Posts Tagged ‘literature’

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So, I’m reading along in the second day of the M’Cheyene Bible Reading Plan (that I wanted to start in January and totally messed up on but moving on) and it happens that one of the chapters to read is Romans 12.  I’m reading along, and I’m reading along, and I’m reading and I’m all innocent and making notes ‘gifting, yes that’s nice, Pastor Riddell touched on that last week and that’s kinda cool to be here again’ I’m la-laing along as I do when I’m reading and enjoying the Scripture and then this happens:

Bless those that persecute you; bless and do not curse

*wthwap* right between the ole’ eyeballs, it hits like a pebble.  So I rub the bridge of my nose, and continue onward, a little more cautiously this time.  I know better than to be running pell-mell through the chapter once one verse hits. Conviction and these suckers travel together, and where one convicting little pebble verse is, there are sometimes, most times, others.   So I continue reading, rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep, nothing too pebble-of-conviction like there. And then, it avalanched  straight onto my soul.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to hat is honorable in the sight of all.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written ‘Vengence is Mine and I will repay’ says the Lord.

To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry feed him;

If he is thirsty, give him something to drink;

Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.

Ow. Ow. Ow. OW. Ow.

Yeah, apparently there’s going to be more to this “loving my enemies” for six days than I thought. Oh, I’m all ready doing it, but the way. Through gritted teeth, and  with labored breath with sweat pricking along my forehead, but I am doing it. It’s not pretty taking a long sobering look at the ugliness of my own flesh (I’ll spare you,  no need to  terrify you)

I do think, however, Jesus is pleased with His Valentine’s Day gift. And really, that’s all that matters.

What about you, scribes, when was the last time you OUCHED over something in the Bible or the Holy Spirit pricked your spirit with an admonishment? C’mon now, I’ve shared some of my ugliness. I promise, no one will be surprised at yours. We all share the same nature, sadly.

Coram Deo.

tuesdays-at-castle
So you have helped me choose, you lovely opinionated people,  and I’ve begun to read “Tuesdays at the Castle”.  I should have it finished and a review done by the end of the week. I don’t know if it’ll get posted at TCM right away or not, but I’m enjoying it so far. Not that I’m that far, mind you (page 3). I just finished The Hobbit and I hope to finish Nine Coaches Waiting this week as well. It’s definitely the last free period I’ll have for a bit, since I’m starting school on the 18th. I just don’t understand WHY the school wants to fling we little n00bs into a six-credit course with APA papers as the first one we are going to be attempting having not been in school for some time.

Ugh.

Though I do get to be assigned to a cohort. That sounds more fantastic than it is, but it hasn’t stopped me from going around and saying “Yeah, I’m being assigned to a cohort.” I feel like the lion in The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe who is brought out of the stone by Aslan himself and won’t stop turning to the other animals and saying “Did you here what he said? He said us lions” when they’re getting ready to flee the castle for good and all and run to Peter’s aide.

Anyway, first book up, is Tuesdays at the Castle, followed by The Clockwork Three. I’m also reading (because my psyche is terrified of the crimp coming to the reading time) Throne of Bones which is a well-developed world by Vox Day but nothing spectacular. Not yet anyway, I’m 100 pages in and it’s 787, so I’m not even 1/7th of the way through the story.

What about you? What pile of stories are you working through? And what other suggestions do you have for my reading pile?

To help you narrow your suggestions, I’m looking for books for ages 9-17 (so tween/YA/teen) any genre except for romance  (as the primary part of the book, dribs and drabs are fine)  or horror. I’m looking for unusual books, quirky and well written, with themes that resonate along the lines of universal truth and not Christian doctrines.  Feel free to nominate Christian books too, but they need to be exquisitely written.  Dark books are all right, as long as there’s a good reason to plow through a dystopian world or fae realm but there’s got to be a really huge pay-off.  Also, I don’t want evolution crammed down my craw as most steam-punk books (Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld) seem to do.

In a nut shell I’m looking for brilliant secular stories that are clean and tightly written to offer as choices to the tween/YA/teen market of Christians (or their parents) that use The Christian Manifesto as a review choice. Not a real easy job, but that’s what I’ve signed on to do!

Best

And so it begins. While I still have a queue of books to get through that are Christian from Marcher Lord Press (The Restorer’s Son, Freeheads, Throne of Bones) after that, I am officially out of a reading pile for The Christian Manifesto. It’s a weird feeling, having nothing to review and at the same time, very liberating too. I talked with my editors, and they’ve decided to give me enough freedom to hang myself. I mean rope to play with. Something.

We  (The Christian Manifesto) want to do more secular market interviews and reviews. Unfortunately, we don’t have contacts for a lot of the secular publishing houses and that just stinks. Mainly because I’m bored and am tired of reading the tripe that is often handed out from the Christian* publishing companies. Now, there are a lot of hard-working people in those companies, but they’re still mass producing fiction tripe. And there’s only so much I can read before I start vomiting up plot points and sweating platitudes.  So it’s time to go to  the secular companies that also produce tripe, but at least a different flavor of it.

If you are a friend of mine on GoodReads, you have helped me pick out these books to try. If you aren’t a friend of mine on GoodReads, why not?! I’m constantly crowd sourcing for my next book to try. Find me and friend me.  You can do that by checking out the new widget over there on the side bar, and this ALSO lets you keep track with that I’m currently reading.

In fact, if you check back after I get ten or so answers from the  question I’m about to pose, you’ll SEE the results over there, in the book that I add to my shelf. Ready for that question? Of course you are!

Of the six books in the picture above (I’ll be nice and type them out too along with a link to their spot on Good Reads) which should I try after I finish my current queue? Or possibly interject into my queue?   Which of these titles peaks your  curiosity?

Tuesdays At the Castle by Jessica Day George
A Tale Dark and Grim by Adam Gidwitz
The Clockwork Three by Matthew J.Kirby
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter
A Drowned Maiden’s Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz

Let me know what YOU would like me to read from the above list in the comments below. Or, if you have other suggestions for me, I’d love to hear them.

* Marcher Lord Press is  not one of those turning out the tripe. I don’t always like what they produce, but their work is   always solid in its structure, tone, and editing.

ouch

Today began like any other day; one where I’m surrounded by  things I ought to do on one side, and things I want to do on the other.  In the middle of my procrastination (actually I’m still procrastinating by typing this up but I wanted to share and I have most of the review done in my head) I was discussing Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart with Megan, and went to grab my copy. I was all set  to happily thumb through the story I  love while encouraging her to read it. To my horror, pages fell out of the book.

Okay, so I got my copy in an omnibus edition, so it’s over forty years old, so I only paid a dollar for it at a library book sale. It falling apart in my hands is not acceptable!  Thankfully, I know someone who knows about bookbinding.

My Dad worked in a book bindery as a young man.

The first thing he tells me, is that this is a perfect bound book, not a folio binding.  The good news for the book, is that we can fix it. Folio bindings are a little more complicated than perfect, they’re stronger and more expensive too.

Before I go any further in my adventure in book repair, let me say that this is an amateur fix on a book  with the sole goal  being that I can read the tome without it falling to pieces.

All right, onward for the step-by-step how to perform perfect bound spine surgery.

Step 1: Acquire the help of someone who has some experience in bookbinding

This is very important. Without the aid of someone who has some experience in this, you could wind up with a mess.  So as tempting as it is, don’t go this one alone.  If you don’t know anyone who has experience in bookbinding (and it’s becoming somewhat harder to find those with this skill) click here for some advice. He has a great video series on book binding, and this shows how perfect binding is done.  Also, don’t try this with any book you can’t throw away. Remember, I’ve only got $1 invested in my book.

Step 2.: Acquire tools.

It’s important to use the right kind of adhesive with a perfect bound book. It needs to be able to flex and hold at the same time.  Most of the book pages are still holding together with the original glue which make the work simpler for us.  I also dabble in folio hand book binding and have some adhesive in the basement.

glue

To apply the adhesive, we use a foam brush, the kind that most craft stores sell. I use these for mod pod too, and wait until the craft store puts them on sale for $0.10 each  then buy as many as I’m allowed to, usually there’s a 50 brush limit or something like that. A paper cup to put the glue into, a set of adjustable clamps, two pieces of scrap wood, and a vice are also needed to do this.

brushes

Step 3: Prep the book

Dad aligns the sections of the book that are still holding to the glue and cloth of the spine, then clamps the loose pieces to the top of the pile. This gives him a block of paper to work with that is stable.  It’s important to make certain all the pieces are even, because ones the glue sets its going to stay like this.

clamps

The pages here are clamped to the back of book, not to the workbench.  It takes several tries to get everything lined up as it should be and careful adjustments are made until he’s satisfied that the pages are right, not necessarily ramrod straight, but aligned. After all, I’m going to be opening this book and closing it quite a bit.

Step 4.) Apply the adhesive

adhesive

Dad applies the adhesive with the foam brush, carefully coating both the paper edges, and the membrane that has become disconnected from them. Originally, after the paper was treated and glued the cloth was rolled over the naked spine and allowed to dry. We could cut the paper spine away and do the same but then we’d have to re-attach it using the proper tapes and that’s more work that either of us are interested in doing for this book. Carefully, Dad matches up the upper portion of the book with the lower now-glued portion, and I stroke/press the spine through the cover, making several passes to make sure that the cloth and pages have met and any excess glue is squeezed out and wiped away.

Step 5.)  Position the book in the vice and allow the glue to dry for 24 hours

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The end piece  that you see dangling here  is not really connected to the pages, it’s a different piece of cloth than what I smooth through the spine. See how our alignment isn’t perfect?  And also note the chunks of text that you can clearly see even now that it’s in the vice. It won’t win any book beauty pageants, but then again, that isn’t the goal.  The goal is to have a repaired, readable tome.  And that, I have.  I’ll update this tomorrow with the last picture and the book open to the repaired section so you can see how it turned out. Until then, if you have any questions, post them below and I’ll pester Dad with them.   Also, if YOU have any tips for repairing books, post them in the comments below.

ImageOh, story world, how I need you not.  I have less than three weeks till my school starts, and I don’t need the scribbled down world I’ve been pottering with for the last four months to suddenly get of the simmer and begin assailing my mind. I don’t need to be fascinated by ancient Persia, desert wolves, or the idea of someone seeing into the realm of the spirit guided by an unholy power. I don’t need any of this. What I need to do is to be reading my books for TCM, ordering textbooks, and seeing if I can’t get a leg up on the six credit world view course that is coming my way like a baby tidal wave.

Are their baby tidal waves? ::author note, find term for wave smaller than tidal that does less damage but is still intimidating::

WHY is it that my mind is now slowly, deliberately, and with a good amount of logic, pulling together the pieces of this story world?

HOW am I suppose to get any other work done with this siren story calling to me? 

::author note, find out if there  is there a way to shove cotton into story–ears and if so, can I some how market it to other authors in the same predicament I’m in? Also, if I don’t listen now, will the whole story go away?::

WHO is responsible for this? Is it YOU Chesterton, with your ideas about story and pace and madness and sanity? Is it YOUR fault that my mind pulling hard in the traces towards a goal of story?

Is it YOU Tolkien? Have I spent too long in Middle Earth, being lulled by the cadence of your words and tone so that I have drifted into the realm of story deeper than before? Is it YOUR genius that has stirred my stupor-ed imagination to life again?

::author note–find out if spending time with those more intelligent than yourself stimulates the brain. If so, then when imagination needs to hibernate, make sure not to read anything but the phone book::

Oh, what a disgruntled and ungrateful heart I have. But the timing just stinks!

Tell me, story hunters, what should I do? Should I write it down, should I let it go? What to do what to do! There are only so many hours in the day and days in the week!

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The movie opens with Bilbo working on his book, and planning his one-hundred-and-eleventh birthday party at the same time.  I liked this, it harked back to Fellowship of the Ring where Bilbo is working on There and Back Again  setting off to the elves so that he might escape the hangers-on and the wasters of his time, and finish his book.  I liked that, very much.  It was a warm wink from Peter Jackson to the fans that have waited for him to get to the Hobbit since The Return of the King ended.

Now, I know, that beginning irritated several of my friends who are purists, and its common knowledge on the internet that Christopher Tolkien is not happy with any of Jackson’s work  based on his father’s work.   Christopher Tolkien  is caught on one horn of a dilemma.  Tolkien’s work is part of him, left behind for the rest of us to see. It is the tangible essence of J.R.R. Tolkien brilliant mind. From his perspective  changing the story is like  redrawing  his father’s features.  I can understand his anger, and his outrage at Jackson’s doing that.

Christopher has also sacrificed a huge chunk of time and talent to bring all of Middle Earth to us, laboring over his fathers incomplete work so that the rest of us could see its glory.  He has a right to be grieved, and a right to “turn his face” from the movies. I can also understand the upset of the purists. They love Tolkien’s original vision and like his son,  want everyone to see that vision, and love it as much as they do.  They want to share the moments of sudden insight, the pictures in their mind’s eye of the characters, and how they felt as they read the book for the first time.

The problem with this, is its like asking everyone to enjoy cauliflower soup.  If you’ve ever had cauliflower soup, you’ll remember it. I’ve not met a person yet who was ambivalent about it. They either think it is a wonderful, hearty, filling comfort dish, or rapidly excuse themselves from the table to spit the mouthful they took into the trashcan and then go scrub their mouths for forty minutes to remove every last micron of flavor that might try to hide within its chamber.  Tolkien’s work is very distinctive, very rich, and very hearty in its verbosity and ideas.

The culture of today is different from the culture of Tolkien’s day; and the way he wrote then wouldn’t be published now. The rules have changed.

Even in his own time, J.R.R. Tolkien was not esteemed for his ‘frivolous dip’ into writing fantasy. Those in the white stone halls of Academia sneered at his offering of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Fantasy has never been upper-class reading. Maybe they wondered why in the world he took all of his learning, all the ancient culture he had absorbed and gave it to the rabble in tomes like those instead of penning something that could only be understood by those blessed with enough intelligence to be admitted into the ranks of the educated elite.  Maybe they thought he was slumming.  And the truth is, he was. But he wanted to give something back to Britain, something that was lacking in the culture (which was not part of Oxford or Cambridge) and his gift was accepted by the man on the street long before it was accepted by those who taught in his college.

As I watched the movie, watched the dwarves come and eat and clean up after themselves in the strange way that they do, watched Bilbo run to catch up with the adventurers, watched  the trolls catch them unawares I marveled at the way Jackson drew from the text and added to it or told things in a different way. It had to be a tough job, not only adapting the book to a movie format but then updating it for this generation.

The attention span is shorter, the average intelligence and working knowledge of a person is much less than Tolkien’s day, and as a culture we are used to in-your-face-heroes, not the more subtle ones that had value in his day.  How do you take a subtle hero like Bilbo, and show him off in a world used to Neo from the Matrix and Harry Potter from The Sorcerer’s Stone? How do you make a small, plain, rather plump and content fellow like Bilbo into a character people want to emulate? Well, you turn him inside out. That’s exactly what Jackson does. He flips Bilbo inside out like a pocket, early on.  It’s Bilbo  who talks down the trolls (in the book it’s Gandalf that does that) and plays for time. That shows that he’s intelligent as well as compassionate (he wanted to see the horses freed).  Later on in the book, Bilbo makes the iconic decision to spare Golem’s life, and then escapes with the Ring. The same scene plays out in living color on the screen as in the book as Bilbo squeezes through the tiny opening and his buttons fly in all directions.

Instead of facing the quandary about whether to turn into the mountain to rescue the dwarfs that have been so wretched to him throughout their quest, or out into freedom on his own, Jackson’s Bilbo faces much higher risks as the movie draws to a close.

There is a powerful climax as the Wargs and Orcs which have chased  Thorin throughout the movie, finally catch up with them on a cliff ledge.  Bilbo, who has taken a verbal beating from Thorin since the start of the movie deliberately steps off a place of safety to defend the man who has bullied him and derided him.

I actually got chills, and looking over at my brother, caught a flash of his features, taut, as he leaned forward.

It is an incredibly piece of cinema story telling. For the sake of those who haven’t seen the movie yet (HI JAKE ::WAVES LIKE CRAZY::) I’m being rather vague. Those  who  have seen the movie know there’s a lot more that happens, a lot more powerful images I could comment on, but I don’t want to spoil this amazing climax for those like Jake, who have a rather longer wait for it.

~`~

David and I tried to frame the movie experience as we darted back through the traffic to his car in the parking lot.

“I think” I said, at long last after a geek-heaven of dissecting different scenes “That what Jackson has done is crept into Tolkien shadow, and used his characters to tell an epic and sweeping, heartbreaking, soul lifting story. But it’s not the Hobbit.”

“It’s definitely not the Hobbit” he agreed and grinned. “Did you like it?”

“I loved it” I grinned back at him. “Best Christmas Present in a Long, Long time.”

So, that’s my conclusion. Jackson’s movie is Hobbit-like but it’s not the Hobbit.  In my book, this isn’t a bad thing. Writers have been cribbing off one another for years. Tolkien cribbed off a historical sources, Shakespeare cribbed from the Greeks, and the Greeks from the Meades and the Persians.

As far back as you trace the art of storytelling, you’ll find ideas and characters borrowed from one storyteller and bent into a slightly different shape by another storyteller.  It’s what we do.  My hope, is that this icecream sundae version of The Hobbit, might make some viewers interested in trying the cauliflower soup.

I know this is one of those topics where there’s a lot of polarization, so let me know how you feel in the comments below. Be respectful, and  be honest.

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Tomorrow, my brother and I are finally going to go see The Hobbit. Yes, we might be the only two people on earth not to have seen it, but I wanted to see it with him and juggling schedules has been a challenge, to stay the least.  But then, as Bilbo learns, nothing worth while doing is ever easy.  To prepare for this treat, I thought it would be a good idea to reread The Hobbit.

I read it when I was in my early teens, someone gave me a copy because I loved fantasy and they thought I should start off with the “best that there was”.

I really did enjoy it. I remember that. But I haven’t read it since, though I did read its younger brothers;The Fellowship of the Ring, Two Towers, and The Return of the King more recently.

The things that struck me (as I was reading on break at work tonight and trying NOT to get salad dressing on the pages of my copy) were that 1.) I was delighted that I had to buy my copy to read before seeing the movie (my library has copies but the wait for one is now at  three months) due to the demand for the book,  2.) it’s funny that a book written in 1937 still resonates with readers and 3.) this story really isn’t for kids.

On the surface, it’s a coming of age story about a little insignificant man who is tricked into an adventure and finds out that he’s more courageous, more daring, and more fierce than even he knows.

Scratch  the veneer of that away, and  a complex wheels-within-wheels story of archetypes and ideas comes into view, working like clock work with several ghosts in the machine. Middle Earth is a  moral world with absolute rights and wrongs. Decision made that are nearly right, or mostly right, lead to nearly or mostly dead characters. Tolkien’s world stands on a sharp pivot point and one protagonist leaning too far into the darkness, even for the right reasons, throws the whole thing into topsy-turvy turmoil.  But then a man might lean the other way, and pull with himself, his companions out of the chaos of a fallen realm. There are so many amazing lessons, most of which Bilbo learns by doing the wrong thing. He fails his very first test with the trolls. But thinking back to that moment, later, Bilbo doesn’t fail. He makes the painful, costly, right decision and suffers for it as he didn’t suffer at the hands of the trolls.

In this wonderful clockwork land where a villain might have been a prince at one time, and a prince might have been a villain, there are seconds of redemption and minutes of hope among its dark hour-long stretches of evil. And that’s exactly why it’s endured for over 75 years.

We readers still want to see the hope and redemption of our world and our neighbors in the dark hours we face. I take solace in the fact that if an ordinary little fellow like Bilbo might grow into an elf-friend and adventurer, then I might one day to grow beyond my safe shell and when my world needs me the most, do the right and costly thing to take my place beside the heroes of my age.

What about The Hobbit intrigues you? Or infuriates you?  It’s not a book for everyone, I know that. Don’t compare it to the movie, just tell me what you like or don’t about the book itself.