i can only give this book the highest marks. if you'll bear with my extremely geeky ranking system? if sarah blaffer hrdy's mother nature provided the genesis for blaine & the combine, all those lockstep orphans? & carlo ginzberg's ecstasies & night battles built the shamanic traditions of the great plains? than nancy jay's throughout your generation forever is planting a similar seed for vellica & the synod, providing a strong foundation of sacrifice as a theme. "but mordicai! feminist anthropology criticism! & you! simply shocking!" okay, i will admit i was an easy sell. i can't remember how this popped up on my radar, but i made for it like you might imagine.
the book is pretty right on. i started off right out of the gate scribbling down notes. a lot of them are personal in appeal-- the bones -> meat -> smoke ranking isn't really part of her thesis, more an aside. for all that, though, some of it really gives you thought. her background is in biblical scholarship, & so it is no surprise that some of the punches are strong in that department. i'm getting ahead of myself. she has a lot of observations to make. like-- sacrifice as a means of delineating a group, or of excluding some members from a higher authority. or, & this is one of the key points, of dealing with women. she points out that the only women who ever have any relationships with sacrifice are non-fertile: virgins like the vestal virgins, or celibate madonnas like nuns, or post-menopausal (like in some african traditions). this leads to one major conclusion: sacrifice as "rebirth," a controlled birth in contrast to real birth. a means of establishing lineage without resorting to motherhood, & of confirming (by creating) patrilineage in a world of uncertain paternity. she asks some canny questions about the bible, about jacob & essau & isaac, for instance. she also talks at length about some african traditions, some greek, hawaiian, & the church.
i dug in, & i am really pleased with what came up. there is going to be a shadow of this cast on my creative endeavors for some time to come. the relics of agrarianism, the similarities of hunter-gatherers to post-industrial "nuclear" families; tracing ascent & not descent; exclusionary eating practices & the destruction of them, that kind of thing. a thoughtful mien has come upon me, & it is all nancy jay's fault.