Friday, October 28, 2011

Jonestown/Anne Shirley

Last week I bought a new book, One Thousand Lives by Julia Sheeres.  It's about Jim Jones and Jonestown, the cult in Guyana in the 1970s where over 900 people drank poisoned kool-aid in a mass murder/suicide.  I'd stayed up late last weekend reading about cults on various wikipedia pages, and decided to learn things in a more in-depth way.  The book is based on tons of somewhat recently released documents, including extensive notes by the government and diary entries of people who'd lived at Jonestown.

Yeah, but it was too much.  I did not get further than Jim Jones's cult's relocation from Indiana to Northern California before I gave up.  The descriptions of the ritual beatings of members to punish them for small transgressions was just too much.  I'd been reading in bed and, reaching this, I ran out into the living room where my boyfriend was on his computer.  I threw the book down, and we watched an episode of "Arrested Development" so I could clear my head.  Then we shared hummus and crackers and I read Anne of Windy Poplars until I was ready for bed.  I am really not much different than I was as a ten-year-old.

I just couldn't bear how terrible Jim Jones and his higher-level followers were.  I had imagined the book would investigate the "why"s of how it happened: why do people join cults, why do things get to that point without the government intervening, why do people do terrible things, etc.  And maybe later on it does.  But what I read was focused on the "how"s and "what"s, in detail, and I just can't handle it.

So more Lucy Maude Montgomery, more Anne Shirley.  Although Anne of Avonlea had bored me a little, I enjoyed this one.  Maybe it was the contrast to One Thousand Lives.  Anne is still a little too perfect when I think about it, but I enjoy spending time with her.  Most people get happy endings in the Anne books, and the bad characters are overly stern or unloving or short-tempered, not manipulative, deceitful speed-freak monsters like Jim Jones.

I caught a cold yesterday, and so spent most of today laying around finishing Anne of Windy Poplars and drinking hot apple cider with cinnamon.  It was a good day.


  1. How did you hear about this book?

  2. Why my good friend Tony Gibart told me! A very intelligent, well-read fellow.