- or, most particularly, to the perennial "Girl in the Gallery" problem -- consider this cautionary tale:

Ramona Falls, "Russia," via the very wonderful BOOOOOOOM! arts blog from Vancouver, B.C.


Bialystock and Bloomsday
(Nighttown is the Right Town)

Man Ray James Joyce 1922

Bloomsday is again upon us, honoring that real-yet-fictive day, June 16, 1904, on which Mister Leopold Bloom and Mister Stephen Dedalus made their joint and several legendary peregrinations round and about Dublin, its vicinity and its vicissitudes, all as memorialized by Mister James Joyce in his non-iPad-compliant misterwork, Ulysses.  

Bloomsday is now sufficiently well established that it comes with its own Full Colour Brochure.  Many maps and walking tours are attendant to the occasion.  

Eccles Street - David Lilburn
The above illustration is a detail from "Eccles Street," a part of In Medias Res by artist David Lilburn, "a suite of seven intaglio drypoint prints which together form a map of a large part of Dublin and its environs which include the areas of the city that feature prominently in Ulysses."  The area covered by this particular print includes Nighttown, "reputedly the largest red-light district in the British Empire and the location for Bella Cohan’s brothel in the ‘Circe’ episode [Episode 15 in Ulysses], in the south east."

Circe, you will recall, is the sorceress encountered by Odysseus/Ulysses and his men on the island of Aeaea (pronounced "eye-yi-yi").  By the exercise of feminine wiles and magical powers she transforms Odysseus's men in to beasts, a fate Odysseus himself escapes thanks to a combination of awesome manliness and a timely warning from the god Hermes.  (Given that she was a daughter of the son, the Aeaean sorceress's full name was likely "Circe du Soleil".)

Joyce's Circuitous sequence is presented in the form of a drama, with dialogue and stage directions, in which Bloom enters the red-light district seeking to follow Dedalus.  Bloom experiences a series of encounters and hallucinations, from which he eventually emerges to find Dedalus involved on the wrong end of a fistfight.  Surrealism abounds throughout the segment, with abundant sexual imagery and imaginings, as is only to be expected in a chapter largely set in a brothel.

As Joyce had already cast the incident in dramatic terms, it is hardly surprising that an enterprising playwright would adapt the episode as a standalone work for the stage.  It is here we find the hitherto unsuspected connection between Joyce's Dublin and the Great White Way.  Let us consult the New York Public Library Literature Companion, in which at page 523 we learn: 

In 1958, Marjorie Barkentin’s Ulysses in Nighttown, an adaptation of the book’s “Nighttown” sequence, ran for six months off-Broadway.  Under Burgess Meredith’s direction, the cast included Zero Mostel as Leopold Bloom as well as Carroll O’Connor, Beatrice Arthur, Anne Meara, and John Astin.  A Broadway revival in 1974, again starring Mostel and directed by Meredith, was less successful. 

Fans of Mel Brooks and of Joyce may have wondered if it was mere coincidence that the mousy accountant in the film The Producers (1968) is named Leo Bloom.  Brooks’s 2001 Broadway musical adaptation of his film makes the reference explicit: according to the show’s program, the second scene (in which Leo first meets Max Bialystock) is set on June 16, the day on which the action of Joyce’s novel takes place, known as Bloomsday (Leo even asks [while wondering if he’ll ever get a shot at big time showbiz], ‘When is it gonna be Bloomsday?’).

That 1958 production of Ulysses in Nighttown had some serious theatrical bona fides, I must say: a great generation of actors was working nightly in New York during that era, and this show contained a particular concentration of them.  Below, a pair of stills from that original production, via Wired New York.  In the upper photo, Bea Arthur and Zero Mostel, ten years prior to his immortal turn as the aforementioned Max Bialystock.  In the lower photo, Carroll O'Connor, Anne Meara (Jerry Ben Stiller's mom, kids!), and Lucille Patton.

Ulysses in nighttown - mostel, arthur

  Ulysses in nighttown - o'connor, meara 

And so, a happy Bloomsday to all.  

As you file toward the exits -- in to the Sensual World, as it were -- we conclude our tour of Nighttown with a relevant musical interlude from my favorite Irish rock bandHorslips, which claims to conceal about its person the traditional jig, "Bill Harte's Favourite." 

Horslips - Nighttown Boy (1974)


Topmost photo: James Joyce, by Man Ray, 1922, via Art Blog by Bob.

Incidental Intelligence: I've not been able to turn up a full cast list for the 1958 Ulysses in Nighttown, to determine who played whom.  However, I have discovered that the 1974 revival featured Tommy Lee Jones, of all people, as Stephen Dedalus (with a pre-M*A*S*H, pre-Disney David Ogden Stiers as Buck Mulligan, which sounds about right to me).  After the 1958 production of U in N, Bea Arthur next worked with Zero Mostel in 1964 as the original Yente the Matchmaker opposite his original Tevye in the original Broadway premiere production of Fiddler on the [original] Roof.  Sounds crazy, no? 


The Trout Fisher King

30 cents, two transfers, love - marcinwickery

Yashar Saremi
 points out that yesterday would have been the 75th birthday of Richard Brautigan, poet and novelist likely still best known as the author of Trout Fishing in America.

Here, via the remarkably comprehensive Richard Brautigan Bibliography and Archive site, is a recording of Brautigan reading a chapter from TFiA, "The Hunchback Trout":

The water sound in the background is reportedly a stereo recording by Brautigan of the particular Montana trout stream that inspired that chapter.

Here, a very short film by Huckleberry Delsignore, built on Brautigan's reading of his poem, "Gee, You're So Beautiful It's Starting to Rain" from The Pill versus the Springhill Mine Disaster:

And here, Heather Kahn of the Rhode Island School of Design, with a little help from Django Reinhardt, provides a Gilliamesque animated Richard Brautigan reciting his "Xerox Candy Bar":


Photo: "30 Cents, Two Transfers, Love" by Richard Brautigan, embedded in a Muni station near the ballpark in (naturally) San Francisco, by Flickr used Marcin Wickery, used under Creative Commons license.


What Can a Poe Boy Do?

Poe pop art chelseadaniele

Can it be denied that, were he but alive at this hour -- as our contemporary, I mean, not as a man of extraordinary and disturbingly great age -- Edgar Allan Poe would be a fine, vicious lit-blogger?

From an 1849 review of James Russell Lowell's "A Fable for Critics", in which Poe finds occasion to bring higher mathematics to bear on the work of now-forgotten poets Cornelius Mathews and William Ellery Channing:

Mr. Mathews once wrote some sonnets 'On Man,' and Mr. Channing some lines on 'A Tin Can,' or something of that kind — and if the former gentleman be not the very worst poet that ever existed on the face of the earth, it is only because he is not quite so bad as the latter.  To speak algebraically: — Mr. M. is execrable, but Mr. C is x plus 1-ecrable.


Source: Edgar Allan Poe, Essays and Reviews (Library of America, 1984),
p. 818.  Emphasis added.

Illustration: "Poe Pop Art" by Flickr user chelseadaniele, used under Creative Commons license.


"Books Invite All: They Constrain None"


I did a fair deal of walking about between courtrooms and meetings in downtown Los Angeles yesterday.  On my way from the vicinity of 7th and Figueroa to the Federal Courthouse, my path brought me to the lower rear entrance of the Main Library, where I snapped this photo.  My main target was the inscription above the door.  Here is a closer view:


A cursory search suggests that this is not a quotation from elsewhere, but original with whoever was responsible for selecting the language to be inscribed on the Library building.  (An attractive poster is available, featuring a watercolor of the building rather than the physical inscription itself.)

It is a fine sounding sentiment but it is not entirely true, is it?

We can grant to a book an overarching authority, as when we declare that it is not truly or merely the work of our fellow mortals but instead originates from some higher source, a source of such power and infallibility that its dictates as contained in the book must be adhered to at all times.  We can declare the book to be, in effect, the literal last word on any subject.  Those who willingly submit themselves to the book's authority may feel themselves freed, even empowered, by their submission.  When the willingly submissive conclude that the ultimate authority of the book obliges others to submit as well, constraint or worse necessarily follows.  

Literalist fundamentalism of any stripe turns our Library inscription on its head.  The linked instances above both involve Islam, but examples can equally well be found in any other rigorously Book-based belief system. Religion holds no monopoly here: the Terror of the French Revolution can arguably  be traced to overzealous, but strictly secular, interpretation of Rousseau and the cruelties of "godless Communism" have been built on careful exegesis of Marx or Mao.  Used in this fashion a book may invite us in, but only to bind us firmly to the less than comfy chair

Books.  Approach with caution. 


Photos of Los Angeles Public Library by the author.