Monday, April 6, 2009

Book Review: The Professor and the Dominatrix

This weekend our club received a copy of the book The Professor and the Dominatrix in the mail. It included a two page (form) letter from the author, John Harrigan. Let me just include snippets from it, so we're all on the same page:
"I am a secular humanist, John Harrigan by name. ... My suspense novel is dripping with sex and has occasional violence along the way--to attract those who don't read science or who never have seriously examined their religious beliefs, our regular folks. The hero of the story is a humanist professor, the villian a pious serial killer. ... So, I am promoting The Professor and the Dominatrix by sending a free copy to each secular humanist group, especially college campus ones. I ask only, if you like the story, talk it up. ... It is selling in Germany for an astounding sixty dollars, presently at Amazon for twenty-five. Frankly my publisher over priced it--worth about fifteen."
Dripping with sex and violence? Humanist professor and a sexy dominatrix? Showing random people what atheism is really about? Hell yeah, I thought, I'll read it! I had nothing else to do this Sunday, anyway.

Oh God.

I really wanted to be nice to this book, I really did. I was all ready to give it a chance and write up an honest review to help this guy out. Well, this review will be honest, but not what he was looking for. This has to be one of the worst books I've ever read. At first, I thought may it would get better if I kept reading...maybe the plot would pick up. Then it got to the point where it was so bad that it was making me laugh. Then it went back to just being plain awful, but I had already wasted my time reading half of the book. I figured I would finish it and write a complete review so no one would have to suffer through this novel ever again. Unless they like torturing themselves and making Mystery Science Theater 3000 commentary...in which case, you'll absolutely love it. I'll warn people that there are spoilers below, but no one in their right mind should even read this book anyway.

There is so much stuff wrong, I'll have to break it into sections. I know it's long, so I've bolded the especially ridiculous stuff in case you want to skim.

Rhetoric

Dear lord, this man is not a good writer. You'd think a retired professor would have some sort of verbal ability, but no. I had to stop myself from writing corrections on the pages because it felt like I was reading a first draft. Sometimes I didn’t know what sentences were even trying to say until I reread them three times. There were even typos, including this gem:
"Homosexuals would be demons working for Satin.”
Damn the minions of satin, with their smooth, silky seduction!

Most of the book is rambling nonsensical monologues by our protagonist, Professor Synan Slane. There would literally be pages without any description or action, not even "he said." All of Ch. 4 is describing him in class with his students...and if a real lecture was as unorganized as this, I’d drop the class. It looks like the author tried to condense every argument against religion and for atheism into one chapter…without any flow between ideas or description. Let me summarize the topics he flies through on a single page to give you an idea:

People used to believe in geocentrism > Eucharist comes from cannabilism > Rejection of evolution > Thinking Joan of Arc was Noah's wife > Not knowing the difference between Sunni and Shiite > Sweden being atheistic > Bonobos turning into fundamentalists (wtf?) > Child rape by priests

That continues for a solid 33 pages. The rest of the book is littered with it as well.

The descriptions, when he actually had any, were awful as well. When setting a scene and describing a dog in the room, I don’t need to know that it had “balls the size of honeydews.” Actually, most of the book was completely irrelevant to the "plot" (if it had any). I had to skip a two page discussion on boxing that was literally two people having small talk with each other. Maybe instead of all the pointless filler, he could have actually described what was going on with the murder mystery, since I was constantly lost.

And for the love of god, don’t phonetically spell accents. No. NO. Especially when you decide 90% of your characters need some sort of bizarro accent. It's not cute, it's annoying.

Character Development

The above phrase is something this author has obviously never heard of. Professor Slane is a giant Mary Sue. For this of you who aren't knowledgeable about fanfiction lingo, a Mary Sue is a "pejorative term used to describe a fictional character who plays a major role in the plot and is particularly characterized by overly idealized and hackneyed mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as wish-fulfillment fantasies for their authors or readers." Hmm, now why would I ever think Professor Slane is a Mary Sue? Maybe I'm being too judgemental.

Professor Slane

Author

Psychology professor

Psychology professor

Angry atheist

Angry atheist

Mustache

Mustache

Former combat marine

Former combat marine

Boxer

Writes crap that makes me want to punch babies


The kicker is that Slane, along with every other character, is completely 2 dimensional. You'd think if you were just writing yourself, you could give the character some depth. But nope - instead every character is just the voice of the author. I even thought maybe everyone seemed like a flat stereotype because he was being tongue in cheek...but I'll get back to that later. He desperately tries to make up for this by describing each character's entire live history in a giant wall of text. You know what, I don't need to know that Joey Damico (random police officer #5) has a mickey mouse watch and a mother named Rita, especially when that character is never mentioned again. Or really, why are all these random passing characters even getting full names? There were so many names and pointless characters floating around that I couldn't even keep track of the important ones. I don't need to know that the janitor who never even appears in the book is Theodore Poopface Von Winklehiemer III. Just call him the fricking janitor.

Plot

I was constantly lost, because whatever murder plot this book might have had was interrupted by atheist rants. Oh, and the climax occurs on the last page of the last chapter. There's a page and a half afterward to sum up what happened to everyone. Great writing, there.

Violence

I have to give it to him, the gratuitous violence was the only part he did well. Which is sad, because it just ended up freaking me out more.

Sex

I felt weird knowing some 60 year old professor wrote this, especially with his photo staring at me on the back of the book, but I thought I'd give him a chance. It only takes two sentences before there's some awkward discussion about a guy's erection, but then there's no sex for a while. At first I'm a little upset. I was told the book was dripping with sex! Finally I sense a sex scene coming, so I start getting excited.

Oh God.

There are two sex scenes in the book, and it's a blessing there aren't more. The first is the most frightening description of oral sex I've ever read. If you want to subject yourself to the whole thing, ask politely and I'll type it up. To summarize, the entire segment refers to the guy's penis as “Captain Marvel.” For two pages. What the hell. The description included such Shakespearean writing, such as:
"She was a connoisseur. A gobbler of whangs par excellence."
Seriously? That's the most horrible, amazing, ridiculous thing I have ever read in a book. Not just wangs, but whangs. Hhhwwhhaanngs. This may honestly be the only good thing that's come out of this book, because I'm going to use this phrase as frequently as possible.

And if the oral sex wasn't bad enough, the sex later was even more horrible. No foreplay whatsoever, guy just sticks it in and rams home, the girl instantly orgasms after insertion, keeps orgasming over and over again just from penetration alone...what the hell? Has this guy ever even had sex? If he has, I feel bad for whatever woman had to put up with it. And in a later scene he describes someone's behind as a "bummy." Really, are we all five years old now? You couldn't say ass, butt, booty, anything else?

Atheism

The author apparently thinks the best way to win people over to atheism is by being a gigantic troll. The killer, and really any villain in the book, is shown to be overtly and over the top religious. Slane and his atheistic partner, the Dominatrix, both show the error in theists' ways by constantly ridiculing and mocking them. I don’t know how any Christians could read the first page and still want to read the rest of the book, let alone get through his Chapter 4 diatribe.

Since Slane has absolutely no personality, his only purpose is to insert random facts and quotes about atheism and religion into the book. Some of his long monologues about random topics would be good as blog entries... that is, they’re (mostly) factual, they explain concepts decently…but a book meant to be fiction shouldn’t read like a one sided debate. But that’s the problem – it’s only good enough for a blog entry. Not even a great blog entry. In fact, I’ve seen these arguments explained much better in various blogs. It’s like he wanted to write a book about atheism but his arguments weren’t well thought out enough, so he filled the gaps with a poorly written murder plot. Even then, they're not the sort of arguments that are going to win over people to atheism...they're mostly just random facts about all the horrible things religion can potentially lead people to do.

I had a neutral view on the book's atheism (I thought the random facts were mostly just disjointed and annoying) until the end of the book. The two atheist "protagonists" (I use the term lightly, as I eventually came to hate every character in this book) get into a televised debate with two evangelists. Long story short, the atheists insult and mock the intelligence of the evangelists, the preacher tries to punch Slane, and Slane the macho boxer procedes to beat the crap out of him. The female evangelist then tries to attack the Dominatrix, but the Dominatrix rips off christian girl's dress so she's naked on TV. The atheists then laugh and joke about their victory. All of this occurs while a man dressed as Jesus gets a handjob in the audience. What the fuck? How the hell is this book supposed to make me like atheists? How the FUCK is this promoting atheism and secular humanism in a positive light?

Sexism

Holy shit was this book sexist. Now, I consider myself a feminist, but I'm usually pretty laid back about things. I do things that are "bad" like making and laughing at sexist jokes. But this book crossed way over the line, and was packed with stuff offensive to women. At first I wanted to believe that some of the characters were just being described as jerks...but even the enlightened "Professor" would spew garbage about women all the time. And it really didn't matter, since every character basically came off as the author speaking through them (this holds true for the next two sections as well). That is, even when characters said dumbass, bigoted stuff, no where in the book was there context to show these are bad points of view. Sometimes they were even shown as being positive.

Every female character was a demeaning stereotype. This is especially annoying when the majority of atheists are men, and they should be trying to actively recruit more women...not scare them away by acting like chauvinistic douchebags. If you're not a hot, young, ditsy sex object, you're old and disgusting. Don't believe me? Let me list all the female characters, major and minor:
  1. Mindless university secretary, submissive, easily scared
  2. Two raging butch dykes in charge of "Dykes Taking Over", lesbians only because they had bad experiences with men/their fathers (WTF?), short crew cut hair and hiking boots
  3. Coy cunning Dominatrix...who seemed like an independent woman for about a page, but then she reveals her inner most desire is to just find a good man. 24 hours after meeting main character wants to have his baby and marry him, they talk about marriage after the first time they have sex, and she doesn't use protection so she can get pregnant. They get married after knowing each other a week.
  4. Frumpy neighbor lady whose physical appearance disgusts Slane.
  5. Frumpy dense secretary at police station, easily manipulated by men in order to get facts about the case.
  6. Cheating wife of the murder victim, has many DUIs, shoplifted, used to be a skanky "ho" who was in pornos.
  7. Police officer that doesn’t say much. Her only purpose is to supply someone for the male officers to hit on. When she has to interview someone about sex she gets all bashful. While the other officers talk about furthering her career, she is more worried about flirting with her boss. Actually the most independent female in the book...until she gets brutally murdered at the end for no reason. Yay.
  8. "Fem-nazi" department head/woman's studies professor who flunks students if they don’t spell woman “womyn." Sleeps with female students, total man hater.
  9. Student described as sleeping with the female womyn’s study professor in order to get an A, airhead who jumps from one religion to the next for whatever is popular. Training to be a dominatrix.
  10. Militant Christian female student…who instantly sees the light once atheist superhero professor owns her arguments, because she’s a dumb girl (note: all the male classmates are atheistic to some extent and “get it”)
  11. Girl working at a sex shop who’s also a hooker…and hitting on everyone, giggly idiot
  12. Frumpy old hotel maid who does nothing but talk about her deceased husband.
  13. Slane talks about his two middle school teachers. One was a hot young teacher who wore skirts without underwear and knew the boys would try to peek up them, and would let them do this. Slane still found this wonderfully awesome. The other teacher was an angry fat old lady that everyone hated.

If those characters aren't enough, huge chunks of the books are devoted to bashing "gender feminists" and just females in general. Of course, it's not just females he bashes...

Racism

There are two full pages dedicated to describing how the town’s mayor, the only African American in the book, speaks “black English,” not "proper" "standard" English. All of his dialog is written to seem ignorant, and he's constantly swearing. This is in light of the fact that everyone else in the book, including the police officers, hookers, pimps, dominatrixes, and students all talk with the vocabulary of a college professor (aka, the author). Wow, way to go.

Homophobia, etc

The whole plot revolves around two gay guys, one a closeted pastor obviously meant to parallel Haggard, being brutally murdered. At first I thought the plot would be pro-gay since it's about investigating this hate crime. Nope. Every homosexual in this book is a flaming stereotypical nancy boy. Even one guy's name is Sisley, which sounds like "sissy." I don't think I'm stretching here, since the forward states that the characters have metaphorical names meant to mirror their personality. In fact, any sort of gender or sexual deviation is associated with a villian or outwardly mocked by the characters. The only sex scene shown in a "positive" light is Slane's minute man missionary no-foreplay romp. Let me just show you some of the gems the book had to offer:

About a boy Slane went to school with: "Everyone called him Sis [not related to Sisley]. He really should have been a girl. He didn’t play with the boys or know and dirty jokes, or want to. If you started to tell him one, he’d throw his hands up and turn away. No normal boy would act like that.” WTF

About the closeted pastor/bisexualism: "Wright seems to have been bisexual, probably never formed a clear gender identity or more likely is genetically different from the norm, perhaps has a brain pattern or map more like a woman's than the average hetereosexual male's." WTFFF

And I need this whole section to make my point:

Alfie thought back to what Evan had said when he faced off with Charles who had become Charlene. "That Evan had some good lines: 'Female hormone injections and having your penis mutilated does not make you a woman, just a medical mess. God made you a man, a surgeon can't change that."

"No wonder Charles now Charlene broke down and screamed."

"Remember when he called him-her an it then said, 'Homosexuality is an abomination.'"

"God, yes! When the it jumped up and scratched Evan, that was the highlight of the show."

"It was quite a show," Alfie agreed.

"Ya know," Grant said, "this whole homosexual and sex change stuff is weird. Put it this way, if women are no more than makeup, so to speak, that falls right onto the lap of the gender feminists. The only difference they recognize is that anyone with a giblet is bad, rotten, evil, oppressive - you name it. Men are bad just because they're men; women are good just because they're women. So, the name is the difference? Some of those gender feminists want to keep as few men around as possible, ten percent I've heard, for breeding only. Jesus! What will they do? Drown nine out of ten baby boys? Well - not long ago gays and lesbians were called unnaturals, now they're considered okay, a preferred minority, and anyone who doesn't think homosexuality is okay is a fucking homophobe, has a mental called homophobia. The gays calling in were saying Evan is a big homophobe. Boy, when it comes to name calling, the shoe is on the other foot now."
Conclusion

Don't read this book unless you get off on being angry at this sort of tripe. This proves to me that not all atheists or professors are enlightened intellectuals. I just hope theists don't get a hold of this book as see it as a representation of all atheists, because this guy does NOT speak for me. The only positive thing that came out of reading this is that I'm now more motivated to finish my own books I've been working on...because hell, I KNOW I can do better than that.

Friend: do you need a drink now? or at the very least, good sex?
Me: This book has made sex disgusting to me currently. I don't want to think about someone's Captain Marvel.
Friend: that's a real feat
Me: Yes, yes it is

EDIT: Except of the awful Purple Prose is up
EDIT 2: The Professor responds, and he's not happy

61 comments:

  1. Woo. Thanks for taking that bullet for us. Does the book go in the library as a good example of how not to lead by example now?

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  2. I don't know if I want to subject club members into reading this. Maybe I'll put a huge warning label on it that reads "UTTER SHITE"

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  3. I threw up a little in my mouth.

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  4. I SO want this book now.

    I haven't read a truly awful book a while.
    Thanks =D

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  5. I hate homophonia. Down with homophones!!

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  6. So... basically this professor wrote a book in the style of Ayn Rand? Because this really sounds a good deal like the Fountainhead.

    My condolences for being subjected to this mess. Your club members should be thankful since you really took this one for the team.

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  7. Now I believe in reincarnation. Ayn Rand lives again!

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  8. Damn you, gfish! You beat me to it!

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  9. @gfish, delphi_ote

    You make me sad. (To be fair, I haven't read _Atlas Shrugged_, which I hear is a good deal less easy to tolerate. But I loved _The Fountainhead_!)

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  10. I can't find anything about the author (John Harrigan) online pointing to him being a professor or a skeptic. I find information about some sort of installation artist, but not this guy.

    Are we sure this isn't some evangelical creating a strawman atheist author writing a book filled with strawmen and such to make atheists and skeptics look bad?

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  11. Wow. When I was a wee tyke I used to pen stories with the same kind of non-existant character development, gaping plot holes, and nonsensical assertions stated as fact too. I even used to illustrate them! One thing I have never been accused of however is dampening someones libido with my grade school yarns.

    I would suggest that you DO put the warning label on it because after reading your review, and laughing my way through it, I kind of thought it might be funny - unintentionally, but funny none the less.

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  12. lol there is always bound to be a bad book out there...I hope one day you will be able to read mine!

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  13. Todd, I thought of that possibility too. Also, how can anything that bad get published these days when so many good authors miss out and who's the publisher?

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  14. "She was a connoisseur. A gobbler of whangs par excellence."

    that had me on the floor grasping for air.

    I have not laughed so hard in months.

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  15. Ha, this was a wonderfully hilarious post :) And the book sounds horribly, ridiculously, unbelievably awful. Ack!

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  16. I know I, as a homosexual, get paid for my "work" with satin.

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  17. OK, found the publisher. Now I wonder who paid them to publish this 'cause' it looks like they know how bad it is. Found this under the copyright info in the Amazon book preview.

    "PublishAmerica has allowed this work to remain exactly as the author intended, verbatim, without editorial input."

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  18. The reason something this bad was published was that the author paid for it: PublishAmerica is a vanity press.

    And as long as I'm here: "While the other officers talk about furthering her carrier..."

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  19. Another update. Publisher is 'print on demand' so the disclaimer above is probably standard for everything they publish. Apparently they've got a bad rep for 'publishing' anything and pressuring authors to buy their own books to sell themselves.

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  20. I sleep with Satin as much as possible.

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  21. An unedited vanity press publication. No offence, but what did you expect?

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  22. Y'know, I actually want to see the oral sex scene in all its terrible, terrific glory. There's just something about bad writing that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. And when whangs are involved...well, get out the Cool Whip!

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  23. Sorry - I'm a stickler - but I think it should be foreword rather than forward in:

    "I'm stretching here, since the forward states that the characters..."

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  24. gkish said: So... basically this professor wrote a book in the style of Ayn Rand?

    That's exactly what I was thinking when I read this GREAT REVIEW of a truly horrible book.
    Even the sex part, Ayn's idea of a good time was to get 'ravished'.

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  25. Well at least this is one of the best reviews I've read in a very long time, so something good came of this book.

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  26. If you thought this was horrible, I suggest the book God is a Bullet. I don't know who it's by, but you should be able to get it on Amazon for about 50 cents. It's a similar murder mystery, just without any attempt at a real stand on issues.

    Unless you count 'graphically describing a 10 year old girl being stripped of her clothes, molested, then forced inside the carcass of a cow' as an issue.

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  27. Right. . . How did this guy sell this to a publisher ? let me guess, vanity press ?

    I wouldn't read that crud on a bet.
    thanks for the review.

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  28. On behalf of atheist, virgin males who've written sexscenes, I am most deebly sorry.

    Worst thing is ... I imagine I could easily have written something like "She was a connoisseur. A gobbler of whangs par excellence." in earnest. Without the typo, hopefully.

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  29. Sounds like it was written as a joke by the authors of How Not To Write A Novel (http://www.amazon.co.uk/How-NOT-Write-Novel-Published/dp/0141038543/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1239104885&sr=8-1)

    Alternatively, it sounds like a sequel to Bill O'Reilly's heartpounding thriller Those Who Trespass.

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  30. Have you considered that this guy may be a sort of fake? A believer writing what how he thinks atheists think to sort of mock us?

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  31. The Twilight saga is easily just as bad, and look where it is now.

    *wince*

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  32. The oral sex scene is now posted. Read at your own risk >_>

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  33. My dear Jen, I must say I'm sorry (ans surprised) that you somehow felt called upon to spend so much of your life trashing this trash. Nearly all self-published novels are self-evidently trash, of course, and any attention they get, even when it only serves to emphasize their trashiness, gives the writer and the work attention it does not deserve; to wit, the attention of your readers. Move on, please.

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  34. All I needed was to see the name PublishAmerica on the first page at Amazon. That told me exactly what kind of book this would be.

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  35. From Amazon's product description (presumably written by the author):

    "The professor and the dominatrix live in Fundamental, Tennessee where the unbelieving professor's university position is threatened by believers and where the dungeon dominatrix, a shimmering beauty who couldn't sleep at night if she really hurt someone, is denounced as a witch--her seizure disorder cruelly associated with her unbelief. Yet, the police ask for their help to identify and catch a pious serial killer whose ultimate target for torture and death becomes the dominatrix. An honest look at religion and irreligion in contemporary America, the story has suspense, dungeon events, surprising humor, unusual sex, the puzzle of pedophile priests and homosexuality, and a once-in-a-lifetime love bond between a professor and a dominatrix. Odd as it may seem, the professor’s best friend is a Catholic detective."

    Car crash.

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  36. Publisher: PublishAmerica (August 4, 2008)

    as others have pointed out, this says it all. It's not a vanity--they don't take money from the authors--but they will literally publish any garbage that drops into their email box. They plan to sell 100 books or so to the author (because even his mother won't buy one) and then that will be that.

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  37. Read the book? I couldn't even read the excerpts in the review. That was some crap-ass "writing". Self-published is generally a red flag but damn that was awful.

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  38. Great friggin' Cthulhu on a stick, it's the atheistic Tim LaHaye.

    This book is Exhibit A for why publishers have editors on hand. An editor wouldn't have saved this from being a bad book, assuming the manuscript would have been rescued from the slush pile (I know, that's assuming a LOT here), but maybe the worst excesses could have been curbed somewhat.

    Who am I kidding? This thing came from UNDER the slush pile.

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  39. Frankly my publisher over priced it--worth about fifteen.

    He wishes.

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  40. OK, I confess! I got hammered one weekend and wrote this book to make the sex and godlessness in my own novel look nuanced by comparison.

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  41. I don't know if I should laugh or vomit.

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  42. PraetorianstalkerApril 7, 2009 at 10:06 AM

    But, it has to be good if it has CAPTAIN MARVEL in it!!!!!

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  43. Well, I don't know about you but I've seen the light, and am now completely converted to whatever the author was championing.

    I think you make a great point in that he seems to be doing much more damage then benefit to the social perception of atheists and freethinkers.

    Good job Professor! *sarcastic thumbs up*

    Niko
    http://kingofdeprecation.blogspot.com

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  44. Captain Marvel says:
    "Everybody Whang-Chung tonight..."

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  45. Wow. That gives http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2009/03/05/review-knight-moves-by-jamaica-layne/ a run for its money. These books do serve a purpose in society, though -- giving hope to those of us who are halfway through a novel and aren't sure whether it'll ever see the light of day. Oh, and giving us all a good wincing derisive laugh.

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  46. As bad as this book is, doesn't the author ultimately support his position as an atheist - because if god did exist, he/she would never have allowed this book to be written!

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  47. Awesome review!!

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  48. The book was self published, i.e. the publisher is PublishAmerica

    That should always be a warning sign.

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  49. Best. Review. Ever.

    Thanks for taking the bullet, that 'whang' quote made my day.

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  50. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  51. I thought of Tim LaHaye as well. The Mary Sue, the sexism, the inability to even recognise that other people hold different views. It's the complete package!

    I'm rather more knowledgeable about bad films than bad literature, but from Jen's review I think the book is about as painful as it's possible to get.

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  52. Can't. Breathe.

    That was hilarious. Thank you.

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  53. Crap, I forgot about the damn dog's testicles when I did my report on it at my club's meeting last night.

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  54. Whangs a million. I succeeded! You just couldn’t put the book down. Even read the
    Afterword, you did. I wanted readers to know it was happy ever after. Really, I am not anti-feminine (my primary physician is a woman), not anti-black (I voted for Obama), not anti-homosexual (been friend and supporter to many).Gender, race, and sex concerns--if strong--can lead to distorted optics. The mayor would say, “Ee-nuff.”
    Yours truly, Captain Marvel, a product of Professor Slane‘s imagination.
    .

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  55. Great Review! I feel the need to defend Ayn Rand from some of your posters. Rands writing is forceful, but worthwhile. (I am NOT an objectivist!) This book was utter trash, I could only stand to read the first half, and I only got through that because my group members requested I read it all so I could tell them about it.

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  56. your comment about punching babies in the face made me laugh pretty hard. i'm about to skip on over to the professor's response. can't wait!

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  57. Which Captain Marvel was it supposed to be?
    DC's or Marvel's?

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