Monday, June 25, 2012

Looking for Reviewers

Anyone interested in taking a look at my new novel, Beyond the Rim of Space?  Right now we have the e-file available and if  you're willing to tackle an e-book, I'd be happy to send it to you--just ask that you post a review on Lulu and/or Amazon (when it eventually trickles its way through the Amazon bureaucracy to emerge as a Kindle book.

Oh, and for those kind enough to take a look at this blog from time to time, the alternative cover:  We had several while in the works, and the one above is the one--for a variety of reasons, that we settled on--but each had its merits.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 22, 2012

John Galt et al.

It occurred to me the other day, while reading a remarkable study of the figurehead and inspiration behind our latest round of privateering, that we've really missed the mark.  It really occurred after I attempted to watch Atlas Shrugged in its most recent film incarnation, not wishing to subject myself to the turgid prose and rancid philosophizing of the one person most responsible for the progressive decline of anything good to say about the libertarian ideal.  If  The Book of Mormon could spawn a highly successful Broadway appearance, why not Atlas Shrugged: The Musical,  or better yet, Who is John Galt?: The Musical. It could be paired with a revival of Springtime for Hitler  or Hitler on Ice: The Ice Capades Spectacular (as featured at the end of History of the World: part I). Think of the possible profits--the ability to exploit the poor and downtrodden--the possibility of proselytization.

On a more serious note--a more sobering and bracing study of the influence of Ms. Rand and her perennial and pernicious philosophy could not hope to be found anywhere.  Mr. Weiss takes a look at Rand and her circle of followers and notes the preponderance of Randites in the progenitors of our recent Wall Street and Bank Crises.  People who tore down the fabric of the American economy, but who are for the most part, at present, doing quite nicely for themselves, thank you.

Worth looking into if you are interested in objectivism and its pervasive but often unremarked upon influence on current society.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

It's Easy Being Green

from The Amish Way
Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, David L. Weaver-Zecher

David Kline was green long before it became trendy. He summarizes his theology for eco-friendly living in these words: "If one's livelihood comes from the earth--from the land, from creation on a sensible scale, where humans are a part of the unfolding of the seasons, experience the blessing of drought-ending rains, and seek God's spirit in all creation--a theology for living should be as natural as the rainbow following a summer storm. And then we can pray, 'Help us to walk gently on the earth and to love and nurture your creation and handiwork.'"

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

On Using the Bible as a Bludgeon

From my Amish reading--a reflection on the proper use of Bible reading.

from The Amish Way 
Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, David L. Weaver-Zercher 
One minister, however, cautions that "Bible reading and study is not good when you do it to find fault and criticize churches and people around you. There is a big difference between reading for your daily bread and inspiration, and studying the Bible just to be critical of others or to justify your own contentious and rebellious thoughts."

It is very important to remember that any interpretation of Scripture that is used to harm others or to coerce others very likely lacks authenticity.  If we fail in love, we fail.

Notes on The Amish Way

I will readily confess a deep interest in the Amish way.  Not the romanticized Witness and television drama version of Amish living, but in the witness the Amish offer of the possibility of another way of life--of being separate, apart, and yet whole.

Reading this wonderful book offers insights that go beyond what one might encounter in many books about the Amish.  It does not offer the usual proverbs, sayings, and superficial picture of buggies, bonnets, and barns.  Instead, we are offered a glimpse of Amish worship and how the Amish make meaning.

What is fascinating to me about all major faiths is the way that the emphasize a particular truth of the Gospel (often, I must say, at the expense of representing the fullness of the gospel).  What the Amish show, and represent powerfully is the notion of salvation within community--certainly a theme of Jewish Spirituality--but the main theme of the Amish way.  Everything is about keeping the community as Church intact.  For example, the prohibition regarding cars isn't because cars (or for that matter most modern mechanical things) are sinful in themselves, nor are they the direct cause of sin--but cars allow one to live at a great distance from others--to take oneself out of the community of believers and thus expose oneself more directly to the temptations that exist in the world.  The sinfulness in owning a car is the sin of willfulness an disobedience--not the sin of owning a modern convenience.  I find this a view entirely convivial with almost any Christian Doctrine.

As Americans, we are so used to having our own way about things.  We would not think of curtailing our spending because someone else though it excessive or unnecessarily indulgent.  And yet, I cannot help but wonder if we added a dollop of concern for others and concern for our ultimate effects on those around whether we might not do better to be more observant of things we tend to take for granted.

If Christian life is an integrated whole--not merely a surface decoration, a tribal tattoo, then it is necessary to regard every action taken as representative of that life.  Everything I buy, everything I write, everything I say, everything I do--every action has meaning and import for the whole Christian body.  This is what the Amish demonstrate for us--with their Ordnung and their tight-knit communities, we have a clear sign of what a Christian life looks like when one takes every action seriously.

And that does not mean joylessness--but as we often find with well-defined and clear boundaries, a sense of freedom and joy--the limits are clearly defined and while certainly more narrow that those enjoyed by society at large, often not, of themselves, particularly burdensome.  We all fail, we all transgress,  be we don't all have a community to call us to account--and, perhaps, that is a shame.

If you'd like to go beyond a superficial understanding of the Amish and their way--you would find this book a great help.  Even if the Amish are of not particular interest to you, if you take up this book and look into as a mirror, I think you might be moved and shaken by some of what you discover about yourself, your life, your faith.

And a note for the Catholics among us.  Does this ring any bells? If not then I think we might do well to consider the teachings of our late lamented Magnifico and our present blessed Pope.

from The Amish Way

One might expect that an Amish childhood would be chock-full of religious activities like vacation Bible School, religious camps, and Sunday school. Yet formal religious education is missing in an Amish child's life. Fathers and mothers--not church programs, schools, or youth pastors--shoulder the duty of passing on the faith to their chidren.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Revisiting To the Lighthouse

As anyone who may look into this blog from time to time undoubtedly knows, Virginia Woolf wrote a number of modernist masterpieces.  It's hard for me to choose from among her novels, to name the very finest, because each has its own merits, its own unique contributions to the literary world.  But surely it would be impossible to consider modern literature without Mrs. Dalloway with its unfortunate light into Woolf's own life and demise.  Equally, To the Lighthouse, is remarkable for its insights into how a family thrives and does not thrive, how two people relate and refuse to relate.

You really don't get much more pointed in such a discussion than this passage found on the very first page of the novel:

from To the Lighthouse
Virginia Woolf

"But," said his father, stopping in front of the drawing-room window, "it won't be fine."
Had there been an axe handy, a poker, or any weapon that would have gashed a hole in his father's breast and killed him, there and then, James would have seized it.  Such were the extremes of emotion that Mr Ramsay excited in his children's breasts by his mere presence; standing, as now, lean as a knife, narrow as the blade of one, grinning sarcastically, not only with the pleasure of disillusioning his son and casting ridicule upon his wife, who was ten thousand times better in every way than he was (James thought), but also with some secret conceit at his own accuracy of judgement. What he said was true. It was always true. He was incapable of untruth; never tampered with a fact; never altered a disagreeable word to suit the pleasure or convenience of any mortal being, least of all his own children, who, sprung from his loins, should be aware from childhood that life is difficult; facts uncompromising; and the passage to that fabled land where our brightest hopes are extinguished, our frail barks founder in darkness (here Mr Ramsay would straighten his back and narrow his little blue eyes upon the horizon), one that needs, above all, courage, truth, and the power to endure.

Whereby Mr Ramsay is so generously agreeable in providing an image to place alongside any lexicographical exposition of the word "pompous."  But apart from this severe portrait is the aplomb with which Virginia Woolf seems to move in and out of the consciousness of several different characters all within the same passage--a narrator, who looks uncompromisingly upon Mr Ramsay looking uncompromisingly, James, and Mr Ramsay himself.  One is left with much the same impression that one has at the beginning of Mary Poppins when Mr. Banks treats us to the wisdom that "A British Nanny must be a general."  So we have the Edwardian Father--committed to the truth for everyone except himself.

It is this depth of vision, this deep insight into what drives character and characters, that is one of the profound gifts Virginia Woolf has given us.  She has given us the deep play of the psyche in the very ordinariness of life.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Woman in Black--Susan Hill

I was familiar with the name Susan Hill from that wonderful little book Howard's End Is on the Landing, a kind of compendium of personal favorites from books and literature.  I was familiar with The Woman in Black from the film, which I had wanted to see, but never really had the opportunity.  So, what a wonderful convergence when I discovered that the film I wanted to see came from a source that I knew I would enjoy reading.

And, I was not wrong.  The Woman in Black has the form of a classic ghost story--it even starts on Christmas Eve as children are sharing their made-up ghost stories and the experience plunges our first person narrator into a re-experience of his own horrifying ghost story.

Arthur, a  young lawyer, is sent from London to the middle of nowhere--a small town at the very edges of a great swamp/marsh where stands Eelmarsh House--the home of an eccentric old woman who has recently died.  His job is to go through the papers in the house, extract those that seem most germane to the estate and take them back to the London Solicitor who is in charge of the will/estate.

From there we get the classics forms--an apparition, sounds in the night, lights going out during a storm, the flashlight broken, the sound of what?  a rocking chair?  a cradle?  a scream in the night?  the gurgling of an engulfed pony car?  There's a locked room with no key at the end of the hall and a door that opens mysteriously--beckoning.

Ms. Hill's performance with these well-worn elements is exquisite.  Her prose is beautifully fashioned of some short, almost staccato sentences followed by long and luxurious almost-rants as the perfervid imagination unleashes all the horrors of the human psyche.

Make no mistake, this is a ghost story, a true ghost story that would please the likes of M. R. James.  It is a superb companion to the works of James,  (both M. R. and Henry) and Shirley Jackson.  Do yourself a favor and reserve a copy for late October, early November reading--you'll be glad that you did.  Oh, but don't read it while you're alone--it truly creeps up on you.

Highly recommended *****

Monday, June 4, 2012

Hiatus: Please Pardon the Advertisement

Some may have wondered to whence I had vanished lo! these long days; and I truly do wish to come back and begin more regular review of the literary (and not so literary) world.

But I have been away preparing for this, my first full book-length fiction publication:  Beyond the Rim of Light.

A collaborative venture between another writer and me, it has been many years in the making.  You can read an excerpt of it here.

E-file versions should be ready for Amazon Kindle and available through Amazon shortly.

You might also wish to check into the Facebook Author Page for Alex Stone, where I will be making feeble attempts to keep everyone updated as I work on the sequel and on two novel-length projects of my own.

Hope to be back reviewing once I can return to the rhythm of things.